Hey, remember that scene in Sicko, the Michael Moore documentary, where the director visit a Canadian emergency room and discovers short waiting times, thorough care, and happy patients pleased as punch with our tax-based universal health care system?  Well, it bore little resemblance to my own experiences but, given that it’s been years since I actually visited an emergency room, I chalked up the disparity to a sudden and inexplicable improvement in the fundamentals of patient care here in Canada.  Somehow, seemingly overnight, we had managed to get our shit together and become the envy of, if not many  Americans, then Michael Moore at least.  And, really, what more could you ask for?

Oh, I know!  How about short waiting times, thorough care, and a tax-based universal health care most would be happy with?  Because, as it turns out, the reality is a lot less kind than the Michael Moore version, especially if you’re, say, a 75 year old woman, living on Montreal’s West Island, suffering from a possible case of diverticulitis.  If you are, then your mileage may vary.  Considerably.  In fact, it might go something like this:

My mother went to the hospital two weeks ago complaining of pain on her right side (abdominal area). After a 12 hour wait in the emergency room, she was told she had a kidney infection and sent home. My sister questioned the diagnosis since a) mom hadn’t had any bladder infection or that type of discomfort, and b) kidney infection is usually accompanied by back pain, not pain in the lower abdomen.  But they were dealing with professionals and, really, they should know, right?

Well, following a full round of antibiotics, the pain persisted.  So, last weekend, she went to a clinic where she waited a mere 5 hours to be told she did not have a kidney infection, that the doctor suspected diverticulitis, and that she had to go back to the hospital for tests. The next day, she returned to the hospital where, after 11 hours of waiting, she was eventually sent home.  No ultrasound was done because, alas, apparently they don’t do ultrasounds on week-ends. Before sending her on her way, they informed her that she would have to call back the next day to book an appointment.

So, yesterday, my mother finally had her ultrasound appointment. They scanned her bladder and found… nothing.  All well and good except for the fact that her bladder wasn’t the issue.  Mom reiterated the doctor’s suspicions, diverticulitis, and asked why they hadn’t performed a more thorough scan. She was told that the doctor had not requested it in his file and that she would have to come back to the hospital to get another referral before they could run anymore tests.

Interestingly enough, during one of her lengthy waits, she was sitting next to an elderly American couple who had been vacationing in Montreal when the wife had taken ill.  They had gone to the hospital in the hopes of receiving some timely treatment (“Hey, let’s go to a Canadian hospital, just like in that Michael Moore movie!  We’ll be in and out in time for dinner!”).  Their wait proved so interminable that the outraged husband booked a flight to the U.S. that night so they could return home for proper treatment, promising to sue the hospital if it attempted to charge them for the visit.

So, there you have it.  I provide this insight, not in order to support either side of the burgeoning healthcare debate south of the border, but to offer up a personal experience with our presumably admirable Canadian system.  All-in-all, 28 hours of waiting with no diagnosis to show for it.

Where’s Michael Moore when you need him?

105 thoughts on “October 21, 2009: Wasn’t it just the other week that somebody asked me for my opinion on the state of healthcare in Canada?

  1. Joe – no snarky foolishness tonight. I sincerely hope your mom gets the treatment she needs, and gets feeling better soon! Give her hugs from all of us – she’s our blogmom, too!


  2. You might have to deal with long wait times, but the American health insurance corporations pull shit like this all the time:






    I’ll take a twelve hour wait over a bill for a few thousand dollars any day. It’ll give me a chance to finish my knitting.

    Also, hope your mom gets this sorted out and feels better!

  3. It still astounds me that there are people who actually believe Michael Moore’s documentaries to be, well, documentaries when it has been proven time and time again that they are nothing more than facetious rants.
    I hope your mother feels better soon, Mr Mallozzi.

  4. Ancedotal evidence is not always the best way to guage something, especially when it comes to something as complicated as health care. But I’d much rather spend more money and get treatment in a timely fashion than have the money and die while waiting for treatment. I hope your mother is able to get a definitive diagnosis so that she can better deal with the situation. All I can say is that for all the horror stories of insurance companies, there are plenty of counter exajples where they come through without a fuss. And they are at least somewhat responsive to pressure. If they don’t deliver a good product, people seek out other options. Once you’re committed to government run medial programs, all incentive to maintain cost, or even good customer service, are lost.
    here’s to a quick and happy resolution of you mother’s ills, and to you not stressing out too much. After all, you’re not allowed a day off from this blog…

  5. Joe I hope your mother feels better, I think my grandmother has something similar and its driving her crazy.

    Thanks for providing a real glimpse into something that is a very pressing issue here in the states as we await whether or not NObama will pass his healthcare overhaul.


  6. When I was younger, I got into a fight and was punched in the mouth, it completely split my upper lip all the way to the bottom of my nose. I spent 3 hours in the waiting room, bleeding profusely and wasn’t tended to until I complained of being light headed and dizzy. While I was being treated, I was put in a bed between an elderly women with a paper cut, who was told they could staple it or glue it, and a man who sprained his ankle. That’s just one experience I have had among many many hours spent in the waiting room.

    My opinion is that public health care creates long wait lines of people that should be at a clinic, or at home sleeping it off.

    Joe did you get the package I sent? just want to make sure you pick it up before you go on hiatus.

  7. Hey Quade,

    Yes, I got the package today – and just in time for lunch! Rob, John Lenic, Carl (as requested) and I all took the plunge. Lawren captured it all on video and I’ll see if I can post it tomorrow – along with a proper thank you.

    P.S. Much enjoyed the accompanying account. Awww, you shouldn’t have.

  8. Joe,

    My first exposure to emerg care was when I was in grade 4 and had to get stitches – a very long wait in the ER, and the doctor’s brusque and seemingly-uncaring attitude when I was finally treated left me very unimpressed.

    That being said, when my brother was in a bad mountain biking accident in ’07, they were absolutely amazing at Children’s and VGH. And so I think it depends both on the hospital and, as always, the severity of the symptoms.

    That is *not* to say that the hassle your mom’s been experiencing is at all justifiable, but just saying…I hope your mother is doing better soon – and experiences less frustrations with her care.


  9. Hope your Mom feels better soon. As many of my US colleagues have pointed out (because of constant separation threats), Quebec is actually a US state wannabe, so maybe they are trying out ineffective healthcare strategies…..

  10. I obviously wouldn’t downplay the crap-wringer your mother went through, and I know that Michael Moore, while raising good points, must be taken with a fairly large grain of salt.

    But you gotta understand how it is to be under the thumb of this insdious affair stateside. I won’t get into it, but personal experience has left me with a very big desire for some serious changes in the system here. Needless to say, I am all too familar with the underlying meaning of pre-existing condition.

  11. If it was just the wait times it wouldn’t bother me, it’s when the doctors make stupid mistakes that I don’t like it. Sure insurance companies do their best to make as much money as possible, but that’s better then someone losing something important because a dr made a mistake that would have been caught if he wasn’t so overloaded.

  12. Get well soon to your Mum, Mr. M!

    I had to wait in the emergency room 14 hours after my brother accidentally hit me in the head with a 5 iron golf club. My skull had shattered into my brain and I bled lots. At the hospital they put a little butterfly band-aid on it and my Mother was screaming “I can see her brain and you give her a band-aid!!!” That’s the States fer yah…

  13. Joe,

    I’m sorry to hear that! Best wishes for your mom.

    Since you seemed disappointed by the lack of snarky foolishness in other posts, I offer you this:

    Michael Moore is on the record as saying “Capitalism has done nothing for me.” At the premiere for his latest in a long line of “documentaries” – term used loosely.

    Take from that what you will.

  14. Joe I hope your mom gets to feeling better real soon. Tell her to eat lots of fiber. Maybe she will get to swallow one of those tiny little camera pills so they can get a look inside her intestinal track as the pill makes it’s way thru.

