Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Rant: Buy your own damn machines

Where I live, we have a public healthcare system where most things are paid for, and I am fortunate to have much of the care for my chronic illness paid for out of my taxes. Having said that, I do not particularly like the care I get for said illness. Too frequently of late I have waited a long time in waiting rooms; an hour and a half for bloodwork (and this cannot be claimed to be an inefficiency of public care--bloodwork is generally done by private companies who are contracted to the government or individual patients), and regularly at least an hour to see my specialist. The only time I have not waited, they phoned me five minutes before my appointment time to see where I was, because everyone else was gone and they wanted to go home. You can guarantee that they don't phone me before my appointment when they are running an hour plus late. Not only do they not phone me, it seems to be against clinic policy to apologise for the wait. Clearly, given that they always run late, their appointment times are too short, but obviously this is okay because in this circumstance it is only the patients (whose time is infinitely expendable) who have to wait, not the doctors. So yeah, I'm not crazy about my hospital.

Where I live charitable donations are tax deductible, so come tax time every charity is out asking for donations. Now, I am all for giving to charity; I have a couple of donations that go out monthly to organizations I support, and I am tempted to add a couple more to the list. So around tax time, I got a letter from the hospital where I get my care, soliciting donations for some "hi-tech" new ultrasound machines to help "pregnant women and men with prostate cancer". Now, leaving aside for a moment the fact that I don't even like the bloody hospital, this is wrong on so many levels:
  • They have my address because I am one of their patients. Not only does this show me that they are quite willing to use information I provided for reasons of healthcare to solicit for donations, it also shows that they are willing to ask for donations from those who already have the additional financial burden of a health condition bad enough to be treated at a public hospital (and yes, there are costs associated with illness even in socialised medicine). I've also had solicitations for donations from other public hospitals I have nothing to do with, and I'm somewhat suspicious as to how they got my information.
  • They were talking about how wonderful these new machines were. There have been no truly significant developments in ultrasound since the 90s, so either they are very slow off the mark, or they're...dissembling.
  • The government will be making a significant contribution towards the cost of these machines, and if the hospital cannot afford to replace equipment, it should either be asking the government for more money or looking at how it spends its operating budget (especially if these machines are just replacements).
  • They do the routine about "obese, older mothers" benefitting more from ultrasound. First of all, it is at best debatable how much obesity is really a risk in pregnancy, and secondly, ultrasound is a difficult imaging tool to use on patients with a lot of adipose tissue, so these machines won't help obese mothers that much anyway.
  • The letter also says how pregnancy and prostate imaging are "non invasive" diagnostic measures. Given that prostate ultrasound is performed transrectally, and pregnancy ultrasounds is often performed transvaginally, these people clearly have no idea what "invasive" means to non-medical professionals.
  • Despite asking me to send them a cheque or my visa card details, a replay paid envelope was not included. This is not only rude, it means I am altogether too likely to make a mistake and send money to the wrong address.
Given the cost of postage, I truly wonder whether they will make any money on this campaign at all. I'm pretty annoyed about all the trees involved in doing a paper mailout like this, and I'm equally annoyed at being targeted for all the reasons I list above. Honestly, if the donation section had not had my name and address on it, I would have paid for a stamp to send it back with "you've got to be joking" written on it in big red letters. Because really, they've got to be joking.

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