Saturday, January 26, 2008

Spot was wrong!

A few days ago, Spot said that he was glad that Captain Snake Oil was back writing on the net, but apparently he's been doing it for a while at a site dedicated to the invisible hand job and sponsored by the association of puffed cereal called the Minnesota Free Market Institute. One of the biggest puffs, the iconic David Strom, is featured in the sidebar on the site. Please forgive Spot; the Free Market Institute is not a place to find reasonable conversation. A friend of Spot's just called this bleat, written by Captain Fishsticks, to his attention: Ten-month wait for a maternity ward.

Boy, Spotty, did some poor woman actually have to wait an extra month for a spot in a maternity ward? That's awful.

Of course not, grasshopper. Sticks is just quoting the "journalist" Mark Steyn, the Great White Dope from our Neighbor to the North. Actually, Steyn and Sticks have a lot in common; neither is really a journalist in the common understanding of the term, but each gets to play one in the media, substituting his own recipe mixing ideology and deception as a synthetic substitute for genuine inquiry and exploration.

In this case, not even Steyn claims that a woman had to wait an extra month to deliver a baby, or four babies as was the case here. Here's what happened:

A woman in Calgary, Canada was carrying four identical quadruplets (four kids from one egg; nice work Mom). When it came time for the babies to be delivered, the mother, who had been on bed rest for a month, was flown to Great Falls, Montana because there were not enough neo-natal intensive care beds in Calgary for the new quartet.

The valiant Captain, breathlessly repeats Steyn's claim that this is a failure of the national health care system in Canada. Steyn says:

Health officials said they checked every [emphasis is Spot's] other neonatal intensive care unit in Canada, but none had space.

Funny, that not exactly what the parents' website says:

 Saturday, August 11, 2007-  Greetings from Montana!  The past few days have had us on another roller coaster ride... and a Lear jet!  Karen started intermittent contractions on Thursday and was starting to dilate.  This prompted the doctors to take a serious look at NICU bed availability on Friday morning, and the outlook wasn't good.  The addition of 3 new preemies to the NICU Thursday night meant the Unit was maxed-out on space and staff.  4 additional preemies could have posed an insurmountable challenge for the limited resources.  A scan of availability in nearby U.S. cities showed there were 4 NICU beds available in Montana.  To safeguard the health of our babies in the case of delivery, the Calgary Health Region decided to send us south of the border.  The paramedics and flight crew, and the hospital staff at the Foothills and in Montana have all been wonderful.

Steyn add the part about looking all over Canada to find beds just to make a better story, at least from his perspective. Maybe they should have been sent to Goose Bay, Labrador, or perhaps Charlottetown on Price Edward Island; Dad could have stayed at the Anne of Green Gables bed and breakfast!

Let's have a little geography lesson for Sticks, okay?

Where is Calgary located?

It's on the eastern slope of the Canadian Rocky Mountains in Alberta.

Right. What's the nearest Canadian city to the east?


Right again. It's about 1350 kilometers. How about to the west?


Yes. That's about 1050 kilometers, but it is over the Rock Mountains, requiring a lot more altitude and better pressurization capabilities for a medical flight, perhaps especially in the case of a pregnancy. How about to the north?

Wait a minute! We forgot Regina (775 k) and Saskatoon (625 k) to the east!

You're absolutely right, grasshopper. But what about the north?

Red Deer?

Be serious grasshopper; the answer is Edmonton, about 300 kilometers. Although many Canadians (especially male Canadians) will tell you that the best-looking women in Canada come from Red Deer. Anticipating your question, grasshopper, Spot doesn't know why. Now let's look to the south.

Well, Spotty, the nearest Canadian city to the south isn't in Canada; it's Great Falls, Montana. About 500 kilometers from Calgary.

So, except for Edmonton, the closest city of respectable size to Calgary is Great Falls. Spot has been to Great Falls many times. It has a great airport, in fact two of them. One is a U.S. Air Force base, although it is in limited use right now. Sticks and Steyn [will break your bones] want you to think that Great Falls is just a rural backwater, but it is not. Great Falls International's most used runway, 3/21, is 10,500 feet long and has excellent IFR approaches. Just the ticket if you have some weather flying to do, or you're in a Lear Jet.

There is one other factor that may have played a part, too, boys and girls. Edmonton and Calgary are two boom cities in the Canadian west, growing rapidly. It is not uncommon for population growth to outstrip infrastructure, including hospitals. Just ask Maple Grove. The population of Great Falls has stagnated in the recent past; probably fewer babies being born, which would lead to some excess capacity.

Remember, too, that most of the population of Canada lives within a hundred miles or so of the US border. Since that country is so spread out east to west for its population, Canada, especially, has been interested in providing closer cooperation between Canadian provinces and the states to their south.

Anyway, here's what one health official in Calgary said:

An official with the Calgary Health Region defends the move to send the Jepps to Great Falls.

“We did not have the capacity to take four new Level 3 babies, so the call goes to Edmonton and to Vancouver and across Western Canada to find out if there is bed space,” explained Don Stewart. “We had found across Canada there were not four Level 3 beds available so that’s when we looked to Montana, which is the closest facility to us with reasonable care and within a reasonable distance. That was only done after exhausting the options here at home.

“They (American critics) don’t have all the facts and information, obviously,” he added.

Stewart said there are 21 Level 3 incubators in Calgary, but a staffing shortage meant only 16 were in use when the Jepps were giving birth. Staffing levels will be increased by this fall, he added.

And remember, four neo-natal intensive care beds for one delivery would tax most any medical facility. Any responsible administrator would want to keep some places in reserve. This was a rare event. The health care system in Canada also paid for the flight and for the care in Great Falls.

Imagine what would have happened if the situation had been reversed. A Great Falls mother needs air transport to a medical facility with more capacity in another city. Think about trying to get advance approval from the insurance establishment for that one, moms and dads. Especially when you need it NOW.

The drooling cretins like Sticks and Steyn want you to think this is a failure of the Canadian system, but it is actually a success. How many neo-natal beds do you suppose there are in New Orleans right now, and how many expectant moms get flown or taken somewhere else when there is a shortage?

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