Instead of posting anything new today, I'm referring to yesterday's post, the reprint of Egalia's great essay on the Canadian health care system.

Several of you have related personal stories about your experiences with health care in Canada. Think of this post as a call for contributors. I'd like to collect these stories, with an eye to writing about this in the future.

I'm not sure what form that will take - possibly an Op-Ed-style essay and I'll quote anonymously from these. Whatever it turns out to be, it would be great to have lots of material to draw from. Stories of positive or negative experiences are welcome.

Stories about health care in the US are easy to find - the inequities, the injustices, the insecurity - the poverty and homelessness it has caused, the cruel choices it forces. Then there are the insurance stories, the HMO monster, practicing medicine without a license, forcing forces people to fight for coverage, denying those who can't fight or don't have anyone to fight for them. The US also has some of the best health care in the world, for those that can afford it or are properly insured.

But US readers, while I don't need US stories, if you have something you want to share, you are more than welcome.


Rabes said...

Hi Laura. I have two Canadian health care stories to share with you that you are free to use in the future. One is negative (my mum's) and the other is positive (mine). First the negative. My mum was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) in 2003. She received excellent care actually most of the way through her disease however in Fall 2004 she was down to about 90 pounds (soaking wet). She couldn't swallow easily and was in desperate need of a feeding tube. In the months before she had asked her doctors 3 times (yes 3 times) to get her the tube. Each time they said "not yet." This led to acute pancreatitis and two weeks of hospitalization in the fall of 2004. I firmly believe this is because she was part of a drug study the doctors were running. If she had taken the tube, she would have had to come off the study and her results recorded. We found out later that several of the patients on that study ended up with complications like pancreatitis and the drug was pulled. Further, when she did have to be hospitalized, she sat, in acute pain, in an emergency room for over 12 hours with NO GURNEY AVAILABLE. She was extremely frail and ended up going home. When she was admitted the next day her care was great but there is something very wrong in our emergency rooms when a woman this sick sits for twelve hours with no place to lay down and ends up going home. She ended up dying at home several months later. She never recovered properly from the pancreatitis (she was bedridden in the months after her hospitalization).

Now, my positive story is about midwifery in Ontario. As you may know, it is completely and fully funded by OHIP. I had midwifery care in my first pregnancy and now again in my second. This means I do not see an OB at all (unless my midwife deems a consult necessary). I see my midwife on a regular schedule, she is with me through the entire birth and makes regular home visits after the birth and gives me 6 weeks of post-partum care after the baby is born. I have the option of a home or hospital birth as midwives in Ontario have hospital priveleges. Their care is about "informed choice," which means I choose which procedures, tests, etc I am willing to undergo. For example, I chose not to be tested for gestational diabetes (something that is standard for OBs) and decided to be tested for group B strep. These decisions were my own but my midwives gave me the pros and cons of each, backed up with medical journals, statistics etc. I think this is an example of where Ontario is doing exactly the right thing in our medical system. It is removing low risk pregnancies from OB offices making room for women who really need OB care. Now if only more women would choose midwifery care in their pregnancies.

L-girl said...

Hi Rabes :)

Thanks for your comment. I'm so sorry about your mom. ALS is a very hard thing. I know several families (through my disability stuff) struggling with it.

Your mom's experience in the ER sounds so awful. I can easily imagine a similar scenario happening in the US - indeed I'm sure it does all the time.

I wonder if the negative Canadian stories will sound like average US stories? We'll see. (And of course this is a completely unscientific survey!)

tornwordo said...

A friend came and visited from the states. While she was here, she got something in her eye and scratched her cornea. We went to the clinic and asked to see the doctor. Seeing as how she wasn't covered under a Canadian plan, they asked for $60. Thinking this was a steal compared to what it would cost to see the doctor in the states, she promptly payed and we sat down to wait. 20 minutes later the doctor took her in. I went too because the doctor only spoke French. So I translated as he put drops in her eyes and inspected them under a special lamp. He wrote out a prescription and then he opened his drawer, pulled out the envelope that had the $60 in it, and gave back $20. He said, "It's only $40 today." Both of us slackjawed, imagine a doctor giving you money. She went downstairs to the pharmacy and got the prescription eye drops for $8.

