A few years back, we were in Thailand. Sal fainted (40 degrees C) and slumped like a swooning Southern Belle to the floor of the lobby of our hotel. Before she had even hit the prone position there were thee female staff members attending to her every want (which wasn’t much as she was unconscious – but it is the thought that counts). I rushed across the lobby to attend but the lovely little Thai women were doing a fine job so I turned to call an ambulance. “Ambulance on it’s way, sir.” Staff had already handled that, too.
Five minutes later we were expertly whisked off in an immaculate ambulance and greeted at the door of the hospital by the senior gastroenterologist. No forms. No waits. No bureaucracy. Just immediate service. Sal was poked, prodded, de-blooded by a few cc’s and scanned and rayed where appropriate. Total elapsed time: half an hour. As they trundled her upstairs to what was a better room than provided by our hotel, I filled out some paperwork. Maybe five minutes.
From fainting to luxurious floor five complete with several full-time-attendance nurses (really cute ones. High heels, little caps and broad smiles….I almost checked in myself!) maybe took us one hour. Probably less.
The hospital was immaculately clean. The service stupendous. The treatment effective and quick and the experience of being ‘looked after properly’ was way beyond our expectations. They even gave Sal a room with a small kitchenette and a spare bed for me should I wish to sleep over.
We left the next day. Sal was fine. They charged me the equivalent of not-quite $300.00 everything included.
Yesterday around 2:00 pm Sal cut her finger. It was deep. She wanted stitches. She went to Richmond General. I was in the Valley looking at equipment and so I came as soon as I could – about an hour and a half later. Sal greeted me at the door, “You do not want to go in there! They said that I would have to wait another 3.5 hours and it is a horror show in there. People throwing up and bleeding and still not getting looked at. The disease and crowding alone is enough to make healthy people sick and, knowing you, you will go nuts. Don’t go in.”
“So, do I go or do I stay? And what about your finger?”
“I don’t want to stay either. I have been waiting in the rain outside for most of the time. Can’t go in there! Let’s go to that grocery store where there is a walk-in clinic. I know we drive for another hour but I am three hours more here at the very least .”
So we went to North Van. Walk-in closed. So we found another. Small store front. No chairs. Couldn’t get in. Packed. Maybe twelve people spilling out the door. Lots of hacking and wheezing. They wouldn’t ‘do’ stitches anyway. Not cost effective. Prescription writing is more profitable, you see. So, we left. Went to another. Sal was the 2nd one in when they opened at 5:30. By 5:45 the place was teeming. We got home just after 7:00.
Our politicians tell us we have the best health care system in the world. It is a lie. Our Health Care professionals warn us that 3rd world health care systems are expensive and dangerous. But I’ve been to a lot of them (from Thailand to Mexico, from El Salvador to Guatemala and some of the Caribbean Islands) and that is a lie, too. Third world is better.
Had we been home, I would have sutured Sal’s finger myself. If she balked (she might) we would have gone into Campbell River and it would have been 1000% better. Our Emergency doctors in CR are ex-South Africans and they KNOW sutures as well as anyone.
My point: This is not the best health care system in the world. Worse, the professionals are NOT professional or, at the very least, they are not as caring, effective, fast and courteous as the Thais, the Mexicans or even The Bahamians. When you see a dozen people on the North Shore standing cramped and injured in a store-front clinic, there is no doubt about it. And should you, God help you, find yourself in an Emergency ward in a big urban hospital you can be assured that you are bathing in germs and one of the most popular is the drug resistant kind. You may walk out with your finger stitched but you’ll be sporting a disease that will never go away.
You think we are off the grid now? Wait until I put together a bigger and more comprehensive first aid kit that rivals that of a walk-in clinic in Thailand!
Let the appendectomies begin!