What stories like this don't get into are the politics behind the health care system. Here in Ontario, the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) will only reimburse doctors for tests they (OHIP) deem relevant to the symptoms. This means that many ailments that are less common, or are masked behind conflicting/confusing symptoms may not be caught in time, or at all.
Additionally, every Canadian (certainly all of those I speak to) have a story of an incredulous wait time for a given procedure. Thankfully, I haven't experienced any serious illnesses in my family requiring immediate care, but I have heard the stories from close friends.
A recent story on CNN highlights, for the first time that I've seen, the negative side of Universal Health Care. There's a bit of he said, she said in this story, but lets just say, the numbers quoted didn't shock me. And that is sad.
My wife has been treated twice in foreign countries where health care isn't free, neither was a serious matter, and required only an exam and minor prescription:
The first was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and we expected a scary third world hospital. What we received was top-notch health care in a facility that looked more like a high end hotel than a hospital. 15 minute wait, 30 minute exam, 5 minute discharge. Total cost, CDN$183. Yes, this is a lot of money for the locals and it was a private hospital. Still... $183!!!
The second was in South Carolina, and we expected a bill of several hundred, but no... US$200. Total time was about 1.5 hours.
In both of these cases, the cost in Ontario for similar treatment would be $0. And that's great. However, I can assure you the wait time would be significantly more... in the area of 8-12 hours per visit. Is this reasonable? In my opinion, no... not as a normally expected wait time. Holidays, weather and major incidents (diseases, major accidents) will always mess up an ER schedule. But the norm??
In Ontario I have never been in and out of ER in less than 8 hours. Never.