Deadly Canadian Health Care

Opponents of nationalize health care rightly warn about the negative impact of politicizing medical care, but it’s never easy to prove that someone who otherwise would have lived died as a result.  Yet Canadians are asking whether that may be the case with actress Natasha Richardson.  Reports the News & Observer (hat tip to Matthew Vadum at the American Spectator blog):

Questions are arising over whether a medical helicopter might have been able to save actress Natasha Richardson.

The province of Quebec lacks a medical helicopter system, common in the United States and other parts of Canada, to airlift stricken patients to major trauma centers. Montreal’s top head trauma doctor said Friday that may have played a role in Richardson’s death.

Richardson, 45, died Wednesday at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York after falling Monday on a ski slope at the Mont Tremblant resort in Quebec.

“It’s impossible for me to comment specifically about her case, but what I could say is … driving to Mont Tremblant from the city [Montreal] is a 2 1/2-hour trip, and the closest trauma center is in the city. Our system isn’t set up for traumas and doesn’t match what’s available in other Canadian cities, let alone in the States,” said Tarek Razek, director of trauma services for the McGill University Health Centre, which represents six of Montreal’s hospitals.

While Richardson’s initial refusal of medical treatment cost her two hours, she also had to be driven to two hospitals. She didn’t arrive at a specialized hospital in Montreal until about four hours after the second 911 call from her hotel room at the resort, according to a timeline published by Canada’s The Globe and Mail newspaper.

Because of the pervasiveness of both third party payment and government regulation, the American medical system spends more than it should.  But it remains far more oriented towards meeting patient needs than does government-dominated health care.  As policymakers debate various “reform” measures, they should keep Natasha Richardson’s tragic fate in mind.