The gap between rich and poor is growing. There used to be a ‘middle class’ but I find this segment disappearing. There is the wealthy and everyone else. Everyone else describes those who used to be classified as middle class or lower-middle class and those that live in poverty. Poverty also has its classifications of those that live at or above the poverty line, those that live below the poverty line and the extreme poor.
When it comes to health and healthcare these same classifications hold true even in a country like Canada where there is socialized medicine. A write-up on HealthyDebate.ca, a project under the direction of Dr. Andreas Laupacis, at the Keenan Research Centre, Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital, written by Danyaal Raza, family physician in Ottawa goes into more detail regarding ‘the gap for rich and poor is bad for our health.’
In 2012, the Canadian Medical Association released a study showing how self-reported health varies with income level. Then CMA President Dr. John Haggie said, “When it comes to the well-being of Canadians, the old saying that wealth equals health continues to ring true. What is particularly worrisome for Canada’s doctors is that in a nation as prosperous as Canada, the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ appears to be widening.” In 2012, higher income respondents were 29% more likely to describe their health as “excellent” or “very good” than lower-income respondents. In 2009, that difference was only 17%.
I am sure if we were to review a study by the Canadian Medical Association today, as in April 2013, the gap and percentages would be even greater. As a professional who works with older adults/seniors, I hear on a regular basis complaints and dissatisfaction, little to no access to the necessary physician or specialist, long waitlists for routine tests, exams, specialists and surgery, hours spent at a walk-in clinic waiting to obtain a prescription, if one has a GP they are unable to reach said individual by phone the same day and often have to wait weeks or months for an appointment. These complaints are the same for those that are lower-income as higher income except those that have the financial means can always pay privately for an exam or test that would take weeks or months in the public system.
Change is certainly needed. What do you think? What changes would you suggest?
Written by Victoria Brewster, MSW