(Me waiting at the General Hospital wrapped up in a blanket)
My case could have been an easy one were it a simple bout of discomfort, but, unfortunately, a major attack in May showed that I had a gallbladder full of sand with an imminent risk of complications. As such, my amazing surgeon, tried to fix a date for my surgery in the two months prior to my departure for Greece in July but to no avail. She warned me that if I had another attack during my three-month absence, I would have to undergo the procedure in Greece.
Luckily, although my summer was replete with discomfort and crises of indigestion, the episodes were not so severe as to require emergency surgery.
My doctor’s secretary contacted us in early September and, after much discussion, I was finally given an appointment for my cholecystectomy for November 1st, a full five months after my initial gallbladder attack.
Unfortunately, the secretary called again, on the day before my surgery, to tell me that the procedure had been postponed to November 12th. I objected, explaining that the discomfort in my abdomen had become unbearable with severe episodes of indigestion and pain, not to mention the ever-present danger of me developing pancreatitis.
So, there I was, at 7:30a.m., that Thursday, November 1st, at the Montreal General. And there I waited. As the hours passed, the staff would come to inform me, every now and again, that:
1. my doctor's team had been rushed into cranial surgery;
2. the Montreal General Hospital is a first response trauma centre and, as such, planned operations are often postponed;
3. that after two emergency procedures for surgeon, my turn would come.
Patiently, and without a frenzy, I waited and waited, constantly being told that my surgery would take place. The time had reached 5:00p.m. and, knowing that “planned” surgeries ended at 2.30, I began to worry whether I would ever survive the system, given that my doctor had told me about the danger of any further delay.
In the end, as a result of my physician’s insistence, the surgery was finally performed at 6p.m., a full 9 hours late. Thanks to her professionalism, she managed to overcome a dysfunctional system that could have ended in tragedy.
There, in the anteroom, waiting for a surgery that was constantly in doubt, I realized that the country in which I have lived over the past 30 years, and especially the province of Quebec, has allowed its health system to deteriorate dangerously. I was told that the cutbacks made by Prime Minister Philip Couillard's outgoing government were devastating the operations of the MUHC, with others noting that orders had been given to refrain from administering all but urgently needed medical tests to the elderly in order to save 150 million dollars.https://montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/quebec-orders-hospitals-to-cut-150-million-in-direct-care-to-patients
The cuts were deep, I was told, as well, at the new Mega Hospital that houses the former Royal Victoria Hospital, the Children's Hospital and the General Hospital of Montreal. Nurses are in short supply and underpaid, making for much, long overtime and forcing them to leave the service prematurely.
The Children's Hospital emergency ward is forced to operate with a single pediatrician through its overnight hours. Parents are desperate, dealing with a system that puts their children's lives at risk. The First Aid Clinic at the brand new Glen functions with a minimal medical and hospital staff, forcing people to wait for endless hours to cope with urgent medical problems.
Personally, I was hit by the cuts. In pre-operative testing, the attending physician decided against doing a blood test on the basis of other good blood tests I had undergone in October of 2017, risking, of course, any possible consequences. At the same time, I experienced the cuts at the Montreal General Hospital where I saw many planned surgeries being postponed. In order to procede, my doctor was forced to treat me as a high danger incident since I had been waiting for months with the attacks increasing in their persistence.
According to medical specialist, who, although reluctant, eventually left the MUHC to work in the US, “the staff follow the rules, they can not perform surgery without the necessary personnel, without an anesthesiologist. Unfortunately, McGill has limited the number of doctors who can work full shifts in its clinics and in surgery. Τhe Staff follow the Rules, they can not just open another operating room without proper staffing.”
He goes on explaining : “this was probably a result of a lack of anesthesiologist availability as the government limits the number of full-time staff McGill can employ as a way of controlling the number of procedures being performed.”
Furthermore, other sources noted: "when the majority of the resources are used to pay the medical specialists and the wages of its nurses are frozen, the hospital system is in a stalemate. We pay taxes to fund a medical system that does not reward patients properly."
The medical network of Quebec and Canada is, unfortunately, often reminiscent of what one would expect to find in the third world. People wait endlessly for appointments with specialists, procedures are not performed because there is no staff and surgeons scramble unsuccessfully to find nurses and anesthesiologists that are unavailable.
It is a system that is severely ill and in urgent need of surgery to repair its political and functional deficiencies!
PS. I would like to ask my readers to share their stories with the medical system long waits so se can show the governments where they stand re the medical system...