Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Grateful for medicare

JULY 4, 2012
 Todd Richter holds up a photo of himself as a young boy and it is believed he may be the first baby born in Saskatchewan under medicare. (TROY FLEECE / Regina Leader-Post)

Medicare is near and dear to Todd Richter’s heart.

The 50th anniversary of the Saskatchewan Medical Care Insurance Act on July 1 marked the Regina man’s 50th birthday.

Richter’s mother recalls giving birth to him at 12:02 a.m., so conceivably he was the first of 73 babies born in the province on the day that socialized medicine was delivered in Saskatchewan — a Canadian first.

Ahead of her due date, Arlene Richter was admitted to the Grey Nuns Hospital, now the Pasqua Hospital.

“I went in early because I was worried like everybody else was,” said the Regina woman.

July 1 marked the beginning of tumultous times in Saskatchewan’s health-care history. Many residents worried about what medical services would be available when the Saskatchewan Medical Care Insurance Act came into effect. Protesting the move to medicare, many doctors closed their office practice. Arlene’s physician refused to provide hospital services.

“I knew ahead of time that he wasn’t going to be there for (the delivery),” she said.

Induced on June 30, she gave birth to her third child shortly after the clock struck midnight. So began a new life and a new form of health-care in the province.

“It was two minutes after twelve and the doctor said, ‘Congratulations, you have had the first baby born under medicare’ — I’m not sure if that’s true or not because we’ve never been able to check it,” Arlene said.

Being one of the first children born under medicare never meant much to Richter until he hit middle age.

“I don’t know what I’d do without medicare,” he said. “After I turned 40, my body started to fall apart.”

He had surgery on his left knee in 2006 and two years later required an operation on his right knee. In 2009, he needed lower back surgery, which was followed by open heart surgery in 2011.

“My heart procedure involved the replacement of my aortic valve with a mechanical device and an aortic graft,” Richter said. “Now I feel like a million bucks — better than ever and not bankrupt thanks to medicare ... I’ve Googled the cost of the heart surgery and in various parts of the world, it varies from $250,000 to $300,000.”

His experiences with Saskatchewan’s health-care system have been “second-to-none.”

“I waited quite a while to get my knees done and I was on a waiting list for a little while for my back, but then I went on an emergency list and I got in right away,” Richter said.

His heart surgery was extremely speedy.

“When it’s life threatening, you’re in and out as quick as they can get you in and out,” Richter said. “All of the surgeries were 100-per-cent successful and I’m like a new person now and it didn’t cost me a dime out of my pocket ... Needless to say, I am very grateful and appreciative of the health-care system we have in this fine province of ours.

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