Saturday, June 27, 2009

Exceptional circumstances: A Canadian couple and their premature baby, currently receiving care in the U.S., must be reunited ASAP

By Michael J.W. Stickings

A sad, troubling, rage-inducing story from The Canadian Press:

A critically-ill premature-born baby from Hamilton is all alone in a Buffalo, N.Y., hospital after she was turned away for treatment at local facility and transferred across the border without her parents, who don't have passports.

Ava Stinson was born Thursday at St. Joseph's Hospital, 14 weeks premature.

A provincewide search for an open neonatal intensive care unit bed came up empty, leaving no choice but to send the two pound, four ounce baby to Buffalo.

Her parents Natalie Paquette and Richard Stinson couldn't follow their child because as of June 1, a passport is required to cross the border into the United States.

They're having to approve medical procedures over the phone and are terrified something will happen to their baby before they get there.

The Canadian Consulate in Buffalo is providing advice and guidance to the first-time parents, and their local MP, New Democrat David Christopherson, is working to arrange emergency passports.

But that will take until at least Monday afternoon and the situation is complicated by the fact the baby's dad has a criminal record.

"I just want to be with her," said Paquette.

"She only knows my heartbeat, my voice and her daddy's voice. It's all I can think about. I feel so helpless."

I won't get into the relative merits of the American and Canadian health-care systems here. Suffice it to say that there obviously need to be more neo-natal intensive care unit beds up here. Thankfully -- and this doesn't mean that the American system is better (after all, at least the couple and their baby are guaranteed care up here, thanks to our public system, even if it's not perfect) -- there was an opening south of the border.

That aside -- now that the baby is in Buffalo -- isn't this a clear case where the law must allow for an exception? No, the parents don't have passports, which are now needed (a rule that recently came into effect), and, yes, the father has a criminal record (I don't know for what, but I doubt he's a threat to American society), but surely the demands of the moment, the exceptional circumstances of this individual case (and the need for the parents to be with their baby at this difficult time, with so much uncertain) trump all other considerations, including the unfeeling application of the law.

It is likely, I suppose, that the couple will get their emergency passports. But will the U.S. then let them in? And will they get there in time, should the baby take a turn for the worse?

This story is simply heartbreaking. The powers-that-be on both sides of the border ought to work something out, quickly, that makes this happen, passports or no passports, criminal record or no criminal record.

This family must be reunited. Now.

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28 Comments:

  • Guaranteed care my ass. THe baby was not guaranteed care in Canada but shipped to the US. This is commn and mcmasters plans to shut down this chidren hospital. Your govt often reneges on payments to US hospitals the US hospitals have to take the loss. This happens all the time. I left Cnd after moving there. I could not find one dr between windsor and ottawa to treat my young adult autistic child even for arouting colds. Your system sucks! GUarantee nothing.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:05 PM  

  • Neo-natal care for a premature infant? Why doesn't every hospital in North America have specialized equipment costing millions for use in rare cases, which in most communities will almost never happen? Maybe if Canada had some fine American style Republicans to give them millions of uninsured citizens, but at least you can enjoy the tax cuts, if you were rich.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:41 PM  

  • This story and comment above display the underlying immorality of a society where a faceless bureaucracy mindlessly adheres to rules and regulations while valuing human life as a mere monetary commodity. Frankly, I'm surprised the baby was allowed to cross the border. Disgusting on so many levels.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:08 AM  

  • This is a perfect time to discuss the relative merits of our healthcare systems. So why is it you don't have a NICU bed? Because your government refuses to pay for one. You guarantee equal access, not actual healthcare, and the result is that your system stinks. Natasha Richardson died for similar reasons. She died because there's not a single medevac helicopter in the entire province of Quebec. You all can try and pretend that health care is a "right" but my labor is not your right and it never will be.

    By Anonymous DocinPA, at 11:27 AM  

  • The outrage is that the Government of Canada so rations healthcare that there was not one neo-natal bed left in the country and the child needed to be sent to a country where supply can meet demand. No one in the US is denied emergency care regardless of ability to pay, but if left to the democrats and Canada this child would be dead today.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:35 AM  

  • "after all, at least the couple and their baby are guaranteed care up here, thanks to our public system, even if it's not perfect."

    It's not accurate to imply that the baby would not have received care in U.S. The baby would have received care in the U.S. regardless of whether the family had insurance. Emergency care is guaranteed here, in that no one can be turned away for lack of ability to pay in an emergency. What is guaranteed in Canada is FREE care. A direct result of that free care guarantee is the lack of neo-natal beds.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:34 PM  

  • Ah, yes, the despicable lack of health care access in the united states. If only there were some law that required hospitals to provide acute care!

    Oh!

    Wait!

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EMTALA

    "The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (42 U.S.C. ยง 1395dd, EMTALA) is a United States Act of Congress passed in 1986 as part of the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. It requires hospitals and ambulance services to provide care to anyone needing emergency treatment regardless of citizenship, legal status or ability to pay. There are no reimbursement provisions."

