Tag Archives: healthcare

Saskatchewan specialist wait times

On July long weekend I was incredibly sick with infection in my leg.  I was overwhelmed with fever, cold sweats and dehydration.  Wendy took me to St. Paul’s Emergency Waiting Room where I was admitted to the quieter ward.  Eventually it all filled up.  Everyone of us had the same story.  We were all on wait lists to see a specialist but our health had deteriorated to the point where we had to be treated or admitted on an emergency basis.  Several of us have waited months.

John Maeda once wrote that more administration need to understand what their users are going through.  It’s why while teaching at MIT, he also enrolled at MIT to understand what his students were going through.  For me, I have struggled to keep treatments going despite them being ordered by the surgeon for no other reason then the nurses are often intimidated by the bureacracy and refuse to act without new doctors orders.  This means new appointments and a frustrated doctor who already left orders.

I wouldn’t wish this infection on anyone but until you go through it, it’s hard to truly realize how brutal our system is and I’ll be honest, lean hasn’t made it any better.

Not only are we suffering (the treatment given at the hospital that day actually made my infection worse) but we are costing the system how much more in emergency room costs and hospital admissions?

Shelter only place for recovering senior

This isn’t an isolated incident.  Even in Saskatoon.

An 84-year-old La Ronge woman suffering from cancer says she had to recuperate from a broken foot in a shelter for battered women because there was no acute or long-term care space for her in the area.

Barbara Blyth was recovering at home with the help of home care until her furnace quit. While waiting several days for parts to get it fixed, she couldn’t stay at home — and she ended up in the women’s shelter because there was no bed for her in acute or long-term care, she said.

Both home care staff and workers at the shelter treated her very well, Blyth emphasized. The problem is that there aren’t enough long-term care beds in her part of the province, she continued.

“People have lobbied the government for a very long time, but nothing happens,” Blyth said. “I’m displeased — it’s overall a total negation of responsibility for the north.”

Blyth, a retired professional librarian, has remained active in her community, although she’s dealing with cancer now for the third time. Her cancer is incurable, she said.

“People in the north don’t want to have to go south in order to die,” Blyth said. “They want to die with their friends and family.”

The Opposition NDP raised Blyth’s case in the legislature Wednesday. Health Minister Dustin Duncan said he would look into it.

“We’re going to follow up,” he told reporters after question period. “There may be some additional options that may be available to her outside of long-term care.

“But we do know that much like the rest of the province, in northern Saskatchewan the long-term care beds that are available aren’t always where we need them to be,” Duncan added.

He noted the number of beds in the north on the west side of the province exceeds the national average, but the number is low on the east side.

Public Lecture: Stephen Lewis is speaking in Saskatoon this Friday

I can’t make it as I will be in Banff this Friday but this looks good.

Saskatoon Community Clinic invites the public to attend this free presentation.

2012 is the 50th anniversary of medicare and Community Clinics in the province of Saskatchewan which set the stage for adoption of the program throughout Canada. In honour of this event the Saskatoon Community Clinic is presenting Stephen Lewis – Medicare: Past, Present and Future made possible with the support of a number of sponsoring organizations.

“This presentation is in celebration of this significant anniversary” says Anne Doucette, President of the Saskatoon Community Clinic. “Medicare had a difficult birth in this province, but managed to survive due to the tenacity and courage of many citizens including the founders of the Saskatoon Community Clinic. This is one of a series of events we have held throughout 2012 to honour this occasion.”

Stephen Lewis is one of the world’s most influential speakers on human rights, social justice and international development. The former UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, he is the Distinguished Visiting Professor at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Date: Friday, November 9, 2012
Location: TCU Place – Saskatoon
Time: 6:00 p.m. – doors open
7:00 p.m. – presentation
Details: www.saskatooncommunityclinic.ca
Entry fee: No entry fee or ticket required

For information please contact:
Ingrid Larson, Saskatoon Community Clinic -306.664-4243 or
Karen Turner, Turner Event Management – 306.683.3663

Mobile healthcare clinic for $15,000 and it can be ordered “to-go”

Fast Company interviews it’s founders

FC: In early 2011, seed money enabled you to get your company, G3Box, off the ground. How is it progressing?

