Our Healthcare System is Crumbling

because YOU let it

I’m finger-pointing. And this may be uncomfortable for you.

My respected and accomplished colleague, Dr. Sohail Gandhi, just published an article “This Must be the Health Care System Canadians Want”.


Read this before proceeding


“This Must be the Health Care System Canadians Want”

Our healthcare system is crumbling, and it’s kind of your own fault. You get the healthcare system you demand, so to speak.

Healthcare is in crisis

I won’t belabour this. You’ve surely seen the media headlines over the recent months and years. And Dr. Gandhi referenced many examples in his article. Ontario’s healthcare system is in crisis – arguably worse and past the point of crisis now.

2.3 million Ontarians do not have a family doctor, and that number is expected to double in the coming years as family doctors retire (or burn out and leave).

Wait times for any test or referral are far too long. Patients are suffering (or dying) while they wait.

And while many of you are quick to complain, as Dr. Gandhi points out, none of you are actually doing anything about it.

A trip down memory lane

Since 2015, Ontario’s healthcare system has been in a predictable downward spiral. I emphasize the word “predictable” because we doctors have repeatedly warned you.

Look back at your social media feeds. Check out the hashtags “#CareNotCuts” or “#PatientsFirst” or “#CanadaWaits”, for examples. Look back to the 2015-2018 posts especially.

Here are some examples:

There have been many calls for action and protest.

Did YOU ever write or call your MPP?

Did YOU contact your friends and try to organize some sort or action or awareness?

Did YOU even “like” or “share” any of these posts?

My grassroots advocacy attempts in 2015

Back in 2015, when the outlook for our healthcare system started to look bad, I was naïve enough to think I could stir up some activism.

I published an informative toolkit on my website (it can still be found HERE) complete with:

Some highlights of awareness included:

I also printed paper copies of this toolkit with a cover letters that looked like this:

I personalized every cover letter and mailed physical copies to all the local influential people and parties I could think of, including:

  • The Mayor of Bancroft
  • The Reeve of Carlow/Mayo
  • The Mayor of Centre Hastings
  • The Mayor of Deseronto
  • The Reeve of Faraday
  • The CAO of Hastings County
  • The Mayor of Hastings Highlands
  • The Reeve of Marmora and Lake
  • The Mayor of Stirling-Rawdon
  • The Reeve of Limerick
  • The Reeve of Madoc
  • The Reeve of Tudor and Cashel
  • The Mayor of Tweed
  • The Reeve of Tyendinaga
  • The Reeve of Wollaston
  • The Madoc Kiwanis Club
  • The Madoc Lions Club
  • The Madoc Rotary Club
  • and even local arena managers and librarians.

The result: Crickets. Nearly nothing, except for a single letter of support from the Municipality of Centre Hastings. (Special thank you and recognition to Centre Hastings here):

Evidently, all my efforts were for nothing. Nine years of repeated efforts later and look at the state of things now …

Compare this to other advocacy campaigns

Dr. Gandhi notes in his article:

“I see people protesting and demanding change for any number of issues (and I stress many of these are important causes that I support). I have yet to see the kind of sustained pressure on government needed to force drastic change in Health Care.”

It’s certainly possible for YOU to rally against social injustices or to raise awareness about things you care about.

Think about all the energy, time, and resources you’ve seen devoted to concerns like:

  • #SupportUkraine
  • #EveryChildMatters
  • #MeToo
  • #ClimateChange
  • etc, etc, etc.

And consider viral campaigns like:

  • #IceBucketChallenge for ALS
  • #NoMakeupSelfie

Heck, even the unfortunate story of a gorilla in 2016 #RIPHarambe seemed to invoke more passion and awareness than your very own health!?

Don’t get me wrong. These are important issues. It’s just the relative lack of inaction regarding your healthcare system is astounding.

“ . . . I told you so”

Frustrated by the lack of engagement, I posted this “… I told you so” graphic on September 10th, 2015:

Nine years later. Well, what did I tell you?

And since things only seem to get worse year after year, I like to remind people of my clairvoyance from time to time. Like here, in 2020 when I re-shared the “… I told you so” graphic with this caption:

Still: crickets.

Will I still be re-posting this is 2029?

It is YOU (the VOTERS) who matter

Dr. Gandhi points out,

“But wait, aren’t doctors and nurses organizations advocating for better health care? Of course they are. But the blunt reality is that there are about 43,000 members of the Ontario Medical Association, and 190,000 or so nurses. To truly enact change in Ontario – millions of people need to demand it because millions of votes will matter to politicians.”

Doctors and nurses have been sounding the alarm bells for a decade. But that only goes so far.

Politicians control the funding. Politicians control the policy. Politicians control the healthcare system.

But they don’t take notice until YOU (VOTERS) organize yourselves en masse and demand change.

Politicians don’t take action unless they feel their re-election is in jeopardy. And frankly, the MPPs seem pretty comfy these days. Doug Ford feels so cozy, he is musing about calling an early election.

So, what are YOU going to do?

Do you care about your healthcare system?

Do you worry about being one of the millions of Ontarians who are (or will soon be) without a family doctor?

Do you think the current 12-24 hours wait times in the ERs are acceptable? Or the 6-12 months wait time for tests? or the 1-2 year wait times for specialists?

Then what are you going to do?

Call your MPPs. Write your MPPs.

Get Passionate. Rally. Protest. Share the hashtags. Spread the word. Tell friends and family.

And if that doesn’t seem to work. Do it again. More. And louder.

You end up with the healthcare system you demand. And so far, the crickets haven’t demanded much.

by Dr. Adam Stewart

July 5th, 2024