The Cost (Olympic Games vs. Health Care)

The Olympic games have taken over Vancouver. I stress the word “games” because that’s what they are. They are sporting events, or competitions with an emphasis on speed and skill, for the most part.

The estimated cost for these games is estimated to be $11.6-billion dollars. This figure does not include the $2-billion cost of the rapid transit line from the airport to downtown Vancouver, or the $600-million upgrades to the Sea-to-Sky Highway that links Whistler to downtown Vancouver.

That’s $11.6-billion dollars, with a “B”.

Last week I visited Mount Saint Joseph’s Hospital in East Vancouver. I was a patient of their Rapid Access Breast Clinic, as I had a lump in my breast that my doctor confirmed during my annual physical. Within the week, MSJ had booked me for a mammogram and ultrasound and I had my result that very day.

The Rapid Access Clinic opened in May 2009 with a $5-million dollar investment from the British Columbia Government’s Innovation and Integration Fund. According to recent statistics and the MSJ website, 7.4 % of BC women who receive a breast exam will have a suspicion of breast cancer, and diagnostic testing will be required.

The MSJ Rapid Access Clinic is based on the European model, which serves as a one-point intake point where patients can have their screening, exams, diagnoses and surgery in one facility, and receive a diagnosis within 21 days.

When the nurse gave me my diagnosis, she revealed that the fate of Mount Saint Joseph’s Rapid Access Breast Clinic was unknown. The initial investment by the British Columbia Government was for the first year, and that the Clinic was told that they needed to secure funding privately, or risk being shut down in three months.

I thought British Columbia’s citizens and their health care came first, and that I would be able to access required medical services when needed.

To put it in perspective, the luge track, built specifically for the 2010 games cost $105-million dollars. The track, where Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili lost his life in a training run on February 12th will likely be used only as a training facility after the games.

The $105-million would have done wonders elsewhere. Richmond, home to the Olympic oval (which cost a reported $178-million and can only be used for long track speed skating) is also home to the Richmond Hospital. The hospital recently received their long-awaited MRI machine, with no help from the BC Government. The Richmond Hospital Foundation raised the $4-million over two years for the necessary medical equipment. Richmond Hospital will now be able to perform between 1,400 and 1,500 MRIs each year, detecting cancers, sclerosis, joint and tissue injuries, withno help from the BC Government.

If the BC Government had given the Richmond Hospital an MRI machine two years ago, at a cost of $4-million, that is up to 3,000 people who would have had their MRI. Hospitals shouldn’t have to raise money for necessary diagnostic medical equipment, Rapid Access Clinics, programs, and services. We need an MRI machine more than we need a luge track.

The cost of these games is estimated at $11.6 billion. But the price of these games will end up being much, much higher.

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