Those living in Canada are fortunate to have access to a very unique health care system. There is no private health care system in Canada. Everyone even the prime minister also has to go to the same government health system in Canada.
I can help ruminating about the health-care system of Bangladesh. My father is 81 and a retired civil servant. In 2009 when we were living in Saudi Arabia, my father had to go through a major spinal cord surgery at the Singapore National Hospital. He couldn’t afford it so the family contributed towards his treatment.
My father is now suffering from the same severe pain and problem in another vertebra. Labaid, United Hospital and Apollo Hospital have said that they can do the surgery. But the amount of money they have asked for is beyond my parents’ ability.
My brother’s wife, an Indonesian, needed a gall bladder surgery. The quality of service our government hospitals provide is not up to the mark and so they went to private hospitals in Bangladesh. Again, their services were hardly affordable. So my sister went to Indonesia for her surgery. As she was still teaching at the University of Deepak there, they covered her medical expenses.
An aunt of mine was very frustrated with the treatment of the private hospitals in Bangladesh. She has a rare disease affecting her face. It is related to the central nervous system and the facial tissues. It is very transitory but very painful. She had to take very expensive injections every month at a private hospital in Bangladesh. After taking the first injection, she fell very sick at home. She felt like her body was frozen. She thought that she was dying. My uncle called the doctor immediately and the doctor said that he forgot to inform her that she needed 12 hours’ complete bed rest after the shot. So you can realise that though the private hospitals are taking a lot of money, their service is not at all up to any standard.
Coming back to Canada. Canada is very up-to-date in providing appropriate care for cancer, liver cirrhosis, kidney problems and many other diseases. Chronic diseases like schizophrenia, autism, addiction, substance use and other mental health issues are also dealt with by an integrated care system. The integrated care system has completely switched from the old medical model to the modern recovery model. In this integrated care system, an interdisciplinary team of doctors, nurses, social workers, psychiatrists, police, schools, and social service organisations all work together with the clients and family members to face any physical or mental health challenges. The challenges are faced here in a collaborative way where the person or the family is not blamed and the responsibility is shared with a person and the family, the society and the government. No one is alone here. There is always hope and collaboration. As a result, the client can take an informed choice in the recovery process. Nothing is imposed upon the client and the client takes the final decision - not the doctor or family or social workers or psychiatrists or anyone else.
It makes me very sad when through the social media I see many of my near and dear ones in Bangladesh requesting the government to do something for their schizophrenic and autistic children. They are worried about who will take care of their children that after their death. In Canada these children are treated specially. They get special care in school, on the buses, everywhere. Violating the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disability Act (AODA) is a punishable crime.
In Bangladesh, there is only one asylum in Hemayetpur for mental patients in the whole country. They are virtually imprisoned there, mistreated, given drugs to keep them quiet. There is no proper treatment there and what they do is a violation of human rights.
We have to come out from the traditional pattern of taking any physical or mental health issues personally. Especially with the mental health issues, we have the tendency to take it as a matter of shame and guilt. We blame the person or the family for the issue. In Canada, instead of blaming the person, they try to find the root cause and to solve the issue all together. Everyone in the society has a role to in solving the issue. For autistic children, there are special schools and special benefits. Patients with schizophrenia are treated in an integrated way instead of being confined to asylums. For any kind of physical or mental difficulty a student can ask for accommodation, special equipment, note takers and counseling services. In public transit, buildings, malls, everywhere we can see compliance with (AODA) Accessibility of Ontarians with Disability Act. So, as parents we should never feel guilty or cursed or alone if we have a special child. We must ask for accommodation for them which will make life easier and better for our child and ourselves. There is no shame or guilt. It is our legal right to get appropriate health care and financial assistance from the society and from the government. This approach to battle is called the ‘holistic approach’ where the person is treated as a part of the whole system of the family, society and the nation.
In the unique health care system of Canada you never have to pay any fees to the doctor. For medication and therapies, low income families get everything from the government. There are also different types of insurance covered by the company you are working with. Diabetes, cancer, heart diseases all are very well-cared for in Canada. Information sessions, workshops are always taking place to raise health awareness. Personal support workers work for the seniors, the maternity benefits and leave, pregnancy care all are very supportive for the Canadians.
The main thing to get the most out of the Canadian health care system is to be aware of the system and to be aware of our rights and freedoms. Thanks to Vision Infinite to arrange the Health Fair to raise awareness among the Bangladeshi Canadians.
* Mahmuda Nasrin is a social worker based in Toronto. Canada.