At one Halifax hospital, a man with terminal pancreatic cancer was ignored by doctors for six hours in the hallway of an emergency room and then asked if he could just expire without further efforts being made to resuscitate him.
The widow of patient Jack Webb provided a report to the Canadian Press on Sunday from the Halifax Infirmary that documented the incident. The details provided the impetus for the provincial health authority to change the rules at Nova Scotia hospitals so that patients can see a doctor within two hours of arriving at a medical facility.
Kim D’Arcy provided further details to the Canadian Press. After the hospital finally moved Webb to a private room, his intravenous wasn’t functioning. Then he was shunted into a medical education unit with a bunch of interns who inquired if Webb would consent to not being revived if his signs of life failed.
According to D’Arcy, the medical students were talking to each other about her husband’s condition and she heard one of them say in a voice loud enough for both her and Webb to hear, “If he stops breathing, don’t resuscitate.”
Webb was apparently not even informed that he was dying.
Included in the list new directives for the Nova Scotia health care system are directives to hospital staff about how to properly talk to terminally sick patients in order to achieve the “goals of care.”
The president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union expressed disbelief that hospital workers required guidance on acquiring a proper bedside manner.
In a Canadian Press interview, while applauding the provincial directives, Jason MacLean asked, “Wouldn’t you think that’s the way it should be? … They are telling you something that should have been (in place).”
Webb’s case is by no means unique and similar incidents have suggested that Canada’s public health care — while paid for by taxpayers — has constructed a series of wait time barriers. A report by the Canadian conservative think-tank the Fraser Institute revealed that more than 63,000 Canadians left the country in 2016 to for surgery that they could not have done within a reasonable time at home.
The vast majority traveled to the U.S. for those operations.