Here's hoping Danny Williams got Canadian-style heart surgery

Newfoundland Premier Danny Williams has finally done an interview discussing his decision to go to the U.S. for heart surgery. You’ll recall that critics of public health insurance on both sides of the border pounced on this high-profile case of medical tourism as evidence that the Canadian system is hopelessly second-rate.

But wait a minute. I see that Williams says his problem was with his mitral valve. Now, I’m no expert, but I seem to remember reading something recently about that particular part of the old ticker.

Oh, yes, here it is: a news release from Dec. 3, 2009, announcing that the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine had just published a feature article on the latest techniques for reconstructing the valve, which separates the heart’s two chambers so blood flows during a normal beat.

Maybe you’re guessing now that the premier decided to travel to the famous hospital where one of the physicians who authored the article fixes hearts. That would make sense. But here’s the funny thing: the authors are Dr. Thierry Mesana of the University of Ottawa Heart Institute and Dr. Subodh Verma of St. Michael’s Hospital at University of Toronto.

Apparently Ottawa and Toronto have somehow managed to emerge as leading centres for both the theory and practice of heart surgery—in particular, it seems, the operation Williams needed—despite the horrors of socialized medicine.

In case this leaves you fearing that the the premier might have received substandard care in the U.S., please don’t worry. I understand  they have excellent physicians there. And that New England Journal of Medicine article is specifically meant to spread the word of the latest surgical techniques everywhere.