Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Kamloops Hospital

Also available at

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 hours.
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.

No comments:

Post a Comment