Health-care reform advocate stays on message

News Aug 20, 2009 Ancaster News

If you want to talk health-care reform, Shona Holmes has plenty to say – just be sure you speak the same language, and are ready to swallow a bitter pill.

The Waterdown resident, whose personal story of her experiences with the Canadian health-care system has been making waves on both sides of the border all summer thanks to a public service announcement airing in the United States, remains clear in her message: if she had waited to receive treatment in Ontario for a growth in her brain that was pressing on her optic nerve, she would be dead.

“When they asked me to do the PSA, it dawned on me what the problem was,” she said in an interview this week with Metroland Media. “The problem, to me, is language barrier. (Americans and Canadians) speak the same language, but our words are interpreted very, very differently. Canadians do not understand the American system any better than Americans understand the Canadian system.”

Take the word “free,” for example. “They think we have free health care and that nobody has any worries about health care. We have Canadians that can’t afford health care either,” said Holmes, referring to services such as physiotherapy, dental care and medications.

“And, our government gets to decide if your cancer treatment is covered or not.”

In contrast, when Americans purchase a health insurance plan, it’s a combination of government insurance, plus a supplementary plan that covers “everything,” explained Holmes. They are surprised to hear that our “free” health-care system covers, for example, only the cost of the doctor who sets a broken leg, not the cast, crutches or the ambulance ride to the hospital.

Holmes is also incensed that Canadian leaders not only misrepresent the reality of wait times for treatment in Canada, they do not address the issue of wait times for appointments with specialists. Wait times are documented as soon as a diagnosis is made.

“That’s where I fell into the crack,” she said. “I couldn’t get diagnosed.”

“Our conception of them is that there are 47 million people (in the U. S.) lying on the street, dying to get treatment,” she continued. “We confuse the term ‘47 million people without insurance’ with ‘47 million people without access.’ No one in the U. S. is turned away for treatment. They’re not. You walk into any hospital, they have to treat you. I think not having access is more dangerous than not having insurance.”

Much of the focus of this summer’s media coverage has been on the Shona’s Story PSA Holmes shot for Americans for Prosperity, but she points out that her involvement and research into health-care reform over the past four years has been extensive. This year, she has testified in U. S. Congress twice – first invited by the Democrats, then the Republicans – and she has been involved in several think-tank discussions on health-care. And although she is being accused of not speaking out in Canadian media, opting instead to join the American debate, her case was covered in the national media in 2007 when she filed a Statement of Claim against the Ontario government over timely access to health care and the patient’s right to access health care outside of the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP).

“I have been talking out in Canada for a long time,” said Holmes. “I’ve been very public about this situation, and about changes that need to be made.”

The media exposure in Canada, in fact, is what attracted the Americans’ interest. She delivered a speech to the National Press Club last year, which led to this year’s invitations to Congress.

The difference, says Holmes, who will likely testify again, is that the U. S. is interested in reform, while Canadians are not. “They don’t want to listen to me,” she said. “They don’t want the patient’s perspective.”

Holmes, who is self-employed as a family mediator, has been sustained through weeks of vilification by quiet support from family, friends and clients. Even as she continues to deal with the effects of Cushing’s disease, she receives harassing emails and phone calls and is aware that unrelenting bloggers and Facebook users are demanding everything from her “deportation” to the U. S. to a CAS investigation to take her children away – children now in their mid-20’s. She’s been accused of taking money and of lying. She’s been called a traitor. She’s received death threats. One person threatened to poison her dog.

Holmes received no compensation for her media appearances; her travel and accommodation costs were covered by the lobbyist groups that arranged her media appearances.

In the face of such an intense, emotional backlash, she wonders that there are few who would come forward to tell their stories.

“Who would speak out again? But I would…if I have to be the whipping boy I will be. If I have to take that part of it I will, because I know there’s legitimacy in everything that I’m saying.

“People are sick and I’m being vilified for speaking out for them. What they are saying to sick people is that sick people don’t have a voice. I made it and I feel responsible to speak out.”

What Holmes is speaking out against is the bureaucracy and inefficiencies she sees rampant in government-run health care, including long wait times, doctor shortages and the practice of capping surgery hours to meet budgets. What she would like Canada to consider is a two-tier system – for which, due to her pre-existing condition, she would be ineligible. Health-care consumers would benefit not only from improved access, she reasons, they would be better informed about their health-care coverage.

“We don’t do the research (on health care) in Canada that they do in the United States,” she said. “People want to believe that it’s free. It is not free.”

Despite the physical and emotional toll the public backlash has taken on Holmes and her family, she’s adamant that she’ll continue to tell her story, wherever it is needed.

“When you know you’re right, you buckle down,” she said. “Somebody’s got to do what’s right. Am I a whipping boy? Fine. I can take most of it.”

