Dan and Hannah Bike the Grassy Trails near Cavendish in Prince Edward Island National Park

As we set to leave PEI, we wake early to take our hour walk along the Baywalk in Summerside, as we have the last two mornings.  Being preseason, our morning walks are ones of solitude and conversation about our love affair with, and in, PEI.  Do you have a place you go back to again and again?  PEI has that feel for us.

Over breakfast of French toast, I ask about Canadian health care.  The health care debate in the States is reduced to farce by outlandish claims of socialism and misrepresentation of what the new Affordable Care Act entails.  Ironically, the misinformation is captured by people who want government out of health care and add, Keep your hands off my Medicare.  Our breakfast guests are a daughter who has brought her 65 year old mother to PEI for holidays, a couple from Quebec, and our hosts at the B and B from PEI.  The folks seem pleased with their health care, though it’s the wait that can be discouraging.  Needing to see a specialist can take months.  The ER, as it is in the US, is the de facto (and expensive) universal health care for many in need.  Delays compromise care, no doubt.  Having no health insurance compromises care even more.  Our questions elicit no passion or condemnation, just the fact that universal health care is a given.

From a link my sister-in-law Judy, a Canadian (see her post script at the end of the blog), sent I learn that the average Canadian primary care doctor makes $125,000, compared to $186,000 for U.S. doctors. But American doctors spend an average of $83,000 a year dealing with insurance companies, compared to the $22,200 which the Ontario, Canada doctors spend on the government insurer.  Canada rates well on primary care, but struggles on wait times. A 2010 survey found that 59 percent of respondents waited more than four weeks for an appointment with a specialist, more than double the U.S. figure.

Having packed earlier for eventually leaving the island and ending up in Fredericton, New Brunswick with good friends Bill and Karen this evening, we head back to the PEI National Park in Cavendish.  Warned that these trails through forests and fields are best suited for hybrid or mountain bikes, we find only two other cars in the lot on this Wednesday morning.  That seems to be a theme in pre-season PEI.  The 9-10 kilometers of trails are set up in a figure eight that sends us first along the coast.

Homestead Trail

The crushed gravel trails lead us to the ocean.

Stopping at the beach of red rocks, we have heard that shoreline erosion is a serious problem on PEI.  It’s easy to see why.

Eroding Shoreline

The coastline of Prince Edward Island is made up of erodible sedimentary rock, composed mostly of sandstones.  Prince Edward Island is a prime example of where the demand for scenic waterfront property has led to a battle between the natural forces of erosion and a determination to stop, or at least slow down, the loss of shorefront property.  Average loss of shoreline on this part of the island is as much as 5 feet per year.  The higher erosion rate on the north and west coasts are directly attributable to the high degree of exposure to storm conditions.  In years to come Prince Edward Island will be severely affected as the influence of global warming takes hold.  Climate change will bring with it higher tidal fluctuations, increased incidents of storm surges, and increased erosion along shorelines.  The government and land owners of PEI don’t doubt the reality of global warning.

The bike paths are level with just two places of no more than a 50 feet stretch when one might need a mountain bike (i.e., There is one sandy stretch where our tires fishtail and one climb of gravelly rocks that we manage to climb though our tires slip as we furiously pedal, but that’s all.)  Our Trek hybrid bicycles easily handle the terrain.

It’s a simple one hour ride that turns out to be our favorite because of the varied, grassy terrain, the ins and outs of the trail, and only slightly because it is our last day on the island.

Done biking, we drive on country roads and eventually land at the shopping mall at the base of the Confederation Bridge.  There, we reward ourselves with PEI sweatshirts.

Prince Edward Island sweatshirts

Snapping a few pictures of the Confederation Bridge we know we’ll be back before the summer crowds come to our island paradise to bike the 273 kilometre (about 170 miles) Confederation Trail in June of 2013.

Confederation Bridge from PEI

Post script on Canadian health care from our Canadian sister-in-law Judy.

I am categorized as priority #3 out of 4 categories (#1 being urgent).  Based on which, I see the urologist in August.  If I were priority #1 then I would see the urologist ASAP.  So we do have waiting times but they are prioritized by need and I can personally say that I don’t mind letting more urgent cases go ahead of me.  The idea of paying money to jump the queue gives me a bad feeling in my gut.  It’s not a perfect system but I like that everyone is treated equally and that no one gets better care because they have more money or worse care because they are poor.  The even better thing is that no one gets a bill. Yes, taxes are higher here as a result but giving a basic right like good health to everyone is worth the extra contribution. We are only as healthy as the least healthy among us (that is what a former Minister of Health said about our healthcare system).  I believe that.

Anecdotal example from American health care in Maine.

Hannah broke her leg water skiing on a Sunday evening.  Monday morning at 730A she was in the Walk-in (kind of ironic since she was on crutches) Clinic for a first opinion.  She wanted a second opinion.  That consultation was held Tuesday afternoon.  Her surgery for a tibial fracture is set for Thursday afternoon.   Now that’s action!

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