Crawl Across the Ocean

Saturday, January 15, 2005

That wacky MRI gap

I have to give the National Post credit - about all I usually see of it is the front page (in the newspaper box), but they come up with such wacky headlines that I often end up wondering what the heck they are talking about.

Case in point was yesterday's edition where the biggest headline read:

"MRI gap defies cash fix:
Most other developed countries have more machines per capita
"

Imagine if you saw the following headline:

"Spoon shortage defies purchase of new spoons" and you can see why I was puzzled by this headline (I had 8 spoons and I needed 12, I went out and tried to buy more but I was defied by the spoon gap). If the problem, as the subtitle states, is that there aren't enough machines, then how did more cash not solve this problem?

The article suggests that there is a shortage of people to operate the machines, but really, couldn't money fix that too?

So what's my point? That when people say that 'throwing' (the verb they almost invariably use) more money 'at' the system won't fix anything, they're wrong. This is most clear when we are talking about a shortage of machines that we haven't bought more of because we don't have the money but really it's true about the whole system in general.

The truth is, the biggest problem with health care (in my opinion) is that people want to spend more on their health but they don't want to pay higher taxes and taxes are what is used to pay for their health. There's lots of other problems of course (which I'll save for another day), but that's the biggest one.

Labels: , , ,

4 Comments:

  • We need more MRIs and we also need to operate the ones we have 24 hours a day.

    Idiocy alert: When Ontario went and bought out all of the private MRIs in the province they made it even harded to get a scan. Publically run MRIs are used less often than when they were privatized.

    "The truth is, the biggest problem with health care (in my opinion) is that people want to spend more on their health but they don't want to pay higher taxes and taxes are what is used to pay for their health."

    You're right - we want to instead have a private system in parallel to the public one where we can spend our money (consider it a voluntary tax) as we see fit on the procedures that we feel are necessary.

    By Blogger Andrew, at 8:24 AM  

  • Andrew, you're confusing two separate issues:

    The first (relatively) insignificant one is how health services should be delivered: Choices include a public monopoly, private firms in competition, private monopolies or publicly with competition or some combination of these (perhaps different methods for different services).

    The second, more tricky one, is whether people should be allowed to get better health care by paying more. i.e. Whether rich people should live longer than poor people.

    By Blogger Declan, at 9:39 PM  

  • Declan, I am not convinced that it is a matter of allowing rich people to purchase "better" health care. Instead it may be that by allowing a parallel private system we would be allowing people to allocate their money to what matters to them.

    If I want a knee replacement - and I am getting to the age where the bum knee of my teens is beginning to bite - I can wait for eight months to get Dr. Day to operate inside the public system where he gets two and a half days a week of theatre time, or I can go to the States and have it done in an afternoon for $20,000.00 USD. That is our present system.

    A system which allowed parallel private care would allow me to pay Dr. Day $3000.00 Cdn, get off the public waiting list and be done in a week. The guy is willing to work five days a week but he can't inside the public system.

    Now, does that give me better care? Well, no except that I get my knee done faster. However, because my knee is now off the board, everyone behind me in the public system moves up.

    (I might add that the problem is not a shortage of operating rooms - there are plenty of operating rooms in the public system which have been closed due to lack of funding and these could easily be leased to the parallel private system which would, surprise, be economically more efficient and pump money into the public system.)

    The MRI gap is as much about usage as it is about machines. There is no reason why, off hours, those machines could not be used for private patients. And, again, at the right price per hour there is no shortage of techs.

    By Blogger jc, at 6:04 PM  

  • " I am not convinced that it is a matter of allowing rich people to purchase "better" health care"

    They can get the existing health care for free, if what they want to pay for isn't better, why would they pay for it?

    "The guy is willing to work five days a week but he can't inside the public system."

    He can't because we can't afford to pay him to - because we don't put enough money into the system.

    "Now, does that give me better care? Well, no except that I get my knee done faster."

    Am I missing something here? Isn't the whole debate arising because of the *problem* of long wait times?

    "could easily be leased to the parallel private system which would, surprise, be economically more efficient"

    You're assuming that a private system would be more efficent. I don't see that as an assumptiom you can make.

    "The MRI gap is as much about usage as it is about machines. There is no reason why, off hours, those machines could not be used for private patients. And, again, at the right price per hour there is no shortage of techs."

    There's no reason why they couldn't be used off hours for public patients - except lack of money (as you point out right afterwards) - Am I getting my point across yet :)

    By Blogger Declan, at 12:54 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home