Leave Danny Alone!!! (For Now…)

Greta Van Susteren interviews Toronto Star reporter Tonda MacCharles about the controversial decision of Premier Danny Williams to go to the U.S. for his recent heart operation.

Personally, I thought Rex Murphy said it quite well on last night’s The National, most especially when he noted that “the river of commentary, both here and in the states, is taking place in a vacuum of fact.” Indeed.

Maybe this is could be an informative discussion worth having once the actual facts of the matter are known, but for now it seems that many people are simply basing their ideological predispositions about the healthcare debate on little more than idle speculation.



Filed under Health Care & Medicine

24 responses to “Leave Danny Alone!!! (For Now…)

  1. jkg

    Funny how Rex points out in his piece the vagaries and the dangers of politicizing Danny Williams’ choice only to have the comments section full up with narcissists who end up doing that very same thing. It is like they become a parody of themselves.

    As for Danny’s choice, we don’t know his situation, and is it really all that surprising that people have to travel even outside their country for the treatment they want? Heck, many Americans go to Cuba to get treatment. That is the reality of medical science; some procedures or expertise are discovered and honed elsewhere (or gasp! They might be affordable because of that). It is pretty ignorant to believe that every Western nation has an edge on every single medical treatment.

  2. Presuming that he could have had the operation in Canada then there would have been a great hoo-ha about him punting someone else off a waiting line because of his position/influence/money.

  3. counter-coulter

    Well FoxNews is never one to let the facts get in the way of their narrative. Apparently having Mr. Williams come to the U.S. for medical care not only “proves” that the U.S. health care is not in need of reform, but that it’s waaay better than the Canadian (single payer) system. Q.E.D.

  4. You’re missing the point. Williams can do what he wants if he is a private citizen.

    With great power however, comes great responsibility.

  5. jkg

    True, the optics of this does not bode well for Williams due to his steadfast support for universal health care. I am giving him the benefit of the doubt here that what he probably sought was a very unique procedure most likely pioneered in the U.S. However, this move will give fodder to those wishing to privatize healthcare, so following his procedure, I will be interested in hearing what he says.

    This raises as question though: When it comes to private matters, are their limits on how much a public figure can deviate from his or political foundation? It seems to be that such things as risking personal health is not something that can just be subservient to whatever politics one espouses.

  6. jkg:

    This depends on how much you love your country. Some will not consider dying on of for any principle; others see a sublime beauty to it.

  7. ATY — I can’t really argue the point without betraying my initial premise that without all of the facts, speculation about the matter is somewhat pointless…

  8. counter-coulter

    OK, it’s official, WordPress is eating my posts.

  9. Sure Red … but, it seems to me that this represents a potential and serious disconnect between the power and privileges we allow the modern elite to wield, and their own commitment to the very system that grants them said power and privilege.

    To my mind, this is yet another example of how the country means very little to anyone, other than as a random place they were born in to.

    Surely, if his situation were dire enough there was another province that could have provided him the care he needed.

    The radical Right in the United States and Canada has been handed a big, bright gift with a bow in this case.

    How many people in Newfoundland die every year because they cannot afford to leave the province or the country for such procedures? What about them? How many of them were denied out of jurisdiction treatment under Newfoundland Health?

    Is it really too much to ask our public officials to use the very same system they manage on our behalf? Are we so immune to the hypocrisy?

  10. I’m looking at the headliners on Fox – “scandal”? I don’t think it’s a scandal.

    They also headline with – Williams says he can’t get….. ah, Williams hasn’t said anything yet.

  11. Whatever your position is on the health care debate in this country, Williams’ choice raises some uncomfortable questions.

    As the current biggest mouth in Canadian politics, and as the leader of his Province (who is, therefore, responsible for establishing health care policy) on either side of the discussion, two major questions need to be asked:

    a) Is our health care system, in at least some respects, not good enough or not quick enough for what you need, Danny?; and

    b) As we discuss the concerns over a “two-tiered” health care system, are we really saying that the “elite” just want the “top” tier to be solely the purview of privileged Canadians who can afford to not only pay for their health care, but pay for the time and cost involved in travelling abroad to get it?

    Think about that, for just a moment. From the point of view, perhaps, of the true left-wing suspicion of hard-blue capitalists.