Susanna Young: Right now we’re making a template to give to construction firms. It costs $15,000 to $18,000 to build a clinic. Our goal is to produce one in two to four weeks. We’ll start taking orders in August.

Gabrielle Palermo: We’re also finding shipping partners to haul the boxes to ports in Los Angeles for distribution.

This reminded me of a Seattle group that is using shipping containers to bring grocery stores to Seattle’s food dessert

Using a shipping container as a grocery store in Seattle
Using a shipping container as a grocery store in Seattle
Using a shipping container as a grocery store in Seattle

A group of Seattle entrepreneurs has come up with one solution to the urban food desert problem, and it doesn’t involve adding traditional supermarkets to underserved areas. Their new venture, Stockbox Grocers, is taking the favorite building block of the green-building movement—the shipping container—and adapting it into a miniature food emporium, packed from floor to roof with fresh produce and other staples.

"Our goal is to bring food back to communities, and focus on communities that don’t currently have good access to food and are heavily dependent on public transportation," says founder and owner Carrie Ferrence. This week, Stockbox celebrates the opening of a 160-square-foot prototype store in a parking lot in a neighborhood where corner stores are the only source of food. Up to five customers can shop at once, said Ferrence, and only one person is needed to staff the operation.

For street people of all ages, mental health a critical issue

From the Montreal Gazette

Dans la rue’s six counsellors and two staff psychologists do what they can to help young people who are hurting. For some that’s not enough.

“We have some cases that are scary,” said Tchitacov. “The person is going to hang themselves or they are going to kill somebody. They are completely disconnected. So we go to a judge and get (a temporary committal order).”

In most cases, within 48 hours, those kids are back on the streets.

That happens in Saskatchewan but often times the order is ignored by an emergency room doctor and the patient never even sees a psychiatrist.  I have seen people sent to RUH on orders only to have them back in 40 minutes because they “presented well”.

“We’ve had people at crisis centres ask my staff, ‘Well, how serious is the crisis?’ You stop and say, ‘What do you mean? Are you a crisis centre? Your mandate is to help people in crisis. Are there degrees of crisis?’ ”

Still, Tchitacov understands their motivation.

“Everybody is scared. Everybody is so overwhelmed that they are reluctant to open their doors to more difficult cases. They know this is going to be a handful, and they try to find ways not to take it in,” he said.

“Imagine the poor kid. It’s a whole other thing to get somebody to the stage of actually coming to you and saying I need help now. You start working like the devil on the phone and you aren’t getting anywhere.”

There are some encouraging signs attitudes and access to programs are changing. Corbin is Dans la rue’s delegate to the Learning Community, a national coalition seeking ways to raise public awareness and break down the stigmas associated with mental illness. And she said the centre for street youth will soon begin a welcome partnership with the psychiatry department at Notre Dame hospital to assist young people experiencing their first psychosis.

But Corbin said there’s another big challenge: getting young people, especially the males who make up 60 per cent of Dans la rue’s clientele, to admit they may need help.

“There’s the whole machismo thing. ‘I’m the one that’s in charge.’ … The whole invincibility of life comes crashing down and you don’t know what to do anymore. So you end up in panic mode,” Corbin said.

“It is hard to break the taboo of a mental illness and see it as an illness and not as a weakness. Someone has a broken leg, you go and get it treated. Well, if you have depression or anxiety or schizophrenia, you go and get it treated.”

It’s difficult enough for many adults to face up to mental illness.

“Add to that the whole ‘I have to be strong’ and all the rest of it when you are young,” she said.

In Saskatoon you have the race aspect as well.  I have listened to more than one mental health professional tell me that those who are aboriginal and from the west side of Saskatoon get far worse mental health care than those that are white and from the suburbs.  It’s really frustrating because there isn’t anything we can do about it. 

I have listened to members on both sides of the Legislative Assembly admit to the problems in the mental health system in Saskatchewan.  While there has been progress (and mistakes) made by both the NDP and now the Saskatchewan Party, there is a long way to go.  If there was one bit of advice that I could give Premier Brad Wall and the future NDP leader, it would be to form a bi-partisan committee to fix and monitor mental healthcare in Saskatchewan.  Take it out of the realm of partisan politics and just fix it.  They are Saskatchewan’s most vulnerable people, they use up a lot of the health budget, use a disproportionate amount of resources for housing and social services but it is also something that as a province we can fix. 