Health-care reform advocate stays on message

News Aug 20, 2009 Ancaster News

If you want to talk health-care reform, Shona Holmes has plenty to say – just be sure you speak the same language, and are ready to swallow a bitter pill.

The Waterdown resident, whose personal story of her experiences with the Canadian health-care system has been making waves on both sides of the border all summer thanks to a public service announcement airing in the United States, remains clear in her message: if she had waited to receive treatment in Ontario for a growth in her brain that was pressing on her optic nerve, she would be dead.

“When they asked me to do the PSA, it dawned on me what the problem was,” she said in an interview this week with Metroland Media. “The problem, to me, is language barrier. (Americans and Canadians) speak the same language, but our words are interpreted very, very differently. Canadians do not understand the American system any better than Americans understand the Canadian system.”

Take the word “free,” for example. “They think we have free health care and that nobody has any worries about health care. We have Canadians that can’t afford health care either,” said Holmes, referring to services such as physiotherapy, dental care and medications.

“And, our government gets to decide if your cancer treatment is covered or not.”

In contrast, when Americans purchase a health insurance plan, it’s a combination of government insurance, plus a supplementary plan that covers “everything,” explained Holmes. They are surprised to hear that our “free” health-care system covers, for example, only the cost of the doctor who sets a broken leg, not the cast, crutches or the ambulance ride to the hospital.

Holmes is also incensed that Canadian leaders not only misrepresent the reality of wait times for treatment in Canada, they do not address the issue of wait times for appointments with specialists. Wait times are documented as soon as a diagnosis is made.

“That’s where I fell into the crack,” she said. “I couldn’t get diagnosed.”

“Our conception of them is that there are 47 million people (in the U. S.) lying on the street, dying to get treatment,” she continued. “We confuse the term ‘47 million people without insurance’ with ‘47 million people without access.’ No one in the U. S. is turned away for treatment. They’re not. You walk into any hospital, they have to treat you. I think not having access is more dangerous than not having insurance.”

Much of the focus of this summer’s media coverage has been on the Shona’s Story PSA Holmes shot for Americans for Prosperity, but she points out that her involvement and research into health-care reform over the past four years has been extensive. This year, she has testified in U. S. Congress twice – first invited by the Democrats, then the Republicans – and she has been involved in several think-tank discussions on health-care. And although she is being accused of not speaking out in Canadian media, opting instead to join the American debate, her case was covered in the national media in 2007 when she filed a Statement of Claim against the Ontario government over timely access to health care and the patient’s right to access health care outside of the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP).

“I have been talking out in Canada for a long time,” said Holmes. “I’ve been very public about this situation, and about changes that need to be made.”

The media exposure in Canada, in fact, is what attracted the Americans’ interest. She delivered a speech to the National Press Club last year, which led to this year’s invitations to Congress.

The difference, says Holmes, who will likely testify again, is that the U. S. is interested in reform, while Canadians are not. “They don’t want to listen to me,” she said. “They don’t want the patient’s perspective.”

Holmes, who is self-employed as a family mediator, has been sustained through weeks of vilification by quiet support from family, friends and clients. Even as she continues to deal with the effects of Cushing’s disease, she receives harassing emails and phone calls and is aware that unrelenting bloggers and Facebook users are demanding everything from her “deportation” to the U. S. to a CAS investigation to take her children away – children now in their mid-20’s. She’s been accused of taking money and of lying. She’s been called a traitor. She’s received death threats. One person threatened to poison her dog.

Holmes received no compensation for her media appearances; her travel and accommodation costs were covered by the lobbyist groups that arranged her media appearances.

In the face of such an intense, emotional backlash, she wonders that there are few who would come forward to tell their stories.

“Who would speak out again? But I would…if I have to be the whipping boy I will be. If I have to take that part of it I will, because I know there’s legitimacy in everything that I’m saying.

“People are sick and I’m being vilified for speaking out for them. What they are saying to sick people is that sick people don’t have a voice. I made it and I feel responsible to speak out.”

What Holmes is speaking out against is the bureaucracy and inefficiencies she sees rampant in government-run health care, including long wait times, doctor shortages and the practice of capping surgery hours to meet budgets. What she would like Canada to consider is a two-tier system – for which, due to her pre-existing condition, she would be ineligible. Health-care consumers would benefit not only from improved access, she reasons, they would be better informed about their health-care coverage.

“We don’t do the research (on health care) in Canada that they do in the United States,” she said. “People want to believe that it’s free. It is not free.”

Despite the physical and emotional toll the public backlash has taken on Holmes and her family, she’s adamant that she’ll continue to tell her story, wherever it is needed.

“When you know you’re right, you buckle down,” she said. “Somebody’s got to do what’s right. Am I a whipping boy? Fine. I can take most of it.”

