Usually, I try to write articles that stick closely to the facts. Sometimes, I do give my opinion. I’m only human. But there are very few times, if any, that I’ve said, let’s examine the story, but then talk about it, leave the reporting aside. Today, with the story of the toddler who died of the flu, is going to be that day.
The Background On The Ontario Toddler
It’s a very sad story. Devastating, in fact. Around Christmastime, 2019, Arzo Wahab and her husband, whose name is unmentioned, took their daughter, Sophia, to Sick Kids in Toronto (formally known as the Hospital for Sick Children). Sophia was “lethargic, throwing up, and had discoloured eyes.”
It was a six-hour wait. They were told it would be another seven.
They brought the child to a walk-in clinic in Newmarket, and the doctor told them she needed to be seen urgently. So they headed to Southlake Regional Health Centre. There, although the resident doctor was initially ready for tests, the supervisor pushed back. Sophia had the flu, he said, and probably one infection that had morphed into another. Go home, he said. Come back if she’s still sick in four days.
She died in three.
The supervising doctor was callous and foolish. But he wasn’t wrong, in terms of her diagnosis. She did have one infection, Strep A, that turned into a bile infection. Her Strep A turned septic, however, and she also had pneumonia.
We asked her so many times to do tests,” says Wahab. “But we kept getting brushed off. I told the doctor that her eyes don’t look the same – this is my kid, I knew she wasn’t well.”
It’s Not All Canadian Healthcare
Sophia’s mother is suing Southlake Regional Health Centre. Quite honestly, she’s not wrong to do so. The supervising physician was callous, he was dismissive, and he was wrong, in terms of how to apply his knowledge.
But there’s things and people who are getting caught up in this that shouldn’t be.
The Inside Scoop
My best friend is a nurse. She’d like to become a doctor, and, in fact, is getting into several prestigious med schools. She has told me that in healthcare, everywhere–as she has worked in the States, as well–there is a divide. Doctors often see themselves as superior to anyone else in health care, because of their long amounts of training. They will ignore med students and nurses and parents because to allow another perspective is to admit they are not all-powerful.
That’s what happened here. There was a good doctor in the walk-in clinic. The resident was ready to do the work. Then the supervising doctor stepped in.
Women are less listened to by doctors. Women are more likely to have their pain ignored and their fears dismissed in the medical system. Esther Chen is a doctor at Zuckerburg San Francisco General Hospital. She says, it could be due to ingrained, unconscious sexism, or that “we judge women and pain in terms of their presentation for different clinical conditions.” Could the fact that Sophia was a girl and her mother, a woman, was her most vocal advocate? It could be. It could be the arrogance. But, it’s a troubling idea. (2)
The Wait Times
Americans hear stories of Canadian wait times all the time. Here’s the truth; you may have to wait a while for many procedures. But, when it comes to Canadian healthcare, it’s based on how serious they take you. A few weeks ago, I went to the hospital with an illness. I won’t share all my private medical history, but it was serious enough that without treatment, I could have died. I saw a doctor in less than 20 minutes.
There’s a reason why this happened to me, while Sophia faced a 13-hour-long ER wait. First, it’s the city. Toronto is big. Really big. There’s a lot of sick people.
Primarily, though, it can be summed up by language.
I came across this idea on an American policing forum. People were bemoaning how the police took so long to show up, and a former cop chimed in.
The secret, he explained, is in how you describe things. If you say, “hi officer, so, I just broke up with my boyfriend, and he’s been so weird, and now he’s here,” the cop has already tuned you out. If you say, “a man is trying to break into my house,” that cop is taking you seriously. I believe it to be the same for doctors. If they don’t think you’re “seriously ill,” you’re not top priority–and that decision is often based on how you explain your symptoms.