  15. YAY!! Phillies won the NL! Now onto the World Series!! *does happy dance*

    Aaaaand…there goes Philly. 😛

    @ Joey – You’re cute when you pout. 🙂

    @ Airelle – Sorry. 😛 I tend to like to torture myself by looking at spider pictures until my skin feels like it’s about ready to crawl right off of me! And if something touches or brushes up against me while I’m looking at spidey pictures I will jump right through the ceiling, and nearly beat to death whatever it was that came in contact with me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve killed my own hair. 😛

    @ Tammy Dixon – I don’t bitch about albinos. I thunk them. 😀

    @ maggiemayday – I actually have no problem with snakes – unless they’re poisonous (so the pit viper would be out). I like snakes…said before here that I would have one if I didn’t have to feed it live things. I like the way they feel and look. Plus – NO LEGS!!

    As far as the centipedes go, we had one of these in our shower the other day (we set it free):


    They’re actually kinda pretty…


  16. Mr M

    Sorry to hear about you mom. If it is the Lakeshore hospital on the West Island, then it’s not a surprise. There’s been chronic backlog of cases plus under-staffing there for years. There should be at least two hospitals serving that area.

    But the previous Quebec government decided to reduce the number of hospitals and bed spaces about ten years ago along with encouraging early retirement of nurses and curtailing the training of new doctors in the greater Montreal area. Montreal still have not recover from those idiotic decisions. It was all done to save money, supposedly. Unfortunately none of the governments after those decisions was able to reverse the lost of skilled medical workforce pool. We actually see that workforce pool shrink despite more government budget. At a time when the general population ages with more medical needs requiring a bigger medical workforce and infrastructure.

    However even the current under-performing Canadian medical model is preferable to the US model. You can at least go to a hospital without be in the poor house afterward.

  17. All My best for your Mom Joe. I know Montreal hospitals have a very lengthy wait, she can try Montreal Jewish General…. It might be better and faster especially if she has someone well known and wealthy, ooh say her son, that can make the right phone calls to take her dossier to the appropriate doctor…. Trust me when I say she can be seen by the doctor with the highest credentials the following day. ” Money makes the world go round buddy”

  18. I’m not even for government-run medical licensing so I’m waaaay out of this one, except to wish your mother the best.

    It’s funny how you have to already know your diagnosis so you can fight for the proper referral that has a chance of circling in on the right diagnosis. What do doctors do exactly?

    I went around for six months with rib pain and it didn’t occur to me to go to a doctor for it. I mentioned it to a chiropractor and he immediately knew which rib facet to push on and I felt a dislocated rib go back into place. I was amazed that a doctor actually fixed something.

    This is a bad time to be visiting medical providers. My son brought something home from his well-child visit and now we’re all sick. I’m fully aware of the consequences of well-child visits (not the first time this has happened) so we wouldn’t have gone, but we needed a referral for something. *eyeroll*

  19. Robert Davi was on Fox News yesterday to promote the idea of a tax deduction for pet owners to help with the cost of pet ownership. He also talked about the role of pets in good mental health and the positive force pets can play in our lives. He was very well spoken and his points were wonderful. Being a pet owner myself, I was happy to hear his remarks. But to be honest, I couldn’t help but remember him and David Hewlett in the rain in SGA first season. a very memorable scene.

    I can go on for hours about my and my family’s health care experiences in hospitals, ER and Doctor’s visits. In spite of the bad things that happened, including my husband getting a blood infection from a nurse dropping a needle on the floor and then using it, in the long run we came out good. My dear friend who lives in Great Britain and a former nurse, has even more stories to tell that are just as horrifying. For example, She had to quit her job until she could get an operation that was delayed for a year because it wasn’t life threatening. she just couldn’t walk around more than 5 minutes! The good thing they have is at home doctor’s visits. That sure would be nice!

  20. First of all, I wish speedy recovery to your mom no matter what the problem actually turns out to be. I’ve had my share of medical troubles this year, and while I didn’t have to wait long (excellent insurance), I can fully sympathize. See, I grew up in almost-Eastern Europe, in the age when the US claimed to be the Land of the Free. I’ve had my share of experiences of waiting forever for incompetent health care back then, and I hope I never have to experience it again.

    When you are in pain, a half-hour wait feels like forever. I cannot imagine how your mother must have felt having to wait for so long. It amazes me that so many other people claim they can not only endure terrible pain for long periods of time, but can also perform other tasks while cheerfully waiting in pain. I must be the world’s greatest wuss.

  21. Wow….12 Houes wait time…i would never ever wait this long for a treatment.

    I think our helath care system in germany isn’t that bad.

    One day ich had an injury on my head and it had to be sewd (i hope that the right word).

    I waited about…40 Minutes. Ok i guess my injury HAD to be sewd fast…i lost blood a lot 🙂

    But here in Germany if people would wait longer than an hour, they would be going to another doctor or would start to protest very loud .

    Sorry for my bad english 🙂

  22. I am of the opinion that universal healthcare would be fantastic, if I thought it would work. Which I don’t.

  23. I work in a teaching hospital in the US. Sometimes the waits are long in the ER and clinics in the States, but in terms of tests, if you have a good private insurance and a proactive doctor or NP you are going to get what you need.
    If you have a HMO like Kaiser you may have to wait quite a long time like you described, unless it is an emergency. Then they are fairly quick.
    The facility in which I work is government run, and gives comparable care to many private institutions. That is what we try to compte with and emulate. However I fear that if we institute a public option here most people will end up with a watered down version of the healthcare we receive now and there will be no incentive to make things better.
    Cost will become all important rather than the patient.

    My father had advanced prostate cancer a few years ago. On the Prostate CA forums there were many people from Canada distraught at the fact that the chemotherapy my father received as a matter of course here was not covered at all by the Canadian system. They were constantly asking people on the boards where they could come down to the US to get this therapy.

  24. Urgh. Sorry your mom has to go through that. And I hope she gets better soon!!! America isn’t much better…it’s all so frakking expensive!

    [ Medical Rant starts here]

    My medical insurance only covers 10% of every non-emergency non-routine medication, test, and doctors visit. So if I need an MRI, that’s like 5k! Not only that, but they apparently know better than my doctor how to best control my asthma: last December they decided that I didn’t need my asthma controller medicine I had been on for four years. And I had to jump through all sorts of hoops and my doctor had to fill out a crapton of forms just to get the insurance company to cover it. To those of you who have never gone through the agony of Prior Authorization, be thankful for your health or excellent medical coverage! I guess health insurance coverage sucks no matter where you go? Although I’m sure it sucks worse in 3rd world countries, so at least we have the fact that we don’t live in a 3rd world country to be thankful for…

    I think the ideal government insurance company/public option would be a not-for-profit insurance company that ran like many of today’s insurance companies. You pay premiums and, if you get hurt/sick, a deductible. And then they pay for your medical care, up to a certain extent (like mine: they pay 10% of non-routine non-emergency stuff) and you pay for everything else. Two major differences between this system and the one currently out there: government health care wouldn’t deny any citizen of the US coverage based on current health, and it would be a not-for-profit organization (unlike the way Blue Cross has been behaving…they have like half a billion in reserve, and their CEO gets paid an exorbitant amount of money…). And while this system would obviously require quite a bit of money to get started, once the ball is rolling it ought to be self-sufficient!

    [/Medical Rant]

    Sooooo, how ’bout them Yankees? And Phillies? My math teacher predicted today that they both would go far, but I know nothing of professional baseball, so who am I to judge.

  25. @deimudder You did well on the English. My family is Austro-Hungarian (?) and I know the feeling. What is it with us with the head injuries?

    @dasNdanger LOL! with the pic of Dana!

    Can’t wait til Friday for a new SGU.

  26. Ahh Joe tell your mom we wish her well and that we are praying for her.

    As for Micheal Moore, from everything I’ve seen him create he doesn’t like the good ole USA and so everything non USA is a bed of roses.

  27. @Joe

    I truly am sorry to hear about your mother’s situation. I hope she gets the diagnosis/treatment that she needs. I know what it’s like to have something serious misdiagnosed because the right test wasn’t run.

    Years ago, I was rear-ended in on the freeway by a guy on his cell-phone. I went to the hospital and they checked for broken bones using traditional x-rays, but they didn’t run an MRI, which checks for soft-tissue damage.

