Blog /In Praise of Canada's Health Care System

February 12, 2011 00:33 +0000  |  Health Care 5

Those of you who know me know that I can get pretty defencive about the health care system in our country. I've been lectured by friends and cab drivers about how much better off we'd be in a for-profit system, so when something like this happens, I feel like I need to write it down somewhere.

Earlier this week, my grandmother and I took the ferry from Tsawassen to Nanaimo, and on the way back, badness ensued: As pedestrian passengers, we had just made it onto the platform for the 3pm ferry and were hurrying down the various walkways to the ferry. A mere 2m from the boat, my grandmother tripped and fell flat on her face on the metal "on ramp" to the boat. I, along with the four BC Ferries staff rushed to help her up and we all helped walk her to the closest private room where they had an on-board emergency first-aid person.

Stubborn as she is, my grandmother insisted that she was fine, and that we had no intention of getting off the ferry on the wrong side. She was going home, Grandpa would worry otherwise. The first aid lady was less than impressed however, my grandmother had an ugly bump on her head, and the pants on her right knee were soaked with blood, pooling on the floor below. She was going upstairs to the first aid office and she'd have to examine her.

When we got upstairs and laid Grandma out on the table, she got some ice for her head and the first aid tech went to work trying to find out what was going on with that knee. once she cut the pant leg open, she turned around and put a call up to the crew: she was requesting that any doctors and/or nurses report to the first aid office.

Not one, but three nurses showed up: two young women, and one older man. The attending pointed them toward the supply cabinet and the three of them went to work. One preparing the supplies, another taking her pulse and the other cleaning and dressing the gaping hole in my grandmother's knee. They cleaned the wound, splinted the leg, and stitched it closed with sterile paper strips, then wrapped it all up tight so she'd stop bleeding all over the place. They were all helpful, professional, and oh-so-caring. They asked for no payment other than our thanks, and went on their way.

Two hours of hanging out in the first aid office later, we were met by an ambulance at the ferry terminal, who bound Grandma up and lifted her into the truck -- all the while with her insisting she was fine, and she just needed to go home. Those of us who'd seen her knee new better, and so she was going to Delta Hospital. As this was a non-emergency though, the ambulance didn't run the lights or the sirens.

Upon arriving at the hospital, we were met by friendly, professional staff and Grandma was initially given a bed in the hall and an ice pack for her head. Their ER is rather small, so the non-life-threatening cases were not given top priority. My grandmother was not pleased. She wanted to go home, she didn't want to be waiting in a hospital for six hours only to get a pill and be sent home. I attempted to counter this by calling my her daughter in Kelowna and telling her the short version of what had happened, and then letting the two of them talk. My phone bill might hurt come next month, but 15mintues later, we were met by a wonderfully helpful doctor who wheeled my grandmother into a little curtained-off space and she went to work.

The doc checked all of the scary spots in her bone structure: did she break her hip? fracture a femur? The answers to everything: no. Then when she pulled apart the dressing the 3 nurses had applied earlier, griping about the excessive wrapping... that is until she saw what had happened to the knee, then it all made sense. My grandmother's knee was pretty bad: the skin had split right open, on account of the thinness of the skin itself leaving the subcutaneous fat exposed, and blood leaking everywhere. Now that the doctor insisted that this was a Big Deal, my grandmother had finally stopped protesting. She would need fifteen stitches.

The doc was really helpful and friendly. She briefed me on what had happened, and what she was doing and why. She let me watch the process and answered every stupid question I had, as well as fill me in on the possibility of infection with such a large cut. She then had it wrapped up and ordered a few x-rays of the area just to be sure. The nurse that did the wrapping was additionally helpful and even gave us extra dressing for when the knee needed to be re-dressed because she knew it was expensive and that my grandmother was on a fixed income.

Total time at the hospital: 2 hours.

I can't imagine what it must be like to live in a country where a pensioner has to decide if a trip to the doctor is financially viable. How many seniors out there don't have adequate medical coverage, and how many of them do you think would opt for a big band-aid when faced with the costs of doctors, nurses and stitches? Say what you like about Canada's health care system, but every time I deal with it, I'm routinely impressed with the professionalism of the workers and efficiency of the system.

I'd also like to take a moment to thank the exceptional staff of BC Ferries and Delta Hospital for their work in taking care of my grandma.


12 Feb 2011, 5:10 a.m.  | 

That's pretty scary. I'm glad your grandma got taken care of and hope she heals quickly.

15 Feb 2011, 9:24 p.m.  | 

I TOTALLY agree with you Dan. Before I moved to Boston I think I was on the verge of becoming one of those "for-profit" health care people. But now, my eyes are wide open. In the US, the NUMBER 1 cause of personal bankrupcy is medical bills. Everyday people decide whether or not to risk their lives or their fiances. Insurance companies employ thousands of people who's sole job it is to find ways to discount your insurance so they don't have to pay those costly bills. They hire people full time to do that, its hard to compete with that.

Its been a tough year and we've had family members in Canada get really sick. Yet they received top-notch care in Canada and never did they have to worry about how they were going to pay for a second chance at life!

Roy Tubman
16 Feb 2011, 4:18 a.m.  | 

I hope grandma L. Is recovering well and thank-you for detailing the events. I hope you are as proud as I ; that our forefathers; specifically William John Smith my Grandfather and your Great Grandfather participated in making Universal Health Care in Canada a reality today.

Roy Tubman
17 Feb 2011, 3:28 a.m.  | 

Make sure Grandma S knows I told you so :-) During the dirty 30 years ( great depression) he fought to keep heating fuel ( Gas Company/Utility) in Toronto from turning the supply off to people who could not pay. We have evolved........I hope you comment :-) and hope Grandma L is getting better.

Kathryn MacDonald
19 Apr 2011, 3:26 p.m.  | 

Jusr read this today. I had no idea that your Grandma went through this Dan. I guess evebything is fine now. But, sounds like it was quite an ordeal.
Yes, I am reminded of the stories my mom, your Grandma Quinn tells of the mid 50's when, if you didn't have the money up front, you couldn't have a baby at the hospital. Grandma Quinn was about to be turned away when she arrived in labor with her 2nd baby because they didn't have the money...her dad came to the rescue...and the baby turned out to be very sick and needed expensive care. They told her they couldn't perform the necessary procedures unless they could prove that they had the money. It was very frightening!!We just have no idea what that would be like. Thank Goodness!
Aunt K

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