Can anyone imagine an American with a burst appendix going through this kind of ordeal?

Thursday Oct. 11, 11 p.m. — Dany Bureau starts to feel pains in his stomach. He goes to sleep thinking he just has a stomach ache.

Friday Oct. 12, 3 p.m. –  Mr. Bureau and his mother go to the Wakefield hospital. A doctor determines that there is a problem with Mr. Bureau’s appendix. Calls are made to hospitals in Hull, Gatineau, Maniwaki, Buckingham and Ottawa to find a surgeon. A surgeon cannot be found.

8:25 p.m. — Robert Bureau, Dany’s father, receives a call informing him that a surgeon is available at the Montreal General Hospital.

8:30 p.m. — Mr. Bureau leaves his home in Aylmer for Montreal.

8:37 p.m. — The ambulance leaves Wakefield hospital with Mr. Bureau.

Saturday, Oct. 13, 12:15 a.m. — The ambulance with Dany Bureau arrives at the Montreal General Hospital after missing the Décarie exit and then mistakenly unloading him at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. The surgeon who had been awaiting Dany Bureau’s arrival has since become occupied with another trauma case.

9:50 p.m. — Dany Bureau is taken in for surgery

Sunday, Oct. 14, 12:10 a.m. — The surgeon who operated on Dany Bureau tells his father that his appendix had burst and that he had developed peritonitis. As a result, he is hospitalized for several days so his recovery can be monitored. 

I didn’t think so.

Comments 19

  1. Marc Brown wrote:

    From just 2 years ago:

    ‘As many as 98,000 Americans still die each year because of medical errors despite an unprecedented focus on patient safety over the last five years, according to a study released today…

    The researchers blame the complexity of health care systems, a lack of leadership, the reluctance of doctors to admit errors and an insurance reimbursement system that rewards errors — hospitals can bill for additional services needed when patients are injured by mistakes — but often will not pay for practices that reduce those errors.’

    Posted 20 Oct 2007 at 11:42 am
  2. Catron wrote:

    You missed the point.

    The subject of the post is the shortage of physicians and medical facilities, a problem that plagues all government-run health care systems (including that of Perfidious Albion).

    Your link is about medical errors, and I don’t think even you will suggest that the Canadian system (or the NHS) has fewer medical errors that the U.S.

    Posted 21 Oct 2007 at 7:05 am
  3. Marc Brown wrote:

    Come on David – took me a few seconds to find one of many examples.

    ‘In December, a 39-year-old Royal Palm Beach man who was vomiting blood could not be treated at Palms West because the hospital did not have a gastroenterologist.

    After a several hour delay, he was transferred to a Fort Lauderdale hospital.

    The man had a heart attack upon arrival and died about two weeks later.’

    Posted 21 Oct 2007 at 8:30 am
  4. Catron wrote:

    For your example to be analogous, the patient would have had to be transferred to a different state after a delay of nearly 2 days. It meets neither requirement.

    Also, you will have noticed that the paucity of specialists in your example is attributable to out-of-control malpractice lawsuits (which would be solved by Texas-style tort reform–a solution I doubt you would support).

    Posted 21 Oct 2007 at 1:42 pm
  5. Marc Brown wrote:

    So you think your ER is in great shape?


    ‘Despite the lifesaving feats performed every day by emergency departments and ambulance services, the nation’s emergency medical system as a whole is overburdened, underfunded, and highly fragmented, says this series of three reports from the Institute of Medicine.

    As a result, ambulances are turned away from emergency departments once every minute on average and patients in many areas may wait hours or even days for a hospital bed. Moreover, the system is ill-prepared to handle surges from disasters such as hurricanes, terrorist attacks, or disease outbreaks.’

    Posted 21 Oct 2007 at 2:20 pm
  6. Catron wrote:

    Sorry, Marc, you’ve jumped out of the frying pan and landed in the fire. Overcrowding in American ERs is a direct result of government meddling. Specifically, EMTALA.

    Posted 21 Oct 2007 at 2:29 pm
  7. Dr. Couz wrote:

    Why would you have to be transferred to another state for the situation to be analogous?

    The patient is from Aylmer, Quebec. The hospital was in Wakefield, Quebec. The surgery was done in Montreal, Quebec. All in Quebec. A horrifying story, to be sure… but I’ve work in Ottawa and never heard of anything like this happening before– a surgeon couldn’t be found? Bizarre. And certainly not an everyday occurrence.

    Posted 22 Oct 2007 at 5:56 pm
  8. Catron wrote:

    Mr. Bureau had to be driven a distance roughly equivalent to the trip from Baltimore, MD to Philadelphia, PA. Not a hugely important point. Just an attempt to highlight how Marc’s comparison doesn’t work.

    Posted 22 Oct 2007 at 9:05 pm
  9. Rich wrote:

    If anyone is interested, The distance in the Quebec story is about 150 miles – in the florida story 50 miles.

    Posted 22 Oct 2007 at 9:27 pm
  10. spike wrote:

    so you admit this kind of thing can happen in the U.S., but only because of EMTALA. What exactly is your point again? The whole point of the original post was that this kind of thing doesn’t happen in the U.S. (of course, i’m pretty sure it doesn’t happen that often in Canada, either). Then when someone shows that it does in fact happen in the U.S., your response is to point out a government regulation you don’t like that makes it so.

