Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Alberta Health Services and Decisions Gone Wrong

There are decisions, there are bad decisions, and then there are decisions so horrendous that they careen right past the corner of "bad" and off the cliff of "insanely terrible". The recent decision from Alberta Health Services, in choosing to deny to reimburse a Fort McMurray man's out-of-country medical treatment costs, is one of those last kind, people. This link is the story I read, and it broke my heart.

I don't know Shane Wambolt personally, but I have been through serious illnesses with two family members, and I know the devastation very well. The terror, the pain, the anguish - I know all these feelings. In my case the only consolation was that the individuals were elderly (small consolation, but some). In Shane's case this is not true - this is a 26-year old man. There may be some dissension as to whether or not Shane was actually dying, but this seems utterly immaterial. His quality of life was clearly diminishing, and his ability to function was dying. His condition was worsening, and the typical bureaucratic delays were preventing him from getting the approval for the surgery he needed. So, his family stepped in and took on the costs. Would anyone do any different? Frankly, people, I would sell my soul to the devil to save a family member - and I bet most of you would do the same.

I note that the reviewers who denied Shane's claim for reimbursement of the surgical treatment he received in the USA are experts, meaning clinicians and medical experts. Now, I have tremendous respect for medical experts and clinicians - but sometimes they aren't the best people to make these kinds of decisions. Medical experts and clinicians are by necessity a bit removed from the emotional aspect of their cases, and this professional distance can occasionally mean they fail to see the emotional side entirely. This appears to be what has happened here - as regardless of the rules and regulations governing such decisions there is a clear need for compassion.

The main point is that before the surgery Shane was in dire straights. His family was terrified that this 26-year old man would die before he could obtain treatment in Canada, if any treatment at all was available. They saw their family member slowly dying before them, and they felt helpless and frightened. They found someone who offered hope, and they leapt at the chance - and it paid off. Shane is now slowly recovering, and I am profoundly grateful for that alone. I would be even more grateful, though, if AHS exercised some humanity and compassion and reimbursed Shane and his family. You know what, people? My tax dollars have gone to worse things, and I'd frankly be very happy to see some of it used in this way instead. As I said previously I have been there, and I have experienced this first hand. What keeps you going during that time is when people around you extend their hands and hearts with hope and help and compassion. Right now it's time for AHS to start extending those hands, and dig deep. It's simply the humane, compassionate, and right thing to do. I await anxiously to see if they can show that compassion, not just for Shane Wambolt and his family, but for all of us, too.

1 comment:

  1. I feel much of the same way about this whole thing. I came across the story by accident the other day and my heart broke into too. -@momentslater