We Canadians applaud ourselves for our universal health care system, like it is something we came up with and exceled at ourselves. As far as I know, the only thing I do to better our health care system is to remain employed and pay taxes into the greater system, as well as try to stay as healthy as I can so that I can avoid the health care system altogether.
Today I could not avoid it. Thanks to some pesky symptoms of stress, my nurse practitioner wrote me up a requisition for an ECG and told me to go to a clinic in the other part of town where they "should" have the proper lab for the procedure.
Because I did not have all day, and because ALL health care facilities charge for parking, I decided to call ahead to the clinic to see if 1) they could perform an ECG and 2) I could get it done sometime today. However I did not have the name and/or phone number for the place so instead from the comfort of my couch I got on the Google to get the basic information.
I typed in a few possibilities but did not find the clinic to which my nurse referred. I did find something called Tele-Health "Chumpville", which I assumed was separate from Tele-Health Province Name, since it was a local number and not a 1-866. Taking what I thought was a good chance I called Tele-Health Chumpville and asked if they had the name and number of the health clinic in the other part of town to which I was referred.
I was told, no, I would have to call Tele-Health Province Name and here is the 1-866 number. Which I did, and for at least ten minutes explained persistently to the person at the other end that no, I did not need a nurse, I had already seen a nurse, and I just needed the name and number of the clinic on the other side of town to where I could go to have an ECG. I am pretty sure she just got on the same Google I had earlier and seeing the lack of information started listing off all the hospital names within a 400 km radius of Chumpville.
I told the Tele-Health Province Name person that I did not have time to go to a hospital in another town, and I think I asked her if Chumpville was just a black hole without any proper health care services or even information about them! She asked me repeatedly if I wanted to speak with a nurse - probably to assess my mental state at this point - and finally I said, no, thanks for your time, I will just go back to Google it myself.
I went back to the Google, skipped over the number for Tele-Health Chumpville, and found a number for a cardiology clinic. Now I felt like I was getting somewhere! I spoke to a woman at that number, and she directed me to yet another clinic where they definately had the facilities to perform an ECG. So I went there after dropping Bean off at daycare, and with my requisition in hand entered the clinic, went to the wrong waiting room, and was re-directed down the hall to another waiting room, where I swear there were one hundred people sitting, and standing, waiting for their turns.
They told me to take a number.
Instead I returned to the first waiting room I entered, which had one person waiting, and begged the woman behind the desk to tell me where there was another clinic in Chumpville where I could have my poor stressed heart checked. She made a quick phone call, came out from behind her desk, pointed past the million-person lab and told me to leave the building, walk up the hill - slowly! - and go to the clinic up the hill. In THAT building was another lab that could perform an ECG and might not have as many people waiting.
And she was correct. There were less people waiting. There were even extra seats! I was out of there in less than an hour, and back in the first waiting room, thanking the woman for her extra assistance.
I do not think this all happened because people do not care, but because the system is overwhelmed and people are over-worked. However I do think there could be a better chain of command to communicate what services are available in this small city of seventy to eighty thousand people! I think there are a lot of services for seniors and special needs peoples which is great, but "normal" people like me tend to get lost in the system. I had to cringe when I thought about someone in lesser health than myself trying to get access to the same service without the correct information to get there. If I were elderly or in a wheelchair, I do not know what I would have done today. Hopefully the elderly or the disabled are assisted better than that!
Dear Tele-Health Chumpville: hire a student for the summer to compile all the health care services in this crazy town. You could have saved me two hours of trouble today!