Sitting at home recovering from day surgery at an Ottawa medical facility I have had the time to reflect on a few things.
The first is that hospitals are scary places. We have all heard the stories of the exposure to all kinds of illnesses that can result from a visit. Indeed, the day I went in the front page of the Ottawa Citizen featured this story ! I didn’t even want to go through the front door!
Then there is what hospitals can do to your self esteem. As you look around all you see are sick people… which, on further reflection, is quite normal. But it dawns on you that that is probably how you, too, look to all of them. “But I am not that sick” you say to yourself. “I take care of myself”. “I’m not here for anything serious”. But while you tell yourself that you don’t really belong with all the others, the doubt creeps in. “Maybe I am getting old and a bit past my prime”…”maybe I just don’t realize it yet”…
Privacy is another issue. Both here and in Jamaican hospitals I have seen, 0vercrowding and lack of budgets for facilities means that you are cheek by jowl with everyone else in the clinic. Lined up in cramped stretcher bays, separated only by curtains, everyone is required to be privy to the pre-op conversations between nurses, doctors and patients. Everyone had to hear about my hernia and I was also required to hear about the medical condition and personal concerns of every else; the young girls in for abortions; the sports star with a knee to repair; the old lady with soft teeth getting a total mouth extraction performed. Too much information to be sure! But in the end, we all gave each other a thumbs up as the next one was taken away to surgery.
I also had the chance to reflect on some of the differences between Canada and Jamaica. How fortunate we are in Canada. We have the money to not have to worry about reusing equipment. Jamaicans have had to find out the hard way the risks that entails as has recently come to light. We pay a huge cost for our good fortune in the form of taxes in Canada…but I have to say…when you need the health care system, you don’t mind a bit.
However, wait times for services are increasingly a significant issue in Canada. I know people here who are waiting for normal diagnostic imaging tests for weeks here in Canada. Indeed, my dog can get medical imaging faster in Canada than can I! In Jamaica, I remember being able to go to a private clinic and, at what I took to be a very reasonable sum, was able to get my results and have a consult with a doctor the very same day. This would not happen here and the only option is to be patient.
The final reflection is that despite the differences between different health systems (whether in Canada, Jamaica or elsewhere) they are held together by a common glue. Hard working, dedicated staff, many of whom, particularly nurses, are underpaid for the qualifications, experience and empathy they possess.
So as I sit around the house resting and healing (the human body really is quite resilient!) I raise a glass (just water… sadly) to those good people who looked after me. And to my wife who still does!