By Jack Mintz, January 3, 2023
As a rocky year comes to a close, my thoughts wander to events, both good and bad, that I had not expected and what they may mean for the future. There are so many to consider! I picked two themes unique to Canada: deepening Medicare turmoil and the surprising fiscal turnaround in public deficits.
As the pandemic ends, our Medicare system is clearly a patient on the ventilator. After repeated cost-saving cuts to acute-care beds over the years, the pandemic laid bare the crisis of inadequate capacity in our health system. We almost reached the point of triage, in which medical staff would have had to decide who should live and who should die. Hats off to our hardworking medical professionals, who got us through very difficult times in 2020 and 2021 by shifting resources from surgeries to COVID care.
But the real surprise came in 2022 when new stresses emerged: not the longer waiting times for surgeries and other procedures — they were expected — but rather the catastrophe in emergency services across the country. Paramedics sat in their ambulances with their patients as emergency treatment centres were unable to handle so many people showing up at the hospital. With paramedics lined up outside Emerg, waiting times for ambulances increased dramatically.