Fed Up Canadians Choose Surgery Overseas

From CTV, April 18, 2007:

Governments across Canada say they are working to bring down wait time for various surgeries and medical procedures. Some patients are getting tired of waiting and are choosing what is a growing trend: getting their operations performed in exotic locations like India.

CTV News medical correspondent Avis Favaro followed one man, Jeff Clarke, who did just that.

Clarke, 34, lived with severe chronic back pain, likely caused by work injuries. He found no one in the Canadian health care system able or willing to ease his suffering.

“I’ve seen three to four surgeons over almost three years,” he told Favaro. “Each time, I’ve waited a year to see these surgeons and once I did see them, they had nothing to offer. Nothing at all.”

He decided to take action after seeing a television ad offering surgery in a matter of weeks at a hospital in India. The ad was for a company appropriately called Surgical Tourism Canada, a Vancouver-based company founded in July 2005.

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Doctor Advises Patient to Fly to Italy for Cancer Treatment

From CTV, July 1, 2005:

For Mississauga, Ont. resident Mario Codispoti, each moment with his family is more precious than ever. Five years ago, he was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, one of the leading causes of cancer death in this country.

This January, Codispoti’s doctor told him his only hope for extending life was to be treated with the drug Erbitux, which has been proven to slow tumour growth in some patients.

Trouble is, Erbitux hasn’t been approved yet for use in Canada.

It’s been available for colorectal cancer patients in the U.S. and the E.U. for a year, and is showing encouraging results. Due to Canada’s slow drug approval process, though, it’s stuck in a backlog here. So Codispoti’s doctor advised him to seek treatment in Italy, his country of birth.

Codispoti has just returned from his latest Erbitux treatment session there. He and his wife Antonia are outraged that he had to travel so far to get a drug he desperately needs, after living in Canada and paying into Canada’s health care system for four decades.

“It’s unbelievable; unbelievable that I had to go back,” says Codispoti.

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Canadian’s Access to Drugs Blocked by Goverment Policy

From the Fraser Institute, April 2, 2008:

Canadian patients are having difficulty obtaining new medicines as a result of lengthy delays by the federal government to approve new prescription drugs and the refusal of provincial drug plans to pay for the new medicines, says a new study by independent research organization the Fraser Institute.

“Health Canada takes up to a year to approve new medicines as safe and effective. And while private insurance plans will immediately cover those medicines, the provinces can take up to another year to decide if they will pay for the same drugs,” said Brett Skinner, Fraser Institute Director of Health, Pharmaceutical and Insurance Policy Research and author of Access Delayed, Access Denied: Waiting For New Medicines in Canada.

“That additional one year delay keeps these new medicines out of reach for the one-third of Canadians who rely on provincial drug plans.”

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British Patients Four Times More Likely to Die that US Patients After Major Surgery

From the Guardian, September 7, 2003:

Patients who have major surgery in Britain are four times more likely to die than those in America, according to a major new study.

The comparison of care, which reveals a sevenfold difference in mortality rates in one set of patients, concludes that hospital waiting lists, a shortage of specialists and competition for intensive care beds are to blame.

Fresh evidence of a stark contrast between the fate of patients on either side of the Atlantic will re-open the debate over whether NHS reforms are having any impact on survival rates.

Mounting evidence suggests that patients who are most at risk of complications after an operation are not being seen by specialists, and are not reaching intensive care units in time to save them.

This week health Ministers will present the latest figures showing another yearly rise in the number of intensive care beds for those who are critically ill. But Britain lags far behind America and most European countries in its critical care facilities. An authoritative study to be published later this year will demonstrate that the chances of survival after undergoing a major operation are far greater in an American hospital.

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Excruciating Wait Times

From the Globe and Mail, May 9, 2009:

It’s good that some patients will have a more timely diagnosis for breast cancer, unfortunately this doesn’t address the wait times for treatment.

I went from a suspicious mammogram to a mastectomy in six weeks, which is very reasonable. According to Health Canada, chemotherapy should begin as soon as possible after your operation, usually within four to six weeks. I waited 10 weeks with no information from the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency on wait times or where I was on the list; I finally began chemo in Saskatoon 12 weeks after surgery.

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“Superbugs” Killing 10,000 Patients a Year

From the Telegraph, March 25, 2008:

Two superbugs are causing the deaths of more than 10,000 hospital patients every year, an expert has disclosed.

The number of deaths from MRSA and clostridium difficile is being underestimated by about 20 per cent, one of the country’s leading authorities on superbugs has said. Official figures put the number of deaths from the two infections at about 8,000 a year.

