Situation critical — one patient’s story

By Charles Adler, QMI Agency

Thursday, February 16, 2012 


The entire Canadian health care system is suffering from a terrible terminal disease. It’s trapped in an archaic mindset that reminds me more of bloodletting than modern medicine.

Spending is unsustainable and the inefficiencies are inexcusable. Provinces are wasting our money. Approximately half of all provincial spending pays for medical coverage that simply isn’t serving the needs of the Canadian people.

In fact, it’s failing us. We all know dramatic changes need to be made, yet politicians don’t have the stomach for it.

Most of us have experienced the frustration of those emergency room waits. Too many of us have gathered cobwebs waiting on lists. But when lives are put at risk by this medical mess, it’s way past time for some Canadian common sense.

Laurie Anderson is a 33-year-old mother of two young boys. Laurie’s been patiently waiting for years for the care she needs. And she’s fed up. She recently started a Facebook page titled: “This is what it is like to be a patient in Saskatchewan.”

You can read her story on my website.

Laurie has fallen through the huge, crumbling cracks in the system. And the valuable time wasted by the abysmal service she received has put her very life in jeopardy. Her story isn’t just a Saskatchewan story. It’s a Canadian story.

Laurie’s been treated for years for ailments she simply didn’t have. Not only was she misdiagnosed, she bled on waiting lists month after month to get even that misguided attention. A patient in purgatory, dying in line to see a specialist. A wait that included multiple trips to her local ER, only to be sent home with some Advil.

Taking her life into her own hands, she personally had to shop herself around to different doctors and hospitals, encountering service from staff more akin to jaded airline employees than those working in a modern hospital. As she begged for help, she was treated more like a number than a person.

After the long, agonizing wait came the real insult. A complete failure to diagnose the cancer that was growing inside her. A very curable kind of cancer if caught in time. She not only lost her ability to have more children, she may lose her life.

Her treatable cancer has now metastasized. Instead of a 90% survival rate, her life is now a 50-50 flip of a coin. The system failed Laurie, failing all of us in the process.

Do you think if Laurie had the option to pursue private care she would have received the same treatment?

Do you think the Mayo Clinic would have made her wait for years for care while giving her attitude?

Do you think they would have treated her like a burden if she showed up with a credit card?

We need a fundamental shift in attitude. As taxpayers we pay for the care we receive, but we aren’t treated like customers. As a result we’re not getting the care we deserve.

It’s time dithering politicians stopped worrying about their political capital. And it’s time many Canadians re-evaluate their irrational fear of a multi-tiered health care system. One that would fill those crumbling cracks and ease the burden on public care —before more patients fall into the abyss.

And that’s Canadian common sense.

Mike’s Letter on Bad Landlords

Hi Charles, 

Always enjoy your program while I'm driving and needing something good to chew on. 

I haven't had the time to check your archive so forgive me if this email is just full of ideas you've already been through. I'll try to keep it short. 

Recently my girlfriend and I moved back to Canada after having working abroad for 6 years. When we left Canada we lived in Toronto; Toronto is our home. So this is where we decided to land and get settled to start. We figured with a substantial amount of savings and our relatively mature personalities that finding a place to live in the city would be what it had always been; a reasonably formidable task but doable.

Instead it became quickly apparent that the prices in the rental market had jumped up quite a bit in 6 years. Ok, that was something we just had to come to terms with if we were going to find a place that even resembled where we had come from (which was in fact a VERY expensive place to live). 6 weeks of hunting produced only 3 apartments that we could even consider. We just were not willing to risk the bed-bug situation with apartments that were 'newly renovated' but had the all the previous tenants belongings dumped out on the yard for some reason. Some of them would lie and say a neighbor dumped it there. Others were honest that they had bedbugs but were not willing to negotiate, not that it mattered. 

Other apartments had cockroach infestations, signs of fire-damage, no appliances, security issues, insulation issues, noise issues and on and on… and mind you these were NOT places going for $800 a month. We're talking $1200 – $1400 a month plus hydro/parking etc. Our fear of bedbugs in particular was fueled by the fact that a good friend had her life ripped apart by them for half a year.

The place we decided upon seemed OK for a measly $1550 a month (that was sarcasm). But after only a week we realized we were sitting on a lemon. The houses around us are so close that the raccoons have nests between them and they fight over them because they are perfect for staying warm. Getting the landlord to deal with the raccoons has been very difficult and we've been spending our days figuring out ways to keep them away and not make noise at night. It's a battle to say the least, and in fact shouldn't be my job at all.  We asked if there had been pest problems in the apartment and of course we were told there were none. Ah, but alas, Pantry Moths. Almost impossible to get rid of with their 300 day life-cycle; there are worms hiding in every nook and cranny that you can and can't see. Our landlord assured us he would have a pest-control person come over and assess the situation but nothing yet 5 days later. And yes cute little mice, lovingly killed by our neighbor's rat poison and coming to rest in our refrigerator. It took me getting quite upset to get the landlord over and take the fridge out to deal with the rotting carcass that was stinking up the whole apartment. Ok, I could go on but let's just get to the point. 

You need a license to drive a car, go fishing, sell alcohol and get married. The person who designs the concrete sidewalk slabs we walk on has to be an engineer. The guy who sells you gum at the corner store must have a merchant's license. I have to get a credit check to open a bank account, buy a cell-phone or rent an apartment. When I'm brave enough to apply for an apartment I have to provide more personal information than if I'm giving blood that will be injected into another human. 

BUT, in order to be landlord all you need is to own some property. There are no standards or testing for being a landlord. Yes there is building code that 'should' be adhered to when the property is converted to a rental but there is no way of knowing if you are in the presence of an honest person or a scoundrel. You can speculate yes. In the case of a scoundrel, it doesn't seem to matter that people who move in are actually renting the place where they are going to LIVE; the place where they will clean themselves, prepare and eat their food, sleep at night (hopefully if the raccoons are on your side), be with their children and family.

The MO seems to end up being that as long as the rent check keeps clearing the deal is healthy. But this can be so far from the truth. When things go wrong this way it is so disheartening and destructive. The stress of finding a place, then the move itself, only to find out you're in a bad deal. And guess what, this bad deal you're in still costs what you agreed to pay when you thought it was a good deal. The Landlord Tenant act forbids you from withholding rent in lieu of service/actions promised in the lease but not provided for. So basically, it's buyer beware, seller have no care. 

I've often thought that landlords should have to fill out an application too. 

Shouldn't I know what the landlord's credit report says? What if I spend months of my time finding an apartment and the landlord loses the building? What of my time? Do I get my rent back? For that matter maybe include a medical exam so that I know he's up to the job physically and mentally. 

What if he/she is involved in criminal activity that gets brought to my doorstep? How about a police-check?

Has he/she ever been late paying land-taxes, water-bills or electricity bills?

Shouldn't I be entitled to at least get some character references so I know who I'm going to be giving my hard-earned cash every month? 

Where do they live in case I need to find them? Do the previous tenants think they are prompt?

What do they do for a job? Are they 'working' like we are supposed to be? How is their cash-flow? 

Would they be able to afford a serious repair or will I be left waiting for the hole in the roof to be fixed for weeks or months?

Maybe this sounds kind of silly. But ask people in the city who have rented for years. EVERYBODY has stories. But nothing is being done about it. Your landlord is a name and signature on a contract that they can honor if they feel like it.  

This winter I met more liars is 6 weeks than in the 6 years I was away… it's not the way I wanted to return to Canada. Thankfully we can actually still laugh about the ridiculousness of it at least once a day. 

Sorry for the bummer story