Canadian / European / Australian Healthcare Horror Stories

Mine is pretty mild, but I was living in New Brunswick temporarily and didn’t have a New Brunswick health care card. My fingers were randomly swelling and I would have to pay $40 to go to a walk in clinic or I could go to the ER and wait to be seem for free. I was broke at the time so I packed a bag of books and my boyfriends laptop and some DVD’s and camped out. It was about 6 or so hours until I was seen, and the doc had no idea why I was swelling. I got some antibiotics and went on my way.

I had to wait 2 months for an appointment for a scan. I complained and they got it sorted asap. That’s my only memorably bad experience with the NHS. If I were American, I doubt I’d be able to get health insurance at all due to pre-existing conditions.

I still remember the name of the insurance company: Barmer
It was a “book” of sorts that you took to each doctor and they would rip a page out (with all of your data - name, address, insurance number, etc.) for every visit and put it in a stack of other insurance pages from other patients. I am foggy on the details, but I think someone told me each had a maximum payout of about 300 DM per page back then - thus the desire to get as many pages as possible in a day.

Mind you, this was in the late 70’s and early 80’s, so I am sure that has changed.

Thats quite a liberal, PC thing to say. Have you lived near or with natives, I have. Have you ever had any native friends, I have. Have you ever been on a reserve or sleep there, I have. Have you pulled a man off his wife that he was trying to kill with a baseball bat, I have. Have you seen girl after girl molested by “uncles”, I have. have you seen a bathroom where the toilet was plugged and a chainsaw was used to cut a hole so that the waste went into the basement, I did. Have you seen the old lady that wants a ride into town and phones 911 to get one? Every month on chq day.
Have you talked to the teachers on the reserve whose students dont bother to show up and the parents dont care?
I have lots of good native friends so i am not anti-native at all. The fact is that there is a huge problem with the reserves and the system that keeps the native people dependent. Observational facts do not racist make.

so if i worked behind a cash register and all the black people i saw come in on the percentages of observation would steal, is that construed as a racist statement or observational fact?

I’ve in fact have been on a native reservation on a church missionary group and i know that the native canadians have a hard life. But thinking with that prejudice just pretty much gives you that horror story of having one die and not caring up above.

When I gave birth to my daughter, the first midwife was criminnaly negligent. She sat in the corner reading a magazine, expecting me to time my own contractions, even though I was sweating too much to wear glasses or contact lenses so couldn’t look at a clock or watch, and in any case I was in pain. She was sat so far away from me that she could barely hear what I said and made me repeat everye sentence a few times, even though it took a lot of effort to get any words out at all. She also didn’t bother to check the readouts regarding my daughter’s heartbeat.

When she went off shift, the next midwife came on and noticed that my daughter’s heartbeat had been irregular for two hours. My daughter was born with the cord round her neck, not breathing, no hearbeat, grey and lifeless. After four minutes they managed to get her breathing.

She has now been diagnosed with autism and I’ve always wondered if it’s actually brain damage related to her birth.

That hospital was also ludicrously oversensitive about security wrt babies; a baby had been stolen off a ward there once before (the baby turned up safe and well fairly quickly) so you had to buzz, confirm who you were and be let in by a member of staff. Unfortunately this often meant long waits. When I first arrived at the hospital I had to stand in the corridor for an hour, in advanced labour, before they noticed me and let me in, and when my daughter was in the NICU I usually had to wait a really long time to be let in; the longest was two hours and I fainted from exhaustion - this was a couple of days after that really bad labour and I had lots of stitches.

However, this hospital is know for being one of the worst, if not the worst, in the country. Wish I’d know that at the time.

I have a variety of health problems and have done since I was a kid, and all the other treatment I’ve had has been excellent. I’ve been through neurology, cardiology, osteopathy, physiotherapy, various asthma-related stuff, dentistry including a major dental operation at a hospital, other obstetrics and sexual health, cancer services, er, probably everything except geriatrics, and I have a lot of experience of that via my Grandad. They’ve all been at least fine or more often wonderful. Geriatrics now is better than it was when I was a kid and volunteered on the geriaric ward my mother worked on.

Emergency room treatment, in particular, has improved immensely over the last few years. When I was a kid, non-urgent cases could end up waiting hours, and now it’s minutes.

My doctor’s is open in the evenings, early mornings and weekends, you can book appointments well in advance but they always keep a few free for you to make an appt on the day, and they’re friendly and knowledgable.

I’d be surprised if any healthcare system, run by imperfect humans for imperfect humans, was without a few horror stories.

I’m very sorry to hear that. I remember her as a delightful and intelligent child.

I, alas, sort of have one. About 15 years ago, I started getting serious pains in my jaw. I went to see the NHS dentist and had to push to get him to X-ray my mouth after he initially found nothing amiss. Sure enough, all four of my wisdom teeth were impacting. A visit to a specialist ensued and I had the choice of waiting 6 months or paying £1100 (IIRC) to have them out privately. 6 months in increasing pain would have sent me insane. I was able to buy myself out of trouble. I couldn’t afford to do that today.

But the important thing is to not let the perfect get in the way of the good enough. Sure there are people who slip through the gaps. Sure the NHS doesn’t do everything it could. I’ve given it stick here a time or three. Sure it’s got a bloated bureaucracy. But overall the NHS does a good job with a limited budget, and I’ve credited it here too.

That’s probably the best summary. The Australian system has its problems, and always will, because demand for medical services will always exceed supply. I buy private health insurance, just to make sure that I don’t have to rely entirely on the public system. However, my personal and family experiences of the public system have been very good, with medical emergencies dealt with quickly and well. At worst, I’ve had to wait about an hour and a half in the casualty department of the local hospital with a minor issue, but only because more severe cases were naturally taking precedence.

