My last stop is for cream at the far back corner of the grocery store. Reaching into the refrigerator for the small carton I need, an elderly woman politely asks if she can put her 4-litre milk jug into my grocery cart. She explains that she hadn’t thought a cart was necessary for the few items she was requiring. Now wanting the jug of milk, it is heavy and awkward to carry along with the items she is holding.
I am happy to help, taking the milk jug while confirming that I am not in a rush, should she need to get other items as well. She says she is ready to leave.
Our stroll to the tills at the front of the store takes some time, as this elderly woman plods slowly, stopping every so often to emphasize a point in her story. She is angry…
… Her husband had sat in Emergency at the local hospital for thirty-plus hours before being put on a gurney. She finally left the hospital at midnight, returning early the next morning to discover he was in ICU. He died a few hours later from a heart attack.
“I guess that’s what we can expect at 83 years of age,” she remarks sadly, her eyes filling with tears. “I worked in that hospital for 40 years… no one cared! And, there’s nothing I can do about it!”
The Story of Many
My encounter with the grieving widow leaves me wondering what one CAN do about such callous treatment. My mind swirls around the numerous reasons that we’re told are causing such terrible medical service—hospital bed shortages, staff shortages, physician shortages, Emergency room closures, funding issues… and of course, the pandemic which in the minds of many, is ultimately to blame.
Over a morning espresso or two, I read and listen to national news articles that are sounding out the cry, one account after another—the experience of the widow is hardly unique. Cases like hers have been and are ongoing across Canada. Death by place of death, namely in hospital emergency rooms, is happening to people of all ages, economic status, ethnicity, demographics…
. . . 37 year old Allison Holthoff, 57 year old Vancouverite James Hayes, a Montreal woman, a deceased patient in an ambulance for over two hours in the heat, 45 year old Michael Line of Swift Current, 24-year-old Heather Winterstein of St. Catharines, a pre-Covid patient in Saskatoon, a Kamloops doctor dying in Emergency at the very hospital he worked in, the Regina woman spending three days in a hospital hallway, the nurse/mother of infant Mataya who, ignored by medical professionals, saw her baby die in an Alberta hospital in 2004…
Most surprising of these and other accounts are the number of deaths that occurred while waiting in hospital Emergency centers prior to the Covid pandemic. Go here for more stories on this issue.
Are Canadians at the point of suing hospitals, doctors, nurses? If so, how might that affect our ‘free’ though very costly and compromised healthcare system, especially since reliable and well-trained medical personnel are hard to find? Might privatization be a solution?
My father, told he had only months to live, wanted a second opinion, so opted to pay the fee for further testing and consultation at a private hospital, which ultimately gave him peace of mind while tending to his end-of-life affairs. His utilizing private medical services freed up a space for someone else who might have been in need of emergency care at a publically funded hospital. This vein of discussion is a prickly one, to be sure, especially for the majority of us who don’t fully understand the ins and outs of how medical services are truly funded in provincial hospitals or clinics.
A quick story about paying for medical care… My pup needed emergency surgery. Within 48 hours, he was in a state-of-the-art clinic under the knife of a vet and her team. Yup, it cost me $3,500! And, yes, I cleaned out my piggy bank to pay it. Would I do it again? That’s another blog for another time.
Meanwhile, suffice it to say that I was envious and angry that mongrels get first-class health care while humans are suffering! It made me think twice about healthcare privatization, about paying for a much needed surgery and tests like I had to when living in the United States. If we’re forking it out for our pets, why not fork it out for ourselves and loved ones?
Back to humans and Canada’s healthcare system. . .
Dr. Sébastien Marin, an ER doctor in Quebec, is speaking out, as is Dr. Charles Shaver who says our healthcare crisis is due to “a lack of infrastructure, severe shortages of nurses, physicians and health staff, all largely a result of years of federal and provincial underfunding”. David Walker, author and professor of emergency medicine and policy studies at Queen’s University says, “It is profoundly in the interests of acute-care hospitals to have access to long-term care.”
In 2020, among 36 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, Canada ranked 29th in beds/1,000 population and 26th in its physician/patient ratio.*
Three decades ago, our Ontario physician stipulated that under no condition should I go to hospital Emergency to deliver my baby. Two decades ago, I made the mistake of rushing my spouse to hospital Emergency in Alberta, and indeed, the outcome was not good.
