Canada’s Rocky Horror Hospital Show

Our latest column from William Thomas

Our Canadian health care system has fallen to ninth place among 12 nations as rated by the highly-respected Commonwealth Fund. With the UK, Australia and Holland leading, we’re barely staying above the United States.

So with costs and wait times on the rise, not to mention patients being warehoused in the hallways of our hospitals, it’s nice to come across some good news for a change. “Report finds 553 foreign items left inside Canadian patients after surgery from 2016 to 2018.” I had to read that twice.

Yeah, there’s an awful lot of surgeons in this country snapping off the latex gloves after stitching somebody up and asking the nurse: “Hey! There’s only two sponges here! Didn’t we start with three?” Sponges and medical instruments were the most common items left behind according to the report released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

The statistics in the CIHI report are enough to send you into shock and off to your local emerge. Canada has the highest rate of avoidable complications after surgery among the 12 countries studied. That’s a staggering 90 percent above the average. One out of every 18 patients in a Canadian hospital will experience some form of ‘preventable harm’ during their stay. Hard to believe that preventable harm is now the third leading cause of death in Canada behind cancer and heart disease.

By way of explanation, the CIHI’s Tracy Johnson said: “People don’t go to work to make mistakes, but these things happen.”

Well yeah, but when I make a mistake, I spell somebody’s name wrong. I don’t leave some poor bugger looking at the impression of a vice grip on his stomach and wondering how it got inside?!?

This is pretty shocking news to anyone carrying a provincial health card. Not as horrible, mind you, as American doctors operating on the opposite side of a patient’s head or removing the right limb when the left limb was the one designated for amputation. Happening so frequently, it now has a name– ‘wrong side surgery.’

A rash of botched surgeries at the University Community Hospital in Tampa, Florida included a wrong knee operation, a wrong female sterilization and the removal of a tube from the wrong patient that resulted in death. Heading the list of ‘wrong side surgery’ was a 51-year-old heavy-equipment operator by the name of Willie King. Nobody should wake up after an amputation as King did and say: “Doctor, that’s the wrong leg.”

And nobody I know possesses a sense of humour as forgiving as Willie King who after losing both legs and learning to walk with two prosthetic legs said: “I’ve kind of taken it in stride.”

Here then are a few snippets of conversation you never want to hear when you’re on your back and woozy in a hospital operating room.

Doctor: “Tick, tick, tick…you hear that! That’s his heart beating again. I saved his life!”
Nurse: “Actually doctor, he has no pulse and that sounds an awful lot like you’re new Rolex.”

Doctor: “When it says “left” leg…is that on my left when I’m looking at the patient or on his left when he’s looking at me?”
Nurse: “SECURITY!”

Nurse: “Doctor, you just removed a kidney from the wrong patient.”
Doctor: “That’s why God gave us two!”

Doctor: “Please speak up, I’m not hearing you.”
Nurse: “Where’s your hearing aid?”
Doctor: “I don’t know but have you noticed when this guy’s stomach growls it sounds like the MGM lion?”

Doctor: “I don’t understand, this is a complete mess!”
Nurse: “In a heart-lung transplant the heart usually goes below the lungs!”

Doctor: “Damn! Are you sure?”
Nurse: “Yes, appendectomy is spelled with two “p”s. Prostatectomy has one “p”.

Doctor: “Well, she’s going home with a brand new pacemaker.”
Nurse: “Yeah but according to her chart she came in to have her gallstones removed.”

Doctor: “Nurse, you’ll have to fill out the paperwork. I can’t find my reading glasses.”
Nurse: “But you had them on during that last surgery and…”

Doctor: “What!?! Are you sure?”
Nurse: “Yeah, it was Ron James who needed the bypass. That was Don James. He was here for rotator cuff surgery.”

Nurse: “Foreskin! I thought you said forceps!”
Doctor: “Check the chart and see if he’s Jewish.”

Doctor: “But she’s not waking up!”
Nurse: “Well here’s the full bottle of antibiotics and the empty bottle of Ambien. Where did you say you left your reading glasses?”

Doctor: “Why does this patient have “R” written on his right leg and “L” written on his left leg?”
Nurse: “He’s obviously read one of your reviews.”

Nurse: “Doctor, I don’t know how to tell you this but that testicle you just removed…it was the good one!”
Doctor: “As I said, thank God we all have two!”

Doctor: “Oh look, this patient has a medical alert band.”
Nurse: “Yeah, and it reads: “In case of an emergency take me anywhere but here!”

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