Mark Enright, a professor of molecular epidemiology at London’s Imperial College, said the number of deaths from MRSA and c.diff was significantly higher.

“I think it is at least 10,000 a year,” he said. “A lot of people are never tested for these infections and their deaths are put down to something else.”

Nearly 10 people are dying every day from c.diff, according to official figures, with even more dying from MRSA. In 2006, c.diff was recorded as the underlying cause of death for 3,490 people – a 69 per cent increase on the previous year.

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Doctors Lie on Death Certificates to Reduce “Superbug” Death Rate

From the Daily Mail, January 3, 2008:

Joan Horne once worked for the National Health Service. In her day the wards were scrubbed with bleach, while nurses washed their hands with soap and water before caring for a patient. If not, a strict matron wanted to know why.

She has never forgotten the golden era of the NHS. So when 78-year-old Joan watched Edwin, her husband of 37 years, die after catching a deadly superbug at her local hospital, she began a fight for justice.

Just before Christmas, a tape recorder in her hand, she marched off to Barnsley Hospital in Yorkshire and forced managers to admit that not only had Edwin contracted a lethal infection called Clostridium difficile (C. diff) as a patient, but that doctors failed to declare the truth on his death certificate.

Joan said: “I fear this kind of cover-up is happening at hospitals all over the country. I miss Edwin terribly, but the way we lost him and dishonesty by the hospital about the real cause of his death has made it all much worse for me and my family. I was desperate to bring Edwin home. The hospital was dirty. I found a used syringe under the bed, soiled cotton wool pads left on his floor and there were human faeces smeared on the door. Looking back, it is no surprise he caught a superbug.”

Edwin died on April 12 last year aged 82. He had been in hospital for just a fortnight after complaining of feeling frail while on holiday.

Although Edwin had suffered from rectal cancer in the past, the disease was in remission and Joan says that he was expected to make a full recovery at the hospital – until he caught C. diff.

His death, and thousands of others, lie at the heart of a growing scandal over NHS superbugs. Yesterday Tory leader David Cameron said hospitals should be fined for every patient who catches an infection on their wards. But would such a crackdown just lead to more secrecy about superbugs?

In 2006 almost 56,000 elderly hospital patients caught C. diff, which is spread by poor hygiene, dirty hands and soiled bedding. Amazingly, we still don’t know how many of these people died because the figures have not yet been released by the NHS.

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Doctor Suspected in Death of 11 Patients

From the Daily Mail, September 7, 2007:

An out-of-hours GP who killed a grandmother with an overdose of drugs could be responsible for the premature deaths of 11 other patients.

Dr Michael Stevenson, 55, is suspected of administering excessive quantities of diamorphine to a string of elderly men and women.

The former GP is already serving a suspended prison term for the manslaughter of Marjorie Wright, 57.

She died in January 2005 after he gave her a 30mg dose of diamorphine instead of 5mg after she complained of a migraine.

Yesterday a hearing at the High Court was told inquiries were continuing into at least 14 other cases linked to Stevenson.

In 11 of these, the court was told, it was “highly likely” or “possible” his actions were responsible for “accelerating the death” of those in his care.

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37,000 Deaths from Infection with Hospital “Superbugs”

From the Guardian, September 28, 2008:

Almost 37,000 NHS patients have died after catching either the MRSA or C-difficile hospital superbugs during Labour’s time in office, official figures show.

The two virulent infections claimed 36,674 lives between 1997 and 2007. Of those, 26,208 were from Clostridium difficile and 10,466 from MRSA. Numbers dying in England and Wales from C-difficile soared from 975 in 1999 to 8,324 last year, a jump of about 850 per cent, while fatalities linked to MRSA grew from 386 in 1997 to 1,593 in 2007.

Conservative shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, who obtained the figures from the Department of Health, said: ‘It’s tragic that so many patients have had their lives cut short because of Labour’s failure to do what it takes to root out hospital infections.’ He said hospitals needed to improve hygiene, introduce better prescribing of antibiotics and create more isolation facilities to stop infections spreading.

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Hospital Finance Director Fired for Refusing to Falsify Records

From the BBC, January 9, 2003:

An NHS “whistleblower”, sacked after speaking out about an alleged “fiddle” of statistics for cancelled operations is taking his case to an employment tribunal.

Ian Perkin was sacked in December from his £100,000 a year post as finance director at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, London after working there for 16 years.

A letter of dismissal criticised his “management style”, though he had received a management award six months earlier.

But he had previously supported a junior colleague who had spoken out after being asked to submit inaccurate figures for the number of cancelled operations.

The junior colleague said although the actual figure was 23, she was told to return a figure of zero.

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