Saturday, November 07, 2009

Using Healthcare in Alberta

Some of you have noticed my extended absence - it was only partly being sad over the death of our cat - mostly its been some pretty severe health issues.

My lady D, came down with a bad case of flu in the week before Halloween. By Wednesday most of the symptoms had faded but she couldn't get enough air, she was weak and getting weaker and most worryingly her lips and finger tips started to acquire a blueish tinge.

We went to the downtown walk-in clinic, the Sheldon Chumir, who diagnosed her with double pneumonia with a possible H1N1 chaser, put her on oxygen and antibiotics immediately and then transferred her via ambulance to the Rockyview hospital. Her blood ox was 86% - its supposed to be in the high 90's.

She spent a night in isolation in Emergency and then was admitted to a room where we spent the rest of the weekend. She fairly quickly started to get better with tubes bringing her blood oxygen up and antibiotics and Tamiflu clearing out her lungs.

On Sunday, after a weekend of truly excellent care she had recovered enough to be allowed to go home.

Oh, and I got the normal seasonal flu jab about a week before D got sick and never even got the sniffles while breathing her air or the air in the isolation ward, so yay flu shot!

We were dealing with a system under strain from a major flu outbreak, a system mistreated, underfunded and attacked by a provincial government ideologically opposed to the idea of the public good. We talked to nurses and other staff who were deeply frustrated by Alberta Health's recent attempts to gag any and all criticism from front line staff.

Despite all these pressures D got care that was professional, timely, efficient and successful, including warm and friendly interaction from staff despite the fact they were clearly being worked off their feet. Even under severe strain the Canadian public healthcare system worked for us extremely well. It did so while controlling costs in a way no American hospital could have done and providing care to anybody and everybody who needed it.

Meanwhile the usual suspects were busily undermining the system that was treating us so well. Que jumping in the line for H1N1 vaccine was occurring. Hockey teams like The Flames got the press but even more egregious were the private fee clinics that allowed those who could afford their brand of cash and carry healthcare to get vaccinated ahead of those who arguably would need it more.

It is impossible to express how utterly this is a betrayal of the founding principles of public healthcare in Canada.

There were muted criticisms, promises of inquiries a few token firings, but ultimately this kind of unfair, privileged access to basic healthcare is exactly the point of of the incremental attacks Canada's public system has been subjected to for many years now.

Que jumping isn't a bug of cash and carry two-tier healthcare, it's a feature.

And this past weekend, my lady and I had a first hand experience of the system those pushing for more privatization are betraying. It's very definitely worth protecting.

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