Medical care: there has to be a better way

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Pontiac Perspective  Peter J. Gauthier


Pontiac Perspective  Peter J. Gauthier

Anyone who has used the medical services of the Pontiac Community Hospital will appreciate the friendly, caring attitude of the entire staff.  But the hospital is a (relatively) smaller institution and cannot offer all of the modern specialists needed to provide full treatment for every aliment and unique medical procedure. Fortunately our physicians have access to the full health resources of the province and beyond and occasionally a patient will be referred to a
medical specialist at some larger or more specialized facility. For residents
in the Pontiac area, this means Gatineau, Montreal, Longueuil, Quebec City or some other location, which can cause several problems.
Most often, the patient will have to arrange for transportation if certain procedures require the patient not travel alone. There are two main options here: TransporAction or private arrangements. Visits are scheduled according to the facility’s standards and resource availability.  However, for those who have to travel, these visits may impose a considerable burden, especially when several trips are required. Some examples I experienced will illustrate the problem.
I recently had to undergo an operation which couldn’t be done in Shawville. The required operation could be done at the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal (MUHC) – a distance of approximately 325 km. Allowing for
a meal stop, this is a 4.5 hour trip one way.
The first appointment was for 3 pm, but because of seemingly inevitable delays and schedule adjustments at the Centre, I did not get to see the physician until
4 pm. The appointment was completed at 4:15 pm, which put us in the middle of the Montreal evening traffic for our return trip. We finally arrived home at 9:30 pm – an 11 hour journey for a 15 minute consultation.
The second appointment was for a few tests and a short pre-op session. MUHC scheduled these to start at 7:30 am. To avoid Montreal morning traffic and to have time for a breakfast, this meant leaving Shawville at 2:30 am! The morning at MUHC was spent with a scan, blood test and short pre-op session;
altogether this took about 45 minutes. However, due to line-ups, waits and MUHC schedules, it was 1:30 pm when I was able to start back. On the way home, we hit an Ottawa evening traffic jam and arrived in Shawville at 6:00 pm for a total trip time of 16.5 hours. Since the tests and consultations were something that could have been done in Shawville, was this an efficient procedure?
The next event was the operation itself. I stayed in Montreal overnight and taxied to the hospital for 7:30 am. I was scheduled for a follow-up one month later at 7:30 am, which meant leaving Shawville at 2:30 am. This time I was met with a problem. Somehow, there was an error in the schedule; there was no follow up and the trip was a total waste of time.
The above history of one encounter with medical services beyond the local community is typical and illustrates several important health care issues. The people involved (doctors, nurses, technicians and receptionists) always perform with the highest level of competence and concern for the patient, but when logistics and scheduling are concerned, there are significant issues.
Following are some suggested improvements: First, most tests, scans, etc. needed for a proper medical diagnosis can be done locally. Modern computerised records make the results available to the physician or other specialist immediately and securely. There is no difference in the quality of results and availability, so there is little purpose in travelling to the physician’s site just for tests. Also, consultations and interviews can be done easily and cheaply using video conferencing. And finally, is it possible to use services in another province? Why should one travel to Montreal or Quebec City if the needed services are available in Ottawa? I realize medical care is a major financial issue in the provincial budget. The above proposals could help address the financial issues as well as make visitations easier for patients.