    After 2 months of physical therapy, I finally asked for the MRI. I had 3 doctors that I was seeing regularly (Chiropractor, Primary Care Physician, Sports Medicine Doctor). So, I asked in the order I was to next see the doctors. The chiropractor say no because at the time, I was a college student, and he said that he was worried about the MRI coming back saying that everything was fine. He said that if that were the case, the insurance company might not pay the bill. And, he didn’t want me to be stuck with the 3,000 bill. I guess we can say that his heart was in the right place?

    But, the sports medicine doctor said yes. It turned out that she was already leaning in that direction based on my symptoms and lack of improvment with all of the physical therapy. Well, I got my MRI (on a Saturday – I remember because my sister was suprised that that the scanning facility did MRIs on weekends.) And, I had disk problems. This drastically changed my physical therapy (and made me happy that I refused to participate in a lot of what had been prescribed before the MRI as it would had caused greater injury.) The insurance company did pay the bill (but – then again, the MRI didn’t come back normal.)

    Not to keep yapping, I’ll say that I am fine now. But, America does have its healthcare issues too. I still wonder why I had to be the one to “ask” for the test. The answer was because of the doctors being worried about what the insurance company might do. The sports medicine doctor waited because she wanted to be “sure” of what the MRI would find before ordering the test, so when I asked, she in good conscience had to say yes. At the time, I didn’t care about the $3,000 bill, I just wanted to know what was wrong – probably just like your mother does.

    Again, I hope she gets the care that she needs. Maybe with your connections you can push some additional tests/treatment through for her. I wish you and your family the best. And, may your mother end up fine in the end like I am.

    Peace, Love, and Bonne-Santé,


  28. Sorry to hear about your moms woes. But it is not much better here. A close relative (who has medical insurance through her job) had a scary experience… She needed to get a cervical biopsy. Well… A few weeks later she was called to go back, nervous as can be, she did. Apparently they had lost it and had to do it again. This happened not once, but THREE times. Thanks to her crappy HMO she had to go to one of THEIR doctors and use THEIR labs.

  29. BTW: Funny you write about this, I just saw SiCKO for the first time the day before yesterday. Moore has a way of making his own story. Medical care in Cuba for Cubans is NOTHING like portrayed in SiCKO. I would love to show a few Cuban’s on the street with black or missing teeth a clip from his “documentary” and ask them: “WHY didnt you take advantage of your AMAZING dental care?!?!” It would make for some funny video footage. (Us Cuban’s have a good sense of humor for the most part)

  30. Joe: I am so sorry that your mother had to endure such incompetence. I’m sure you wanted to be there to take a round out of those bone heads.

    Fortunately, not all Canadian hospitals are that bad. I’ve lived in many parts of Canada over the years. the longest I have had to wait was 6 hours, and that was during a flu epidemic. I hope that the Montreal hospital where your mother was, get’s it act together very soon.


  31. I hope your mom feels better soon Joe.

    My family has had some issues with the healthcare in Alberta. My sister-in-law had complications from gallbladder surgery last year that left her in the er twice. The first time she spent 2 days in an er bed b/c there were no beds in the hospital and then was sent home. She was at home for less than a day before my brother had to call an ambulance again to take her to the er. At least this time she got a bed and had a better recovery.

    There have been a few times where I probably should have gone to the er to get stitches but didn’t. The last time was during final exams and I had managed to cut myself but it was midnight and I didn’t feel like spending 8 hours waiting for stitches when I needed to study.

    And the government is now on the verge of closing down more beds so the problem is only going to get worse. They keep throwing out the idea of having private health care alongside of the current public one.

  32. s just as bad here… took them a half a year to take x-rays of my ankle, which turned out to have a fracture!

  33. First I hope your mum gets better soon….*hugs*

    Leaving in the UK we are very lucky to have the NHS…it sounds to me like that hospital needs an inspection done pronto…very poor…yes we do still have problems with some hospitals but when my mum had cancer all I can say is thank god we didn’t have to pay and everyone was great! Mum actually opted to not have any treatment and died with dignity about a year later.

    I really don’t understand any of the arguments against an NHS EVERYONE should have free health care with the option to go private if they wish…which you can do here. Add to that a lot of companies will actually pay for your treatments through private health care which is free!

    Yes I agree there will always be problems but then aren’t there problems with private health care…I have a friend who has to pay for everything and she is only at college…what the hell happens if she gets ill she can’t afford the hospital bills she will get?

    Ok so off of my box…but I really don’t understand.

    Kriss 🙂

  34. Mama Mallozzi, prayers and good vibes are being sent your way for a quick diagnosis, compassionate physicians, and excellent treatment! You see, Joe adopted us into the blog family, and we adopted you, so we’re your kids and you’re our Mama, too. We’ll be waiting to hear updates.

    Joe, I agree with Belouchi. It may be time to throw some muscle around, make phone calls to key people, and ask pointed questions. If I hadn’t done that this summer, we might not have gotten Dad’s “stat” test results that showed he had blood clots and needed to be re-admitted to the hospital ASAP. It was a very close call.

    For Everybody, whenever you know that something’s wrong – with your family or your own health – give yourself permission to become ten feet tall. Don’t back down until what you want done gets done. Period.

  35. Well, despite what that husband thought about flying home, I’d bet he’d be shocked to see what the health care system is like here in the US today.

    People like to point to your long wait times but the wait times here are getting just as long. When my blood pressure went out of control, my doctor (private doctors don’t seem to work on weekends any more) suggested I take my 170-180/90’s blood pressure to the ER where I sat waiting to be seen by the TRIAGE nurse for an hour and a half despite telling her how high my bp was and that it was erratic. When I saw the triage nurse, it was over 200 and she put me into the fast track to be seen and sent back to the waiting room. 4 hours later, I cornered her in the doorway and was told my bp was not life threatening until it was over 210. At the 8 hour mark they brought me into the room with a bp of 235 and started to monitor me. I was there at least 12 hours before they sent me home with bp still somewhat high.

    Oh, I did get quicker service coming in an ambulance the next time, but that little trip in the Fire Dept vehicle will cost me $1500, because insurance won’t pay for it because the Fire Dept won’t give them a discount.

    Oh and now that my doctor’s have come up with meds to control my bp, my insurance decided to drop them from the preferred list, so I can pay twice the amount if I want the stuff that works, or I can take the stuff that doesn’t work and pay a still hefty price for it.

    And the med I take to control acid reflux, forget that too. The insurance company decided to drop all proton inhibitors. And guess what, I have one of the best insurances, at least of those that non-government employees get. You know that publicly paid, government run one that the senators get for their insurance? Well, my dad had it as a postal worker, too, and it was great.

    After waiting months for an appointment for a mammogram, I got told that they didn’t like what they saw so come back, the earliest appointment being in 3 weeks. Pointing out that if I had virulent breast cancer, I could be dead in six weeks, didn’t even faze them. Luckily it was just a false alarm. Or at least I hope so, I’m still waiting for my mammogram for this year.

    I could go on and on, but luckily, more and more people are beginning to wake up to the fact that their health care that they are paying through the nose to their insurance companies is not what they think it is. Or even what it was last year or last decade or whenever they last used it.

  36. I’m English, and another one of those much disturbed by recent attempts to make it seem that the English system doesn’t work. The big city hospital where they looked after my father in his last days couldn’t have been better. They were absolutely wonderful with him and with us.
    I hurt my hand in a fall, left it a couple of days and then, on advice, went to the local small hospital. Ten minutes waiting, and a nurse was having a look. She ordered an x-ray. Ten minutes waiting time for that. Quick and pleasant experience with that. Maybe fifteen minutes looking at someone working in the lovely gardens until I was called again. I was assured there was no problem – told what the problem could be – advised to see my doc if the pain/tingling persisted and that was it.
    Just brilliant, stress-free service.
    Even waiting for a couple of hours on a Friday night, quite late, in a big a and e in the city was fine.
    However, it has to be said they haven’t done as well with my knee – but then, maybe I could have gone with that to a and e and had a better outcome. Hmmm.

    So Joe – so sorry to hear about your mother’s very poor experience, and I hope she gets the right treatment soon. It’s no fun having pain like that.

