Canadian Healthcare: A Kafkaesque Nightmare

I expect this to be the first in series of posts on the nightmare world of Canadian healthcare.

Americans – the general public, politicians and media elites alike – generally seem to believe that the Canadian socialized medical system is some sort of mythical Santa Claus where the care is good, the prices are low, and no one is left out. Having experienced the system first hand during the protracted illness of two dear loved ones, and seen and heard first hand accounts from friends, family, and even caregivers in the system – I’m here to tell you that if you believe this nonsense, you are WRONG.

It’s interesting working in a University environment. All of the bright young things here seem to earnestly believe that the United States needs such a system, despite having little or generally no experience with it whatsoever. Trying to explain the inadequacies of Canadian healthcare to the “true believers” is an abject waste of time and energy. First hand accounts of the horrors of the Canadian system are met with scoffing and overt hostility. It would seem that the intelligentsia are far more interested in having their fantasies confirmed than in first hand accounts of what the system is really like. Sadly, this seems to be an all too common reaction among people in general – they like to believe what they like to believe, and damn the consequences or anyone that tells them differently.

I just finished watching my father-in-law – who was more like a father to me than my biological father – just go through 4 weeks of agonizing hell at the hands of the bloodless bureaucratic pedants of the Canadian healthcare system. While the doctors didn’t make him sick, they did let him down at every possible turn. Their actions led him to a place where he shouldn’t have been in the first place due to their sheer neglect and fecklessness.

Dad was a veteran, a great father and husband, an outstanding friend to many and a community servant, a skilled commercial pilot, and a man that would give the shirt off of this back to pretty much anybody who asked. He was a beloved and wonderful human being, and he deserved so much better than he received from an ungrateful, greedy and impersonal system of bureaucratic paper shufflers and malcontents.

Just to add insult to injury, they let him down in his final weeks of life on earth. When he presented himself at Kingston General Hospital (KGH) with severe acsites and swelling in his lower body (groin, legs, feet) they took a blood test that showed conclusively that he was in the initial stages of catastrophic acute liver failure (we have the lab report). Instead of admitting him, the doctors told him they’d “seen worse” and to go home and “put your feet up”. A 2 week battle ensued to get him admitted for treatment, all the while as his symptoms worsened, and he became weaker and weaker. It was only through the intervention of a nurse friend with connections in the system that we were finally able to get him admitted to Picton Hospital, where the doctors there dragged their feet on treatment.

In the end, his primary care physician (GP’s are Gods in the socialized medical system) laid out a careful plan for my father-in-law’s care after the family ganged-up on him. The only problem was that not only DID HE NOT EXECUTE the care plan he laid out, but he then left on holiday for a month without telling a soul and refused to answer phone calls from other physicians. My father-in-law’s GP – Dr. Steve Blanchard – throughout, refused to answer reasonable questions, lobbed sarcasm at the family and the patient, and then completely abdicated his responsibilities. We struggled to find out who was even covering for him.

Steve Blanchard – Feckless Asshole

Among the things Dr. Blanchard promised but did not deliver:

  • Referral to a liver specialist in Belleville
  • Arranging for adequate nursing care should he be discharged
  • A reassessment of treatment options should the albumin infusions fail
  • Arrangements for temporary care accommodations with the McFarland Home respite care facility

In addition to the above, Dr. Blanchard failed in his basic obligations to his patient and his family as follows:

  • Refused to provide timely blood test results on request for critical parameters like bilirubin and albumin levels.
  • Failed to treat the family and the patient with respect – Dr. Blanchard accused us of “micromanaging” him for daring to ask polite questions, and lobbed sarcastic remarks at the American healthcare system and Americans generally.
  • Failed to inform his patient that he was leaving for a month, and did not inform the patient of who would be covering for him in his absence.
  • Refused to share medical data on his patient with other medical professionals who could help the patient and the family understand Dad’s condition and what viable options might exist.
  • Presented an “unrealistic” and “rosy” picture of the patient’s condition according to another attending physician who was covering hospital duties over the Canadian Thanksgiving holiday. Indeed, it was this other physician that alerted us to the severity of Dad’s condition, not Dr. Blanchard.

