February 17, 2004

Proto-Inkslinger #2

Insights from the West Side
Written from Stephenville, NL
Appeared in Carbonear Compass on February 17, 2004.

It’s hard to believe a year’s gone by already.

In the early morning hours of February 15, one year ago, I slipped on the ice outside the 104 dance bar in Stephenville, breaking my arm. I suffered a rather painful night, because of the lack of medical staff on duty at Sir Thomas Roddick Hospital that night. There was no one there to put a simple splint on my arm.

I was forced to lie still on my bed in the College of the North Atlantic residence for about 11 hours. Any little move I made sent burning pain through my broken arm. I described it in a letter to the editor of The Telegram as a “hellish night,” which it was. I finally went through more hours of waiting at the hospital the next day, and after some necessary manhandling by the X-ray technician, so he could get some pictures of my snapped bones, I was finally shipped off to surgery in Corner Brook, which was far, far better.

The irony of all this was, I broke my humerus bone, otherwise known as the “funny” bone. I wasn’t exactly amused. I now have a metal plate and pins in there, and a huge scar on my bicep that will forever remind me to wear boots when walking around outside in the winter (which I have been doing since the snow started falling).

Sir Thomas Roddick Hospital has since shut down the dilapidated building that was used since the war and relocated to a new ultra-modern building that claims to have better service. From what I’ve been hearing, there have been no real improvements.

The new building is beautiful, as I once paid the place a brief visit when I was managing editor of the Troubador last fall, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I said in a September letter to The Georgian’s editor that I was observing, and yes, I still am. My anger has cooled since then. It makes a great story to tell from time to time.

I do realize that the bad treatment I got last winter may not be the sole fault of the nurses and doctors. I’m sure they’re really not bad people. That was just a very stressful time for me.

It’s the overall Canadian health system that needs an injection, which may have arrived – sort of. On January 30, Prime Minister Paul Martin announced two billion dollars for health care funding for all the provinces, when he met with Canada’s premiers for the first time since he was sworn in as Prime Minister.

My question is . . . what will this temporary funding boost do for Newfoundland and Labrador?

Probably very little. The money is a one-shot deal. In the overall picture of things, two billion dollars would possibly buy a few MRIs or CT scanners, but there wouldn’t be enough money left to maintain them. It’s not enough to maintain hospital infrastructure. It’s not enough to hire on more doctors and nurses, and keep them with proper salaries. If the money was incorporated into the yearly budget, then maybe it would work.

What is the ultimate solution for the health care problems plaguing the province and the rest of Canada?

It is actually a myth that Canada has the best health care in the world. In reality, it is not even close. According to the World Health Organization, it actually ranks 30th place. In comparison, the United States ranks 38th place.

To solve the health care problem is a big job. Former Saskatchewan premier, Roy Romanow put together a task force under former Prime Minister Jean Chr├ętien’s request in 2001 and crafted that famous document: The Romanow Report, which dealt with making sweeping changes to Canadian medicare. His changes included strong leadership, a system that’s more responsive and efficient and accountable to Canadians and making strategic investments for the short-term and the long-term. That sounds perfect – on paper. But can it actually be implemented?

I don’t claim to be an expert on the problems with the health care system – I know very little, actually. I’ve been pursuing the issue since the incident at the hospital last year. I covered the health beat last semester and quickly realized that it’s a big topic, and I’m just scratching the surface.

Oh yes… nearly forgot. My grandmother’s birthday was also this past Sunday. So, I’m taking this opportunity to wish my grandmother, Joyce Hutchings of Whitbourne, a very happy birthday.

My email address is hutchings_ian@excite.com, for anyone who wants to send me feedback or suggestions.

See you in two weeks.