In both cases, our family doctors had advised that should we ever need emergency care, we should first go to or call their clinics. And, that’s exactly what we did a decade ago in Vancouver, and thankfully, we did receive prompt, lifesaving treatment. The keyword here is, decade. Today, the usual question is…
What Prime Minister was in power the day you had your last physical?
More than a third of Canadians do not have a family physician or the option of going to a physician’s clinic for initial emergency care. Angels, saints, and Mother Mary would be required to provide that service.
So, what options are available for us? Should we seek out friendships with doctors, nurses and hospital staff so we get ‘favoured’ treatment?
It worked for Macy, a nurse, who recently rushed her mother to Emergency, only to be turned away. Macy returned with her mother the following day, and, as it happened, a nursing colleague caught Macy’s eye and secretly told Macy to hustle her mother to a room at the end of the hall. Macy’s mother survived.
Yet, the Kamloops doctor died in the very hospital he had spent his life working in. The widow in the grocery store had worked for four decades in the very hospital that ignored her husband’s emergency needs for almost three days.
There are no guarantees that ‘who we know’ will be there for us when we need them to be. Even medical professionals in need of emergency care have no guarantee they’ll be treated any better or sooner.
What CAN we do?
Whether or not we’re one to take legal action against wrongdoers or those deemed careless in their profession, it does seem prudent to have a plan of action regarding your healthcare needs in Canada. Suggestions include:
- HAVE A WILL ! Don’t wait until your eyesight requires spectacles and your hair is greying to make a Will. Life is full of surprises, and leaving loved ones to pick up the pieces and clean up whatever missteps you’ve made along the way isn’t a pleasant legacy.
- CHOOSE A POWER OF ATTORNEY. In the event of complete incapacitation, choose someone who will also know where your Will is located.
- CALL 911!
- TAKE THE AMBULANCE! Find out ahead of time what this service costs, and set aside money to cover that fee, should the need be to take that ride.
- HAVE A LOVED ONE ADVOCATE on your behalf! Provide EMS personnel and/or the 911 operator with the name of someone they can call. If you end up requiring hospital services, it will help to have that noted person record events as they occur, and, should it be crucial, to stamp their feet and shout out demands on your behalf.
- CHECK YOUR LIFESTYLE habits for things you can do now to improve your physical and mental wellbeing. Much information is freely available, so there’s no excuse to not have a personal health and wellbeing regime. This might include revisiting traditional healing methodologies that have survived for centuries and still prove to have merit—
- Some folks swear by their ingestion of garlic and onions, an affordable health and healing option that’s been used by multiple cultures since forever.
- Some choose to follow diet and exercise plans, and some rely on alternative medical systems such as acupuncture, herbal supplements, and massage.
- Some rely on religion and spiritual guidance for their physical and mental wellbeing—Mayo Clinic researchers say that most studies show religious involvement and spirituality to be associated with better health outcomes.*
- CONTACT A LAWYER / SEEK LEGAL ADVICE if you’re inclined to pursue action against a medical service provider.
- FILE A FORMAL COMPLAINT with the Health Professional Association / Canadian Patient Safety Institute / Provincial Ombudsman.
- WRITE YOUR MINISTER OF HEALTH.
- CONTACT MEDIA and tell your story. This is the advice a nurse gave recently.
We can do something, whether or not it proves effective in the long run. At least we’re being pro-active against becoming yet another helpless victim of Canada’s healthcare system.
1/2 Price Baby
Pregnant Maria, not her real name, was rushed to hospital Emergency, her baby ready to enter this world. Maria knew the signs, this being her third child to deliver. The hospital said she should go to the mall and wait for more contractions. Fortunately, Maria’s husband took her to a friend’s house where, minutes later, he delivered the baby on the floor. The ambulance did arrive eventually.
Maria’s newborn is safe. Taxpayer Maria did receive a 50% refund by the provincial government for the cost of the ambulance, but that’s all, no apology, no explanation, nothing more.