Both of us were quite impressed at the ease and efficiency, not to mention the low cost.

sister.susie said...

I grew up in the States and moved to Canada a month before my first baby was born. Imagine my surprise a few weeks later when a Public Health Nurse shows up at my home to check that both my wee newborn babe and I were doing fine. Further, ALL Moms and newborns were visited in their homes.
Wow - this community health care was a revolutionary idea to me.

While growing up in the States we didn't have a family doctor. Routine checkups were out of the question because the cost was prohibitive. One of my Dad's famous lines was, "One time I was soooo sick that I almost went to the doctor!"

Thanks, Canada, for untangling the out of pocket cost from basic health care. I sure wish Dad had had access to better health care before he got so sick that he DID go to the doctor.

L-girl said...

Thanks, tornwondo and sister.susie.

A doctor gave you some money back? I'm a bit slack-jawed myself!

Jenjenjigglepants said...

This week I decided I should really try to get a family doctor or nurse practioner. I went online to the Nurse practioners' association of Ontario registry and looked up NPs that are taking new patients. Today I called 3 different offices and struck out twice, they weren't taking new patients. #3 was a winner. She practices in an office with other health professionals (Doctor, Social worker, Dietician) and I'll have access to those professions on an as needed basis. I have a "meet and greet" scheduled for mid-september and a check-up tentatively for the end of the month. The whole process took an hour.

Of course, this wouldn't have been so easy if a. I didn't live in a mj. centre (but this is changing slowly but surely) and b. I wasn't open to an NP and adamant that only a MD will do.

I have other stories from outside the hospital/primary care system--I visited the safe injection site in Vancouver this summer and other innovative community resources and agencies abound (similar to the youth org. in NY you linked to last week--they have a great site, both virtually and in reality).

Cheers, Jen

L-girl said...

She practices in an office with other health professionals (Doctor, Social worker, Dietician) and I'll have access to those professions on an as needed basis.

Very cool. I'm a big fan of NPs myself, and would have gladly gotten one as a family doctor had it worked out that way.

I visited the safe injection site in Vancouver this summer and other innovative community resources and agencies abound

I've been reading a lot about that lately, regarding the fight to keep it open. How do the prospects look, do you know?

similar to the youth org. in NY you linked to last week

Then it is really special. I hope to find another place like that in the GTA to maybe become a part of. Eventually.

doug said...

here's a story for you my mother was diagnosed with a heart ailment on August 8th needing a quad by-pass well today the 30th of August she not only has had the surgery but she went for her regular hair dresser appointment to get her hair done...her age 78..the cost to her nothing...to us her children...priceless...this from a "broken" health care system...

L-girl said...

Doug, how great. Hooray for your mom up-and-about post-op! Thanks for sharing that.

Jen said...

Hey L-girl,

It's me, jjigglepants. After seeing your comment this a.m. and thinking "hmm, I don't know where things are at" I looked, and holy s**t: it's coming down to the wire for Insite. I've created a new blog, protectinsite.blogspot.com that has a fact sheet, tips for writing to MPs, contact info for relevant ministers and an article from today's G&M. Could you link to my site?

Cheers, Jen J.J. Pants

Jen said...

P.S.: Constructive criticism would be swell too. You opinion is much respected. J.

L-girl said...

JJJP, I would be very happy to do that.

I meant to blog about InSite after reading about it at the AIDS Conference Global Village. I let too much time go by, then thought it was too late. Now you've inspired me to get cracking.

I will definitely blog about this - and link to your site - tomorrow or Saturday, depending on how busy or quiet it is at work. Thanks for doing this important work.