Right in the centre - If only the bosses would listen!


By Ken Waddell

Neepawa Banner & Press

Unfortunately my wife and I have been hospitalized many times in the past five years. With stays in four Manitoba hospitals and three U.S ones, we have a wide range of experience. It has been mostly good experience and we received good care. We have met and interacted with dozens of medical staff and for the most part, the care has been very good. There are hundreds of extremely dedicated staff and quite frankly, I can’t believe how they do all that they do. I dedicate this column to them in the faint hope someone, somewhere will listen to these suggestions to help us all along the road to better, faster health care.

There are two big differences between Canadian and U.S. hospitals. In the U.S. there is almost no waiting, almost none. In Canada, you can wait many hours for care even in an Emergency Room (ER). You can wait for months for surgery, even fairly urgent surgery.

In Canada, a lot of health care is taxpayer funded but in the US you better have health insurance. I was two hours in a ER in Kentucky, an hour in an ER in Missouri and five days, including an ambulance trip in Kansas City. My insurance company is on the hook for around $60,000 for those three episodes.

We have observed a number of things that could be improved in Canada and it could even save money.  Did you know that it’s not uncommon to wait three days for an ambulance to do an inter-facility non-emergency transfer? That doesn’t make a lot of sense as hospital staff spend a lot of time during those three days to get their transfer patient into the waiting list and if the transfers were quicker, the patient could be treated days earlier. The system needs more EMTs and more ambulances.

The capacity of Catscans and MRIs are always backlogged at Brandon hospital but they’re  now getting some done on weekends but those machines don’t get tired, they could run 24-7. More staff are needed.

Cleanliness is hospitals is essential. Neepawa is pretty clean, so is Brandon. The US ones I saw seemed pretty good. St. Boniface was not very clean. In the evaluation form I politely pointed out that it wasn’t very clean and although they assure you they will respond to your on-line evaluation, they never did.

Across all hospitals, the food wasn’t great but it wasn’t bad. Every hospital we have been in, the convalescent menu was pretty devastating. I learned as a child from my mother that when you are sick you start back onto food intake slowly and carefully. Apparently today’s hospitals either don’t believe in that or feel they know better than my mom. When we were sick, we were served boiled raw milk just to be safe that no bacteria got fed back into us. We were served bread soaked in milk with a little brown sugar. Then we got a soft boiled egg mixed with chopped up white bread. We would move on to mashed potatoes and maybe some vegetables.

Today’s hospitals offer you water and if that works then clear fluids which usually means tea, coffee, juice and jello. So far so good. But the next meals can be full breakfast, lunch and supper. Our personal experience to this too early full menu feeding has ranged from violent nausea to a bowel condition called Ileus. The early onset heavy food caused me a very scary second week in hospital about four years ago. It was scary.

And lastly, all problems in health care could be at least somewhat alleviated if the administration, political parties and Manitoba Health would just listen to the workers. I know prominent doctors who haven’t even been asked how to improve health care. If  they won’t take time to listen to doctors, what hope have the nurses, aides, dietary and maintenance people got.

Administration, political parties and Manitoba Health are missing out on the opportunity of a lifetime by neglecting to listen to the front line workers. 

I haven’t decided yet if that neglect is arrogance or stupidity but there aren’t many other choices.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this column are the writer’s personal views and are not to be taken as being the view of the Banner & Press staff.