Monday, August 31, 2009

Health Care Stories: A Canadian Thread

Here's an interesting "conversation" started among our neighbors to the north after I sent one of my millions of solicitations for this project.

I am so grateful to live in Canada. One year and three months ago, I was diagnosed with Uterine Cancer. I received treatment at Sunnybrook Cancer Center, from one of the top Oncologists. The treatment, tests, and radiation were all covered by the government. I have friends and acquaintances in the US. One or two have had cancer and weren't able to get testing done because they were laid off their jobs and had no insurance.

I have another friend, who even though he's in a union with health benefits, gets no health covereage when he's between construction jobs. There have been times he's had to go months without his heart medication or high blood pressure meds. When his BP acts up, he can't go to the doctor. Even the so-called "free" clinics are about $200 per visit. He even had a "minor" heart attack a few months ago and didn't seek treatment because he couldn't afford it.

I personally believe there is a concerted effort to get rid of the "middle class" in North America (specifically the US) What's even more angering is that any illegal alien (from Mexico, etc) can get health coverage for FREE, yet US citizens are left to die in hospitals, or at home because they can't afford to be treated for conditions.

Those stories are few and far between, of people dying while waiting in the emerg room, for treatment or to be seen. Does it happen? Occasionally. No system is perfect.

In Canada, no one is refused treatment. No one is standing by your gurney waiting for you to sign papers, before they treat you. That's not the case in the US.


In many areas in Canada, it's hard to find a family doctor willing and able to take new patients. I've been living in Nova Scotia for almost two years and still can't get a doctor for myself.

When I lived in British Columbia, I was fortunate to have had a family doctor. When my sister came to visit here, thinking of staying, she was unable to get one either. So she moved back to Ontario, where she still had a doctor.

A few days ago a young man (22) went to an emergency room in Halifax with his mother. He had asthma. It appeared that his wait to be seen would be many hours - overnight. He decided that, feeling as poorly as he did, he'd be better off at home resting.

His mother called him the following morning to see how he was doing and, getting no answer, called the police. The young man was found dead in his apartment.


That's sad about the 22-year-old. But, straight up, if he was still at the hospital, more than likely he would have been taken care of, once his medical issues became serious. Unfortunately, he chose to leave the hospital. It was an error in judgement. As for doctors not being available in many smaller areas, you are right, to some degree. I know many people who basically just use the local walk-in clinic as their main Doctor's office. But by and large, it's a good system. Unlike my American friend, who had a heart attack and can't even get himself checked out because it would cost thousands of $$$ to do so.


The 22-year-old would not have been seen. The following days the emergency set up a triage. The hospital had more than they could handle, and it's now being investigated. He should have been assessed on intake, but the story goes he wasn't able to even get to intake for the paperwork. That was a wait. Hospitals also routinely close their emergency departments for a day or two each week because there are no doctors available to work.

Also, there is no such thing as walk-in clinics around my area. The closest one is a half-hour drive.

I still believe, however, that things will improve.

But I agree, I wouldn't want the system to become Americanized, and I think the Americans are on the right track to try to change things making it accessible for all.


Good recollections to both Anne and Amanda and Anne Marie.

Um, I have to's very difficult for us to get or teach young people patience. I can't help but believe if Paul Cleaves had had a friend with him...or had been encouraged to stay in emergency and wait his turn he would still be alive.

I think it's not a bad thing if we have some waiting periods in hospital emergency rooms. I've waited many hours when emergencies occured...with my daughter. That is part of life...waiting one's turn.

When we have fast food joints, drive-through banking...I believe we have forgotten that a large part of being a social animal...of being human and part of a community is ....


If the young Cleaves with asthma had stayed inhospital...I believe he would still be alive. Of course, a hospital staff is going to prioritize its patients. People giving birth, people bleeding will always be treated before others. But if someone had problems breathing...they would be rushed ahead of line.

We should be polite and patient. We have forgotten how to share. We have forgotten how to let somone else in line ahead of us...and we have forgotten how to wait our turn. So what if it takes 6 hours to see a doctor in hospital?

At least we are in the right place if we are ill. That poor boy who had asthma should have stayed waiting for care.

But you can't put an old head on young shoulders...therefore, the youth got impatient and left the hospitial.



Alisande said...

It's hard to say whether Mr. Cleaves was impatient or just feeling so badly that home and bed seemed a better option than sitting on an emergency room chair for hours. The impression I got from the short news story was the latter.

Also, I noticed a typo in my previous comment, a serious typo. I wrote that the situation was "not being investigated," and it should have read "now being investigated."

Candy Minx said...

Okay, I agree with you. He probably did feel too ill to sit in a chair. But if he had been a little younger, with a parent...they would have made him wait. If he had had a lover or partner with him, they would have made him wait. Any kind of asthma issue my friends have taught their kids they must wait at he hospital. It's tragedy that the young man left.

What I understand is being considered now are a couple of things at hat hospital. One, pre-triage paramedics to interview people waiting. And two...reconsidering telling people there is a "long wait".

The "long wait" that Cleaves was told about was not qualified. Instead care givers should probably tell people they will be served in 15 minutes, 45 minutes instead of saying "long wait". The young man assumed it would be overnight sitting in the waiting area.

I still stand that waiting in line is part of life...even animals wait their turns. We need to teach young people patience.