To visualize SM most Americans think Canada, our neighbor north, not separated by fences but rather connected by bridges. I was based in Canada for 10 years while working out of the states. My first impression of Canadians as nice and nice-looking remains today. My first impression of the deep, structural inadequacies of its health care system (long-in place) worsened with each personal experience.
Whenever feasible, I would take my 2-1/2 year old granddaughter to stay with me in Ottawa. On work days, she would either come with me to my office, where she would spend the hours drawing, writing, reading, napping, or socializing (as in distracting my colleagues), or I would drop her off for babysitting by a nice lady, the wife of a male colleague. Twice during her stay in Canada, the child needed medical attention. The first time, she had a high fever on a weekend, at which time someone warned me that it wouldn’t be easy to get her seen by a doctor as medical professionals generally worked regular office hours. Thankfully, a friend I lived with had a doctor friend who graciously came over to examine my grandchild. (Didn’t I say Canadians are nice?) The second time, the child was vomiting alarmingly so I rushed her to the ER. Every square inch of the waiting room and examining rooms was occupied by people, many of whom did not seem to be in an emergency condition. Needless to say, we had to wait for about two hours, during which time my grandchild ran out of stuff to throw up. Again, she recovered, thanks to her youth and the water cooler nearby. Later, I was told that people wait so long for a doctor’s appointment that they use the ER for regular consultations – a common solution to too few doctors and inadequate medical equipment for too many users.
Additionally, there were things that happened to my friends at work that made me question the effectiveness of a socialized health care system. For example, the lady who babysat my grandchild later delivered her third child, who was born rather frail. Only a few days after coming home from the hospital, the baby was taken back to the doctor because of breathing difficulties while nursing. After the usual trips, characterized by waiting, medical staff found nothing and the baby was sent home. The condition kept recurring and the mother kept bringing her child back to the doctor, but she was sent home with the same reassurances. Finally, both parents decided to demand more definitive tests. Ultimately, the problem was found, which happened to be a heart defect needing surgery. Clearly, the mother’s persistence, instincts and analysis saved her baby, despite the system. Another incredible case: our receptionist had twisted her back and was in severe pain to the point where the only position she could tolerate was to lie on the floor on her stomach; she even ate her meals this way. She needed an MRI, or a similar test, which could only be scheduled some six weeks ahead. Please do the math while I recall another third-person incident: a friend of mine needed a DNC (dilation and curettage) procedure. After weeks, the procedure was scheduled. Accompanying her to the hospital, I noticed that some six women, including her, were lined up lying in beds. The nurse came around to each one of them and affixed tags on their wrists. Such a sight morbidly reminded me of a morgue. At no time did the physician speak to my friend before or after the procedure. She was handed a phone number to call in X number of weeks, then promptly sent home.
Perhaps it was prophetic that I experienced my own Calvary within this system because it made my disdain of it permanently ingrained in my consciousness. One midnight I fractured my wrist. At the now-familiar ER, I had the usual wait, while writhing in pain. Along comes this man who took me to X’ray and clumsily – oh, so painfully – twisted my arm in various ways to take the images. This man belonged in a torture camp. I almost fainted. However, I thought that if this was the only way I could get relief, so be it. Then the long wait, although I didn’t even have the hands for tweedle-dum-tweedle-dee. Then comes somebody who said that, yes, I did have a wrist fracture. And, yes, it will be placed in a hard cast. But, no, it could not be cast that night. Why ever not?! Well, the Technician didn’t work nights so I had to return in the morning. Of course, I had absolutely no sleep the rest of the night.
The ultimate shocker came when I had the hard cast checked four weeks later only to be told, and to see on X’rays, that the crack had actually separated, instead of sealed back. I rushed out of the treatment room, packed my bags and drove back to upstate NY, through the Adirondacks, no less, driving only with my left hand, no more. With God anything is possible: during the long “healing” time, I learned to write my reports with my left hand and sign checks. I also learned to do one-hand driving. The same day I got home, I saw an orthopedic surgeon who evaluated the damage. He immediately sawed off the cast and replaced it with one that went from hand to armpit, versus the original half-palm to elbow. A painful delay in treating and an inept mistake in treatment are what I got from SM. Of course, I filed a complaint informing the hospital administration of the errors of the medical personnel who treated me and demanding a refund of the hundreds of U.S. dollars I paid during the entire period of this episode, me being a visitor and not a citizen of the country. Nothing was granted; not even an apology. There was obviously no mechanism for redress of any kind.
Finally, a sad epilogue: Years after I had left Canada and was happily retired in the U.S., a friend of mine who lived in Toronto requested my assistance to prepare a case against the hospital which mishandled the treatment of her father. This lady’s late sister was one of my dearest friends from school. Her dad was in his 80s but was not chronically ill, as far as I knew. At the time he went to the hospital he was suffering severe discomfort systemically, but particularly in the abdominal area. Repeatedly, he was treated superficially, his increasing and then ever-present pain was ignored, and was dismissed from the hospital repeatedly. Finally, undiagnosed, he succumbed to sepsis, among many other causes that were not quite determined. The family was in agony every time they remembered their dad’s painful dying process. The often-mentioned discrimination against older people (something like the ‘death panels” that accompanies the distribution of available healthcare resources) was one of the factors her daughter wanted to bring out. Needless to say, nothing came out of our carefully-crafted complaint. One of the lame responses made by the hospital was that there was no one or nothing to sue. I couldn’t help but recall the time I signed my contract of engagement for a Canadian assignment, at which point my management reminded me that if I ever wanted to sue about anything in the contract, I had to go after Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth II!
Horror stories abound about SM. But the countries who have it can not just dismantle the structure without chaotic and tremendous financial consequences. Meanwhile, the U.S. seems poised to re-configure its market-determined system, consistent with the current administration’s obvious effort to engulf and devour any and all things that move in this country. I, myself, have particularly experienced government take-overs of the free market and of the citizens’ freedom. Believe it or not, dictators or would-be dictators pepper this planet. No matter how lofty the ideological intent, government-run business suffers from built-in defects, notably uncontrolled administrative cost, gross inefficiency, and shameless corruption, most taking place as we speak. Corruption creeps in when authority expands, until ”absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The obsession du jour is to restructure health care system – through 2000-page laws, incomprehensible to the average person, and multi-billion-dollar schemes, funded by borrowed money in amounts we can not even fathom. Oh God, is it morning yet?
About the Author
Elizabeth D. Samson lives in the Princeton area, NJ.. She has a B.S. in Business Administration and an M.A. in Economics from the state University of the Philippines. Now a busy volunteer, she has worked with government, corporate and academic sectors and has lived in some 30 countries on development consulting assignments. Contact her at Globalbridges@verizon.net.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of WakingTimes or its staff.