Tuesday, March 3, 2009

And now, a word about health care in BC ...

Just spent a weekend in St Paul's Hospital, where, aside from pastoral visits, I had not spent any significant time since May 3, 1956, when I was born. It was my third trip there in two weeks, after the "back strain" we were rather hoping I had suffered turned into the gall bladder attack the doctor "kinda suspected".

Lots of excitement around the household at 5 Saturday morning, with firefighters trooping in, followed by paramedics. We're right bang between two firehalls in the West End, and the fact that Amelia said the magic words "he has pain in his chest" (which I did, although not "chest pains") pushed the incident several notches up on the priority list.

So off I was whisked to ER, jabbed with needles (why on EARTH would someone do that to themselves ON PURPOSE?), poked and prodded ... the usual stuff, I suppose ... the next day, I was whisked into a radiology room where a surgical team sedated me, slid a TV camera with a tiny bucket attached down my throat, removed the offending stones and assorted nastiness, and whisked me out again before (thanks to the miracle of sedation) I knew what was happening.

The next day, after the best sleep I'd had in weeks, they showed me the door.

I left with a number of distinct impressions about our health care system, all of them good. Over-arching it all: anyone who complains about BC's health care system has their head stuck someplace generally inaccessible. They're probably the same people who gripe about TransLink: they've taken some personal quibble and morphed it into an indictment of the entire system, usually leading to the conclusion that the system is "bad", "broken" or -- in extreme cases -- "the worst in the world".

Along with repeatedly thanking Jesus Christ for my healing and God for compassionate doctors, nurses and other medical staff (not to mention a wife who rarely left my side), I kept thinking about what would have happened if this attack had happened in another country, or in another era, when we didn't have the kind of medical technology and know-how we have today.

The answer to the first question would depend on the kind of health insurance I had. The answer to the second is probably moot, because in another era, we didn't have a lot of the risk factors for such ailments that we do today: fatty, salt-laden foods, more sedentary lifestyle, less incentive to get up and get out of the house (like blogging, a-hem). In my book, A Very Convenient Truth, I note that pollution is what we get when we become too sophisticated for our own good; when the level of development depletes the land at a rate greater than our ability to replenish it. It's the same way with our bodies.

But I digress: the overarching response to both questions was that we are truly blessed to have the kind of system we have here in our own land.

I was reminded, too, of Tommy Douglas, the so-called "father of public health care" in Canada. He once wrote that the seeds of his medicare ideas and ideals were sown when he injured his leg when he was 12 and was laid-up in hospital. He couldn't help thinking, he said, of the other children whose parents weren't as well off as his were: would they have to lose that leg, or hobble for the rest of their lives?

There will always be criticism of our health care system, I suppose: some of it well-meaning, some of it with more than a tinge of self-servingness. But I say we are truly blessed to have the system that we have, with the people that we have working in it.

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