TORONTO – Dr. Danielle Martin (pictured), the physician who explained and defended Canada’s healthcare system at a recent U.S. Senate committee hearing, said Canadian political parties have been sounding her out as a candidate. And while parties at the federal, provincial and municipal level are all interested in her, Dr. Martin is sticking to medicine, for now.
“Certainly there have been some people who have reached out to me on that score,” Dr. Martin, a family physician and vice president of medical affairs at Women’s College Hospital, in Toronto, told the Canadian Press.
“It helps that there seem to be elections pending at every level of major political office where I live. But I’m not doing that. I’ve got a big job already … I’m happy to offer my advice on health policy to anyone who’s willing to listen.”
Dr. Martin was invited to testify by the committee chairman, Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-described socialist who would like to see the U.S. adopt a single-payer system like in Canada, something Vermont is already doing.
Canada’s health system is really run by the provinces, with federal funding, Martin explained, citing research showing better outcomes for cancer and heart patients in Canada at a much lower cost than the U.S. medical system.
That made her a target for Republicans on the committee, but Martin counter-punched with gleeful spontaneity.
Was it true that Canadians were dying because of health rationing? Not as many, she replied, as the 45,000 Americans dying each year in a health-care system rationed on the basis of someone’s ability to pay.
What about those notoriously brutal waiting lists? Another participant, Canadian-American medicare critic Sally Stipes, had described how her mom died soon after a colonoscopy in Vancouver for which she waited for months.
Waiting lists are a problem, particularly for elective procedures, said Martin, but not one that’s unique to Canada’s single-payer system. For Americans without insurance, she said in a later interview, the waiting list could be forever.
“You know, I waited in line for more than 30 minutes to get into this building today,” she told Republican Sen. Richard Burr.
“And when I arrived in the lobby, I noticed across the hall that there was a second entry point with no lineup whatsoever. Sometimes it’s not actually about the amount of resources that you have, but how you organize (them).”
At one point, the committee chair engaged in some play-acting. Canadians, he said, are well-informed about American politics – perhaps more so than Americans themselves. So are Canadians clamouring for U.S.-style health care?
No, Martin replied, to feigned shock from Sanders. “Is your prime minister a socialist?” he asked jokingly.
“No, sir,” Martin replied, “our prime minister is quite conservative.”