Sunday, January 25, 2009


On Friday at 4 PM I walked into an Operating Room at UBC Hospital.

I was wearing the complete surgery fashion statement: long, green socks, paper shoes and hat, and two cotton nightgowns. No underwear.

Gorgeous, I know.

A few minutes later, one of the anaesthesiologists said, "O.K. Mr. Berner. We're going to add a little something to your I.V. to get you relaxed."

Of course, the next hour and a half is a complete wipe. Gone.

I had arrived at 1 PM for a scheduled 3 o'clock hernia operation.

I brought one of the current books I am reading, Ford Maddox Ford's "The Good Soldier." Wonderful book. Too bad I left my 3 pairs of glasses at home. So I snoozed and cell phoned in the waiting room.

The procedure was delayed by about an hour. That was the only hitch in an otherwise beautifully orchestrated event.

Every single person I met - and there were easily 8 or 10 - was warm and friendly and professional and re-assuring.

It can't be great fun to deal with fearful anxious goofs like me day in and day out, but bless these folks, for deal is exactly what they do and with wonderful grace and charm.

I was stirred to wake up by a lovely nurse at about 5:45. I had no idea where I was. Total disorientation. Followed, of course, by dizziness, minor panic and a terribly sore throat. Thankfully, they don't tell you about the breathing tube.

Soon the room stopped spinning.The nurse helped me get dressed. All my clothes and cash and personal goodies were there.

And, lo and behold, so was my son. Standing right there just like we planned!

Sean drove me home. We sat with a friend and had a bite to eat, Sean went off to work and my friend and I watched some Australian Open tennis and we retired about 11.

I took one Tylenol 3 before I went to bed and another one at 5:30 AM and basically slept like a baby. Wonderful.

My tummy is sore, and it looks ridiculous covered in red paint and with three distinct little entry wounds. But miracle upon miracle, I am not doing too badly at all. Here I am writing this report.

The Moral of the Story.

Oh, how we complain - myself at the top of the mob - about the iniquities in our national health care system. And yes, much still can be done and aught to be done to make it even more accessible, even more financially efficient and accountable.

BUT, having said all that...

99 times out of a hundred, when we need the system, it responds so amazingly well we must thank the gods for those men and women who have had the foresight to enact the legislation and the intricate webs of administration that keeps this mad machine running.

And we must especially thank those receptionists and nurses and doctors who take such good care of us.

Four years ago, I experienced exactly the same level of magnificent care at VGH when I was sent in suddenly for an angioplasty.

For all that America is and has been a great country, the fact that it has managed to avoid this kind of essential service for all its citizens is a shame and a mystery.

We can take great pride in our health care here in Canada.

And we can continue vigilantly to make it even better.


Gavin said...

Any contacts I've had in the last few years with our beleaguered health care system, with a couple of of minor glitches, have been wonderful. From my family doctor, to the professionals that I encountered as a result of an angioplasty, prostate implants, and a couple of hernia operations.....all,Gavin and their associates have been the very best. Thanks to Canada and it's health care system.

American said...

I immigrated here from the USA a few years ago, and I have to say that Canada's healthcare system is superior to America's. When I lived in the US, I was self-employed and had to pay about $280 per month for the lowest-cost plan the company offered. Every visit to my general doctor required I hand over a $20 "co-payment," and to see a specialist I had to shell out $40 per office visit. Plus, I was limited to the doctors who were part of that particular company's insurance scheme.

In one particular month when I had to make a number of visits to a specialist, I ended up shelling out $360 in "co-pays" - this was on top of my $280 monthly payment. So, in one month I had to spend $640 to make 9 office visits to a specialist, some of the visits lasting less than 10 minutes. I am not a wealthy person, so, eventually I had to give up my health insurance because I just couldn't afford it.

Here in Canada, I pay around $60 per month and don't have to pay anything more when I visit a doctor or specialist. Plus, I have access to far more doctors than I did in the US with a health insurance plan. Yes, you may have to wait longer for elective surgeries here, but, that's a very small price to pay for universal healthcare coverage for all citizens and legal residents.

Now that I've had firsthand experience with the Canadian healthcare system, I can confirm that this ex-pat American is very impressed with it and thankful to have it. Canada puts the American healthcare system to shame.

Dave C. said...


Speedy recovery. Maybe a time out from grappling with heavy topics is in order (couldn't resist!).

We are indeed fortunate to have the health care system that we enjoy. Everyone who has had similar experiences (myself included) should stay vigilant and vocal when the privateers start beating their drums again.

By the way, in a recent comment on the BCTF/BC Govt./Fraser Institute tiff, I somewhat facetiously wondered if publishing ratings of family doctors might be next (revealing my Internet ignorance). Another respondent noted that such a rating system was in effect ( is only one as it turns out).

But here's what disturbs me. Since the websites are American the "hosts" are protected by US law from lawsuits over defamation. That would not bother me if it only applied to American citizens knowing their zealousness about "free speech", but this website also publishes ratings by Canadians on Canadian doctors. I don't know anything about Canadian defamation law, but it seems grossly unfair to allow Canadian patients to evaluate their doctors publicly, but the doctors themselves are prohibited from releasing any information about their patients under our privacy laws. Seems one-sided to me.


Anonymous said...

I concur, speedy recovery David. I also believe we must be vigilant re the privateers -- we may already be on a slippery slope. It serves this group well to have our current health care system appear to fail.

My friend's husband was admitted to VGH at the end of November in pretty bad shape. He ultimately had emergency surgery (an ileostomy) and after a few complications, was finally released from hospital last week. He received fantastic care and I wouldn't want to think about how much something like this would have cost my friend and her husband were they living in the U.S. We need to spread the word about how good we have it up here, or we may lose it.


Anonymous said...

While the system is not without its warts, there are some amazing people working in healthcare in this province. In particular, I'd add that we are truly blessed to have an institution like the BC Cancer Agency. In my personal experience as a patient, I was awed by the spirit, compassion and dedication shown by the nurses, doctors, dentists, technicians, dieticians, etc.

Tony Wade said...

I am a Vancouverite/Canadian now living in the UK.
Here we have the much maligned, NHS (National Health Service).
I have found the NHS to be Fantastic.
A couple of years ago I had an operation for a malignant melanoma (skin cancer) and through that, and further treatments, the surgeons and all other staff were professional, courteous and polite.

The NHS is free (taxpayer funded). No monthly or visit payments at all. Nothing, Nada, Zilch, F'all, Rien... for anything.
As I am over 60, even my drugs are free.

(Illegal immigration however is booming. The Brits also give away free money for not working, but that's another matter).

Hernia Schmernia. When I had mine done in 1969 I was back at work the same day... ;-)

JW said...

The "retired Paramedic" again . . . . this time on another subject.

Having raised a family of four and having had a few health challenges myself over the years, (including my own cardiac arrest in the middle of an ambulancce call many years ago) I can state, without fear of logical contradiction that the people who make up our health care system are second to none, hands down the best there is.

As somene who has delivered many a serious ill and dying patient to the ER's of all our Lower Mainland hospitals I know that when the
"s---t hits the fan there is no more knowledgeable people or better equipment anywhere in the world than those within our BC health care system.

It's so unfortunate that the politicians have to be involved in it. Their their un-informed, territorial and egotsitical psyches play much too big of a part in the organization.