Everyone becomes a little bit socialist in a Canadian hospital emergency ward. I don’t know of a single incident of someone spending time in The Emerge who said “please let me pay for this” at the end of it. Those that have the means generally don’t settle for regular care but if a Lamborghini has collided with a Corolla and everyone is bloodied and unconscious, they all end up in the closest ER regardless. That is the key concept of our universal system; we are hopefully all given the same degree of quality care and you will not be billed whether you are of the one percent or homeless. There is usually a fee for the ambulance and a shake down to pay for parking but the service itself is mostly free, for now. If you want to keep it that way, you will need to fight for it at every turn or it will disappear. Illness is a guaranteed revenue stream and there are plenty of people out there that do not care where their wealth comes from, even if it is due to your misfortune. Such is the free market. The fact our universal system exists at all is a miracle.
My most recent visit to the emergency in a caregiver capacity was hellish but it wasn’t due to the staff in any way, it was the lack of them. I’ve never been in there on a full moon, which healthcare workers will tell you always makes for a wild time. Militarized police and security seemed to outnumber the workers on this particular night. Every other patient near us was in the midst of a mental health crisis and it looked as if security was tending to all of them until the police eventually came. Noticing me slouching in an old crappy chair, the head of security asked me if I wanted a warm blanket. She also asked how the patient was doing and that they would be with us shortly. I thought it odd, seeing as it’s not her job to do any of these things. A gap is being filled by default with the blurring of a well established line. Should a not much above minimum wage kid with minimal if any medical training be looking after a woman in a full emotional meltdown? Should four police who look like soldiers be the ones taking her to the Homewood across the street? Why do they seem surprised she is completely freaking out in their presence? Could she get shot? It’s happened before, metres from where I’m sitting and we’ve never officially found out what went down.
After several hours I was handed a plastic urinal and asked by a doctor to get a sample from the patient. I’m about as qualified as the average security guard when it comes to proper medical things, which is not at all. It didn’t go well. We were out in the hall in full view and the patient is old school and modest. After a bunch of grumbling from the patient I blurted out loud “sorry Chief, Im not a health care professional” which made two of them appear as if by magic. It wasn’t an intentional ploy. I speak the language though and my respect for them is deeper than they will ever know. I’m the actual socialist in the emergency ward. I want the urine samplers to be on a long Sunshine List stacked with front line workers. If our piss, blood, caca and puke is part of your day to day every day, they will never pay you enough. I love you all.
As much as I loathed the Harris Tories, their Sunshine List is a wonderful invention. When a report comes out such as the one this week that 250 nurses across the province are being laid off, the Public Sector Salary Disclosure becomes my point of reference. There are plenty of people on the list that deserve to be there. When I see a registered nurse, psychologist or pharmacist listed, I’m fine with that. Remuneration aside however, there seems to be an endless glut of directors and managers with no indication given as to what they actually do. Just what exactly is a Value Stream Leader and why does the Brant Community Healthcare System have 23 of them? What is a Total Rewards Manager? Does the Vice President of “People” at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario actually introduce himself using that ridiculous title? If I embrace my inner journalist and actively dig for answers, I’ll get the runaround. I saw a lot of well dressed folk with official ID badges swanning around while I knocked back antacids, hoping my tricky stomach was beat up due to stress rather than another round of the gastric thing I caught the last time that sidelined my caregiving duties for a week. I know full well what the doctors, nurses, blood technicians and cleaners are doing. I empathize with the worker who will promptly arrive with a mop if I barf on the Total Reward Manager’s shoes in the lift. Is it out of place within a socialized system to wonder out loud why there are countless administrators but the nurses who are in the trenches get let go in the name of cost effectiveness?
Guelph has managed to remain a small enough locale that you will run into people that you know, or at least recognize, everywhere you go. The nurse up in the recovery ward was one of them this time. I’ve seen Paul walking down my street regularly but I didn’t actually meet him properly until I saw him on the job. We had a long wait trying to check out of the place, which seems to be where the Premier would really like patients to be if her prodigious use of the word “community” is anything to go by lately. It was a stake out of sorts; I wasn’t leaving without the patient and it took the whole day. If I’d have left him alone, they would have kept him another night. Paul was amazing, popping in regularly to check on this and that – he even walked us to the car to make sure all was well the whole time, never missing a beat in the collective mayhem. If Paul is part of the latest cutbacks, I will personally spend every available minute dedicated to the health care battle and endlessly harp at the government for accountability. I don’t really have any free minutes though, I’m too busy being a caregiver in the community due to the ebb and flow of People assets, thanks to the reimagined architecture of the staffing model paradigm blah biddy blah blah. Take me to your Value Stream Leader, Ive got an important message for them.