We’re so fickle.
To be fair, the loudest ones in the room don’t always represent the thoughts of the majority. But I took issue with the latest reader feedback from a CBC story which covered a report that cited Canada having the worst patient wait times of all 11 OECD countries.
Having a fair bit of experience accessing medical services in this country, and in the province of Manitoba, I can tell you that the issue is not as simple and arguably much worse than this.
In mid-2011, I began having severe intermittent abdominal pain. It was enough to send me to the emergency room six times within roughly a one-year span. Each time I went I was observed by a doctor, who could not come up with a diagnosis, and immediately discharged after the pain subsided. I also visited my family doctor, who sent me to two different specialists over the course of the year. Both specialists chalked it up to IBS.
Define “Great Medical Advice?”
I remember my last visit to the emergency room. The emergency room doctor told me that I wasn’t a person that should be seeking treatment in the emergency room. He did his absolute best not to come off as completely condescending. It was frustrating, as if he thought I got off on waiting five-plus hours in pain, unattended, in the waiting room of the hospital. I asked if I should just ignore the pain, and suffer at home, and he contradictorily replied by telling me that I should come in if I was having pain… but there was nothing he could do about it. Within the subsequent months, my overall health rapidly deteriorated. I was on a lot of medication that masked my symptoms, and eventually lost the majority of my sight.
Blindness is apparently a much more effective symptom for the emergency room, and rightfully soon. After a comfortable twelve-hour stay at the emergency room, and visits from the best doctors and neurologists within the hospital and city, it was determined that I had a brain tumour.
Oh, and I should mention as a side note that the medical professionals that day were baffled as to why an order from a specialist a couple of weeks prior for a CT scan was lost within the system. Nonetheless, I received the CT scan and an MRI on the same day, enough to conclude that I indeed had a brain tumour situated on my pituitary gland.
Honestly, I was quite relieved with the diagnosis. After roughly a year of battling with symptoms I finally had answers. I had successful surgery that removed the tumour, and I had my vision restored, which was essentially a miracle. Today I still suffer from the side effects from surgery, or just the residual effects of having a brain tumour in that area of my brain.
Actually, in all honestly, my current team of doctors say that my current health condition likely isn’t linked to my brain surgery at all. In fact, they tell me that likely no one will be able to tell me what’s happening to my body, that nobody can really read into my current symptoms and say for certain that it has to do with my brain surgery. Honestly, I feel like some of the doctors have the mindset of the legendary Ron Burgundy when trying to explain the interpretation for San Diego. The interpretation of my symptoms have been lost centuries ago… ???
So where am I going with this, and why am I so disgusted with the ignorant viewpoint that hypochondriacs are destroying our medical system?
Well, if I was given a proper examination by any one of my medical professionals when my symptoms first started, a year of suffering and a year and counting of recovering could have been greatly reduced. Abdominal pain can be triggered by a number of things, such as Hypopituitarism. That’s happens when your pituitary gland has a tumour attached to it, which causes a number of symptoms. “Because the hormones released by the pituitary gland control a number of body functions, hypopituitarism causes a number of symptoms, which include abdominal pain, fatigue, decreased appetite, decreased libido, loss of armpit or pubic hair, low blood pressure, increased sensitivity to cold, vision problems, weight loss and weakness.” (livestrong.com article) I won’t get into the exact details of my symptoms, but you get the idea from the above list.
My suffering aside, how much money would have been spent if I was given a proper thorough examination to begin with? Imagine if we could take those six emergency room visits down to one. I probably had another dozen doctor and specialists visits on top of that. Instead of blaming the shortcomings of our system on hypochondriacs, lets look at the problem with the system itself.
The Canadian Health Care System Breeds an Unfavourable Mindset
I’m not only talking about the mindset of the public, I’m talking about the mindset of our medical professionals. No doubt, I think they also believe are system is plagued by hypochondriacs, which is also referred to in the CBC article. Our general practitioners spend a minimal amount of time with their patients, and often attempt to put band-aids over symptoms with drugs rather than getting at the root of the problem. They only have time for the immediate result, and fail to attempt to really improve our overall health.
Our health system benefits two types of people. It benefits those with severe symptoms, where a body part is in immediate danger, or death. It also benefits those seeking quick medication for common symptoms. Everyone in the middle is forced to wait until: a) The symptoms and condition somehow work themselves out, or b) the condition gets bad enough where action is forced.
Canadian Health Care
Here’s a great analogy. I have electrical problems with my car. Sometimes it doesn’t fire up right away. The issue is intermittent. Every time I bring it to a garage, it starts without problems. A quick diagnostic reveals there is nothing wrong with my battery. The mechanic tells me that unless I want to pay a large amount to have it looked at, I should just wait until the car will no longer start so they have an easier time troubleshooting the problem.
Just imagine if that car were my body. That’s almost literally my experience with the Canadian health system. That’s the mindset within the system, and it’s one that the medical community and public have come to accept.
How many of us have seen the signs in our doctors office stating, only one medical issue per visit? What are we supposed to do with that information? And wouldn’t doctors want to know about all are symptoms in the event they’re linked? We’re all aware that we’re fitted into time slots for checkups and appointments; it’s a system that we’re so used to it seems we have a hard time conceptualizing an alternative. And if someone mentions that a private health-care system would be better, The United States is second last in patient wait times to Canada.
We all have our opinions on how the Canadian Health system can be fixed, but ignorantly blaming hypochondriacs for the problems of our system only exasperates the problem.
Unfortunately, I feel the little amount of action in improving our system is due to the condition of those negatively affected by the system. Frankly sick people, and those who “just” suffer from quality of life issues and are cast aside from our system are more pre-occupied with their health. The energy for this group to stand up and demand change just doesn’t exist, and I know this from first hand experience.
I do think that our system is close to rock-bottom, and will improve in the future. Unfortunately, like the patients of Canadian Health Care, the system will have to experience severe close to death like symptoms before the government will step up and make a change.