The flipside of it is that if we don’t do something about it, it becomes a problem that can grow out of hand as other jurisdictions have experienced.

Canadian Medicare Does Work

I have watched with bemusement seeing Republicans denouncing Canada’s socialist Medicare system and how it doesn’t work.  While the system isn’t perfect, it does work.  Since Saskatchewan is the birthplace of Medicare, I thought I would offer up some thoughts.

Former Saskatchewan Premier Hon. Tommy Douglas

The positives

It’s free.  I have had two shoulder surgeries over the the years.  Resetting the separated shoulder, seeing doctors, seeing specialists, getting a surgery, reinjuring it, getting it reset, getting it reset again, seeing more doctors, seeing a different surgeon, having a nurse pass out while pulling out the drainage tube, having a friend of mine play with the morphine injecting thing, having to explain to the nurses that I was fine, it was someone else who pushed the button, all of the rotten hospital food… it’s all free.

The only thing I paid for with Mark and Oliver being born was parking and food for myself (and Mark).  Wendy had some serious complications with the birth of Oliver and for days she had a 24 hour nurse in her room.  Outside the Starbucks I would get for the nurse, none of that cost me a sense.  The total priority was on Wendy’s health.  Not just my focus but the focus of Royal University Hospital.  After Ollie was born, this included 22 days for Ollie in the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit.  All of it was free.

(What’s funny is that one night someone came by to tell me that if the cost of coming up to see Wendy was too expensive, maybe the Salvation Army could help out – we had a good laugh when she found out what I did for a living but the Government of Saskatchewan does even have resources to help out with food at the hospital)

With Oliver being premature, he was given $10,000 in booster shots to help his immune system his first year.  Unless you could teething as an ailment (I don’t but I am sure he does), he has been remarkably healthy.

There is no government death squads in Saskatchewan.  No HMO to decide what resources Wendy or Oliver received.  There was just the knowledge that when you go into the hospital, ALL of the resources you need are at your disposal and we will deal with it all later (apparently the Minister of Health has a big check book).

It’s fast in an emergency.  When my mom was diagnosed with brain cancer, the surgery was within a couple of days and the radiation treatment started soon after that.  When I had heart pains a couple of years ago, I was into an angiogram within hours.

My mother was sick before she got cancer.  There was numerous surgeries on her foot and a lot of complications.  When that didn’t work, my mom had her leg amputated when I was 16, she was given amazing quality of care from the Sask Abilities Council.  She would go over there almost weekly and was always coming home with a new foot or ankle that would help just a little bit.  Sometimes they worked great, other times not so great, and one time her leg snapped while walking across the lawn.  She wasn’t hurt but it must have been quite a site for anyone driving by to see a women’s leg snap off as she watered the grass – when I found her, she was both yelling for me to help her and laughing at her situation.  We never paid for any of the work Sask. Abilities Council did.  Part of it was they were aggressive because my mom worked hard at rehabilitation but that goes both ways, she worked hard because she knew that the Abilities Council was so supportive and aggressive on her behalf.  I remember getting phone messages from her worker Stan, who would tell me to tell mom to come by for a new ankle or something.  These were not revolutionary upgrades, they were incremental upgrades (like Snow Leopard for your leg) which makes it even cooler.  All of the effort and resources were there for her, despite when what she had was doing okay already.

The negatives

We don’t have enough family doctors and really hard to find a good one.  When I define a good one, I mean one that you can trust and develop a comfort level with.  One doctor reminded me that not all doctors graduate at the top of their class and I think some coast but that’s probably a universal issue rather than a Canadian one.

Elective surgeries can take a long time and I think it’s fair to say that we have a pretty broad definition of elective here.  If you need surgery to fix anything that isn’t ruptured, having an attack, or developed a tumor, you are going to wait.  Actually waiting is a part of the Canadian health care system.  Wendy is struggling with her depression again.  Her medication isn’t working and when we called her doctor, the first appointment available was September 16th.  When you know your depression medication isn’t working, waiting three weeks for an appointment is pretty tough (that being said, he left a message for her doctor and she made an appointment today for Monday morning early).

