Saturday, May 20, 2006

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Waiting for surgery

Southwestern Ontario is known as a center of health care excellence. We've got lots of great med schools, research centers, hospitals and other centers of care. That doesn't mean we're immune to health care difficulty, however. Like much of the rest of Canada, we're dealing with chronic shortfalls in our nationally-funded system.

The concept of cradle-to-grave health care for all, which has been a hallmark of our society for decades, is under pressure. Spiralling costs are causing many to question the very feasibility of publicly-funded health care.

Against this backdrop, a report was released this week that showed wait times for certain kinds of surgery had come down over the past year. Great news, but I wanted to illustrate that a one-time improvement does not mean we can pack up our vigilance and head home. The system's still in crisis. People are still dying. We're a long way from fixed. Here's my column from today's paper:
More effort needed to reduce wait times
Published Saturday, May 20, 2006
The London Free Press

If you get sick in and around London, you got some good news this week: wait times for some procedures have come down since last year.

The danger in reports such as this lies in our assumption that the battle has been won - it hasn’t.

Health-care wait times are still too high, and for some life-threatening illnesses like cancer, they’re still on the rise.

We’ve used up plenty of ink in recent years discussing the challenges of our health-care system. Doubtless, if our local doctors, nurses and other health care professionals could deliver immediate service to everyone who needs it, they would. But that's a pipe dream.

I hope our provincial government realizes that these results are incredibly personal. Delays add additional stresses to patients and their families. Not only do they have to deal with often-ominous diagnoses, but now they’re forced to wait and worry that they’ll get sicker in the interim.

Sadly, some will die. And despite this week’s good news, we’re not done. Governmental budget bosses need to continue to improve their prioritization efforts.

Your turn: Has your life - or that of a close relative or friend - been touched by a delay like this? I hope you'll share your story here.


Dara said...

Here in Arizona, I no longer get medical benefits as a part of my job. The cost for a very basic plan - catastophic with a $5000 deductible - is about $150/month. If I ever need surgery or a hospital stay, I will most likely be looking at personal bankruptcy. Michele sent me.

Nic said...

Thank God, no never has that happened with anyone in my family.

I am not a proponent of nationalized healthcare. Most friends I know from Canada says that in reality, the doctors are overworked and WAY underpaid and therefore they never got as good of care in Canada as they have in the states. Your thoughts?

Hi from Michele's today my friend.

Sue said...

Hey Carmi, here via Michele's today. My dad lives in Canada and when he was having heart issues, he got a very quick turnaround and a quad bypass. However, he did not take care of himself as he should have and now that he is beginning to have issues, he is at the bottom of the totem pole for heart surgery. Another issue is about 18 months ago, my dad started to just drop. Out of the blue, he would be walking in a store and pass out. Drop to the ground and a minute later be up and well. He has had to have glass from his glasses removed from his eye even. It took nearly 18 months to have a complete neuroligical work up -- although the incidents were not often about once every other month or so....they were often enough to worry me AND now we wait...

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

What a terrible problem....Health Care is such a mess in so many places....An awful dilemma...

Here from Michele today, my dear.

archshrk said...

Hello, Michele Sent me.

I haven't had problems with health care other than the "least care possible" provided by HMO. Rather than trying the best solution, they try the ceapest first and upgrade as needed. This is designed to keep costs down but every visit costs me and my insurance money plus every new perscription.

I think this is the risk of nationalized medicine. Least possible care vs. most competitive care.

surcie said...

Mine hasn't, thank God. I hope yours hasn't either, Carmi.

craziequeen said...

Hi Carmi my dear :-)

We have the same issues in the UK, but it's terrible here, the NHS have been throwing money away on administrators...

My sister-in-law went private because the NHS quoted an 18mth wait for her desperately needed back surgery.

She is doing well now :-)

From Michele today.

Pearl said...

Self-care should be a major part of health care rather than people running to doctors after they have rigorously daily broken themselves for months or years. But that's neither here nor there. The body-mind's a complex machine to maintain without a pro mechanic's overview perspective. I only know of one person who died of cancer waiting for an MRI appointment. That was a few years ago now.

A couple years ago I spent 3 or 4 hours in a waiting room, both in an emergency room and waiting for a pre-booked appointment. Are waiting times down? Maybe people are just staying away and that's unclogging the system.

Hello, Michele sent me, didja know?

craziequeen said...

Me again - we're circling Michele atm.... :-)

Carmi, my sweet man - thank you for the wonderfully supportive message on my blog.


panthergirl said...

If I want to make an appointment to see my ob/gyn, not the nurse practitioner, I would have to wait almost as long as I would to have a baby. (well, for me that would be infinity, but you catch my drift).

Health care is a problem everywhere, and frankly I think it's because we're living far longer than we were meant to.

Here via michele!

srp said...

I really don't know what the ultimate answer is. I think a big part will have insurance or government or whomever is in charge of it to put a higher priority on prevention. Pay for preventative medicine to prevent the higher costs of fixing broken bodies.

