Up to this point, the only effect of the Government of Ontario’s unilateral health care cuts had been on my retirement fund, ie: I did not lay off any staff, all the services we offered were the same, and my hours were not reduced; I just had a significantly lesser amount to put aside for my hopeful retirement.
But today one of my patients was the unfortunate victim of the fruition of these same cuts: a delayed diagnosis by almost 3 weeks. The diagnosis in this situation turned out to be pancreatic cancer.
The patient in question is a middle aged individual who first came into my office complaining of a 2 week history of lower abdominal pain. We did some blood tests and an abdominal x-ray that did not show any abnormalities, other than a moderate amount of stool in their bowels. They returned 3 weeks later after a trial of laxatives with continued pain. At this point we ordered a CT scan at our local hospital with the request that it be done within 1 week. Unfortunately, the date they were given for their scan wasn’t for 3 weeks. On top of that, the reduced Radiology hours meant a backlog of reports to be read, and the responsible Radiologist took over 48 hours to report the scan, and only did so after an inquiring phonecall was placed.
As we attempted to contact the patient to follow-up, they informed us that they “couldn’t wait” and had already headed to a tertiary centre in the nearest major city. Since we had the news of their diagnosis, we spoke with the attending ER physician that they would be seeing to update them about the freshly reported CT scan and its diagnosis.
The point is, this time last year they would not have had to wait the 3 weeks for a CT scan that was requested to be done within 1 week, and therefore could have already be set up with a local Oncologist and surgeon to begin their management. Instead, they had to wait the extra 3 weeks, and go to a centre outside of their local area, which for sure they will be repeating the already-done investigations, adding to the cost of our bankrupt system.
Even though it was already well known that our system is broken and needs fixing, when it affects your patients this harshly, the blow is extra painful.