LETTER – Our deplorable so-called health-care system

Letter to Editor. (File photo)

Dear editor,

To popular slogans such as ‘Black Lives Matter’ and others that are bandied about, I would like to add my own: ‘Seniors/Elderly Lives Matter.’

Many of my friends, acquaintances, and neighbours are seniors/elderly. I know what I am speaking about, because I am one of them.

Health matters a lot to us, and is often our most common topic of conversation. Way too often, I hear their accounts of being dissatisfied with the way they are treated by the ‘medical establishment.’

One big issue is unacceptable wait times between seeing their doctor, being referred to a specialist (two to four weeks), being sent for tests (weeks elapse), waiting to hear the results of the tests (more weeks), and treatment. This is truly unacceptable. When a person is sick, they are sick now. Not in six weeks.

Another thorny issue is doctor-care-fragmentation. When a patient sees a doctor who is not totally familiar with his/her history, the doctor may treat only the presenting symptom, which, in geriatrics, is rarely isolated from a host of other significant issues. The treatment is like a Band-aid. Totally unsatisfactory, and sometimes dangerous.

Let me give you an example. Lately, I visited a friend who has long-term, unresolved issues of obstruction and pain of his upper gastrointestinal tract, which prevents him from eating normally. He saw his physician who referred him to a “specialist” who prescribed a heavy dose of antibiotics with no follow-up for a week or so. My friend may have a bad reaction to the drug (who knows?) and developed severe diarrhea for several days. Unable to reach either his physician or the specialist, we were instructed by their receptionists to “go to Emerg.” By then, my friend was severely dehydrated, unable to drink, and I being a nurse feared that he would have a stroke or a heart attack. An ambulance transported my friend to Emerg. The staff started him on I.V. fluids, and discharged him in a matter of hours saying: “There’s nothing wrong with him.” Their cursory “examination” obviously forgot to examine the inside of his mouth and note that the whole inside of his mouth, throat, tongue were fiery red, ulcerated, and sloughing off -not to mention the pain.

Another big problem with the hospital is that no family members or friends are allowed to accompany the patient, and advocate for one too sick to speak. And please don’t blame COVID for that. The problem is much deeper than the situation created by COVID. Seniors/elderly are not trained to give a complete and relevant account of their condition. They need an advocate who knows them to accompany them.

What is the big rush to discharge patients without proper examination? What is the hospital for anyways?

In all this, where is the compassion? Our so-called “health-care system” is so broken. Sometimes, I feel that some of the practitioners who are mandated to “care” would just like us to go home, be silent, and just “suck it up.”

Laurance Stratton,

Courtenay

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