  37. Health Insurance Companie’s in the U.S.A. now make the decesion on who “Lives and who dies”…Doctor’s no longer have Input. That SUCK’S!!!!

  38. Your poor mom. I hope she feels better soon.

    Unfortunately no system is perfect. You all have universal coverage and have to wait forever for anything. We have millions not covered and still have to wait, but not as long. We took my daughter to the emergency room because she had broken her leg! At two years old. It only took four hours and we only saw an NP. All they did was stabilize it and told us to see the orthopaedic surgeon. What a fun, pain-filled night that was. Then I figured out if I go to the hospital emergency that’s smaller and a few more miles away, I’ll get in faster. That worked when the girl had an ear infection that decided to flare up late at night. In and out in about an hour. Go figure.

    So Canada’s system sucks and ours does too. Something has got to give. We’re smart people. Why can’t we figure this out and get people the help they need without bankrupting them? That happened to my family when I was twelve.

    SGU Friday!!!

  39. @deimudder
    Halo! Woher kommen Sie in Deutschland? Welches Stargates sehen Sie?

    Oh the ER stories I can tell you! Unfortunately, I also have to deal with a greedy ass third party administrator and cheap ass union! Enough different parties that they can blame each other for ANY errors. It’s ridiculous!

    Hope your mom feels well soon.

  40. Hi Joe, best wishes to your mom for a speedy recovery from whatever ails her (and hoping she finds out soon and gets proper treatment). No 75 year old woman in pain should have to wait that long for medical care, period.

    I’ve heard terrible things about the British system lately (more than usual), and I’m glad I live where I do. As much of a mess as it is, it still works better than anywhere else. Then again, many US citizens are going to Latin America for medical treatment (and dental, as well), citing excellent care at incredibly reasonable rates.

    I’ll keep my opinion of Michael Moore to myself so as not to stir up shit tonight, but I do wonder who listens to this ass. Oops 😉

  41. Last year I had a stomach bacteria that could have been causing an ulcer. A doctor gave me a regime of drugs to take 2 weeks after another antibiotic I was taking for another problem. In 2 weeks I was going to be in Vancouver, and I didn’t want to take any medication in another country where I knew no one. Thankfully, I Googled the meds and saw a cillin based drug I was allergic to. If I had blindly believed this doctor, I could have dropped dead in the MetroTown Mall, or ended up in a Canadian hospital, where evidently according to you, I would have died anyway.

    I’m also allergic to Fosamax for osteoporosis, so my Gyn wanted me to convince my GP to give me a small dose of another drug in his office where he could have an IV available to give me should I go into anaphylactic shock. He told me to tell her that she should give me the medication, and if I go into shock she should call 911.

    These are highly trained and professional doctors who are evidently hell bent on killing me. And I have great company based insurance. Incompetence knows no borders.

    Hope that your Mom finds a good doctorand will be well soon, and you never get sick.

    And I hope someone can find a cure for the Angels and Dodgers choking problem.

  42. @ytimynona in response to your medical rant…

    I found the solution. About a year ago I had really good insurance. With it I could barely afford to visit the doctor much less pay the hospitals for the monthly blood work and screening I have to go through. (side rant… I have some medical stuff causing me to get ultrasounds every 6 months. The hospital rents out a wing to radiology. Radiology and the hospital both charge me for the same room that I spend less than 15 minutes in. $1000 to lay in a bed for 15 mins. Good grief… end of side rant) Well a year ago I lost my job. About 4 months ago I signed on with the free clinic in my county. Oh my goodness. An $85 and a $125 prescription is now $5 each. Annual ultrasound is now $20. Dental surgery $20. I had an MRI done about a month ago, $20. And the waiting time! The longest I have sat at the clinic was about 7 minutes.

    Medically speaking the best thing to ever happen to me is when I financially went from Middle class to lower class. (I will always be strange class in everything else.)

  43. Hi Joe!

    I hope your mum gets any treatment, diagnosis or tests she needs as soon as possible so she feels better soon. Abdominal pain is not nice 🙁

    Our health system in the UK has been getting a bit of a hard press in the US recently, unfortunately I can understand some of the gripes and your mum would probably have had even more of a run around for the tests here, but on personal experience I found our emergency service excellent. I was rushed to hospital last May with appendicitis and was on the operating table within two hours… I’m assuming they don’t think your mum has a grumbling appendix (lower right side) :S

    On a different note I’ve seen SGU episodes 1-4 so far and episode 3, Air III, was my favourite so far 🙂 – great pace and great acting!

  44. I hope your mum gets sorted soon. Our NHS is in a similar state due to too many administrators (I think the ratio of admin :ward staff is about 5:1) Some of our hospitals even have Pillow Managers…go figure. They also tend to employ a lot of “bank” or agency nurses at double or triple the cost. SO not the way to run a business. Mind you our country should be going into recievership within the next decade, wonder how they’ll divvy up whats left?

    Oh yeah, anyone know anything about Defying Gravity? It started on BBC2 last night and was rather entertaining, Christina Cox is in it 🙂

  45. 3rd time’s the charm (ignore/delete the 2 previous comments by me):

    Another AI seemingly compatible
    A thousand cycled lost time tables
    the vast digital (Let’s go with that now) binary bible
    something about her uncalculated
    she’s modified to assimilate

    What’s Eli doing?

  46. Joe thats awfull news about your mum i hope that she is feeling better now?

    I thought the healthcare system in the United Kingdom was bad having to wait 4 hours but 12 im surprised none of you were climbing the walls.

  47. I hope she gets better too. Best wishes and all the best to her.

    Anyway, recently I was talking to a relative on the phone, and the topic changed to episode 4 of SGU.
    What was asked put me in a state of complete disbelief. They said and I quote, how did the Destiny get around that nebula thing when it had no power? *Me pauses for a few seconds, wondering if its a joke*

    I respond, it’s not a nebula it was a gas giant. And they used the planets gravity to slingshot them into the Solar System. I can’t believe you didn’t know that, it even mentions in the episode. Were you paying attention at all?
    (They asked a few more obvious things)

    I then talk about various examples of science used in SGA/SG1, and ask, did Battlestar Galatica have any sciencey things? They respond no(I haven’t watched myself) it was more about survival.

    Moral of the story SGU confuses some people.. LOL

  48. ….Winter is Coming….

    LOL….bought A Game of Thrones today…and I’m already through a good chunk of it….the best fantasy read I have had in a long time…but I’m not done yet…

    But I already love Ned…it’s way too easy seeing Sean Bean playing him…and Jason playing Drogo….I mean, seriously PERFECT!!!

  49. Hi Joe, sorry to hear your mum doesn’t feel well. All the best and I hope she gets well soon.

    Reading people’s experience on this blog with the health care system in US and Canada, I guess I’m lucky I didn’t need to be treated by a hospital in America so far. The worst waiting time I had was 4 hours (in Germany), and my eye inflammation wasn’t an emergency ( I “just” lost 50% visual over night).
    In Germany, if you have private insurance, they try to test you with everything, because they know the insurance company will pay for this. The good thing is, you get a lot of diagnosis results and theories about what happens to you. The bad thing is, every doctor experiments with you to satisfy their own curiosity, and undermine the theories of their colleagues.
    I’m done with the believe that a doctor knows what he/she is doing. If you don’t have an illness which is common, they have no idea, but won’t admit it. I’d wish for doctors like House and his team.

    But when you’re ill you can’t do without a doctor, so my best advice is: get opinions from various doctors. If they seem to be competent and actually take the time to explain everything to you, they might be people worth waiting for for a few hours.
    My best experience so far was with the university clinic in Tuebingen, Germany. I guess when you go to a hospital where a lot of young (new) doctors work, you get people who try to find out everything about what could be wrong with you. But I admit, this doesn’t help when you have an emergency. It’s more for long-term issues.


  50. Welcome to the dark side (i.e. – experience + rational thought). Next we’ll be discussing William Buckley and Limbaugh books.
    Muuha hahahaha.
    (This from a Dad still $110K in medical debt – but with a daughter that is ALIVE)

  51. What an amazingly ignorant post. Get back to us when your mother is denied care for a “preexisting” condition or is forced to sell her home to pay for medical care that the insurers have decided they won’t cover because her nose is crooked.

