Friday, December 14, 2007

What's The Point Of Having Free Medical Care When You Can't Get Proper Medical Care

Canada constantly lauds itself on it's wonderful Health Care system and continues to remind the population of how "lucky" we are compared to Americans, and on and on.

Well I've never lived in the US and have no grounds for comparison.

However, I can say that the Health Care system in Canada, depending on the province goes from bad to worse, and frankly is nothing to be proud of.

True, we don't have to pay, but our Health Care system perfectly exemplifies the saying, "You get what you pay for."

I've lived in British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario, recently returning to Ontario in 2000.

The deterioration of Health Care just in the last ten years is astounding.

Since I moved to Ontario, just finding a GP has been a challenge, never mind finding a competent one.

In fact, one of the reasons that I was seriously considering dumping my usual vote for the Liberals and voting Conservative this year was because of Smitherman's (Provincial Health Care Minister) shoddy performance in dealing with the very serious issues faced in Health Care in this province, particularly in my community.

My most recent experience has culminated in the worst experience I've had with Health Care in Canada in my entire life, and it seems I'm not alone.

On Friday, November 30, I had a fall and injured my shoulder. I went to my GP, who immediately provided me with a referral to have an X-Ray done at a local medical center. The medical center, unfortunately had closed for the day. I considered the option of going to Emergency and decided against it.

Why? My last experience in Emergency approximately a year ago resulted in a 13 hour wait. I had a dull, but extremely intense headache, called TeleHealth Ontario to speak to a Nurse who noted my symptoms and advised me to go to Emergency. She considered my symptoms serious and requiring immediate attention. She indicated that she would be contacting Emergency to provide them with a report.

There is a three-step process when you attend an Emergency Department in Ontario.

1. Sign In.

2. Triage - Nurse examines you.

3. Registration.

This process took approximately one hour, to the best of my recollection. When I went through Triage I advised the nurse to look for the report from TeleHealth and was ignored.

In the meantime, I was hungry bought a chocolate bar out of the machines, not wanting to leave the area in case I was called. I'd been there for 7 hours. Shortly after this I was called for a blood test. I told the nurse my headache was now gone, after I ate the chocolate bar but I would do the test anyway. I was concerned and assumed that once this step occurred getting the results shouldn't take too long.

Bad assumption. I waited another 6 hours for the blood test results and an opportunity to talk to a Doctor.

After talking to the Doctor we concluded that the most likely cause was the diet my old GP suggested. (In my opinion, a completely incompetent woman who shouldn't be allowed to practice medicine, and who I dumped at that time.)

I had gained 40 pounds in 6 months last year.

I'm not normally overweight. I don't overeat and didnt make any changes to my diet or level of exercise.

Any competent doctor would consider this a problem and investigate it. This woman, wasn't concerned, checked nothng, just told me to remove all fat (there wasn't much in the first place) from my diet.

I followed her advice and after three days ended up in Emergency for 13 hours. It seems that my blood sugar crashed.

So, after this experience, I'm sure one can understand my reluctance to go to Emergency, especially when I was in so much pain. Emergency nurses are not allowed to provide pain medication. You have to wait until you see a Doctor.

I went home, took some extra-strength aspirin to take the edge off and decided to get the X-Ray on Monday. I went first thing Monday morning to get an X-Ray. The X-Ray was done, but there was no-one available to read it until the next day.

I received a phone call from my current GP at 5:00 PM Tuesday evening to let me know they needed to see me to discuss the results.

I went in first thing Wednesday morning, was given a referral to the Fracture Clinic at our local hospital and told to pick up my X-Rays from the Medical Center and take them with me right away to the Fracture Clinic.

My Doctor told me that all I needed to do was give them his referral and they would see me that day. He indicated that because I had a fracture I needed the expertise provided there.

So, I followed his instructions (I was not able to drive, so all of this was done by cab) and arrived at the Fracture Clinic by 11:00 AM.

Now, remember, I have now been diagnosed as having a fractured shoulder.

No further diagnosis is needed, just treatment and instructions on how to manage my injury.

I arrive at the Fracture Clinic, 6 days after my injury, all in an effort to avoid Emergency because I already know that I'm not going to get any treatment there.

Guess what?

They don't know what to do with me, because I haven't got an appointment!!!!!!

I'm asked to sit and wait until someone can locate and talk to the Doctor.

After sitting for an hour, I'm told that I have to go to Emergency for treatment because they can't see me at the Fracture Clinic without an appointment.

Don't you just love the irony here? Well it's not over.

