Turning Honest Canadians into Queue-Jumpers

It’s enough to make the average Canadian cry.  The decent folk up north fervently defend their health care system from attack.  But, it turns out, the vast majority are willing to do most anything to jump the medical queue.  If paying off their doctor would move them ahead, well, let the favors and money flow!

Reports the National Post:

When push comes to shove, many people would seriously consider pulling strings to jump a health-care queue, suggests a survey of Toronto residents.

And 16% of the 101 people responding to the Toronto telephone survey said they had already contacted a friend in the medical system in an effort to get moved up a waiting list.

The survey found the respondents hold dear the principles of fairness in Canada’s health care system. An overwhelming 95% said equal access to health care based on need was important to them.

But they would also scramble to get help for themselves or loved ones. When presented with a number of theoretical scenarios, many indicated how far they would go.

About 29% said they would consider giving a gift or donation to get ahead and 36% agreed that patients should be allowed to pay extra to get quicker access. Almost two-thirds said they were willing to pay more taxes for an improved health care system.

“As the system is under more and more strain, people will do what they have to do,” said lead author Dr. Steven Marc Friedman, a Toronto emergency room physician who is also an associate professor of family and community medicine at the University of Toronto.

The study was published this week in the European Journal of Emergency Medicine.

The survey shows as queues grow, even those who support the principals of fairness will try to get preferential access.

“People are beginning to sense that the system isn’t always fair. There’s the perception that other people are getting ahead,” said Friedman.

In one scenario, the respondents were asked if they would speak to a neighbour who is a secretary at an MRI clinic if it meant getting moved up a list instead of waiting three months. About 71% said they would likely or definitely take the step.

Another scenario asked the respondent if they would give their surgeon tickets to basketball and hockey games if it meant getting hip replacement surgery faster. Thirty per cent said they would likely or definitely do that.

A third scenario asked if the respondent was willing to pay a $20 “emergency fee” to see a dermatologist about an unattractive but apparently harmless rash instead of waiting three months. Just over half said they would.

And 56% said they would likely or definitely let a doctor who owes them a favour move them up a waiting list for cataract surgery.