Recently, an 18-year-old Canadian girl died in an ambulance en-route to the hospital, due to injuries suffered in a car accident.
The ambulance ride apparently took approximately 30 minutes to reach the Welland hospital, during which time the ambulance was rumored to have run out of oxygen. Ms. Anzovino, desparately in need of a blood transfusion, died shortly before arrival, due to internal bleeding.
Local authorities have opened an inquiry into the situation, because the girl died while en-route to the emergency room - an emergency room at a hospital two towns away, because the emergency rooms at the two nearest hospitals had been closed.
For reference, see the map to the right.
Local authorities are defending the decision to close the emergency departments at the two hospitals nearest the accident, even though they were warned in advance that just this type of occurrence would result from the decision. The Fort Erie hospital was closed in September 2009. A concerned, retired doctor ardently protested the decision, and months prior, in June 2009, gave the following warning [emphasis added]:
At this point it might be helpful to clarify the different categories of medical emergencies. Basically, an emergency is a threat to life or limb. There are ordinary everyday emergencies and then there are time-critical emergencies. Time-critical emergencies require rapid attention, else death is an imminent risk. Along with all other emergencies, the time-critical ones routinely came directly to the ER where they were promptly moved to the head of the line and dealt with, within minutes, without fanfare. Hence they were next to ‘invisible’ as a type. By downgrading and bypassing ERs, forcing these problems out onto the highway in an ambulance, the non-medical managers have ‘created’ a new and visible time-critical type of emergency. These new time-critical emergencies are really bureaucratic artifacts.
Specifically, people with gunshot wounds in vital areas, unconscious people with difficulty breathing, people in shock bleeding massively, people with drug overdoses, people in anaphylactic shock, people with head injuries, and many more (I cant list them all), are the ones that would ordinarily be those moved to the head of the ER line. If they cannot be put at the head of the line because they are on an ambulance that has bypassed the hospital and is out there somewhere on the highway on a trip to a place too far away, they may just die in that ambulance. And that is in spite of all the good intentions of fine paramedics, for there are still certain things that only a doctor at a hospital can do.
In a statement that perfectly epitomizes the potentially life-threatening bureaucracy of nationalized health care, in response to questioning regarding the impact of the emergency department closures on the death of Ms. Anzovino, the Minister of Health had this to say [emphasis added]:
We are building a health care system in Ontario where every person in Ontario has access to the very best possible care as close to home as possible. Having said that, the reality is that sometimes people will have to travel to another community to be able to access the highly specialized care that is part of today’s health care system. I think people understand that we cannot provide highly specialized care in every community hospital. When it comes to emergency care, it’s vitally important, absolutely essential, that people get to where that specialized care is available as quickly as possible.
And adding insult to inury, regarding the closing of the emergency departments at the two hospitals in question (one of which he promised in 2002 to keep open), the Minister also stated the following:
I am absolutely convinced that the people in Niagara have better quality health care now than they did before.
Tell that to the family of Reilly Anzovino.
Nevermind that the closures are causing a quantifiable delay in emergency care. According to this article, the ambulances, paramedics, and patients are delayed an average of eight hours daily, and hours of wait-time have increased from 130 to 240 hours per month at the Niagra Falls Hospital, due to the shortage of emergency departments in the months since the closures. And the closures were supposedly necessary due to budget shortages, despite a 42% spending increase on health care in the Niagra Region in the past six years.
Aside from the emergency department closures, the region has experienced increased emergency-room wait times, delay and cancellation of surgeries (including serious cancer surgeries), increased hospital-bed closures, and an above-average death rate.
And liberals in the U.S. still wonder why the vast majority of Americans oppose nationalized health care?
Special note: Anzovino's parents have established a memorial scholarship for paramedic students, in their daughter's name. Details here.