I’m sorry to report, Canada, that Rand Paul, the nutty libertarian son of the crazy uncle of the American Right, isn’t the only politician to stumble into a controversy for getting repairs at the Shouldice Hernia Hospital.
We’ll get to that in a minute, but first there’s a backstory.
According to the younger Dr. Paul, Republican Senator of Kentucky and an eye surgeon who obviously doesn’t get along with his neighbour, universal public health care is sort of like slavery. Only much worse, actually, because not only do hospital janitors get enslaved, but well-heeled ophthalmologists like him, too! This happens whenever the hoi polloi get a right to health care, as in Cuba, Europe or, erm, Canada.
Don’t ask me! I don’t make this stuff up. I got this right out of Newsweek, a respectable legacy media publication if ever there was one. And not, repeat not, fake news on Facebook!
Sen. Paul says he has a hernia because he got in a fight with his next-door neighbour, a retired physician, over where the grass clippings were supposed to go. (I’m still not making this up.) This happened in their upscale neighbourhood in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The Senator claims something gave way at the moment his neighbour tackled him.
As an aside, this may not sound as crazy to Canadians as it does to our American cousins. Canadian Senators do sometimes get in fights. But they do it in a ring, with future prime ministers, who beat the tar out of them for multiple rounds, and with a a great left hook too. Canadian Senators aren’t elected, of course, but they don’t usually fight over grass clippings. None of them have faced jail time – not for that, anyway.
By contrast, Dr. Paul’s neighbour got sentenced to 30 days and fined $10,000 for attacking a member of the U.S. Congress, which is a separate, federal charge. If 19th Century American history is anything to go by, you can only get away with attacking a member of the U.S. Congress if you’re another member of the U.S. Congress.
Dr. Paul is also suing his neighbour for all the usual stuff, including the cost of having his hernia fixed, seeing as he claims it was the fight that caused him to come unstuck. (Personally, I’m from Missouri about that, but then, I’m not a physician, or a lawyer either. I’m also not from Missouri exactly. Canadians, that’s an expression you don’t hear up here in the North very often.)
Regardless, this is the point in this story where the Shouldice Hernia Hospital comes in. See, this charming little private hospital is located in … wait for it … Canada. Thornhill, Ont., to be precise, on the northern fringe of Toronto.
The reasoning of American reporters yesterday, unsurprisingly under the circumstances, went something like this: Going to Canada for surgery … thinks public health care is slavery … Bingo! Irony! (You can take it from me that reporters on both sides of the Medicine Line are big on irony.)
Certainly, given his views about Canadian-style health care, the fact he’s having the hernia stitched up at a chichi private hospital in Canada caused a great deal of hilarity among what President Donald Trump calls the failing fake news media, members of which happened to dig up the entertaining factoid while poring over the Senator’s court filings.
Sen. Paul was so annoyed about this that his spokesthingy called the media coverage … you guessed it … “fake news.”
I’m just here to give you the facts: The Shouldice private hospital is an odd one. It’s been around since 1945. It only does hernias. It’s one of about half a dozen private hospitals in Ontario grandfathered in 1973 so they could still be run by their owners but be funded by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan.
So Sen. Paul’s spokesperson didn’t have it exactly right when she told the Louisville Courier Journal “this is a private, world renowned hospital separate from any system and people come from around the world to pay cash for their services.” (Emphasis added.)
The thing is, it’s got one foot in the public system and one foot in the private sector. So Dr. Paul can comfort himself in the knowledge that the surgeon operating on his hernia is only half a slave.
If you’re a Canadian, you only get to stay three days after hernia surgery instead of being booted out later that day if you pay extra. If you’re an American – even a U.S. Senator – it’ll cost you up to $8,000 US for the surgery. Presumably that’s no biggie to either Sen. Paul or his neighbour considering the neighbourhood they live in. But you know what they say: It’s not the lousy 8,000 bucks, it’s the principle of the thing!
So to give some unsolicited legal advice I’m not qualified to offer, it seems to me that the neighbour’s lawyers ought to say they’re only prepared to cough up the Canadian friends and family rate, the one that comes with a two-hour post-surgical wait and those supposedly high taxes that Dr. Paul’s fans on this side of the world’s longest undefended border are always whinging about.
Meanwhile, since we know Ontario Premier Doug Ford is secretly plotting to develop a two-tier health care system in Ontario, am I the only one wondering if DoFo will invite Dr. Paul to drop in for a little political consultation after his three-day Canadian sojourn next week?
Preston Manning, the Godfather of the Canadian Right, certainly made Sen. Paul’s daddy welcome at his annual Ottawa clambake in 2013.
Ron Paul is also a physician, like almost all the Americans in this story, plus he also used to be a member of the U.S. Congress. The elder Dr. Paul’s political career as a Texas congressman, which ran from 1997 to 2013, was notable for its futility. The Washington Post calculated in 2011 that of the 620 bills he’d sponsored up to then in the House of Representatives, only one had passed (No. 482) and only four made it to the floor of the House for a vote.
No wonder old Preston saw Ron Paul as a sympathetic character! But, I digress …
If you’re wondering who the other politician who used the Shouldice Hernia Centre for a little stitch up and paid the price of controversy was, I’m sorry to have to tell you it was … Jack Layton!
The future federal NDP leader, then a Toronto city councillor, said his doctor recommended it, it was part of the Ontario public health system, and he didn’t know until too late it was a private facility.
So what’s Dr. Paul’s excuse again?