03/05/2014 06:13 EST | Updated 05/05/2014 05:59 EDT

What I Learned After Waiting 10 Hours In The ER

The British Columbia health care system is at a crossroads. The population is aging and the system is already bursting at the seams.

I had to go to a local hospital emergency department recently for diabetic complications when my GP's office and walk in clinics were closed. It took nearly 10 hours for me to be seen by a doctor and apparently this is an average wait time. Unfortunately, I did not pack any food or drink which is essential for someone with my condition. Nonetheless, I did not feel sorry for myself. I felt really sorry for the parents in the emergency room trying to get health care for their children or the elderly and other vulnerable people such as persons with disabilities.

I have to admit since I live with a chronic medical condition, I am grateful for a universal health care system. I am not sure if the American model is a good example for Canada. It would definitely increase costs for business and society at-large. It is a well known fact that the U.S. spends more on health care than Canada per capita. Furthermore, until recently with the passage of "Obamacare," millions of Americans had no health insurance whatsoever.

I feel our health care workers and health care system is doing the best it can with the limited resources and support services they have. I am not sure what the solutions are but I feel the status quo is not working. I have been thinking about my experience in the hospital emergency room for a while. How can the system improve so the services are there in a timely and efficient manner when the people need them?

I had an Oprah "Ah ha!" moment. I recalled going to the laboratory to get my blood sugar checked. Most of these laboratories are privately owned and operated. The important thing, however, is that they all accept the BC Care Card for payment and citizens and residents of B.C. do not have to pay anything upfront or out of pocket.

The end result is that the provincial government does not have to build or operate these facilities. I usually receive my test results in a few days and if you book ahead of time online there is usually little or no wait to get your blood test. In other words it's a very efficient way to deliver health care without burdening the health care system and the provincial health care budgets.

I discussed with a friend the idea of having more private facilities in the health care system in terms of building new hospitals, clinics, and providing services to the people. He stated even if the provincial government continued to cover all the costs through the medical services plan (MSP), the people and politicians would never even consider nor debate the issue. Health care is a "sacred cow."

As the population ages there will be more and more pressures on the health care system. Why wait until the system deteriorates further. In Vancouver, they still have not replaced St. Paul's Hospital. Who knows how many new hospitals would have been built across the province if the government allowed private health care facilities?

This would ease the burden in the public sector. Wait times would go down. Most communities would probably have at least some sort of health care facility. And the best part is the political leaders could legislate universal health care insurance so no one goes without health care in this province. It would not matter if your rich or poor. The only difference would be that the people would have more choice and options available to them with their health care needs and the level of service would improve.

Most importantly with private sector involvement, their would be an automatic measuring stick for the public sector. The government would quickly discover how much everything costs. This is a basic requirement to ensure your system is sustainable in the long term.

This is a win-win for the people, the province, and the private and public sector.

Alex Sangha is a registered social worker in B.C. and the author of the social discussion book, "Catalyst."