Friday, October 19, 2012

Private Health Care use in Canada

I have been following the interesting story of a woman in my city for the past month. I know her, and this is straight from her husband and herself, not a story floating around the net. The woman is involved in a sports activity with my daughter and I learned that she was sick and had some sort of surgery. I heard the words 'laser, headache, etc' and thought perhaps she has Lasik eye surgery or something. A week later her husband was outside enjoying the fresh air with me while their son and my daughter were doing their sports class. I asked him how his wife was doing, and had heard she had surgery. He said she was doing better. I said 'Was it laser eye surgery or something? I heard you talking last week to the instructor about her not going out yet because of the pressure'.

And then we embarked on a sordid tale of the public vs private system here. His wife had BRAIN SURGERY. Oops. My eavesdropping wasnt very good that day, eh?

For a few weeks, his wife had complained that she felt really strange in her head, an odd sort of pressure that she felt she could almost 'see' if she looked up. As in very focused and localized on a certain area of her skull. Under the skull. She went to 5 different doctors in our small city and was told that it was just sinus pressure, or pressure from the high winds we get around here, and eventually told it was nothing and made to feel that she was just being a whiner. She was basically told that she was being a baby about this and nothing was wrong.

But here she is, a grown woman with 2 kids who has had very very few health problems. She also has had sinus infections and knew this felt like nothing she had ever experienced before. She was scared and angry. Her husband was getting very worried. He knows his wife best and knows she is not a whiner or a complainer. He went with her to ER a couple times to try to get someone to listen, asking for a CT scan or an MRI because he believed something was seriously wrong.

One day during the sports class, the pressure shifted suddenly in the top of her head and a clear fluid started draining from her nose like a tap. The instructor saw this and everyone was very upset. It was not like spontaneous sinus drainage (she and I have both experienced that before), and the pain was excruciating. Back to the ER they went and again she was told nothing was wrong and to just go home. 'Take two aspirin and dont call me in the morning' is what this was amounting to! She felt like no one would listen and was becoming more afraid. The pain and pressure was making her sick and terrified.

Her husband happened to talk to a guy at work about his fears and frustrations that something was very wrong. The man told him to go to Calgary and pay for a private MRI. He said there are 2 or 3 clinics there that do this. The husband did not know this (no one at the hospital told them, and Im sure they know about these places!) So he called immediately and got an appt the very next day and off they went to Calgary. I asked and he said it was about $800 for the MRI, and that they got to have a copy of ALL the information and a CD of the exam to take anywhere they wished.

But they didnt have to worry about that because during the MRI, the technician immediately alerted the specialists they work with. Fluid was building up in this woman's brain to the point of causing destruction of brain matter. The stuff that leaked out of her nose was fluid from her BRAIN, trying to find a way out to relieve pressure. My god! She was rushed to the Foothills hospital for emergency surgery involving lasers and stents to help with the drainage. She was told that if she had not come in, she would very likely have died SOON. As in days, at the most a couple of weeks.

About 5 days later she was permitted to leave but had one more MRI at foothills to double check things. It looked good. She looks fabulous now, about a month post-op. She has not been allowed to drive until the past week and is still not permitted to rejoin the sports club just yet, but is on the way to recovery. Her husband, meanwhile, contacted every doctor they saw and threw a fit. Some, including their family doctor, looked at the information from the MRI and admitted that looking back through the case file, they should have suspected this problem and booked her for an MRI, but also admitted that it could have taken several weeks to get that done unless something had happened like she passed out, but maybe not even then!!

Another week later, she experienced more pressure and terrible pain, so they went to the ER. She felt like she was trying to walk on stormy seas and her vision was affected. They were told that our hospital and the local diagnostics lab did not have a technician available to do the MRI to check it that day. Hubby freaked OUT. It was 3am and the ER doc said "I will contact the on-call specialist at 6am to see what he thinks needs to be done". Husband thinks about this for a minute and says "Did you just say you would call the ON-CALL specialist at 6am?? Call him NOW. He is ON CALL". So the ER doc stopped in his tracks, and agreed, and went to make the call. Neurology specialist arrives and repeats that no one is available to do the MRI so they cant see what is happening. A desk nurse is on the phone calling around and says 'Can you guys travel? You can be seen in Okotoks for an MRI as soon as you get there. They have a tech available'. So he put his wife in the car and they drove to Okotoks at 4am ( 2 hours drive) and got the MRI done, got the results sent back to our city, and then returned home. The stent had to be readjusted a bit or something but all is good now, so far.