    Both systems have wait times and questionable decision making – that’s the nature of medicine today. But at least the Canadian health care system won’t force you into bankruptcy or deny you care based on arbitrary and ever changing conditions.

  52. I hope your mom feels better soon. Yes, health care everywhere is not perfect. I waited seven hours at the E. R. for kidney stones. (my hubby says I was too stoic and they didn’t take me seriously) Now, after reading your mom’s story, I won’t complain anymore about that!

    Tennessee has a good system (on the surface, at least). They have something called TennCare that covers the uninsurable. All kids are covered, as long as their parents sign them up.

    A lot of us were laughing at Michael Moore’s capitalism movie. So he is saying he doesn’t agree with capitalism but he is charging money for people to see his movie?!

    Did Canadians follow the “balloon boy”? Hard to believe any parent would do that.

    Well wishes for your mom and everyone.
    P.s. Das: you do to bitch about albinos! 😀

  53. Hope Mom feels better soon.

    Incidentally, as a general rule, I don’t believe anything that comes out of Michael Moore’s mouth. As far as I’m concerned, he could really be a 30 something female named Bridgette with a really good costume.

  54. I hope your mom feels better soon and that the hospitals/clinics in her area can get their act together.

    My own expierences here in the States with hospitals has been pretty well rounded. Growing up in Upstate New York, I lived in a very small and rural community. The ER there was quick and very good. Considering it was the only hospital in a fifty mile radius, it had no choice.

    Then I moved to South Carolina. I was in shock when one night we took my then boyfriend (now hubby) to the ER for extreme pain in his jaw- and waited for seven plus hours for them to just hand him some pain killers and not even bothering with what was wrong. But weeks later I needed medical attention and we went to an ER clinic (seperate from the hospital) and there was no wait and they took good care of me. This was in Charleston. We shied away from the hospital ERs as much as we could due to the long waits and problems with diagnosis.

    Now we live outside of Greenville and I’ve never seen such screwed up hospital ERs. No ER clinics around here that I’ve been able to find, so the hospital is what we deal with. The ER just up the street from where we live used to be horrible. I remember going in for extreme stomach pain and waiting ten hours, and (this is the kicker) there was a guy who came in after nearly severing his entire thumb off and they were making HIM wait. He was bleeding all over the place and not in good shape. Finally he got ahold of his doctor who told him to leave and come to him! After that we started going to the ER in the neighboring town which was much better. No wait and if there was they were pretty quick to make sure that the ones who needed care ASAP got it. Then they went down hill. One night we needed to take one of the kids to the ER for a spider bite and Hubby decided to go to the ER up the street. They were back home within an hour on a Saturday night, which is normally very busy for them! He said it was packed, but they were moving right along and no real dealys. And each time we’ve been up there since it’s been that way. Go figure.

    And Michael Moore can go sit on his thumbs. Not gonna touch my long rant on how much I dislike this person, because this is your blog, Joe. But he certainly does not do all his research for those documentaries. I’ve talked to people across the world about their healthcare woes and benefits. About the only place I’ve heard the fewest rants and raves about it is Sweden. And that’s not even perfect. Fact of the matter is, the world needs to do some changing in how its healthcare is managed, and the US needs a huge shot of something to straighten this mess we are in out.

  55. Joe, I am sending mom lots of hugs to help her feel better. Glad your sister is there to protest dr opinions.
    -Can’t really discuss ERs and health care without gettin really frustrated.
    -I wouldn’t buy a ticket to anything michael moore, not believing him, what is that, he doth protest too much, reminds me of balloon boys, publicity, just for publicitys sake.
    @das, thanks for the funny photobuckets.
    Ok, then, Have a great day there, looking forward to snarky, cheers!

  56. Joe, I hope your mom feels better.

    Regarding the health care debate, let me point people to this article, which includes my favorite quote that encapsulates what I think is the problem with the system:


    “To me, the claim that having a public option would make it hard for private insurance companies to compete seems inhumane. Is price competition more important than my life?”

    The article is by a woman diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia in 2006 and told she had six weeks to live without treatment. She had no medical insurance, but lived in Massachusetts, so qualified for our state’s public option. It ended up costing $913,425.15 for her to live.

    No one should end up bankrupt due to a roll of the genetic dice.

  57. Doesn’t she have a rich son who could pay for private treatment? 😉

    The problem with the greedy capitalist systems of the west is that it costs a fortune to run a humane health care system (and lets face it, most people don’t care whether or not strangers live or die, we haven’t evolved to that level of empathy) and so the hospitals don’t have the resources they need.

    Its not as if the doctors sit around and decide who to screw. “*cackle* Look at her – she has a silly hat – lets let her wait – serves her right!”

    “it has been proven time and time again that they are nothing more than facetious rants.”

    It hasn’t been proven, that’s just people lying.

  58. Hi Mr M!

    Sorry to hear your mother is ill. How is she now? Please give her our best. Healthcare world wide is a significant issue. None more so than here in Ireland. Even with a tripling of the budget, the service has not improved. (And that was before we went broke here in Ireland!) I hope your mother gets well soon. Please keep us posted.

    @dasndanger : Meeza thinking you not like-a Dana! She-a lurrrvly girl-ie.


  59. Hey Joe

    Jesus, don’t you have any medical clinics in Quebec? We do here in Ontario and nobody goes to the Hospital unless it’s an emergency or after-hours (and it won’t wait until the clinics open). The longest wait I’ve had in the last 20 years has been an hour and a half and thats because my granddaughter hurt her finger. We decided to go and between doctor, the x-ray and back to the doctor for the splint thats how long it took. My clinic (where my doctor is) has an x-ray, an ultrasound and blood work all in the same clinic. I’ve heard that one of the other clinics in town is fighting for an MRI.
    Hospitals are where you go after you’ve been diagnosed in a clinic.
    Hope your mom gets the help she needs. Maybe take her on a wee trip to Cornwall.


  60. Ah, Michael Moore. He’s a strange one, he’s extremely bias left-wing documentaries can’t really be taken seriously because well, he makes the movie to make himself seem right.

    It’s odd because his latest film is anti-capitalist but yet when a student asks him a question about the movie he actually defends capitalism and implies it is the best system which goes against any of Moore’s purpose in his films:


  61. Joe hope your mom is feeling better.

    I won’t be getting excited until the Phillies win another WS – decades of losing experience does that 😉

  62. I’m so sorry about your mom! 🙁

    To other comments posted:

    The US system is definitely broken, but there’s no way I want a system that keeps me waiting for 28 hours with no diagnosis!! This isn’t an either or situation though – we can’t look at this and say “Well, the US system sucks because insurance companies gouge us, so let’s get the government to set it up!” – there are plenty of ways to fix the system without going to a tax-based system (like regulating insurance companies!). So often we’re in such a hurry to do something *now* that we fail to do it right and end up in a bigger mess in the long run.

  63. Hey Joe
    Sorry to hear about your Mom. Hope she gets an answer soon.

    I’m disgruntled with doctors in general. I got sick over Christmas weekend last year, and spent 10 weeks in horrible pain shuffling back and forth to doctors, labs and hospitals. At 15 bucks copay per office visit, I spent $450 bucks out of pocket.

    In the end, it turned out to be Fifth’s Disease, which is a childhood illness that they never thought to test for because I was not presenting the classic kiddie symptoms, a mild gall bladder thing and my thyroid levels were throwing all the bloodwork out of whack.

    I don’t think there is an answer to how to provide excellent healthcare to everyone. But I’m a cynic.

  64. Hey Joe!

    All the really good doctors from Montreal have defected (moved to) the US because (and I am quoting one of them directly) they are “allowed to practice medicine they way it should be practiced” and, of course, make a huge amount of money in the process. Sorry about your Mom. I hope she feels better soon. In the meantime, she should be eating a very strict diet of stuff that will not irritate her intestines.

    (To whom should I forward my bill for the advice?)


  65. Please disregard my last comment on 20 Oct. blog. Somehow missed the breadcrumbs leading to most recent post.

    As for today’s topic, God bless Mrs. M. I’ve had those painful symptoms. Diagnosis can be difficult under best of circumstances.