Health-care reform advocate stays on message

News Aug 20, 2009 Ancaster News

If you want to talk health-care reform, Shona Holmes has plenty to say – just be sure you speak the same language, and are ready to swallow a bitter pill.

The Waterdown resident, whose personal story of her experiences with the Canadian health-care system has been making waves on both sides of the border all summer thanks to a public service announcement airing in the United States, remains clear in her message: if she had waited to receive treatment in Ontario for a growth in her brain that was pressing on her optic nerve, she would be dead.

“When they asked me to do the PSA, it dawned on me what the problem was,” she said in an interview this week with Metroland Media. “The problem, to me, is language barrier. (Americans and Canadians) speak the same language, but our words are interpreted very, very differently. Canadians do not understand the American system any better than Americans understand the Canadian system.”

Take the word “free,” for example. “They think we have free health care and that nobody has any worries about health care. We have Canadians that can’t afford health care either,” said Holmes, referring to services such as physiotherapy, dental care and medications.

“And, our government gets to decide if your cancer treatment is covered or not.”

In contrast, when Americans purchase a health insurance plan, it’s a combination of government insurance, plus a supplementary plan that covers “everything,” explained Holmes. They are surprised to hear that our “free” health-care system covers, for example, only the cost of the doctor who sets a broken leg, not the cast, crutches or the ambulance ride to the hospital.

Holmes is also incensed that Canadian leaders not only misrepresent the reality of wait times for treatment in Canada, they do not address the issue of wait times for appointments with specialists. Wait times are documented as soon as a diagnosis is made.

“That’s where I fell into the crack,” she said. “I couldn’t get diagnosed.”

“Our conception of them is that there are 47 million people (in the U. S.) lying on the street, dying to get treatment,” she continued. “We confuse the term ‘47 million people without insurance’ with ‘47 million people without access.’ No one in the U. S. is turned away for treatment. They’re not. You walk into any hospital, they have to treat you. I think not having access is more dangerous than not having insurance.”

Much of the focus of this summer’s media coverage has been on the Shona’s Story PSA Holmes shot for Americans for Prosperity, but she points out that her involvement and research into health-care reform over the past four years has been extensive. This year, she has testified in U. S. Congress twice – first invited by the Democrats, then the Republicans – and she has been involved in several think-tank discussions on health-care. And although she is being accused of not speaking out in Canadian media, opting instead to join the American debate, her case was covered in the national media in 2007 when she filed a Statement of Claim against the Ontario government over timely access to health care and the patient’s right to access health care outside of the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP).

“I have been talking out in Canada for a long time,” said Holmes. “I’ve been very public about this situation, and about changes that need to be made.”

The media exposure in Canada, in fact, is what attracted the Americans’ interest. She delivered a speech to the National Press Club last year, which led to this year’s invitations to Congress.

The difference, says Holmes, who will likely testify again, is that the U. S. is interested in reform, while Canadians are not. “They don’t want to listen to me,” she said. “They don’t want the patient’s perspective.”

Holmes, who is self-employed as a family mediator, has been sustained through weeks of vilification by quiet support from family, friends and clients. Even as she continues to deal with the effects of Cushing’s disease, she receives harassing emails and phone calls and is aware that unrelenting bloggers and Facebook users are demanding everything from her “deportation” to the U. S. to a CAS investigation to take her children away – children now in their mid-20’s. She’s been accused of taking money and of lying. She’s been called a traitor. She’s received death threats. One person threatened to poison her dog.

Holmes received no compensation for her media appearances; her travel and accommodation costs were covered by the lobbyist groups that arranged her media appearances.

In the face of such an intense, emotional backlash, she wonders that there are few who would come forward to tell their stories.

“Who would speak out again? But I would…if I have to be the whipping boy I will be. If I have to take that part of it I will, because I know there’s legitimacy in everything that I’m saying.

“People are sick and I’m being vilified for speaking out for them. What they are saying to sick people is that sick people don’t have a voice. I made it and I feel responsible to speak out.”

What Holmes is speaking out against is the bureaucracy and inefficiencies she sees rampant in government-run health care, including long wait times, doctor shortages and the practice of capping surgery hours to meet budgets. What she would like Canada to consider is a two-tier system – for which, due to her pre-existing condition, she would be ineligible. Health-care consumers would benefit not only from improved access, she reasons, they would be better informed about their health-care coverage.

“We don’t do the research (on health care) in Canada that they do in the United States,” she said. “People want to believe that it’s free. It is not free.”

Despite the physical and emotional toll the public backlash has taken on Holmes and her family, she’s adamant that she’ll continue to tell her story, wherever it is needed.

“When you know you’re right, you buckle down,” she said. “Somebody’s got to do what’s right. Am I a whipping boy? Fine. I can take most of it.”