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Universal healthcare saves lives and families

By: Jesse M. Kelly

“I’m really glad you’re advocating for this,” she said. She was the night nurse who was looking after my mother: blonde, curly haired, young, and still passionate about the profession of nursing.

What I was advocating for was basically a mitten for my mother’s left hand, to hamper the medicinal side effect that was slowly rotting it off from the fingertips.

The whole scene, as well as the week prior, and many moons to come played out in the intensive care unit of Lake Ridge Health Centre in Oshawa, Ont.

A single room in this unit costs the government $1,200 a day. Or, three months rent for me. That doesn’t include costs related to the respirator she was hooked up to, the feeding tube, sedatives, dialysis, physiotherapy or the wages for doctors and nurses. It does not include the costs for needles, vials of medicine or the cost of masks and gowns, of which my family would go through over a hundred in a week. It certainly doesn’t cover the costs of lab work on blood samples, or the computers and software present in each of the three intensive care stations. This cost doesn’t include the eight to 14 bags of medicine and liquid nourishment draining into my mother, my mom, at all hours of the day and night.

In the American system, if I had to cover these costs myself, I would be bankrupt in a single day. Some students may fare a little better, but I don’t know many who would.

That is the value of the tax system under which we live. In my time in this ward, I have seen an elderly man helped to regain his ability to walk after long periods in a hospital bed. I have seen patients snatched back from the cliffs of death, and some who have, regrettably, not been so lucky.

Most importantly I have seen families, sick with sadness, crying and wailing and breaking down in front of complete strangers. In the midst of all this, should they be saddled with a financial burden in addition to their emotional one?

I would go so far as to say: No, they should not.

In funding health care we are funding families. We are refraining from punishing people for situations beyond their control. We are funding mechanisms of support and nurturing. We are not punishing those who love enough to hold on another day, and in some cases, who love enough to know when to let go.

Of course at this point the argument also digresses into situations that are not beyond our control. Why should we be paying to treat the pack-a-day smoker for lung cancer? Why should we be paying to treat weight-related diseases for the habitually unhealthy? The simple answer is because that person matters to someone, and most likely there is someone in your life that displays one of, if not both, of these habits.

I don’t think it is necessary to state my bias here.

The Canadian health care system coaxed my mother back from the brink of death, but the fact is, the Canadian system is one that benefits us all.

The able-bodied pay in on the expectation that this will not always be the case. The student receives a tax break on the expectation that he/she will some day support other students.

Nowhere is the cycle of life so evident as in the hospital, and in the tax code of Canada.

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