  66. Hope your mom feels better. the Lakeshore’s unfortunately in the west island which means no money, no metro line but lot’s of contempt from Quebec city…
    (I agree that the Jewish would be better – if you could get to it from the west island)!
    To all you Americans: You guys have a golden opportunity to create a great new medical system. Something in the middle; not completely public with it’s interminable waiting times or private with dickish insurance companies disqualifying overweight newborns. C’mon! The country that brought us the PC, the net and ipods can’t come up with something innovative?

  67. @DC–

    Saw the Huff Post article recently.

    I couldn’t agree with you more.

    Not to mention, in the USA people are DENIED treatment on many instances if they are not insured… and that Huff Post article alone shows why some people can’t insured; not a proud day to be an American.

    But I digress. I don’t think Joe would appreciate my turning this into a political shouting match. Sorry Joe.

    And, Joe, I truly wish your Mom the best.

  68. Best healing thoughts for Mom.

    We need health care of some kind for the uninsured, and an improvement in the system for those with insurance. No doubt people are dying because they are too poor to afford care. The ERs are swamped by folks who can’t afford even the low copays at the local clinics. This is wrong. how to fix it? I don’t know.

    I can’t complain too much. I am a retired military dependent, which means I’m on Tricare. Yes, run by the government. I do need referrals if I am seen at a non-military facility, but these are not to hard to get if you’re persistent. Early detection saved me from cancer twice now, and the out of pocket costs were insanely low. When I was in the Navy, the big naval hospital in Japan had me in emergency surgery rapidly after a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, saving my life. (Side note: Bleeding to death internally is a very soothing mental state after the pain subsides). How much did this cost the taxpayers? A lot, no doubt, but I am lucky as hell to have the coverage I do. Without government insurance, I would most assuredly be dead. Am I annoyed that I have had four PCMs in five years? Yes, but at least I have a PCM! (primary care manager)

    There has to be a middle ground, so that no one dies from lack of access to care, nor must anyone choose between life and money.

  69. Elminster wrote

    don’t you have any medical clinics in Quebec?…

    There are clinics with banking hours and chronic shortage of staff in hard to get places in the Western Montreal region.

    As I previously noted. Quebec does not have the medical workforce to staff medical clinics. Clinics in Quebec get staffed by stealing people from hospitals causing staff shortages there. Currently Quebec is short of general practitioners by the several hundred with more being added to the debit side by block retirements of aging doctors. Things will get worse until the Quebec government focus on medical service availability instead of pinching pennies and local politics.

  70. I hope your mom is better. My own mother suffered from diverticulitis, an extremely painful condition.

    We all want perfect universal health care, which is almost an impossible dream. With all due respect, however, we south of the border do not want a Canadian-style or UK-style health care system. We need tort reform and insurance reform, but our system itself works perfectly well.

  71. @Michael A. Burstein: Thanks very much for your response to my comment re: post-Einsteinian physics. I now have some serious homework to do in order to have a basic grasp of these issues, as well needing a refresher course on how the General Theory of Relativity actually supports the possibility of FTL travel (vis-a-vis a comment plus link posted above mine).

    Also, I couldn’t agree more with your observations re: The Washington Post article on the elderly woman with acute myelogenous leukemia.


    I’d like to second your entire comment. I agree with everything you’ve said, and you said it in so many fewer words than it would have taken me.

    Many people outside the health-care field don’t understand just how dangerous an ectopic pregnancy can be. My condolences for your loss, no matter when that loss took place — something never forgotten, I’m sure.

  72. Also does the whole gate spin, or just the front?
    Ouch, free aint always the best it seems :/
    Hope she’ll get better 🙂

  73. Hope your mommy gets better soon. 🙂

    Thanks for the insight.

    Only one day til the new SGU!!! SQUEE!!!

    I was introduced to SG1 and SGA via DVD, so this whole waiting-a-week-to-watch-the-next-episode is killing me.

  74. I hear you! The health care that we have in Canada ESPECIALLY IN MONTREAL is NOT up to the standard that it should be. I’ve heard all too many stories like the one from your mom. I recently herd of a study that states Quebec as having one of the longest wait times in Canada. I work at the Montreal General Hospital in Radiology Oncology and even I am fed up with the wait times that I see happening in the waiting rooms. Doctors and nurses are understaffed to say the least. We need an overhaul of our system and we need it soon!

  75. Okay – so why am I just now hearing this?

    It seems that the H1N1 virus isn’t what’s killing people (according to a doc on CNN), but mostly secondary infections of the airways, including common staph and MRSA. So, if you think you have the flu, it’s best to get antibotics to prevent the bacterial infections that are occuring after the flu infection.

    That’s good to know…I just hope doctors know it, too.


  76. Try the Jewish General Hospital and NOT the Lakeshore.

    I hope your mom gets better and gets the help she needs to find out what is wrong.

  77. *sings out*
    Oh, Belouchi!
    *tosses following Twitter quote*

    “LouDPhillips BTW many questions that pop up in early episdodes of #SGU get paid off during the season.”

  78. @amac251:

    All the really good doctors from Montreal have defected (moved to) the US because (and I am quoting one of them directly) they are “allowed to practice medicine they way it should be practiced” and, of course, make a huge amount of money in the process. Sorry about your Mom. I hope she feels better soon. In the meantime, she should be eating a very strict diet of stuff that will not irritate her intestines.

    I beg your pardon, but you — as someone who resides outside the US, and who may be a layman as well — should do your homework before making casual remarks about those really good doctors who can make a huge amount of money south of the border. I see this issue through the eyes of a) a US citizen, b) a patient of some excellent doctors, c) a relative of a patient with a not-so-excellent doctor; and finally d) a professional in the US healthcare system.

    First, those who are near the apex of the medical profession are entitled to fair compensation for what is often a very strenuous job, one which requires long years of training/education which can take a very long time indeed for repayment, for those physicians who haven’t had their education heavily subsidized by whomever — the government (via the military, etc.), wealthy family members, et al.

    Second, the American medical specialist and/or primary-care physician are ultimately responsible for the results of all healthcare administered not only by themselves but also by anyone for whom they hold responsibility — for instance, advanced-practice nurses — and the US, as far as I know, is the most irresponsibly lawsuit-minded nation in the world. Some malpractice and negligence lawsuits are quite legitimate; others are completely frivolous, but juries in some states actually take pride in finding against physicians who are not actually guilty of wrongdoing, but who find themselves looking at enormous malpractice-insurance fees for so-called “damages” — amounts awarded to self-labeled victims that can run into the high end of millions of dollars. – I recall reading approx. eight years ago about a small town in Montana (if memory serves) that was left without an obstetrician, who chose to practice elsewhere because neither the state nor federal govt. would offer him protection against the aforementioned frivolous lawsuits — in a specialty which, I believe, is the most heavily targeted by irresponsible litigation. As well, some outstanding doctors who were forced into out-of-court settlements due to sheer greed on the part of their accusers, have been so demoralized that they altogether give up the practice of medicine.

    And, as life goes on, the Obama administration does have substantial reason for wanting to completely overhaul the US healthcare system — but according to reliable sources both public and private, plaintiff-attorney-dominated legislative bodies from the smallest city districts on up to the federal level are unwilling to enact the legislative reform necessary to put reasonable caps on damages awarded for malpractice/negligence. (See comments made above for further observations regarding tort reform.)

    So, I would like for you to ask yourself this: If you were one of the best doctors in Montréal, and emigrated to the US in order to practice medicine as it’s meant to be practiced, what do you think YOU would do in regard to your fees? Charge enough to take good care of all your support staff, plus having sufficient funds for well-earned vacations that allow you to shed some stress, thus enabling you to practice as long as you’re physically and mentally able —

    Or else (2) pinch pennies when hiring staff, who will in most cases move on to a better position ASAP, thus leaving you with staff who often need to be trained all over again, and in whom your patients can put no trust? Also, do you want to be stuck with no rewards for your diligent effort, incur early burnout, and take full advantage of early retirement options just to get some kind of life back after years of often-underappreciated effort — thus leaving your patients to another physician you’ve no doubt recommended, but whom your patients don’t know, the new doctor doesn’t know them, all of this done without an ideal switchover period of 5-10 years for all involved to build up a relationship of mutual understanding and trust?

