It sounds cliché, but we really don’t appreciate our health care system until we have to access the services.  And that was the case for me recently.

Last week I developed severe pain and since I’d had an experience like this 6 month ago I knew what I had to do.

I drove up to the hospital…yes…I drove.  I didn’t think of calling a cab or an ambulance because I’m too stubborn to ask for help.  When I got to Grey Bruce Health Services, Owen Sound Emergency Department I was greeted by the triage RN and assessed very quickly.  I was taken into the examining room and seen by the Emergency Department physician.

The care that I received that evening was excellent.  I was diagnosed quickly (kidney stone)and a treatment plan was initiated. I had the surgery required and was discharged home to recover within 2 days.

When I had time to reflect I realized that if I lived in a country that didn’t offer universal health care, I could not afford the care I had received. During my time in the hospital I had blood-work done twice, an xray, 2 ultrasounds, a CAT scan, constant care in the ER, numerous drugs and IV’s, anaesthetic, surgery, and spent time in the Recovery Room.  When I was discharged I had to go to a Care Partners Nursing “flex clinic”.  I would have gone into a great deal of personal debt to pay for all of this if it weren’t’ for our health care system.

Now this is not free health care.  We are paying for it when we pay our taxes. And there are those who have private health insurance that augments provincial insurance and allows for drug plans and extended health benefits like physiotherapy, dental and vision plans.

We are fortunate to have the system we have.  And we are lucky to have excellent staff at Grey Bruce Health Services.  The physicians and nurses are working very hard. They are understaffed but it does not affect the quality of patient care.  All the departments do an outstanding job.  But most of all they work together as a team to make sure that the goals developed when a patient is admitted are achieved.

Then there are the services that one can receive at home.  These are generally arranged prior to discharge by the Community Care Access Center Case Manager and are services such as visiting nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, social work or homemaking.  These providers are also covered by the Ministry of Health Long Term Care.  These are seamless and care should continue after discharge if the patient qualifies.

Of course, no system is fool-proof.  There will always be problems and things will not go according to plan, but I choose to believe that is the exception to the rule.  In Grey Bruce and in the rest of Ontario, health care providers are working very hard to deliver top-notch care to patients.  In spite of rising health care costs and staff shortages, patients are receiving quality care.  We should appreciate this every time we go to a hospital or clinic and hand the person on the other side of the desk that little green card.

For information on how to get a health card in Ontario go to Service Ontario.

For information on kidney disease go to the Kidney Foundation of Canada.

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