WHAT THE HELL is that all about? I am soooo glad that private services have been set up around, but not enough people know about them. Im sure if someone had something horrific happen like this, their family could pool money, their friends, their church, I mean at least TRY to get $800 for the MRI. But also what happened afterward was insane - we dont have a tech avail on weekends for the public system?? What happens if there is a major emergency? Im sure there is one sometimes, there just wasnt that particular weekend. Why the hell not? It scares me to think this could have been a child who may be more vulnerable to such events and not be able to explain their feelings properly, so might get ignored even more. It scares me that because of a lack of funding or a finite amount of funding, hospitals cannot just go hire anyone they want, in any number they want. It has to be approved by desk jockeys. And a mother of two nearly died. She was >this< close.

Why don't we have a private MRI system in my city? there are plenty of people around here who could afford $800 if the shit hits the fan and they are worried about a loved one. My boss had a STROKE last June and did not get an MRI until January, for pete sake! And that was a RUSH job! An expedited MRI. Gimme a break. I saw the paperwork with my own eyes, with her doctor's request for this to be rushed. There are so many people here waiting for MRIs, and so few techs, that it can take several MONTHS for a stroke patient to get an MRI to try to find the cause. that is insane.

So I make sure to pass on to people now that you can get private ones done in cities like Calgary Edmonton and Red Deer. That was just on my first google search for alberta private MRI services. And if you think about it, people going for private MRIs move out of the public line, so it should work in favor of moving those who have to or want to use the public system UP in the line. I don't call them queue-jumpers, they are people who are looking for health care and found it.

This sort of thing should not be happening in a country that boasts it's health care plan. It should not be happening in a country where the public does not have much in the way of choice. I dont drive, for example, so it would be difficult for me to get to Calgary, but we should have that option HERE in my city too. Unfortunately there is so much red-tape involved, it takes a lot of time and money to set these systems up, but at least they are available and there is hope. I have been waiting 18 months for the go-ahead for an MRI for trigeminal neuralgia. I cant have one yet because it's not as debilitating physically as the govt officials deem it should be before permitting me to have one on the public system. At least now I know that if I am finding it getting worse, I can book one up in Calgary and see the Upper Cervical specialists while I am at it. Instead of waiting until it is so bad I cant even work anymore. If there is a chance to fix it or make it a bit better, I would rather do that BEFORE it gets so bad I am paralyzed by the pain. Why not fix it before it gets worse, instead of being forced to wait until you can barely function? But this is what can happen in a public system. Too bad those south of the border are not listening to these warnings.

I was also told at my physical exam today that even though I was previously told I should start having mammograms when I am 35 because my breast tissue is completely in tiny pieces and it's too hard to feel if its a tumor lump or just a broken breast tissue lump, it has now been changed to age 40. I do not have family history of the disease so I cannot be given one until after I turn 40, even if I beg for one. My doc would have to lie on my forms and say there is family history, even if there is not. He told me himself that if something were to happen, I probably would not be able to feel it until stage 2 or 3 unless I had other obvious symptoms to go along with it, where a mammogram can find stage 1. But his hands are tied. I am not about to scream and yell that I cant have one - I have not been outright concerned, but if I find a  small lump that he and I are unsure about next month, with no other symptoms than lumpiness, I CANNOT have a mammogram! The govt wont let me. Who the hell are they? Unless I found a private one and paid for it myself, it's not an option. Interesting. I would have to wait to see if it grows (hence, spreads), before I could get one. That's nice!

1 comment:

  1. this what happens when you have more bureaucrats than medical staff. we have a serious problem in canada and it is going to get much worse as long as government is considered the only supplier of medical care........old white guy.

    ReplyDelete

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