    No bill — everyone who posts responsibly and knowledgeably on Joe’s blog about this or any matter accepts that they are doing so as a public service, and are in fact glad to have the opportunity to share their specialized knowledge or insights with others.

    Finally, this post really only covers the utmost tip of the iceberg when it comes to the deeply cracked glacier that represents the current state of American healthcare.

  79. @otros ojos

    I am a US citizen. I reside in the northern US. I live a little over an hour from Montreal. I have spoken with many doctors who have left Montreal to practice here in the US. I also personally know doctors who practice both here (US) and in Canada.

    I apologize if it appeared that I criticized doctors for making a lot of money. I was simply pointing out that is one of the benefits of leaving socialized medicine.

  80. Hi Joe!

    So sorry that your mom is unwell! I hope she gets treatment (and feels better) soon!!!

    Since you like snarky foolishness, I’ll reply to your question, “Where’s Michael Moore when you need him?”

    with a question!

    Does anyone really need Michael Moore?

    All the best to your mom…and you.


  81. Thanks for sharing, Joe. We do hear a lot of things from a lot of places, so it’s nice to hear a straight-up personal experience. I hope your mom gets a proper diagnosis/treatment soon.

    I have an unrelated question for you: I just finished reading Ender’s Game, and I found out that there are many more books by this author set in the same world. Have you read any of them, and if so, are they good?

  82. Long waits in emergency rooms are not uncommon here, even for people with medical insurance. Emergency rooms are all about triage. Years and years ago, I broke my ankle while I was out at lunch in downtown Chicago. I knew it was bad (not being able to walk is a giveaway) and took a cab to the nearest good hospital, Northwestern. I was in the ER for 6+ hours; a broken ankle was not serious compared to the other problems coming into that ER that day (heart attacks, GSW’s, etc). I wasn’t thrilled, but I understood.

    About three years after that, I broke the same ankle while walking to the train station in downtown Chicago on my way home. (Two more breaks later, I found out I had a congenital abnormality in that stupid ankle, which intensive PT did a lot to help). That second time (and the two times after that), I got a cab to the excellent hospital two blocks from my house (15 miles from downtown Chicago). Those times I had waits, but they weren’t more than an hour or two.

    When I broke my shoulder when I fell on a sidewalk in downtown Chicago (ok, ok, I know, but the bad ankle tripped me on a crunched up sidewalk), my friend gave me a choice: she’d take me to the ER at Northwestern, which was only a couple blocks away, or take me home so I could go to my neighborhood hospital. I elected the latter, and I was seen right away.

    Then there were the bike accidents involving various cuts that had to be stitched and the cracked rib. Very little wait time.

    (This is in adulthood. It was even worse when I was a kid.)

    I cut my thumb really badly once, and they took me in very fast (well, I *was* bleeding all over the ER waiting room). When I went in having a bad gallbladder attack that looked at first like a heart attack, if they’d moved any faster they’d have gone into orbit. Same when I had a kidney stone. That was the last time I was in there, and I remember hearing someone complain to the triage nurse that she’d been waiting for a couple of hours so why didn’t I have to wait. The triage nurse said, “well, dear, next time you have a kidney stone, we’ll get you in immediately.”

    So ER’s vary depending on who else is in there with what else. A lot of ERs here are very crowded with people who don’t have medical insurance and wait until whatever is wrong with them is a terrible emergency forces them to seek treatment.

    I’ve heard stories from Canadian friends about delays that sound eggregious like what happened to your mom (hope she gets better fast), but I’ve also heard stories of very fast care.

    Here, the horror stories about delays in treatment come from all kinds of sources, sometimes hospitals being stupid, sometimes from there simply being too many people to serve well, and so on, the usual idiocy related to humanity.

    But we have people die in this country from lack of medical care because they don’t have medical insurance. That’s a pretty well documented fact, as shown from the many links posted here.

    If you’re don’t have really good medical insurance, one illness can bankrupt you if you have any assets, even if you have what you *think* is good coverage. If you are poor and don’t have assets or medical insurance, one serious illness can kill you.

    The medial insurance companies commit the most unbelievably terrible acts to rescind contracts when people get sick, to find reasons to not insure them if they have anything in their past medical history even if trivial and even if the person has long since recovered from them. Or even if the person had no idea they had the condition the rescission is based on.

    I’ve been lucky to have been fully insured for a long time, but if I lost the job I have and couldn’t get another with a company that provided medical insurance, and that within the HIPAA period, I wouldn’t get insured. I have too many pre-existing conditions (not to mention, dumb accidents).

    At a time when there is virtually no inflation, and in fact a major recession, the insurance companies are contining to raise premiums to levels few can afford, causing many businesses to cut back on coverage for their employees or drop it altogether.

    Medical costs continue to rise. Rx drugs are prohibitively expensive, and insurance companies won’t pay for some that people need to keep themselves alive.

    Insurance companies interfere with doctors’ decisions on what treatment to provide and in fact whether to even allow treatment at all. They second guess doctors about meds; my doctor gets calls regularly about my asthma meds and wouldn’t I do just as fine on something that cost less. And so on. It’s only a matter of time before the stuff that is cheaper that didn’t work for me is the only drug the insurer will approve.

    I don’t know fully what is the solution, or if there is even one ultimate solution, but I do know that what we have is untenable, not to mention, uncivilized. We need some sort of public option to provide real competition for the insurance companies; since they are by law immune from the anti-trust laws, the do not compete, but collude.

    This is a real emergency for the US and its people. (And oh, btw, coming up with a solution or several solutions isn’t being done precipitously as some in politics claim; many in Congress have been trying for many, many years to get laws passed that stop these bad behaviors and provide workable solutions).

    Things aren’t perfect in Canada, but for every horror story like your mom’s, I’ve heard more than one story lauding the care in Canada, and I’ve heard many more horror stories in the US.


  83. Joe —

    I’m so sorry to hear that your mother is ill. I’ll be thinking good thoughts for her. (The agnostic’s version of keeping her in my prayers.)

    The medical care debate here in the US frustrates the heck out of me. I can’t understand the line the President is taking. Having medical coverage that has problems that need to be solved is still WAY better than having no medical coverage at all or “coverage” that still bankrupts you when you have a major issue. I don’t understand why that isn’t the standard answer when the conservative pundits pull out the “Canadians hate their healthcare system” or “The British hate their healthcare system” arguments. Most Americans hate this healthcare system too and are getting poorer every day because of it.

  84. Joe –

    I do hope your Mom gets the best treatment she needs. I also hope she is not in pain for any great length of time.

    I am glad to read these posts because it shows that all systems have their problems. Our family has had it’s share of good and bad health care incidents. But we are lucky to have good benefits through my husband’s corporate insurance policy. But if something happened to him or if he retired before 65 – we would have to pay for this out of pocket. We could never afford this good plan on our own.

    @Michael A. Burstein:
    Thanks for the link to The Washington Post article and your comments. No one should fear personal bankruptcy because of a serious illness. I, for one, as a US citizen find this situation ethically bankrupt.

    Glad you have the healthcare you deserve for serving our country and that you really needed. It also demonstrates that some governmental systems can actually work well. I know countless creative people- as well as others- who cannot afford healthcare at all. This is just not right. I agree that there must be a system that reflects a middle ground approach.

    @otros ojos
    Thanks for your insights into the industry. Any kind of reform is not simple because there are so many things that need to be changed.

    Joe, what a provocative topic. Maybe you should make a documentary.

  85. Is it true BC will outlaw wearing a bullet-proof vest without a permit?

    Get those fake bullet-proof vests made up or you’ll have a hard time costuming extras. Test ’em on a dirt hill to make sure bullets can pass through ’em. You don’t want to be on the wrong side of the law in BC.

  86. Some great comments! I would like to add my confidence in America’s new health care plan would go up if Congress would adopt the new plan for themselves.

    Do Canada’s lawmakers exclude themselves from the public health care system in Canada?


