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March 07, 2022

How much would you pay to bypass ER wait times?

That doctors were able to treat patients in an overcrowded hospital’s Tim Hortons last week – that was clever.

Istockphoto_8146665-emergency-room-this-way But that a makeshift ER had to be set up alongside Iced Caps and Boston Creams in the first place – that, maybe that’s not worth celebrating.

Certainly, Canada’s health care system, for all its international praise and acclaim when compared against the pre-ObamaCare U.S., has its flaws. Even its biggest supporters would concede this.

Yet this latest overcrowded hospital gaffe may also allow us to gauge the public temperature for wait times with an interesting hypothetical: if you could, how much would you pay to bypass a stint in an emergency waiting room?

By now, you all know the story that’s behind this post. Early in March, the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, B.C., became so overrun with patients it was forced to use the building’s Tim Hortons as a temporary ER.

In full disclosure, the restaurant was closed at the time and screens were put up to shield patients from prying eyes. But there they were, nonetheless, receiving heart monitoring and bloodwork just steps from where doughnuts and sandwiches are sold.

Of course, it doesn’t actually  take a doctor to tell you this is poor health care – the hospital, almost sheepishly, has admitted as much – though it resurfaces all the criticisms that have long been lobbed at Canada’s universal system.

According to a recent CBC poll, about 24 per cent of Canadians have waited 4-7 hours in an emergency room. More worrisome, though, was this: a daunting 57 per cent said they’d once waited eight hours or more to see a physician.

While we may never get the sought-after two-tier health care system in Canada, perhaps one day we’ll be able to pay for the incentive to bypass an ER lineup; kind of like a NEXUS for broken arms and mono.

So, let's humour the issue. If you could, how much would you pay to bypass an emergency room wait time?

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...