Michel sent me.

Laura said...

I'm in Florida, but my husband has relatives that live in London, Stratford, Tavistock and Goderich. I hope we never have to deal with the problems such as you describe.

In the past two years, several of those relatives have been in the hospital for the following: prostate cancer, colon cancer, a broken hip, broken foot, diabetes related issues and heart disease. As far as I have been able to tell, their treatment process came through just fine.

I am certain they would have their own stories to tell and I've forwarded your website for them to read and comment on if they see fit.

Here from Micheles!

Theo said...

fortunately, no.

Tag. You're it!

margalit said...

Yes, we have plenty of delays. It took me several months to have my ICD installed. I was supposed to have it put in sometime in September and didn't have it done until January. It's not a hugely long wait, but having heart surgery shouldn't take that long to take care of.

I live in Boston, a city world-reknowned for the top health care in the world. and plenty of people have shoddy healthcare here, with long waits. We have NO dental coverage with medicaid, or vision care for that matter. We have terrible health insurance laws here and the insurance companies can change their formularies at will, rendering patients unable to get their prescriptions covered.

I think it's disgusting that we don't have a national health care solution to the problem. we're a rich country that cares nothing for it's citizens, something I find appalling.

margalit said...

Oh, and Michele sent me.

Just a trumpet player said...

I had to deal with plenty of delays, unfortunately. I was on a waiting list for 8 months : What should have been a routine procedure turned out to be a life-threatening operation with a 6 months convalescence. Not fair !

Thanks for stopping by today...
Have a great weekend !

Mamacita said...

In this small town in southern Indiana, we have two huge hospitals, several walk-in clinics, and more doctors than you could shake a stick at. Move here; the doctors are competing for patients. I know it's far from typical but that's how it is in this town.

I'm here from Michele's tonight but I come here by myself all the time.

Cyndy said...

Medical benefits in America are scarcely affordable and you probably know the push is on for national health care. Medicare is our senior citizen's healthcare and it is weak at best. I had a family friend who was put out of the hospital at MIDNIGHT because Medicare wouldn't pay for the next day. He died two hours later at home without the medical care he so desperately needed. Michele sent me.

Goodbye Mes Amis said...

Hi Carmi, my friend's mother had to wait months to get her radiation. She died just last winter from Breast cancer. I don't think you can compare the American and Canadian system. I guess it's more like compare and contrast. It's interesting too to see what the Brits have done. The doctors can go private, but have to keep one foot in the public system.

CanEragon said...

Here in Quebec, your wait time for the ER or a GP depends on the services you require and the severity of your problem or condition.

The last time Peter went to the ER for a foot injury he waited 13 hours without food or meds at the Royal Vic. I took him home without treatment. That was his last visit to an ER almost a year ago. He is on psych meds and 13 hours w/o meds made him sick and delusional. We never went back to the Royal Vic ever!!

I belong to the IDTC at the Montreal General and can walk in the clinic at any time and see a doc or the attending, because it is an HIV clininc that serves a distinct population. I got into the Cardiac Unit by luck because I had a cardiac event last month, sometimes you luck out depending on the doc on the floor on any given day - I know the General's wait time for a cardiac issue is six months.

If you go to the ER at the Jewish - you go on Mondays because I have a friend who works triage. The waits there are long as usual and depending on the phase of the moon can get crazy at times.

The ER at the Montreal General is not much better - I've waited upwards of 18 hours to see a doc (in chairs). So why bother unless its a real emergency.

Elderly services in Montreal are not as short as they need to be. I have several over 55 friends who complain that it takes weeks to get an appointment and then more wait time for treatment.

My MIL in Ottawa waited only 12 weeks for her hip replacement and 15 weeks for her knee (concurrently) they were done one after the other in rapid succession. And she had aftercare and rehab as well directly after surgery.

My FIL's mother was moved to Missasauga for Long Term "Lock Down" Alzheimers care after being evicted from her moderate care home (in Ottawa) There was no long term spaces in Ottawa - the waiting list was 2 years - (after she wandered last winter a 3rd time.)

They could not guarantee her safety and did not want the responsibility for her death, if she got lost in a snow bank. (she almost died on the 3rd wander)

So my health care report is not good for most situations. It just depends on what your needs are here in Quebec and how fast you need treatment.

utenzi said...

Michele sent me, Carmi.

No effects on my life, nor close relatives, by problems with the health system but no doubt as we all get older it'll happen. To my mind, one of the biggest problems is that so much of the health money is spent on that last week or so of life. It's almost impossible to legislate but some way has to be found to limit spending on heroic measures. Sometimes it's not worth the price.

Thumper said...

Sounds like the military medical system...once the Spouse Thingy retired, we were shuffled to the bottom rung when it comes to availability of appointments. After winding up in the ER for abdominal pain last December, I was told to see my doc within 72 hours...they kept delaying my appointment, until a month and another ER visit has passed.

Good thing it was "just" an ulcer and not something worse, eh?