I'm pissed off, but obediently go to Emergency, assuming that I'm actually going to get some treatment, instructions, and medication, if necessary.

I'm now in excruciating pain because I've spent the entire morning running from my GP, to the Medical Center, to the Fracture Clinic. I left my aspirin at home, because I expected to be treated at my GPs.

I go to Emergency.

1. I sign in. I indicate I'm in a great deal of pain and am told that the Nurse can't give me anything, not even aspirin. However I would probably be fast-tracked in Triage because of the nature of my injury.

2. Approximately 1 hour later I'm called for Triage. I indicate that I'm in a great deal of pain. I am not fast-tracked and I'm told that they cannot provide me with any medication.

3. Approximately 1 hour later I'm called to Register. I indicate that I'm in a great deal of pain. I am not fast-tracked and I'm told that they cannot provide me with any medication.

After approximately 4 hours and watching people who came in after me go in to the medical area, I ask the Triage nurse, how priority is determined and where in the priority list fractures are placed. I'm ignored and told that I'm in the "Fast Track" list but they don't know when I'm going in.

After approximately 5 hours repeat the above paragraph. This time I'm angry, and being treated like I'm a criminal because I'm complaining.

I walk away complaining angrily that someone could die waiting for Emergency care in this place.

After approximately 6 hours I'm called in, see the Doctor for 5 seconds, after waiting approximately another 20 minutes. He tells me he will look at the X-Rays.

10 minutes later a nurse arrives, provides me with 3 Tylenol, puts a sling on, gives me an appointment for the Fracture Clinic for the next week, and tells me I can go.

I go out, find the Doctor, tell him I need a medical certificate for my Employer, he scribbles one quickly, makes me feel like I'm intruding, and continues what he's doing.

I'm frustrated, angry, and just leave.

I have been given no instructions on how to manage the fracture, no prescription for medication, and am no further ahead in terms of treatment of my injury than I was before I went in to Emergency.

I now have 1 Doctors Certificate for my Employer and 2 referrals to the Fracture Clinic. The second one lists an appointment time of Wednesday, Dec 12 at 9:15, a week after my visit to Emergency.

While I can type (obviously) and move my lower arm, I can't move my upper arm without a lot of pain and have no idea whether I should or shouldn't with the type of shoulder fracture I have. I don't move it because it's too painful and I can't move it in certain directions.

I watch the Evening News and find out that a big demonstration is planned for Sunday and the Hospital is being investigated because someone died this month waiting for Emergency treatment. He was brought in by Ambulance!

I have now been in constant pain, received no treatment, medications, or instructions on how to manage my injury from November 30 to December 12.

I arrive half an hour early for my appointment at the Fracture Clinic and Register by 8:45 approximately. I hear the clerical staff registering people without appointments. I ask why? It's up to the staff inside the clinic I'm told. So last week they sent me to Emergency and this week they're accepting those patients and putting them ahead of me. Talk about rubbing salt in the wound!

At 9:45 I note that people who arrived and registered after me are going in to the clinic. I ask why? I'm told that they are probably going for X-Rays and will be coming out and seeing the Doctor after me. This happens with two people. This does not happen with anyone else.

At 10:15 I ask the same question again, and am told they will look into it. I'm told there are 6 people before me and that the others were X-Rays. I said they weren't, I'm ignored.

At 11:00 I'm called. I wait in the examining room until 11:15 at which time I'm seen by both a Doctor and Physiotherapist.

I am asked about my arm. I explain I can't move it. The Doctor tells me I should be moving it. I explain that I didn't know that since no-one has provided me with any directions on what I should or shouldn't do. I told him it was too painful. He asks if I was provided with any medication. I said I was given 3 Tylenol but no prescription.

I am now provided with a prescription, instructions for exercise, with a promise that arrangements will be made for Physiotherapy and that I will be contacted.

I explain that I need to return to work as soon as possible, so it's important that I start Physio right away. She says she'll try.

I won't hold my breath waiting.

My Doctors certificate is revised from "can work, but can't use left arm" to "can't work".

Gee, what changed? I couldn't dress myself last week any better than I can dress myself this week. Couldn't drive then, can't drive now.

Nope, no changes that I can see.

Yup, this is the "high quality" free Health Care that we Canadians enjoy.

Next people will be dying while waiting for Emergency Treatment.

Oh Gee, that already happened!

My condolences to the family who lost their loved one.

Premier McGuinty. How many people have to die and/or suffer needlessly before you realize that your Health Minister, Smitherman, isn't doing his job?