  87. Joe, can a Canadian bypass the public system and go to private doctors if he/she has the money? I would be very tempted to do that, because diverticulitis can be very serious if not treated in a timely way. D’uh, I’m sure you know that. And I think an ultrasound is not as definitive for diagnosis as a colonoscopy anyway. So she might be 2 tests away from treatment!

    Also do they have the concept of making an appointment for a test, and then actually keeping it within some reasonable range?

    Best wishes to your mom. Sounds like she needs to give someone the Italian evil eye.

  88. DP wrote:

    Is it true BC will outlaw wearing a bullet-proof vest without a permit?…

    What an idiotic idea. The BC government better figure out how to regulate, enforce and pay for such a law before even introducing it.

    Because in some way it resemble the current gun registration law in Canada. Which is not working out the way originally envisaged. Recall it would only take a few tens of millions to set up and run. Currently that program is ballooning beyond the billion dollar level due to poor planning and implementation.

    It’s more of a black hole for taxpayer’s money than a effective program. This is coming from a gun control advocate.

  89. Shawna Buchanan wrote:

    I just finished reading Ender’s Game, and I found out that there are many more books by this author set in the same world. Have you read any of them, and if so, are they good?

    I’ve read the Ender series (as listed here) and personally feel like none of them stand up to Ender’s Game. I reread it occasionally but never the sequels.

    However, the Ender’s Shadow Saga, featuring Bean from the original novel, are fantastic. I really enjoyed them. You can find them listed at the same link.

    Anne Teldy

  90. @amac251 My apologies for reading a very large criticism into what was merely an observation on your part, and then ranting at you at length.

  91. I’m sorry about what your mother is going through (and yourself worrying about her). Her experience sounds similar to what you would experience here in the US with private insurance. But Canadians will not go bankrupt seeking treatment. I hope she gets diagnosed and treated soon.

    My medical rant starts here.

    @Bailey “good private insurance” is an oxymoron. Once you submit a claim to your private insurance company you are a liability that cuts into their profit margins. I suggest you listen to some physicians who used to work for insurance companies who admitted that their decisions killed people (listen to Senate Committee hearing minutes) and all the other shenanigans that they were required to do in the line of duty.

    There is a woman I know right now with breast cancer. Her treatment will cost more than $300,000 and all places she has tried, including the esteemed MD Anderson Cancer Center has required a 70% deposit. She does not have that kind of money. She is still trying to get help but realizes that if someone doesn’t come through for her soon, she is going to die. Another person I know didn’t have $5000 for her elective gallbladder surgery (she had insurance). She eventually got more and more sick, lost her job and lost her insurance. She developed sepsis and died and left behind a hospital bill of more than $500,000.

    As far as misdiagnosis or medical mistakes, I’ve had many along the way, but I had one that was a doozy. I was in the hospital in 2005 for 5 days with symptoms of a stroke. I was walking with a cane, had trouble speaking, etc., Spent 12 hours in the ER and they were going to send me home despite my doctor telling me to tell them to directly admit me. I had deteriorated for 2 months to that point (one time my family practice doctor told me to go directly to the ER; afterwards, the insurance said they weren’t going to cover it because it wasn’t an emergency; they are there to deny and delay and they hope you aren’t smart enough to challenge them). After a spinal tap, my symptoms improved dramatically (on the last day before discharge). I was told all my tests were normal and it was stress. After I was discharged, I got copies of my lab work and x-rays and consultation reports. My CSF pressure was elevated (which was subsequently diagnosed as pseudotumor cerebri) and a brain aneurysm. Yep, one of the leading hospitals in the country, discharged me saying it was stress. I went to see my rheumatologist for a follow up and brought these reports with me. I said, “Ah, did you know I have a brain aneurysm.” I’ve never seen a man go more white than he did. I know what happened. The attending physician told him the results were normal and he didn’t look for himself. My grandmother died of a cerebral aneurysm. It’s not big enough to do any intervention but it most certainly needs to be followed up with a yearly MRA (at a cost of $2000-$3000 a year which I wind up paying in full because it goes towards my “outpatient deductible” of $5000).

    I also have a child with autism. Autism is not a covered expense on most insurance plans. Individual states have passed legislation saying autism had to be covered up to a certain amount, but all of them only cover what is known as fully funded plans. Most employers in this country have self-funded plans that are governed by federal law (law for the whole country), not state law. It’s a token gesture at best to placate the advocacy our families have done in our childrens’ names. After years of paying for help and eventually paying out more than our income, we have racked up $120,000 of debt. I have now had to take a 80% pay cut to keep my job, the only job I can keep and take care of my son. I believe that we are on the brink of becoming the national statistic. Out of all bankruptcies in the US, 2/3 of them are because of medical costs. If our employer didn’t subsidize some of our health insurance costs, we would spend $800 a month to be covered (and the policy becomes a joke once you try to file a claim), which is actually more than the principal and interest on my mortgage.

    Two years ago, our local Fox 26 Houston did a story on our family and the financial ruin that can come with an autism diagnosis. If you are interested in watching, here is the link:


    Speech therapy is $90 an hour and even that our insurance refused to cover, even though his speech problems were related to another problem. They say “autism” on his medical records and they denied it. When they denied it, I asked them why. They said autism was not a covered expense. I would appeal, saying it was not autism, it was hypotonic mouth muscles from cerebral palsy (not the spastic kind, but one that just affects isolated areas with low muscle tone), and since cerebral palsy was from a birth injury and the insurance covered speech therapy as a result from injuries, it should be covered. I went through appeal after appeal for 5 years. At 3 days a week minimum, you can imagine how much this added up. Then there was OT, PT, not covered. Then there was applied behavior analysis–not covered. And where the insurance should have been there because we pay more than enough into it, the school system actually harmed him as you will see on the report. My son’s godfather is married to a woman from Canada and they moved up there. Ironically they also had a child with autism. They came to visit and honestly if I hadn’t known he had autism, I wouldn’t have been able to tell. They got a lot of help.

    Dr. Oz recently came to Houston to do a show because we are #1 in the nation of uninsured people. The people who came were not illegal immigrants (who are the frequent blame) but good, decent people, people still with jobs who can’t afford insurance or lost their insurance because they recently lost their jobs. One baby was found to have a hole in their heart. Had they not gone that day to get help, the baby would have died sooner than later. She had 5 kids. She said when they got sick, she would just keep them home and treat them symptomatically because she couldn’t afford to take them to a pediatrician. Another man had a huge tumor on his lip (that started out as a spot). The cancer spread to his neck lymph nodes. Another woman had an enlarged heart and needs a pacemaker. One woman said she had ovarian cancer and lost her job. Now she is uninsurable because of her pre-existing condition. They saw almost 1800 people that 1 day (and they lined up the night before and came from miles and miles).

    Even if Canada’s system isn’t Michael Moore’s documentary model, it still seems better than what people are getting here in the US.

  92. @otros ojos Thanks. My second pregnancy was also ectopic, but they caught that one with an ultrasound. They gave me scarcely ten minutes to call my husband before I was hustled into surgery. Had I carried to term, I’d have two kids in their 20s now, and possibly grandkids. Ah well, it is what it is. I lecture young women about taking pregnancy tests if they are unsure and getting in to see a doc as soon as possible. In Utah, there are free prenatal clinics, crowded, but available. Too many people treat pregnancy lightly.

  93. I went to the hospital with a severe migrane, sat it the waiting room for 8 hours, another 2 in a hospital room, then the doctor came in and started doing tests to see if I had been having a stroke…. way to go Canada! So they thought I might have been having a stroke, and yet they made me wait 10 hours….

  94. I’m not really sure why this post is entitled with something about the healthcare system in Canada, as this sounds like a problem with a specific hospital. A lot of these problems with long waiting times etc are not really systematic, but issues with hospitals being overloaded in certain areas at certain times, or with poor administration. It’s a bit silly to point to waiting a long time in a hospital and say it has something to do with the entire health care system, when the same things happen in the US and indeed in every country that has a health care system.

    My own mother is dying from cancer and she has had both bad experiences and amazing experiences in the course of her treatment. All in all, your experience is more often something you should chalk up to the individuals you are dealing with.

    That said, best wishes to your mom.

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