Ask any group of Canadians what they hate about our health-care system and chances are they’ll give you a one-word answer: waits. Waits to find a doctor. Waits at ER. Long waits for non-urgent tests. Endless waits to see a specialist and to have procedures. Waits, sometimes, even when your chances of recovery depend on timely treatment.
Charlie Fischer knows all about waiting on Canada’s government-throttled health-care system. When he was diagnosed with Stage 4 throat cancer in April 2014, one of the first things he was told was how urgent it was to start treatment within two weeks. Stage 4 is the most advanced form of cancer, in which cancer cells have spread to other organs in the body, and is considered gravely life-threatening. It didn’t happen. Instead, Fischer had to wait. Through a shocking series of avoidable missteps, it was six weeks before he started the urgent treatment he needed to save his life. The experience turned Fischer, now 69, from happily retired oil patch executive into an outspoken advocate for health-care reform. Charlie’s “retirement” was unlike those of many for, as a Calgary-based community icon, he remained active as a volunteer and member of numerous boards.