When we asked what would happen if we discharged Blanchard as my father-in-law’s doctor and asked how he would receive care, we were met with blank stares (fun fact: you can’t just fire your doctor in Canada and easily get another). The family told the doctor covering for Steve that we had NO CONFIDENCE or TRUST in him to care for Dad, to which my father-in-law chimed in most vigorously “I don’t ever want to see that son-of-a-bitch ever again”. That’s something coming from Dad if you knew him. My late mother-in-law described Dad as “just like Will Rogers – he never met a man he didn’t like”. Blanchard worked hard to earn this wonderful man’s ire.

To bolster the claims I make about Steve Blanchard, I did, in accordance with Ontario law and with the consent of my father-in-law, record conversations we had with him. Lest Steve thinks we are defaming him, I would remind the good doctor that truth (and documented facts) are the ultimate defense for defamation and libel. What I report here is based on those recordings, documentation, the medical record, eyewitness accounts, and our personal opinions on his lack of professionalism.

But Steve Blanchard is only a small part of the problem – a system that has gone horribly off-the-rails and that consistently fails to meet it’s obligations and humanity to its patients. A system that is neither “free”, “quality”, or “inexpensive”. In a socialized medical care system, there’s a huge difference between HAVING health insurance and RECEIVING care.

In his last couple weeks of life, the hospital began to pressure us to discharge him, despite the fact that we could not adequately supply care on our own. We were PROMISED that he would NOT be discharged without adequate nursing care. However, he was denied hospice even though there was a bed available, and Blanchard made no effort to arrange a stay at McFarland House as promised. Moreover, on the day they began the discharge process to send him home (since all other options had been eliminated), we were told that there would be a grand total of only FOUR (4) nurse/psw visits for 1 hour each over the next 2 weeks. In other words, they did not provide the care they promised.

At one point, the discharge person said Dad was “lucky” he had family to look out for him, otherwise “he would be in serious trouble”. We resorted to hiring a combination of private care workers and accepting volunteer services from our nurse friend to keep him comfortable and maintained, as well as pitching in the best we could. The Canadian healthcare system provided next to nothing to him in his final days. Even the supplied bed was over 30 years old, and was too short for his modest 5’8″ stature – I kid not, it looked like they pulled it out of a children’s ward. He was perpetually uncomfortable, and we struggled to even raise his head high enough for him to eat or drink without choking.

This will be one in a series of tomes on this tragedy. Let the record show that anyone who continues to support imposing such a system on the American people is not only an imbecile, but reckless. If you want to live with a healthcare system that’s run like the IRS, you go right ahead – but don’t presume to impose it on the rest of us.

3 thoughts on “Canadian Healthcare: A Kafkaesque Nightmare”

  1. Very interesting. A friend said he thought the doctors that didn’t leave to practice in the states many of those worried that they may not be able to give the care required in states. Or the review boards that investigate doctors in errors.

    1. The Canadians and their news media routinely complain that TOO MANY of their doctors leave to go to the states. I believe the bit about the review boards. A friend lost his mother to a Canadian doctor because he punctured her colon during a colonoscopy and although she exhibited classic signs of sepsis, they did nothing until it was too late. They filed a complaint, and the medical facility – unbelievably – investigated itself. They concluded she was old and had other health problems so she would probably have died soon anyway, and dropped it there. That’s part of the problem with the Canadian system – practitioners have a LOT of power and there isn’t much accountability really. They protect their own. Suing a doctor in Canada is virtually impossible (as we found out with my mother-in-laws botched care), because the system is government-based, and can fall back on “qualified/sovereign immunity”.

  2. I’m so angry at the atrocities of socialized medicine against my dear friends, as well as countless others who have suffered abuse by this person and this whole system. The feelings of futility alone must be nightmarish. Your statement emphasizing the difference between “having” and “receiving” health care is spot on. And the biggest problem with the younger generation is what they’re spoon-fed in the educational system. They are not taught debate, pros and cons, multiple points of view; they’re just pressured through the ONE chute gate opinion with a clap on the back. I’m glad you’re speaking out about your horrors although I know it’s difficult too. Wishing you peace to any extent possible.

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