    None of the people who want more government involvement like EMTALA either. They’d much rather have a sensible system that covers everyone and doesn’t force hospitals to deliver billions in unpaid care each year at the point of EMTALA’s gun.

    Posted 22 Oct 2007 at 9:59 pm
  11. Marc Brown wrote:

    You need to compare the way things are now. To say these things never happen in America is comprehensively rebutted in the report I cited. Here’s an extract:

    ‘Hospital EDs have become frequently crowded environments, with patients sometimes lining hallways and waiting hours and even days to be admitted to inpatient beds (Asplin et al., 2003). Ambulance diversion, once rare, is now a common if not daily event in many major cities, and can lead to catastrophic consequences for patients (GAO, 2001; Schafermeyer and Asplin, 2003). Specialists needed to treat emergency and trauma patients are increasingly difficult to find; the result is longer waits and at times, distant transport of critically ill or injured patients for specialty care. The emergency system itself appears to be crumbling in major cities. In Los Angeles, for example, 8 hospital EDs have closed since 2003, bringing the total closed countywide to over 60 in the last decade (see Box 1-1) (Robes, 2005).’

    Posted 23 Oct 2007 at 3:02 am
  12. Catron wrote:


    You guys have (once again) missed the point. I don’t claim that bad things never happen in the U.S. system. The point is that such things happen far more often in Canada, England, and all of the other places you guys represent as paragons of medical care. And they usually happen because of central government meddling. EMTALA is relevant to this discussion primarily as an example of the bad things that happen when government steps in to “fix” something.

    Posted 23 Oct 2007 at 6:39 am
  13. BobMan wrote:

    Yes, in reality, I could see such an event happening in the People’s Republic of North America. To quote from the story Marc Brown cites in response #5:

    “After STATE regulators cited the hospital for failing to have a gastroenterologist to handle a patient emergency,
    Lavater [Hospital CEO] required all of the stomach specialists to see emergency patients in December.

    But the move backfired in February, when 13 of the 16 gastroenterologists on staff QUIT after the hospital REFUSED TO PAY THEM $1,000 a day to handle emergencies.”

    Just like Canada, Europe, Cuba, etc. M.D.s are expected to work for free to balance the Health Care Budget.

    To Dr. Couz, spike, Marc Brown and the rest: don’t expect to be making USD 250,000 working for Uncle Sam when he takes over.

    I used to be one of those Mindless Drones. If *I* were in charge of the “health care budget,” *I* would seek out the absolute cheapest MD on Planet Earth and THAT would be YOUR reimbursement rate. Can’t afford first world electricity, supplies, nurses? Tough s*%t. Make it do or do without!

    THAT is why I don’t want anything to do with a “Universal Health Care Plan.” Sooner or later, it’s going to be shoved down my throat with extreme prejudice.

    Posted 23 Oct 2007 at 12:10 pm
  14. Makos wrote:

    I think the most important issue here is missed. Anywhere in the world, at any given time, there will be hundreds of thousands of mistakes going on. Sometimes people just can’t do everything perfectly, governmentally funded or not.

    Posted 09 Nov 2007 at 9:07 pm
  15. Working Antique wrote:

    The problem here is that Catron finds and so expansively claims the merginal flaws in other systems are their norm, which simpy is not true. Our vaunted American system has more than enough flaws of its own, which if properly measured, might well exceed those of the government-based systems. Since Mr. Catron repeatedly makes his claims without the backing of any credible measures, he ruins his own credibitlity, sorry to say, because I’m a right-winder, too. I hate to see someone of my cloth being so irresponsible in his claims.

    Posted 28 Nov 2007 at 4:21 pm
  16. Fred wrote:

    I think the basic point is this: With government healthcare, we are allowing THEM to decide who lives and who dies, and what operations are worth the price.

    This will also strip away economic incentives for potential doctors when looking at 12 years of law school. Of course, the government will probably subsidy their education anyway…

    And if there happens to be a waiting list for a surgery or such, you can bet that anytime a politician or someone with power has a problem, they will automatically cut the line!

    Posted 12 Jun 2008 at 8:33 am
  17. Alan Richard wrote:

    Something very similar to this happened right here in Houston to my partner, who was insured through UnitedHealth but whose appendix burst before he saw a surgeon after hours waiting to be seen even though we arrived at the hospital shortly after pains began. So no, it does happen here. And since it happened to him, he has met a few others with similar experiences.

    Oh, there is one difference between this and the Canadian ordeal. Although careful to use an “in network” hospital, he was then charged tens of thousands of dollars for ‘out of network’ services because the anesthesiologist was “out of network.”

    Posted 29 Jul 2009 at 4:58 pm
  18. ed wrote:

    With PRIVATE insurance we are allowing THEM to decide who lives and who dies, and what operations are worth the price.

    The difference is that in the US you can lose your coverage and in Canada you cannot.

    Posted 02 Aug 2009 at 1:33 am
  19. Roy wrote:

    So let’s solve the real problems. Creating another system like that in Canada or Britain will not help anything. When Canadians are waiting months for an MRI that will diagnose their problem or years for a hospital bed in one case I know about, it’s not medical errors doing the harm, it’s the worthless system. They might just as well have no insurance if they can’t get treatment in time to save their lives.

    Posted 02 Aug 2009 at 6:27 pm

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