Last week my wife, Sue, went into hospital for day surgery, so we have some up to date experience of the Canadian healthcare system. Before I get into this, I wanted to put it into the context of my last article, on the teachers’ strike. This prompted reactions which were at opposite extremes. Some people were very much on the side of the teachers and felt strongly that the issues were bigger than pay (like quality of education, government bully tactics etc). On the other side, there were those who criticized the teachers for putting the children’s education at risk and they felt just as strongly as those on the other side of the debate.
These reactions are understandable because we all bring our own experience, our own thinking to these issues. These are inevitably different and hence our reactions are different.
That brings me to the topic of medical care. Here too, opinions are going to differ. Those, like me, who come from countries where there is free medical care for all, will likely judge Canada against that backdrop.
Those who come from countries where healthcare is not free, such as the United States, will have a different outlook entirely.
The well oiled machine at work
Last week, when Sue went in for her surgery, she described it as being part of a well oiled machine. It seemed very much a production line, with each step being well thought out.
It is like a production line, beginning with the GP’s initial referral to the consulting surgeon and ending with the surgery itself. Each step worked, and there was even a booklet that the surgeon gave her when the surgery was booked, that explained what to expect and what to do at every point.
On the day before the surgery, as promised, we got a call to tell us what time to report to the hospital. This was 6:45 a.m. the next day. In the meantime Sue went into the hospital for some pre-surgery screening. I guess this meant that the crowd of people waiting for surgery the next morning could be seen in rapid succession. In any case, I got the call to pick Sue up at noon. She was pretty groggy, but ready to go.
Since then Sue has been recovering at home and is doing well.
This isn’t the way to do it
Sue’s description of her experience as being like a well-oiled machine is apt because it is a defined procedure that medical staff and patients alike understand well. Something that can be written up in a booklet.
What happens when your medical needs don’t fit into a predefined procedure?
The best example of this is to contrast coming to the A&E in an ambulance or on your own.
If you arrive in an ambulance, you’re in the system. You get seen quickly. And you know what’s going on.
If you come on your own, the process works, but is much slower and likely to have you wondering when you’ll get seen. There’s no booklet for this!
As a side note, when you use an ambulance you are charged for it (currently $80).
Finally, I can say that our experience, in the several encounters with hospitals we’ve had over the last 9 years, have been pretty positive. Staff have been excellent, and our concerns (waiting times in A&E) have been minor ones.
What’s your expectation? What experiences do you have to share?