Monday, 12 September 2011

Canadian Health Care - The Other Side of the Story

Elizabeth McClung has generously agreed to let me post the comment that she made on the post that I sent to ReflectionsPN as my "guest blogger" post - the one that appears in this blog as "Grateful to Be Canadian", in which I talk about how positive my experience with Canada's health care system has been. Elizabeth's story needs to be told too.

Unfortunately, Elizabeth's comment only address a little bit of how Canadian health care has failed her as a person dying of a very, very rare disease affecting her autonomic, autoimmune, and neurological systems. I follow her blog (Screw Bronze! on my blogroll) and have talked with her through email a few times, and am truly saddened and angered by what she and her partner Linda have had to endure just trying to get barely adequate medical and home support care for her - often not even that.

But she's probably got the most positive attitude of just about anyone I know. If you read anger or pain in anything that I quote here - I believe it's just because she's understandably had enough of fighting against a system that, while it for whatever reason worked for me, seems determined to work against her:

"I am really glad you live where you live as being in District of Nanaimo you would have not been sent to the hospital you were sent to, and you would have not have gotten an MRI (since it only operates until 2:30 in the afternoon due to budget cutbacks in staff, which had to take a 10-12% paycut, so most quit and went to Toronto and Calgary), as there is the ONE, and it was bought 30 years ago and has generally a nine month wait list.

I repeatedly am told from people in Toronto, ‘that’s not like it is here.’ which is what people from have-not provinces, from the maritimes to British Columbia end up hearing. I am glad you had Ontario health insurance, which may have made this possible (since, I am not sure that Coast Health would want to cover two operations and rehab in another province, nor have I heard of anyone getting any rehab for stroke out of province – maybe, except the 22 year old I know in this city who simply lives with ‘short life’ and no immune system for something that can be treated…in Ontario).

I am glad it worked, and the story is one which due to the complex nature of payment of healthcare in Canada might be a good example case. My nan did well in living out of our healthcare system, having four cataract transplants; but poor in dying (as hospitals in this city are often full, and up to 60% of the beds are in use by seniors waiting for other seniors to die so they can be slotted into a home). As the worker who told me they were off to take care of 32 individuals for X hours – the idea that individual oxygen or any other needs could be met at less than 2 minutes per person per hour is humorous, and so the turnover rate at our centers are quite high (a month seems to be the average rate, even if they survived 6 months waiting in hospital, once in, a month is about the average, some 2 weeks, some 6).

I am very glad you had a good diagnostic and Vancouver has a great cluster of hospitals, but I think Toronto is even better. If someone is going to cut into your brain, get the best.

I am still in awe that you have a seizure specialist (and that there were two or more in that location). I am glad life moves on and out of the valley of beige and sanitizer. Your experience represents the best of Canadian medicine, thankfully."

Elizabeth, if there's anything I can do, you know you just need to ask.

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