Friday, January 23, 2015

Canada's Health Care System: A personal story

Feeling confident (though still slightly apprehensive) before surgery for a total thyroidectomy on Monday Jan 26. This post is not about the 'why' and 'what for?' about my surgery. This is aimed at being a feel good story about the care and human elements in the health care delivery process in Canada!

Two months ago when the biopsy results came in, the surgeon’s office called me. The surgeon spent a good 30-minutes explaining to me the results, what they meant, the likely paths (with probabilities) that the cysts on my thyroid might take and my treatment options. This was indeed an illustrative talk with him drawing out the diagrams on his iPad! Given the odds and the prognosis I took his advice to go for a total thyroidectomy in one go, and was lucky to get a date within two months. (Alberta’s, like most of Canada, public health system is totally free for residents but is notorious for longish wait times for elective non-life threatening conditions!). 
A week before the surgery, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a call from the hospital (…/misericordia-community-hosp…) inviting me to attend a pre-surgical assessment clinic. During the more than 2 hour session I was seen by three different nurses and an anaesthetist, to assess my readiness, offer counselling and answer any questions that I may have. I was ushered into a regular examination room offered a seat at the table and a glass of water/coffee etc. After the routine physical check-up the 2nd nurse took an ECG and then the third nurse walked me through the entire process right from preparation at home and diet restrictions from the night before surgery, through to what the admission process will look like, time expected in the operating room followed by time in the recovery room, before I would be taken back to my room for an overnight stay. She concluded with the discharge and post-operative care that will normally be required. She told me that precise instructions for my condition would be given at time of discharge. This was not just her talking and my taking notes furiously. She told me to put away my note-pad and instead wrote the pertinent details in a pre-printed prepared booklet for me to carry back and not worry about missing some detail. By the end of her talk, my expectations were set and most of my routine questions – e.g.: what to wear, what to (and not to) eat and what to do with my glasses etc., were taken care of. Despite all the details that she provided, she assured me that on the day of surgery, the surgeon himself will be ready and willing to answer any further questions that I may have. The one thing that stuck with me long after the meeting was her mentioning not to get worried when I hear the surgical team talking at the time of surgery and asking me or each other what might look like routine questions. She assured me that this was because they are required to follow the WHO recommended ‘Safe Surgery Check List’ to ensure the best and safest possible outcome from the surgery. Part of this is to encourage me – and members of my family - to ask as many questions as I have and to keep talking to the surgical team. The time in the operating room is estimated at 1-hr & 40 minutes.

I was next seen by the Anaesthetist who put me completely at ease explaining how the General Anaesthesia will be administered, how the attending anaesthetist will be constantly monitoring me and how they will slowly revive me from deep slumber and ensure my condition is stable before moving me to the recovery room where another set of nurses will take over. She told me that I will probably need to be in the recovery room for an estimated 1-hour after which I will be moved to my room where I will be under observation overnight before being discharged the next day. The pre-assessment clinic then ended with a visit to the pathology lab within the hospital itself for getting a detailed blood analysis report. (More paper for my already thick binder!).
Sharing the story in some detail, as it made me realize the true meaning of what being a resident of a first world country meant. The medical profession at all levels is totally committed not just to treating me (admit – do procedure- discharge) but treating me like a human being all through the process, recognizing that (my family and) I would have emotional worries and taking the pains to address our concerns. And all this for an ordinary person. I am no VIP!

I recognize that while free at a transactional level, this is truly my tax dollars at work. But I would gladly pay any amount of tax so long as I have the assurance that those tax dollars will work for me, if and when I, or my family, need it. 

Blessed to be living (and paying taxes) in Canada!