My personal opinion is that we underfund essential services at times.  When I hear the RUH Foundation say that we need to fundraise for a new emergency room, I can’t figure out why the government isn’t paying for that.  When we were pastoring in Spiritwood, the expectation is that the town needed to build a new hospital (I know it was renovated and added on to but for all intents and purposes it was new).  They had to fundraise for years to pay for it, that isn’t right.  That isn’t a shot at either the NDP or the Sask. Party, it’s a criticism at both of them.  When Wendy was in the hospital with Oliver, they had a big reception to celebrate a gift from the RUH Foundation, the purpose of the gift was new hospital beds.  Again, I wonder why the government is not paying for that.  We should not need golf tournaments, home lotteries, or other fundraisers to pay for essential hospital services.

The poor still receive very poor medical care.  Part of it is they don’t have good family doctors but part of it is that I don’t think the system works well with those with limited mental capacity or mental health issues.  It’s a complex problem but if you are living at the shelter, the level of primary care you will get is not as good as I get.  This may be the biggest frustration I find at work. Of course this is connected to lack of family doctors (an emergency room is not designed to provide effective long term care) and lack of inner city doctors (the amazing Westside Clinic is an exception)

This isn’t the problem of Canadian healthcare but Canadian politics but any attempt of privatization is considered too American.  Now my doctor’s office is privately owned, my blood work is done at a private clinic but when someone wants to open a MRI clinic and bill the government, that is two tier American style health care (please explain that to me).  What I am saying is that in Saskatchewan and parts of Canada, we haven’t learn how to have a health care debate yet and I think that hurts the system.  Again, that isn’t a Canadian thing, Americans are also having a problem with having a good debate on the topic.

My ways to improve it

Charge a service fee when I go and visit my doctor.  Make it $10.  My doctor’s office charges $10 for a sick note but waived it when I needed it because I was incredibly sick.  Do the same thing if someone comes with something really serious or if they can’t afford it (a supplemental health card type of thing if your household income is below a certain rate).  If you are coming in with a runny nose… $10 may encourage you to wait it out.  If you come in again with the same runny nose, the fee goes up.

A box of Metformin As a diabetic, I felt an old doctor was milking the system by demanding the amount of visits he did.  Every time there would be a battery of blood tests (and my veins are so hard to find, they are rumored to be under the witness protection program).  When I changed my doctor, the need for non-stop blood work and visits to have a prescription refilled stop (I take a small about of Glyburide and some Metformin twice a day).  I know it is hard to prove given the personal nature and differing styles different family doctors have but over the years I have often wondered if I was only being summoned in for more tests because someone had a car payment to make.  One one hand I keep hearing in the media that over usage is hurting Medicare while on the other hand part of me wonders if this is at least partially the fault of some doctors.

Waive ambulance fees in an emergency.  At work I see a lot of people abusing 911 because they don’t have to pay for it.  It drives me crazy but yet when a co-worker has something seriously go wrong, they get a massive bill from MD Ambulance.  If you sprain you ankle, pay the bill.  If you appendix burst or you have a heart attack, maybe that bill could get waived.  I am sure common sense could be the determining factor.

See health care as only part of the solution.  If health spending crowds out investments in education, childhood development, housing, environment and other measures that improve living conditions, then health status suffers.  Of course we don’t do that here.

"If you look internationally, and you look at what you’re getting for health-care spending, beyond about $600 or $700 US per person per year, there is literally no correlation between life expectancy, infant mortality, and how much you’re spending," the University of Saskatchewan’s Janice McKinnon said. "So countries that spend $800 to $1,000 Cdn have pretty much the same health care indicators as we do. And we’re spending four times as much."

Related: CBC has more.  So does the Toronto Star.  If you still doubt medicare works in Canada, there are other examples to look at: Britain, France, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Japan, Belgium, Iceland, the Netherlands, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Norway, New Zealand, Spain and Switzerland, where medicine is not regarded primarily as a business but as a fundamental human right.