Friday, January 28, 2011

Access to medical care in Nova Scotia

The other day my mother, 78, slipped and fell. She was helping a friend, who had fallen and broken her foot a week ago, get out of the car after taking her shopping. She turned and caught her foot on the curb and took a tumble landing hard on the right side of her head/face.

She received a lot of help. Some workmen helped her up and put her in a wheelchair. A woman living in the condo is a retired nurse and came to help. Mom was cut above her eye and blood was gushing out like a wildcat oil well. The condo superintendent called 911 and then called me. I got there after the EMT's arrived. They took great care of mom and said she should go to the hospital and get checked out. They were worried about a concussion more than anything else. Her face around the eye and cheek was already bruised and swollen. Since I was there, and an ambulance ride costs $500-600, I drove mom to the Dartmouth General Hospital.

We got there around 11:300 AM and the Emergency Room was packed. Some of the people ahead of mom at triage had injuries such as a bleeding nose that needed to be cauterized, a sprained ankle, a migraine, and other assorted injuries. Mom had a head injury with ;possible concussion. We left the hospital around 6:10 PM without having seen a doctor.

Everyone who was there before we arrived was in AND out of the ER. Lots of people who came in after us were in and out. Mom was still waiting.

I don't want to knock the staff that works at the hospital as I know they do their best with what they have. But if mom's injuries were so insignificant that she was on the bottom of the totem pole, someone with a bleeding nose that was packed and not bleeding got in hours before we left, then why didn't they tell her that and suggest she see her family doctor the next day, or the duty doctor that day? A few hours after no signs of concussion showed they could have suggested that. It boggles my mind that a nose bleed and a migraine were given priority over a 78 year old woman who fell and was possibly concussed.

Why was the wait so long at the hospital? Well, people go there to have things treated that could just as easily be seen by a family doctor or a duty doctor at a clinic. A migraine. A cold. A sprain. One woman came in to get IV antibiotics, at her family doctors request, for an infection. These are all things that should and could be dealt with at a clinic or doctor's office. Yet people go to the ER and clog it up.

One of the things I loved about Korea was the care you could get IN a doctor's office or clinic. Needed a blood test? They drew the blood AT the doctor's office. You didn't have to go to a special clinic that is only open a couple of days a week or the hospital. You needed minor stitches? Clinic. Needed an x-ray? Any doctor's office I was at in Korea had an x-ray machine. Need IV antibiotics? Doctor's office. You didn't have to go to the ER, let alone the hospital, for minor things. Add to that there are enough doctors in Korea that you can walk in without an appointment and reasonably expect to see the doctor in less than an hour. The access to health care in South Korea makes Canada's access seem ... third world.

Then you have another problem making things worse at the ER. No beds in the hospital. A lot of patients who SHOULD be admitted to the hospital have to wait in the ER for days for a bed to become available. The mother of a friend had a mini-stroke last December, at the time they thought it was a full stroke. She spent THREE days in a small room in the ER waiting for a bed to become available in the hospital. When my mother had congestive heart failure 3 years ago she spent over 12 hours in a bed in the ER waiting for a bed to become available in the hospital. That is an insane situation.

A lot of the hospital beds are being taken up by people waiting for beds to open in long term senior care facilities. Twice while we were waiting in the ER a "Code: Census" was announced. Another person waiting went up and asked a nurse what that meant and was told it meant there are NO beds left in the ER and they can't admit anyone else until one opens up. It was over an hour before they took another patient into the ER to see a doctor.

In Nova Scotia there is a shortage of long term care facilities for the elderly, hospital beds, doctors, and nurses. Which makes what the Provincial Government wants to do now obscene. They want to take $47 Million of Federal money slated for infrastructure and use it to put towards having a new convention center built in Halifax. THAT is pretty fucked up.

We currently have a convention centre in Halifax that is NOT being fully utilized, the World Trade and Convention Centre. Also there is the Summit Place, a convention centre that was built to host a G7 meetings in the 1995. Why in the blue hell do we need another centre? One built with government money? If a new centre was REALLY viable the private sector would be ready to build it without government money.

The $47 Million dollars that the Dexter government wants from the Federal government was slated for infrastructure investment, mainly repairing and upgrading the roads in Nova Scotia as well as recreation centers around the province. I could see them wanting to take it away from roads for another infrastructure area, let's say long term care facilities for the elderly or more hospital facilities and staff, but a convention centre that we DON'T need?

I thought things were supposed to be different under an NDP government? The Dippers are more worried about "the people" than business. I guess that was just a lot of bull shit used to get themselves elected. Like any other party. Based on the expense scandals, donation scandals, and bullshit like this convention centre and self congratulatory spending one would think it was the old Buchanan government in power and not the Dippers.

If you HAVE to take $47 Million in Federal infrastructure funds away from from roads you should be putting it in health care and not a white elephant Mr. Dexter.


  1. Although I agree with you that Korean healthcare is pretty awesome compared to some of the things you find in Canada, I haven't had to pay to stay in a Canadian hospital. I just spent 5 days in a Korean hospital and with the cost of the room, drugs, pain shots, CT scan, sonogram, x-rays and meals it cost me just over $800 Canadian. And that was covered 50% by my Korean national healthcare. There are plenty of Korean hospitals and Korean doctors but it is a for-profit system and each hospital is privately owned and operated (as far as I could tell, although I've never really looked into it). I'm not sure if the huge international hospitals operate in the same way. I stayed in a smaller local hospital connected with one of the universities and I wasn't expecting to have to shell out so much of my own money. After having lived in Canada for a few decades and never paying for any healthcare that I can remember, with the exception of things my work health coverage didn't include, it was kind of a shock.

  2. I never had to stay in a Korean hospital. That would be a shock.

  3. It was a total shock and they wouldn't let me leave until I paid. They wanted me to call my school and get my co-teacher to pay for me. I came up with the money, but I really wasn't expecting it and it's not something they tell people when they come here to teach. The orientation included information about being covered by health insurance, but nothing about what that insurance actually covers.

  4. That is definitely something they should warn people about. I only had to deal with the doctor's office/clinics.

  5. University hospitals always cost more. Prestige and popularity are part of it. The internationalized operations in Seoul pitched at foreigners are even more expensive. The local clinics are locally run, and as you said, efficient. In and out easily and cheaply.

    Unfortunately, there are some patient conditions or procedural services that are too complex, and the referral will send you to the higher priced and more crowded facilities. Appointments must be made in advance, waiting periods apply, waiting rooms are overflowing, the specialists busy, and the bill is high.

    The universal health care is good, but limited, and beyond the local clinics, not that impressive. Like anywhere on this planet, try to be healthy and stay away from medical care. However, I'll take a small town clinic doctor in Korea, i.e. Cheongju, over anywhere in the world for something simple.

  6. Me too.

    It just mad me angry to see people with things that could be easily dealt with in a clinic ... a bleeding nose, sprained foot, migraine, a cold ... yet people go to the ER with them.

    I remember back in the 90's the Provincial government in Quebec was talking about opening clinics, with walk-in's in mind, by every hospital. The ER's would send the patients that didn't need the ER there. But people would have to pay $5 or so. I think the idea got shot down because of that. I would pay $5 to a clinic instead of waiting 6.5 hours and not seeing a DR at an ER any day.

  7. You claim you did not have to pay for health care in Canada????That's because its taken out of our taxes every year.It's NOT FREE.
    I would rather pay for quality care than garbage care we get in this country....

  8. Fine, if you want to argue semantics go for it. If you want to pay for your health care just go south of the border but make sure you mortgaged your life before you do.