Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

A cardiologist sings Canada's praises, condemns U.S. insurers

Cardiologist Amr Morsi examines Anna Falk in Windsor, Ontario, where he settled after leaving Orlando. The “most evil” part of the U.S. system to him? Insurance companies.


Cardiologist Amr Morsi examines Anna Falk in Windsor, Ontario, where he settled after leaving Orlando. The “most evil” part of the U.S. system to him? Insurance companies.

WINDSOR, Ontario — To a young cardiologist like Amr Morsi, Canada seemed a medical wasteland not too long ago.

Toronto, a city of 2.5 million, had just three hospitals doing angioplasties and open-heart surgery. Catheterization labs and advanced imaging equipment were not widely available. Patients might be dead before they ever received their results from angiograms or other tests.

In 2001, at the peak of frustration over Canada's government-funded health care system, Morsi moved to Orlando and joined a private group practice.

"We even had a cath lab in our office,'' he says. "I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.''

But now Morsi, 40, is back in Canada, impressed by how far his country has come. And critical of a U.S. system he once admired so much.

He found that American doctors tend to order more testing, partly for fear of being sued but also because "patients demand it and doctors and hospitals want to do it because it's more money. It's a positive feedback loop.''

But in Morsi's view, "the most evil part of the system'' was the insurance companies.

"Every year the insurance premiums go up and your deductible goes up so you're paying more for less. On the other side of the coin, the insurers are saying to the physicians, 'We're renegotiating and paying you less.' Then they collect the difference in profits. They're a big drain on the U.S. system.''

In Canada, meanwhile, change was afoot. At one time, more than 500 heart patients a year from Windsor had to go to Detroit, Toronto or other cities for angioplasty, a procedure to diagnose or widen blocked arteries. Then Hotel Dieu-Grace, one of Windsor's two hospitals, beefed up its cardiac care program and in 2007 performed its first angioplasty.

Last year, the hospital recruited Morsi to be medical director of its catheterization lab.

"I came back and found substantial improvement,'' he says. "The government has invested in infrastructure and now we can do an angiogram on a patient in 48 hours.''

In returning to Canada, Morsi joined a reverse flow of the "brain drain'' that saw thousands of doctors and nurses go to the United States between 1997 and 2003. Enticed by signing bonuses, they helped ease shortages in speciality fields and parts of the country like Florida with large numbers of elderly people and winter visitors.

Since then, 541 doctors have returned to Canada, including two urologists that Windsor Regional Hospital recently lured back. In the last 18 months, the hospital has also hired 54 nurses who once worked in nearby Detroit.

For the nurses, tighter border controls after 9/11 made commutes longer, and a strong Canadian dollar nearly negated any pay advantages. But they were also frustrated with the insurance-heavy U.S. health care system.

"The Canadian system isn't driven on revenues, so when we're caring for patients we don't itemize the cost of everything,'' says Karen McCullough, chief nursing executive at Windsor Regional. "Nurses that come back from the States really like the pureness of patient care here.''

For Morsi, factors in his return were the breakup of his group practice — "the older guys didn't want to work as hard'' — and a desire to be closer to family. But he is also glad to be free of the insurance burden — in Orlando, 160 people were needed to handle paperwork for 16 physicians.

Now Morsi is in practice by himself with a single assistant.

Physicians' gross pay in Canada is less than in the States, ranging from about $106,000 for some family doctors to over $600,000 for specialists. But Morsi says he takes home about the same as he did in Orlando because of much lower overhead and malpractice insurance costs.

"The U.S. health care system is incredibly complicated. If you're trained in Canada, the attitude is: I just want to be a doctor.''

Susan Taylor Martin can be contacted at

A cardiologist sings Canada's praises, condemns U.S. insurers 07/17/09 [Last modified: Saturday, July 18, 2009 4:36pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Final sign positions should cut danger where trail crosses interstate ramp


    I am concerned with the yield signs I saw recently installed for the new bike and pedestrian trail along either side of Roosevelt Boulevard between Carillon Parkway/28th Street and Interstate 275. These yield signs seem to be pointing to the drivers, one side as they exit the interstate northbound, the other as they …

  2. Trump's lawyers seek to undercut Mueller's Russia investigation


    Some of President Donald Trump's lawyers are exploring ways to limit or undercut Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia investigation, building a case against what they allege are his conflicts of interest and discussing the president's authority to grant pardons, the Washington Post reported, citing people familiar …

    President Donald Trump is said to be irritated by the notion that the special counsel's investigation could reach into his and his family's finances. [Associated Press]
  3. North Tampa shooting leaves one man dead


    Times staff

    TAMPA — A man was fatally shot Thursday afternoon after an argument with another man escalated, police said.

  4. St. Pete City Council tightens building rules in historic areas

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — There's a battle being waged over the soul of the city's historic neighborhoods.

    A new larger home sits next to a smaller one in the Kenwood neighborhood in St. Petersburg on Tuesday.
  5. Ole Miss football coach Hugh Freeze resigns over 'inappropriate conduct' (w/ video)


    OXFORD, Miss. — Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze was at Jackson Country Club on Wednesday night, giving his yearly rah-rah speech about the Rebels overcoming adversity and getting ready for the college football season.

    If Hugh Freeze hadn’t resigned, Ole Miss says it would have fired him for violating his contract’s moral turpitude clause.