Apr. 7, 2018

A classic example of dysfunction in our health care system

Island Health has been in the spotlight for some time, battling “the system”. You get the feeling the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing.

Speaking of the hand, here’s the tale of a friend of mine who broke her pinky finger on a Saturday. I swear, I didn’t make this up, or embellish even a tiny bit, it really happened.

She went to the emergency department at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital where she received seven stitches (yes, seven) and xrays. She was informed that the finger was broken and it would have to be set by hand, and that a specialist would be in touch to set up an appointment.

Great! That’s how one would expect the system to work, but the story did not end there. My friend did not hear from the specialist by Tuesday of the following week, so she contacted her family doctor. Well, they had no information on her injury and suggested that she call the NRGH emergency department who told her they no longer had the record, and to call her family doctor.

That would normally be called a runaround, but not in this case. She phoned her family doctor again and was told that they had the record but there was no doctor's name attached. She was then advised to call medical records department at the hospital who told her the doctor's last name. 

Great, right? Well not really, there are 13 doctors with that last name and they didn't know which one was the “hand” specialist. She was then connected to the “hand therapy clinic” and was told that doctor practises in Campbell River. They gave her his phone number, which she called.

You guessed it, she got an answering machine. She dutifully left a message and her phone number. By Wednesday she had not got a reply so she made another appointment with her family doctor and was assured they would follow up. Late Friday afternoon she was told the doctor in Campbell River was away till next Monday and they would be in touch on Monday to set up an appointment in Campbell River.

You have to admire her patience, but enough is enough, so her annoyed daughter took her back to the ER. The hand specialist on duty was in surgery at the time, thus not available to see her. Staff changed the dressing (remember seven stitches) and xrayed the finger again. They gave her the name and telephone number of a local hand specialist and informed her that she would hear from his office on Monday to set up an appointment to have her broken pinky set.

That’s where it sits on this developing saga, the book is not closed and the next chapter may unfold or Monday . . . or it may not. No wonder the staff have been complaining about how the system operates.

We’ll see what happens. In the mean time, I wonder if she’d like to watch some Abbott and Costello movies.

UPDATE - She now has an appointment at the hand clinic on Thursday afternoon.