    If Canada provides a health care system that compares favorably with any experience in the U.S., that would, perhaps, necessitate a significant increase in tax, and becuase we have a progressive tax system, will be most substantially paid for by the “well off”. So, rather than work towards such levels of excellence, we will pretend that mediocrity is excellence, and, for the truly well-off, well, they’ll save their millions of tax dollars and just jet off to the Mayo Clinic when needed.

    It stinks on either side of the discussion Red, and Danny Williams, as much as I wish him well, has some pretty big questions to answer as he recovers.

  12. For once, Aeneus is bang on with his concern..

  13. takedeadaim

    If i can use a crass analogy. This is the Tiger Woods story of healthcare.

    The oddest of situations where a simple, very reasonable explanation is implied to be just around the corner, however anyone listening knows that the probability of a reasonable explanation is extremely low.

    At the end of the day, what could Williams’ reasoning possibly be? At this point, i can’t imagine a defense that’s more than “do as I say, not as I do”.

  14. ASME

    I wonder why Danny Williams didn’t go to Norway a country that has the best health care in the world. Or even France, Germany and Japan. Their health care is tens better than ours. If you think that is bull then do some research. If you go to the local news from Nova Scotia, you will learn there is a man suffering with MS who is going to Poland to get care that cannot be provided in Canada. He would have gone to the US but he would have ended up losing his house due to cost.

  15. The reason I was so reluctant to post anything on this issue is that my opinion on the matter forces me absent myself from it — at least until all the facts are known. I really wish however that Danny had made his reasoning clear beforehand rather than allowing speculation to run rampant and all sorts of conclusions to be hastily drawn accordingly in the meantime.

  16. There’s nothing wrong with the Premier paying for his care privately. The problem is that it would have been illegal for someone to give him private care in Canada.

    We have parallel public & private care for Canadians, it’s just that you have to be rich enough to travel to the US for it and pay for it out of pocket rather than gradually with premium insurance. Rather that let people buy premium insurance in Canada, we make it illegal to do that so we pointlessly drive the cost up.

    Mr. Williams has an opportunity here. When he’s recovered from his surgery he can tell Canadians that while he could have received excellent care in Canada, he’s fortunate enough to be able to afford the private option and he choose it for his own reasons. So he’s going to continue to support universal publicly funded health care as it changes to stay viable, but he will end the disgraceful ban on a parallel private system in his province and use his considerable influence to encourage other Premiers to do the same.

    Modern countries around the world have dual systems. We should stop letting flaws in American health care stop us from improving our own.

  17. Issachar — Contrary to popular belief/conventional wisdom, we already have a two-tier/dual-care system here. It’s just not widely advertised or well known to the public at large because it would upset their comforting frame of reference about the egalitarian nature of our system…

    Had I the money, I could have gone to a private clinic in Vancouver to have my hip replaced rather than wait several months for an available time to open up here in Victoria.

    The idea that there’s a “ban” on private care isn’t the case at all — at least not here in B.C.

  18. ASME

    In the so called wealthest province in Canada…Alberta, there is a two year wait for hip, knee and a five year wait for back surgery. I find myself in the five year wait catagory if I stay here and that is with private insurance as well. Our system should not be where it is…Thailand here I come.

  19. Yes, we do have some measure of legal private care, although it’s legality within the Canada Health Act is somewhat controversial. Whatever happened to the Urgent Care Centre in False Creek? I recall that the BC government was trying to shut them down entirely, and I believe that the centre simply stopped offering certain services in order to better defend themselves.

    We don’t have an all-out ban; you are correct. On the other hand, it’s not exactly allowed either.

    I really think that Danny Williams has a great opportunity here.

  20. ASME

    By the way, doctors from both the US and Canada go to other countries for their health care…now ask yourself, what does that say. That came from the horses mouth….my GP.

  21. ASME

    issachar…I think you are correct in your suggestions.

  22. *Full Disclosure*

    I am for the Public System and the Canada Health Act. Our modern elite is so hypocrtical, materialist, and continentalist in their thinking that they are an embrassment to the memory of men like Agar Adamson and Hamilton Gault – who put their country and their ideals before themselves.

    Danny Williams is hardly a conservative. He is merely a Newfoundland variant of the same kind of people who sport erections at the merest hint of Americanisms such as “the market.”