Sixty-eight years ago, my father delivered my brother on a gurney in the hallway of that same hospital. The tardy doctor charged Mom half-price for the delivery. Yes, in the day, not all provinces provided Canadians with free child-birthing medical care. Have we taken a step back in time?
No Room At The Inn
Christmas celebrants recently honoured the birth of Christianity, a birth where a pregnant woman was told that no bed was available, rather only the warmth of straw on which to lay her Newborn in a nearby stable. A few thousand years later, our hospitals have no room. Maria wasn’t offered a hospital bed, medical help, or even a mid-wife—maybe there’s a shortage of those as well. And, even though Baby Mataya’s mother was a nurse in the hospital where she worked, it wasn’t enough to save her dying infant.
Questions, Denial, Conspiracy
Are medical professionals encouraging Death by Place of Death so Canadians and their government will wake up to reality and fix the situation—this line of attack following the well-established pattern that a Yield sign will do just fine until enough people die to warrant a Stop sign?
Are Canadians in denial about the fact that government systems like Medicare and Canada Post have failed, these but two institutions that have made Canada the model country that it’s believed to be? Regarding Canada Post, a quick Google Search and I stop counting at the twelfth news article about postal theft now being a national pastime.
Are we playing ostrich like many did when the recent pandemic hit, that none of this business with our healthcare system is really happening, and if perchance it is, it doesn’t apply to Moi? Have we become so very comfortable with our Canadian standard of living, that the failure of that which we fully expect to continue to serve and protect us is now but the stuff conspiracies are made of?
Have we stepped back ‘to the good ol’ days’—that weren’t always that good, I hear—having decided that it’s okay for babies to be delivered wherever by whomever, and that the new norm is to expect to die in our sixties like we did in the 1950s?
Are we accepting that a step backwards with respect to health care is understandable, since we’ve been privileged as a global society connected to countries we once thought only existed in our history texts, countries that have been envious of our Canadian lifestyle? Will we continue to blame the Covid pandemic for sudden shortages in medical professionals, or blame the influx of immigrants who now also access our withering health care system, or blame the elderly for receiving health care when babies with emergencies are ignored, or blame racism, reverse-racism and ageism when we learn of a young indigenous student having heart surgery while a middle-aged Asian tax-payer is left waiting for months for that same lifesaving procedure?
Times are tough, and considering the current state of Canada’s healthcare system, it doesn’t seem a solution is in the cards anytime soon. Let’s do what we can to prepare for those emergencies that life tends to toss our way.
Let us able persons who simply don’t want to get off the couch and go for a walk, who don’t want to quit smoking, who don’t want to get help as addicts, rise up and take preventative action. Let’s put our affairs in order. Let’s make a survival plan. Lives depend on it!
Canada’s Healthcare System
- About Emergency Wait Times
- “Access to health care based on need rather than ability to pay was the founding principle of the Canadian health-care system.”
- Canada: health system review 2020
- Canada’s Healthcare System Overview
- “Canada’s national health-insurance program (also called Medicare) is designed to ensure that every resident of Canada receives medical care and hospital treatment, the cost of which is paid through general taxes or through compulsory health-insurance premiums.”
- Cost of a Standard Hospital Stay
- Elderly patients with nowhere else to go are crowding hospitals. How Ontario aims to solve the crisis
- Healthcare definition
- Health Equity
- History of Canada’s Public Health Care
- How to fix our broken health care system
- N.B. ER death: Patient dies while waiting hours to be seen
- Overcrowding hospitals ‘It’s becoming a powder keg:’ Nurses’ union says Saskatoon patient’s death sign of larger problem
- Primary Health Care
- Quality of Health Care
- The Canadian health care system: an overview
- Watch “Mother Dies After Waiting Hours In Emergency Room”
- About Tommy Douglas
- “The Father of Medicare” saw his Medicare plan enacted in Saskatchewan in 1962 and later by the federal Pearson government in 1966.”
Religion and Health
Canada Post Thefts
- 16 People Arrested
- Community Mailbox Thieves
- Employee arrested—Gift Card Theft from Mail
- Mail Theft Wainwright, AB
- Mailbox Theft
- Package Theft
- Parcel Pilfering
- Parcel Theft
- Post Office Robberies
- Postal Worker Fired
- Probe Launched after Package Thefts
- Postal Thief