The thing is, you see, blood thinners
prevent blood from clotting.
That’s their job.
They do it well.
Great for preventing strokes.
Not so great for stopping
bleeding you don’t want.
Rush to the ER and wait
while the hour hand inches
around the clock face –
two bloody hospital gowns
and two kidney bowls worth –
for someone to come and
stop the bleeding.
Stagger away at last,
home to the waiting bed
to sleep off the memory.
I’m not squeamish about blood; I’ve seen plenty of it in my day. However, when you’re watching someone you love bleeding in the middle of the night and there’s nothing you can do to stop it, you can get a little frantic.
You’ve called the 24/7 nursing advice line and exhausted their recommendations without any discernible result, so they finally tell you to go to your nearest emergency room.
There are plenty of nurses available in the ER, but they can do nothing more than has already been done. The lone doctor covering the entire ER at this hour is in the washroom throwing up, sick himself. He won’t be seeing anyone.
You have a two-hour wait until the next physician comes on duty–which doesn’t mean that’s when you’ll get to see him, because you’re not the only one waiting for him, not by a long shot.
Back in June, our local newspaper informed us, “No more hours-long waits to see a doctor in London emergency rooms. That’s a key promise in a bold plan unveiled by hospital officials who say they’ll cut to no more than 30 minutes how long it takes to be seen by an ER doctor. That’s a tall order for emergency rooms whose waits in recent years have been among Ontario’s longest.”
A tall order indeed. In our case, we were seen by the triage nurse within minutes of arriving at the hospital. Much to our surprise, we were shown directly to our cubicle after the triage.
However, there the process ground to a complete halt.
There we waited hour after hour for a doctor to come and perform the procedure that stops the bleeding, while bright red blood slowly filled towels and bowls and splashed over hospital gowns.
Repair in this case is not a complex operation. It involves applying silver nitrate to the tear in the vein–and then, if necessary, packing the area with gauze. But the patient bled for four hours before this simple procedure could take place.
I realize that a couple of cups of blood are easy for the body to replace. After all, we lose about a pint of blood when we donate at a blood drive. The mind tells you this.
But the mind also wonders what would have happened if it had been two litres of blood instead. There’s still no backup physician on board at this hour of the night to cover while the poor soul on duty has his head in the toilet.
The plain truth is that in a situation like this, I’m forced to rely on a system that has long since lost my trust.
Too many people in this province are unable to get appointments with their family doctors on short notice. As a result, too many go to ERs even though they don’t really require emergency treatment. Far too many patients fall through the cracks when multiple specialists and other health-care providers are involved in their care.
And why is there only one doctor providing nighttime ER coverage in a major metropolitan hospital?
According to the World Health Organization’s ranking of the world’s health systems, when it comes to keeping their citizens healthy, the top five countries are France, Italy, San Marino, Andorra, and Malta. Canada ranks 30th; the US, 37th.
Yet here in Ontario last year, our provincial government apparently spent $51 billion (42 percent of its entire budget) on health care. It seems clear to me that we taxpayers should be getting much more value for our hard-earned money.
So why aren’t we?