    In the academic parlance, we call these people “liberals” and perhaps even “neo-liberals”.

  23. Can’t help but come back to this to say that what I find most curious is that people assume that he is paying for it himself.

    Provinces have interprovincial deals everywhere on transfers of care precisely because we are a geographically large country with a tiny population. And it’s cheaper to fly a patient to a specialist and their team in one central location than it is to try and do special operations in every location across the country.

    And after the hideous scandal and deaths at the Winnipeg pediatric cardiac centre, not to mention the extreme changes in cardiac care over time, it was decided to centralize all non-urgent care, and pay for Medical helicopters and flights and hotels.

    (Over time, early diagnostic tests, more laparoscopic procedures, medication treatments, and procedures like angiograms made major surgery less necessary. For pediatrics there are only two programs in the country left, Edmonton, and Toronto, and if the government ever doubles folic acid levels in food, and increases D levels so our bodies can access other vitamins, most pediatric heart defects and pediatric cancer cases will become historical items of interest, and we likely won’t even have a program anywhere in Canada, and would outsource to the US the few rare cases left.)

    I know it sounds strange, but outsourcing allows Canadians to get expert care, our experts are utilized properly and can keep their skills up, and it costs less. Regardless of where we send patients, we always pay if the procedure is not available at home. No one is asked to pay out of pocket. Search any provincial health website.

    Williams own statement said that his Docs said this was unavailable in Nfld, totally reasonable considering the small population. They can do angiograms, then they do emergency airlifts to Halifax or Montreal.

    Americans are regularly transferred here for valve operations and at once point Toronto had the only pediatric non-tissue matched heart transplant program on earth, because we invented it, and patients came here. US patients come here for stem cell therapy all the time. In utero surgery is incredibly rare and we often send pregnant women to various places for it. We do a few here, but there are more done in the US, but only in a few select places.

    As for the one rare adult cardiac procedure that we don’t do here? Toronto Hospital admitted to the National Post that they don’t do complex aortic aneurysms. (Smaller ones, yes, but not the larger ones.) All of those cases, from around the world, a lot of them due to Marfan’s syndrome, go to Dallas. The team there does nothing but. And we the Canadian taxpayer, pay for people to get it. I don’t know if Williams has that, or if this is the procedure in question, but his docs would have transferred him to Montreal or Ottawa or Toronto if it was anything else, for free as well. Those are the rules.

    I happen to love that.

    But I’m a socialist. 😉

    As for those waiting lists, something to remember, they are dynamic. I know a woman who just got both knees done in under 4 weeks. She was young (40ish) had great blood pressure, didn’t smoke, no extra weight, and did everything her doctor asked, physio, meds, everything. I know another woman who insists she has been on a waiting list for years and her doctor won’t move her up because there is no money. In reality, her husband has told me that she will never survive the anaesthesia in her current state and since she refuses to even go to a dietician or take her meds or even try physio, her doctor will not book her operation. He’s not going to risk her dying on the table, and IF she lives getting complications that will kill her later.

    In the US, she’d be complaining about her insurance company turning her down flat and then pulling her coverage.

  24. You’re quite right about waiting lists being highly “dynamic” and influenced by many factors. The simplistic idea that it’s just a first-in-first-out queue is entirely wrong. Patients are evaluated on the basis of their suitability for surgery (which can involve many complicating medical issues depending on the individual causing them to be “bumped” until the problem is resolved) and in some cases treatment is actually postponed by the patients themselves for various personal reasons (e.g., inconvenient scheduling).

    My wife happens to be involved in the complex task of booking of people for orthopaedic surgeries so I’m well aware of all the things than go awry in that process and result in confusing delays.

    And yes, a fair number of Americans do come here for routine treatments. As I’ve said before, the reason the requirements for obtaining a Healthcare card in Ontario are so much more stringent than in most other provinces (e.g., proof of residency and photo ID) is precisely because of the high number of Americans crossing the border to “game” our system. Even here in B.C. it’s not all that unusual for Americans to get treatment. Funnily enough, apparently they’re the worst risks, financially speaking because the insurance companies reimburse their customers directly, and in turn they’re inclined to pocket that money and stiff the Canadian hospital for expenses incurred.

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