One of the stories we’ve covered this year that stunned us the most was that of 47-year-old Cobble Hill resident Tammy Walker.
Walker came to our attention because of her need for a life-saving double lung transplant. To be hit with such a serious illness is bad enough, but to be told by the government that your bank account isn’t big enough to save your life is worse.
In fact, it’s shameful and horrifying for our province, indeed, our country.
As Canadians we take pride in our universal health care system.
It is one of the key things that separates us from our neighbours to the south, and it is something we often boast about – not without reason.
There are flaws, of course, but on the whole it works really well.
You don’t have to be rich to get treatment.
You can walk in and walk out of your doctor’s office as often as you need to without getting a bill. You can walk in and walk out of the hospital without being stopped for your financial information, though you may have a costly fistful of prescriptions (one of the flaws).
People with more money don’t get to cut in line for procedures and tests.
We don’t have to worry – or we’re not supposed to have to worry – about not being able to afford the medical care we need, especially when our lives are on the line.
That’s what makes what has happened to Walker so shocking.
She couldn’t even get put on the transplant list until she could prove she and her family had $25,000 in the bank.
There are not supposed to be financial qualifications for saving lives. It is despicable that there are situations in our province where our health system won’t help you unless you have cash.
Oh, they’ll help you if you are completely destitute, otherwise you have to bankrupt yourself for the necessary aftercare.
Walker was told by officials that she falls through the cracks in the system – she has both too much money and not enough.
That’s not a crack, that’s a gaping chasm known as twotier health care, something that is anathema to our Canadian beliefs.
It’s not a chasm that’s been closed, either.
While Walker has raised the funds, it’s been thanks to her family, friends and community, not the health system or the provincial government.
They should be the ones paying for this necessity. It should not and cannot continue to come down to how successful your bottle drives, car washes and garage sales can be.
It’s disgusting that nothing has changed. Politicians expressing their dismay and promising to look into it is not enough.
We need definitive action so that this never happens again.