HealthZette

Split Apart by Socialized Medicine

Who said Canada's system works? It cruelly separated this devoted married couple.

Growing up in Canada, Sally Pipes knows the heartache of a government-run health care system.

“My own mother died of colon cancer because she couldn’t get a colonoscopy,” said Pipes, now the CEO and founder of the Pacific Research Institute in California. PRI examines public policies that impact America’s health care system and explains how these policies limit access to affordable, high-quality health care.

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So when she saw the photo of an elderly couple in Canada who were devastated by being separated by the health care system, she was saddened — but not surprised. “It’s just another example of many that when government completely controls the spending on health care and the money that goes to it — they allocate how they’re going to spend that money,” Pipes told LifeZette.

The photo shows the couple in tears as they sit as close as they can to each other. Wolf Gottschalk, 83, and his wife, Anita, 81, are currently in separate care facilities in Surrey, British Columbia.

They have been for months — despite the family’s attempt to keep them together. The homes are half an hour apart — family members drive Anita to see her husband several times a week.

The photo, which has gone viral, was taken by their granddaughter, who says she just wants to see them together again.

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“This is the saddest photo I have ever taken,” Ashley Bartyik wrote in a Facebook post. “They cry every time they see each other, and it is heartbreaking.”

Health officials say they’re working to reunite the couple, telling CBC News it’s difficult because the couple have different health needs and they must wait for another bed to become available. But their families fear time is running out. Wolf Gottschalk not only has dementia, he is suffering from lymphoma as well.

“Another real issue here is — he has been diagnosed with lymphoma,” said Pipes. “How long did it take to get an appointment to diagnose him, and what is the Canadian health care plan doing to get him treatment?”

“The wait today in Canada from seeing a primary care doctor to getting treatment by a specialist, on average, is 18.3 weeks. That’s higher than it’s ever been.”

Pipes said that as a child, she witnessed the inability of her friends and family to get the kind of care they needed. Why? Because the government cut back on what these people put into the system. It inspired Pipes to do the work she does now.

They have a global budget, said Pipes, who is also the author of “Miracle Cure: How to Solve America’s Health Care Crisis and Why Canada Isn’t the Answer.” “But the demand is always greater [for health care services] than the supply,” she added.

“In Canada today, a two-parent, two-child family earning $122,000 pays $11,500 in taxes to get their health care — but they don’t know it because it’s hidden in the tax burden and they have to wait on average four months for treatment. The wait today in Canada from seeing a primary care doctor to getting treatment by a specialist — on average — is 18.3 weeks. That’s higher than it’s ever been since we started the waiting list back in 1993. The American people would go crazy,” said Pipes.

Yet that is the direction she and many others now believe we’re headed. And while couples aren’t always allowed to be together in similar situations in the U.S., Pipes said it’s far less likely to happen here.

“Obama had that 8-page piece in JAMA saying Obamacare is such a success that we need a public option. It should have said, ‘Obamacare is such a failure, therefore I want to move to a completely socialized Medicare system.’ That, to me, has always been their plan. As we see companies getting out of the market, the average premium for exchange plans for 2017 looks to be about a 24-percent increase — which goes completely against the promise that the average family would see premiums go down by $2,500. And a lot of the plans now have far fewer doctors that people can go to on their plans.”

Added Pipes, “It’s really in a death spiral. This has been the long-term goal for these people and that’s exactly what’s happening.”

Update: The pair has now been reunited as of late September 2016 and are happily together again.