Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Canadian Health Care and Pregnancy - Part I

Since I'm pregnant and in Canada I though I'd post a bit of an account of what it's like to navigate our health care system and what it costs me for any curious American readers. I hear lots of very weird stories from south of the border about what Canadian Health care is like but rarely do they seem to give an accurate picture of my experience. Keep in mind that health care is actually a provincial matter so my Nova Scotian experience may vary a bit from that of other Canadians.

March 18th I peed on a store bought stick. I hoped and hoped it would be positive although I absolutely knew it would be negative. Shock followed as the little blue cross appeared. A couple of hours later I called my doctor's office to schedule an appointment and was told I could get in Monday morning.

I've gone to the same clinic, although it's been through many different doctors and even a location change, since I was four years old. Only one of the receptionists has remained a constant. Contrary to what a lot of people think, we don't have socialized health care in Canada. We have a one insurer system with the one insurer being the provincial government (federal law mandates certain obligations and standards). When I visit my doctor's office I'm visiting an independent small business. Thankfully it's a very well run small business so there's generally a very short wait for appointments (often a few hours to a day or two) and very short waits in the actual office.

When I visited the doctor she talked about what I'd need to consider in terms of risk factors (my age), vitamins, future appointments and such. She sent off paperwork so that I could get an ultrasound to determine how far along I was and to get an appointment at the local maternity hospital because they apparently like to keep an eye on us older pregnant ladies. She also gave me a form so I could visit the local health services office for blood work and as I left we set up an appointment for my first official prenatal visit.

That afternoon I took the kids to music lessons and by the time I got back the local general hospital had called to let me know I had an ultrasound appointment on Wednesday of the next week. On that Wednesday the kids and I went in to the hospital and had about a 10 minute wait. The actual appointment was no longer then the wait, just enough time to check what they needed to check, find out that I was almost 10 weeks and that there was just one little fetus in there.

The blood work was actually done the Thursday before the ultrasound. We have local health clinics run by the province in more rural areas where people can come for that rather then having to make the drive into town. It's still 25 minutes away for me but that's not a big deal. The wait there was a little longer, maybe 15 minutes but the actual appointment was quick, friendly and efficient.

This week I had my actual prenatal exam. Back to my doctor's office where she gave me a complete going over for a good half an hour. I hadn't heard from the maternity hospital yet so she decided to follow up on that and see what was holding them up. She also sent me away with another form for blood work, this one for a maternal serum test which will apparently help detect Down's Syndrome and Spina Bifida. Again, because I'm so old.

There was no fee for any of this of course except for parking at the general hospital. At every appointment except for my doctor I did have to whip out my provincial health card but that was it.

Next up will be the maternal serum blood work and hopefully that appointment at the maternity hospital.


JJ Ross said...

Thanks Dawn. Do I understand there is some kind of dedicated hospital just for pregnant ladies then? Interesting, and come to think of it, logical enough . . .

Dawn said...

Yup. There's a children's hospital within the same complex as well. The Grace services women in the Halifax area but also higher risk cases from around the province and even a couple of the neighbouring provinces. Suits me. The birthing rooms are more like hotel suites. :D

Anonymous said...

First I want to say Congratulations!
I am glad I came across your blog. I have heard many rumors about health care in Canada. From this post it seems you may have a distinct advantage over those of us living in the US.I look forward to reading more about your experience of bringing forth a new Canadian citizen.

angelsroy33 said...

I just stumbled onto your blog, and was interested because #1)my husband is Canadian and we are planning to move there from South Florida in the next year or two,#2)I wondered what the health care system really is like there for anyone! and #3) we are thinking of moving to Nova Scotia.(did I spell that wrong?) Anyways~this post is very interesting and I hope you will keep us all updated about everything. Oh,...and congratulations!

Tommy said...

cool blog!

car hire sunshine coast said...

It is a great post