Canadian Health Care

Posted: January 25, 2011 in Current Events, Media Gleanings, Personal Whining

The current issue of Maclean’s magazine is starting a six part crusade examining Canadian Health care, claiming that our pride in this part of our national identity is a little misplaced.

I have been fortunate to not have spent much time in a hospital.  The last time I was in was for a kidney stone, and I can’t say that my experience was very encouraging.  As I didn’t know what was happening to me at the time, I called for an ambulance.  The response time was pretty good, at about ten minutes, but, I kid you not, the ambulance got lost on the way to the hospital.  It had to pull over and phone for directions.  There was a GPS on the dash, but they told me they hadn’t gotten any training on it yet.  Once at the hospital, I was seen within a half hour, as this was a small, rural hospital.  Once they had taken the x-rays and diagnosed the kidney stone, they decided to keep me overnight for observation, as it was already about 2 a.m.  They inserted an IV tube and told me that they would give me a pain killer so that I could get some sleep.  The pain continued for a long time, but eventually I fell asleep.  When I awoke in the morning, I noticed that the IV bag was still entirely full.  I complemented the nurses on their quietness in changing the bag, but they told me the bag had never been changed.  When I asked them why the bag was still full, they exclaimed that they must have forgotten to actually turn it on!!  No wonder the pain continued through the night.

That kind of questionable competence was also apparent when my father was in the hospital.  He had Parkinson’s and often had trouble swallowing without choking or coughing.  One day I visited him in the hospital and he told me that the nurses wouldn’t give him anything to drink other than this gross, thickened fluid.  When I inquired, I was told that his doctor had instructed no fluids unless thickened.  This seemed odd to me, so I asked to see the chart.  I was surprised when they actually showed it to me, and when I read it I noticed that the instruction was actually “no unthickened fluids with food”.  I pointed this out to the nurse and she reluctantly admitted that perhaps she had misread it.  As a result, my father had been denied fluids for several days, leading to a very dry throat and mouth, increasing his coughing.

Several other similar stories came out of my father’s several stays in the hospital.  These events made me realize that there were a lot of people in hospitals that were following instructions without really understanding what they were doing.  Therefor, if there was a misinterpretation or a faulty decision, nobody picked it up.  I can’t say what the cause may be for this situation.  Perhaps overcrowding forces decisions to be rushed (although that would not have been the case in my kidney stone episode).  Perhaps there is something lacking in the training.  Perhaps human nature is just becoming less aware and conscientious.

The bottom line is, though, that I would never hesitate to ask questions to completely understand the decisions that are being made around me in a hospital or even when dealing with my doctor.  I’m probably regarded as a pest, but I would rather that than have them forget to do something important.


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