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The Montreal healthcare system is ripe with issues

by k_mancini March 21, 2017
The Montreal healthcare system is ripe with issues

Scheduling conflicts and staffing issues are only some of the problems patients experience

On Feb. 18, my 87-year-old grandmother slipped on ice outside her apartment, breaking her right elbow. I wish I could say that’s where the problems stopped. After the fall, my grandma was rushed to the Montreal General Hospital. It’s unfortunate the Lakeshore Hospital was backlogged—it would have been a much shorter ambulance ride for her.

Photo courtesy of Kristopher Mancini

Once my grandma arrived at the Montreal General, she was placed in the ICU and had some X-rays done. Two days later, she was sent home with a temporary cast that looked like it was made out of a half-roll of toilet paper and a few bobby pins. What she didn’t know was that it would take over a week to have surgery, which was imperative because her elbow joint was broken and she had multiple fractures in her arm.

The surgery was scheduled at the Montreal General for Feb. 22. My grandma and my aunt headed down there only to find out, eight hours later, that there had been a mistake with the scheduling—no doctors were available to do the surgery. A whole day spent in a waiting room with a broken elbow, and a scheduling error pops up? Not a problem—my grandma will just have to sit in her apartment in pain and wait until her surgery can be rescheduled.

According to an article in the Montreal Gazette in June 2016, 232 Montreal cancer patients had been waiting at least two months for surgery as of May 28. It’s clear I am not the only one experiencing issues with the Quebec healthcare system.

My grandmother was eventually scheduled to have her surgery eight days after the fall, on Feb. 26. After the surgery, she was sent home with my aunt who would look after for the next few weeks. The hospital arranged to have a CLSC nurse sent to her house for physiotherapy until her injury healed. Yet, a nurse never came because the hospital was backlogged, and nurses were scarce or none. There are private nurses you can hire for an average fee of $120 per hour, and that’s what my grandma did.

But $120 per hour for one hour, twice a week for two weeks is a lot of money when all you have is one pension. After racking up a bill of $500, my grandma couldn’t afford it anymore. She arranged for free physio at the hospital once a week.

Now, I could write a long list of things that are wrong in the healthcare system in Quebec, but if you live here, you probably already know that. Heck, if you’re reading this right now, I’m sure you’ve had an unpleasant experience with the system at some time in your life.

If you Google “Montreal healthcare system,” you can see for yourself how many negative articles come up regarding surgery delays and staff shortages. Now mid-March, my grandma has just begun her physiotherapy treatment at the Lakeshore Hospital. She has finally been treated by a nurse.

According to an article in the Montreal Gazette, “poor hospital organization is part of the problem, but so is a lack of flexibility on the part of doctors. While 90 per cent of hospitals can easily add nursing staff to cope with overflows, 75 per cent are unable to adjust doctor schedules on short notice.” It seems that scheduling conflicts and short hospital staff is a problem. One solution would be to create a long-term plan for the scheduling of more Quebec doctors into hospitals.

Based on the personal experience of my grandmother’s recent accident, scheduling at the Montreal General Hospital seems to be disorganized. If you ever have an accident and need emergency attention, I recommend you try to plan out the accident ahead of time.

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