We’re in Kamloops, British Columbia on a sunny Tuesday afternoon.
After a six-hour car ride, my friends and I unpack our bikes and hit the
trails. Within a couple hours, my buddy Mathieu has broken his collar
bone. It’s an unfortunate accident, but part of the risk in mountain
biking. The broken collar bone isn’t the issue, however. The human body
is a magnificent thing; the break will heal itself in time. The issue
I’d like to address is our visit to the hospital.
The first thing I noticed was the waiting line. “Equality” takes a
back-seat in a building with finite resources and unlimited time. Like
most emergency rooms in Canada, this Kamloops hospital operates on a
first-come-first-serve basis. So while my buddy Mathieu stood in
agonizing pain, we watched the only nurse on duty treat a little boy for
God knows what. It certainly wasn’t a broken bone.
The second thing I noticed was the Soviet-style sign posted right by
the nurse’s examining room. I wish I had taken a picture of it. In big
red letters it informed us that a) we must wait until it is our turn and
the nurse calls us in, b) have our papers ready and c) abusive language
or behaviour toward staff is not tolerated. We both found that last one
pretty funny. Mathieu and I both work in retail, a place where the
world stops and individual customers become the centre of the universe.
If I had a nickel for every time a customer was rude to me, I wouldn’t
have to work in retail. But that’s the nature of the business. We bend
over backwards for customers and put a smile on our faces because their
purchases make our paychecks. Evidently, this process is reversed in the
“public sector.” It’s not enough to be forced into paying for this
scheme, one must also submit to the arbitrary hierarchy of rules and
regulations. There is no opting out.
Just as Mathieu was up next, the nurse disappeared leaving him
standing in the waiting line with a broken collar bone. You’d think
she’d offer him a seat before taking a break. Nevertheless, once Mathieu
was sitting down I thought I’d witness some actual service. This must
be where the bureaucracy vanishes and the nurse becomes human. Nope.
Mathieu explained what happened and instead of examining his injury, as I
was positive she would do, the nurse pulled out paperwork and started
writing. Meanwhile, I pointed out that the private veterinary clinic
across the street could have gotten the x-ray within minutes instead of
Now this isn’t the worst story in the world. I’ve read other accounts
of Canada’s health-care system that downright piss me off. But it’s the
principle that counts. Mathieu’s “free” visit to the hospital did not
come without its costs.