Walter E. Williams

 Let's start out by not quibbling with America's socialists' false claim that health-care service is a human right that people should have regardless of whether they can pay for it or not and that it should be free. Before we buy into this socialist agenda, we might check out just what happens when health-care services are "free." Let's look at our neighbor to the north -- Canada.

 The Fraser Institute, a Vancouver, B.C.-based think tank, has done yeoman's work keeping track of Canada's socialized health-care system. It has just come out with its 13th annual waiting-list survey. It shows that the average time a patient waited between referral from a general practitioner to treatment rose from 16.5 weeks in 2001-02 to 17.7 weeks in 2003. Saskatchewan had the longest average waiting time of nearly 30 weeks, while Ontario had the shortest, 14 weeks.

 Waiting lists also exist for diagnostic procedures such as computer tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound. Depending on what province and the particular diagnostic procedure, the waiting times can range from two to 24 weeks.

 As reported in a December 2003 story by Kerri Houston for the Frontiers of Freedom Institute titled "Access Denied: Canada's Healthcare System Turns Patients Into Victims," in some instances, patients die on the waiting list because they become too sick to tolerate a procedure. Houston says that hip-replacement patients often end up non-ambulatory while waiting an average of 20 weeks for the procedure, and that's after having waited 13 weeks just to see the specialist. The wait to get diagnostic scans followed by the wait for the radiologist to read them just might explain why Cleveland, Ohio, has become Canada's hip-replacement center.

 Adding to Canada's medical problems is the exodus of doctors. According to a March 2003 story in Canada News (www.canoe.ca), about 10,000 doctors left Canada during the 1990s. Compounding the exodus of doctors is the drop in medical school graduates. According to Houston, Ontario has chosen to turn to nurses to replace its bolting doctors. It's "creating" 369 new positions for nurse practitioners to take up the slack for the doctor shortage.


Walter E. Williams

Dr. Williams serves on the faculty of George Mason University as John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics and is the author of 'Race and Economics: How Much Can Be Blamed on Discrimination?' and 'Up from the Projects: An Autobiography.'
 
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