What Jim Carrey Got Wrong About Canada's Health-Care System

I am a Canadian who, twice, had to seek out services in the U.S that weren't readily available in Canada
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Last week, Jim Carrey told the world what he really thinks of the Canadian health-care system on the hit show Real Time with Bill Maher. While our media is constantly being bombarded by messages that our health-care system is the ideal to live up to, it's a concept that only sounds nice on paper. In practice, we pay high prescription prices, have to wait a minimum of two years for many specialists, and marginalized members of society receive worse care due to discrimination pushed by doctors trying to siphon through their long list of patients.

I'm not feeding readers "bulls**t you get on all the political shows from people that [the Canadian health care system] is a failure," as Carrey announces that the dissent people have of this system is untrue. I am an East Coast resident, with private and public insurance, who has twice had to seek out services in the United States that weren't readily available in Canada for two different conditions. Had I been American with either condition, I would have been eligible under private insurance for coverage or reimbursement.

Actor Jim Carrey in Los Angeles, California on Sept. 5, 2018.
Actor Jim Carrey in Los Angeles, California on Sept. 5, 2018.

My first trip to the U.S. for treatment came as a surprise when I was invited on The Doctors to get treatment for dermatillomania. In 2015 there were only two specialists for body-focused repetitive behaviours, with both being in Ontario. While there are now eight specialists in Canada (and 400+ in the U.S.), none are east of Ontario. While on The Doctors, I was going through a health crisis that was unaddressed due to long waiting lists and insufficient treatments in Canada. I have had to wait two years for the local pain clinic and orthopedic surgeon, both who ended up dropping me without giving me a backup pain management plan.

From the age of 26 to 32, I suffered from piriformis syndrome. After seeing four physiotherapists, two chiropractors, multiple massage therapists, with the list going on, I was gaslit or simply dismissed. In being a young female with mental health issues, my severe pain was not taken seriously until I decided on having my piriformis muscle surgically removed because there were no options left I hadn't tried for pain.

I had to pay out of pocket over $20,000 for travel and surgery because Nova Scotia Medical Services Insurance won't cover any procedure that hasn't passed phase three of clinical trials. Automatically, this means the Department of Health and Wellness won't cover travel expenses. In not being employed for six years due to this disability, my husband and I had to pool all of our resources and go into debt in order to save my body and life.

Surgery was the best decision because my sciatic nerve was pushed to the side, and surrounded by scar tissue, from a fall I had in 2012. Despite piriformis removals occurring frequently during full hip replacements, no surgeon here wanted to do it for this condition. My only regret is not doing the surgery sooner because my opposite hip started hurting this year, likely from the compensation of dragging my leg for five years. I won't know about the prognosis of that until I get an MRI, which will take up to a year in Halifax, followed by seeing a new orthopedic surgeon... in 2020.

"Sink or f**king swim, pal, or you live in a box," Mr. Carrey tells the supportive audience, is what the Canadian government won't say to its citizens. I had to swim against the current and if living in a box was the only way I could survive, I made that choice because my world of constant pain was closing in on me. Doctors here even refused to open a line of communication with my surgeon, to ensure that I was receiving quality care, because it didn't matter to them at the end of the day.

As a young woman with a history of mental health afflictions and chronic pain, I've been given an anchor in the middle of the Atlantic ocean and told to wait years until I can see someone who may or may not take me seriously. It's not relevant to my situation anymore because I made the right decision to have surgery, but there are many others who have similar stories to mine, but have no solution for their pain or ability to take out a loan until the end of time to treat themselves.

If you ever want to come break bread with me, Jim, this progressive who would like to believe in the Canadian system you described can tell you all about the hard realities of our failing system is currently facing. In 2018 alone, Nova Scotia alone has over 50,000 people without a family doctor, long waiting lists, hospitals/ clinics/ ERs shutting down, and a record number of suicides from the year before. Our system is a health fail, not health care, and placing it on a pedestal is giving Americans the wrong impression, and expectation, about socialized medicine.

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