Oh, she still is - she’s wonderful. Sfhe just has a few problems relating to the world and, indeed, staying in this world mentally.

:dubious: She’s still going to be a delightful and intelligent child.

I can’t contribute a horror story - my extended family have had need of various services from the NHS ranging from acute emergencies to long term management of conditions and it’s all been pretty good.

From working in employee benefits, I’ve heard more than an average person’s share of US insurance-related horror stories. And this was working for a company that offered its employees a variety of good insurance plans to choose from. The example that stands out to me the most in this thread as more likely in a country with UHC than the US is **scifisam’s **story about the midwife. First, we tend to have a more medicalized approach to childbirth (which of course is its own controversy). But people who have midwives have generally sought out that type of care and specifically built a relationship with that person. But it’s not like I can’t imagine something similar happening to a woman in the U.S. who didn’t have insurance and had put off prenatal care.

The rest of it, honestly, I can picture happening in the U.S. under our various forms of insurance.

As an aside, Native Americans in the U.S. do have a form of federally-provided healthcare, the Indian Health Service. Info is here, if anyone is curious: http://www.ihs.gov/index.cfm

Thanks to everyone for the stories you’ve shared.

Oh, she still is - she’s wonderful. She just has a few problems relating to the world and, indeed, staying in this world mentally.

Regarding wait times, I have a question.

In the US, assuming equal insurance, if two people come in to the Emergency Room at the same time, one in the midst of a major heart attack, and one with a skinned knee, will they really be seen at exactly the same time?

What if 5 people with heart attacks came in to the Emergency Room at the same time as Mr. Skinned Knee - would he still have a 0 minute wait?

Well, I don’t know what country scifisam is in, but in Canada a mother-to-be has to choose to have a midwife, same as in the US.

Delivery in a hospital with a physician is the default so I’m not sure how much more medicalized birth could get than that.

Oh, she still is - she’s wonderful. She just has a few problems relating to the world and, indeed, staying in this world mentally.

In the UK the default is to have a hospital birth with a midwife. You have a doctor, but he’s just an overseer - you’ll barely meet him if you have a straightforward pregnancy and labour.

Midwives manage the whole pregnancy, and in some areas you can get the same midwife for your labour, but usually that’s an option only available for home births (which are pretty popular). I was very unlucky with my bad midwife, and I wish I’d had it together enough to make a complaint and pursue it until that midwife was either sacked or retrained.

Midwives are like highly qualified nurses - they have years of training and qualifications. Don’t know if that’s the same in other countries.

Births in American movies always have the woman lying down in bed, sometimes in stirrups, with their husband in scrubs and a load of doctors around them, and then the baby’s taken away and put into a glass basin in a room with a load of other babies. I’ve always assumed that scenario is as inaccurate as everything else about movie pregnancies, but it’s definitely more medicalised.

Actually, this is not totally inaccurate (bed, stirrups, multiple nurses/drs) in Canada anyway, although I’ve never seen a glass basin room - the baby has always been in with mom & dad after the fact (well, unless the baby was in the NICU).

She’s in the UK, same as me.

I know nothing about childbirth health practices (other the horrifying fact that midwifery is actually illegal in Hungary - a legacy of Communism - and there are black market midwives who deliver babies at home), but I can share my - well, not a horror story by any stretch of the imagination, just a mild inconvenience - in the UK.

There’s a phenomenon here known as the “postcode lottery”. Since the NHS is broken into geographical bodies known as Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), which are run autonomously, albeit centrally funded, different PCTs have differing resources, differing problems, and differing ways of dealing with them, which results in differing treatments being offered. And if you live over the border from PCT A, you might see your neighbours getting, treatment X, but it isn’t funded in PCT B, which is the one that services you. This shows up in stats about cancer screening, heart stuff.

My pathetic inconvenience, largely of my own making, was when I broke my wrist when I was studying in Hackney, north London. I went to the A&E (Accident and Emergency, i.e. ER) but because of the course, could only make it at lunchtime. There was a two hour wait even to be seen, let alone treated. So I left, and returned the next day, and there was a two hour wait. So I left again, and returned on the third day, and made a big song and dance and shouted at the poor receptionist, and eventually got an X-ray, splint, etc., which felt like a half-hearted, amateur operation (The obvious argument here is, if it was that serious, why didn’t I fucking hang around on the first visit?! But I was young and naive and thought that the importance of the course I was doing at the time outweighed my injury.)

This compares unfavourably with my recent experience in Oxford. I broke my elbow ice skating, so I went to the A&E at the John Radcliffe Hospital, was examined within 2 minutes, X-rayed within 10, and bandaged up and ready to leave within 30 minutes. And was signed up to a course of physio there and then, with five follow-up treatments at the same hospital on each of the following weeks. Exactly the same when I cut the top off my thumb - instant examination, instant treatment, by the A&E doctors in fact, and sent on my merry way with an admonition to be more careful when cutting onions.

I would just like to point out that people frequently wait for hours in American emergency rooms, too. I don’t think insurance status has anything to do with the wait time, but I could be wrong.

That’s quite likely to be due to the difference in time, rather than area. Emergency services simply are so much better than they used to be. I think part of it is that some (or all? Not sure) A&Es are now split up, so that kids are treated in a completely different section and there’s a minor injuries unit for things that aren’t emergencies at all (including people who are far away from their own GP and have run out of their regular medication). That saves an awful lot of time in triage.

When my wrist was broken in Tower Hamlets I was seen as soon as I walked in the door. I was really impressed. I’m also impressed that you coped for two days with a broken wrist - there was no way I could have managed with mine. But then it was a particularly bad break.

Apologies if this double posts. My internet connection is dreadful tonight.