Coming from a system of entirely private health care, I can’t help but notice where a public health system like Canada’s chooses to save money. The buildings are plain and institutional, not jolly environments like US hospitals, clinics and medical offices try painfully to be in the US. Our family doctor’s office had broad windows to let in natural light, rosy painted walls, a gas fireplace, a faux living room with plush seating and decorative baskets stuffed with popular magazines. Our orthodontist had a TV room with DVDs of cartoons and children’s games. It’s the practice, not the payer (at least not in increased prices compared to other docs), that funds the interior decor and it’s done because there is open competition for patients. It all seems a bit much and overtly commercial to me because after all, we are talking about health care, not shopping. But when you are sitting in such an office and waiting your turn to see the doctor, it sure beats the alternative.
Which is what you find in Vancouver. There is no money wasted on environments. As it should be when trade-offs are necessary to cover everyone’s health care. But there is one thing that astounded me when I visited St. Paul’s Hospital this week. The works of the local artists on display were stunning.
There was even a certified Picasso print.
I found myself stopping in my tracks to gaze on the works lining the dim, dingy hallways. The people sitting glumly (it was 7:30am I must add) didn’t seem to be touched by them but perhaps indirectly they were.