    I marvel at the compassion of a country such as Canada, which refuses to provide its own, tiniest citizens with medical care.

    But hey, at least they're guaranteed access!

    What a crock.

    By Anonymous jdub, at 3:17 PM  

  • If she is guaranteed care, then why is she here in the US without her parents? My heart goes out to them as our middle son was transferred to a hospital in San Antonio, TX after being born in Austin, TX.

    Instead of attempting to promote how lovely your health care is, be honest about it. It's rationed, otherwise there would have been another bed somewhere in the province.

    Emergency care and life saving care is ALWAYS provided in US hospitals, as is ER care for a cold.

    By Blogger Susie Q, at 6:27 PM  

  • So what happens when Obama's plan leads to shortages in the US too? Lots of dead babies, that's what.

    Welcome to socialism.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:50 PM  

  • Like I said in my post, the Canadian health-care system isn't perfect. There wasn't enough room for the baby here in Ontario, so, given the urgency of the situation, a bed was found in Buffalo. I suppose the baby could have been sent to another province, but Buffalo is much closer to Hamilton.

    And I do not deny that there is excellent health care in the U.S. I lived there for many years and know that first-hand. But the fact is, while there may be emergency care for everyone, millions of Americans lack health care, and even for many who have it, they aren't guaranteed care -- it must be approved by their HMOs. All too often, health-care-related decisions in the U.S. are based on for-profit considerations, that is, on the bottom line. To me, that's just disgusting.

    And to the last anonymous commenter: Obama and the Dems want to expand care to everyone. That's what matters here. There will still be choice, just as there is here in Canada. And while the case I write about in my post is an exception, and a sad one, overall, health care in Canada is excellent. Are you such an ignorant partisan that you really think the Obama plan will lead to "lots of dead babies"?

    By Blogger Michael J.W. Stickings, at 10:23 PM  

  • Stickling what good is healthcare that can only take care of minor problems and leaves the rest, those with cancer and other major illnesases, to die slowly because the waiting time for treatment is longer than the patients projected life span? You can spin your garbage whatever way you want but, your country couldn't take care of an ill newborn. What a great system you have.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:33 PM  

  • "Guaranteed care"? Really? A hospital in the most densely populated Provence in the country had not a single bed for this child. That sounds like the exact opposite of "guaranteed care" to me. Thankfully for this child and parents, there is a health care system capable of guaranteeing health care for everyone nearby. Once again: guaranteed health INSURANCE does not equal guaranteed health CARE, as this case perfectly proves.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:33 AM  

  • "Michael: All too often, health-care-related decisions in the U.S. are based on for-profit considerations, that is, on the bottom line. To me, that's just disgusting."

    Mr. Stickings, a neo-nate just had to be sent out of your nation because your profit-free rationing system could only "guarantee" care by outsourcing it to that country with those "disgusting" for-profit types.

    Why is it that companies making money off a valuable and individual-circumstance-dependent good more disgusting to you than your government being so pathetic and under-resourced that they have to rely on said disgusting entities to save Canadian neonates?

    Is the self-righteousness worth the "cost-savings?" That child's health care was only guaranteed because thankfully, your disgusting profit-driven neighbor to the south can pick up the slack.

    You're welcome, Mr. Stickings.

    By Blogger BKennedy, at 5:13 AM  

  • "All too often, health-care-related decisions in the U.S. are based on for-profit considerations, that is, on the bottom line. To me, that's just disgusting."

    Another way of putting that is that health care decisions are based on cost considerations, which is the case absolutely everywhere. Canada may not apply the nasty P word, but you still just as screwed when the decision doesn't go your way. Which, of course, is disgusting.

    So, when our system is just as bad as yours, where do you send the people for whom you can't provide the care they're "guaranteed?" Where do we send ours?

    By Blogger Pablo, at 8:55 AM  

  • Argument by amplitude and by atypical anecdote. Now that's Republican.

    Last week, when it hit 101 degrees here, my friend's son fainted on a playground. having just lost his medical insurance because his wife has MS, he took the kid to the ER. The bill was $6,400 for an examination. He doesn't have it. They may loose their house and of course it's nearly impossible for him to file for bankruptcy. Great system we have here, you smug Republican bastards.

    I wonder why, all the savages dancing around the bonfire notwithstanding, the US ranks number 28 in world infant mortality and number 45 (Canada is 14)in life expectancy despite our health care costing much more than elsewhere -- and why so many of those "socialist" countries are more competitive in the capitalist marketplace.

    Japan, Singapore, even those Commies in Hong King all live longer than we do -- and it's getting worse. Yes, the Swedes, the French, the Swiss, the British and the Canadians too -- most of the developed world. Now why is that?

    Irresponsibly touting emergency room care as a substitute for medical insurance which includes a State administered option is like suggesting that you not maintain or repair your car until you put a rod through the block. It's simply a stupid suggestion. Ever wait 36 hours writhing in pain in an emergency room full of people who shouldn't really be there?

    So go ahead and dance around the socialist straw man while the Swedes and the Swiss are healthy, happy and prosperous and the Japanese, free of our piratical system, beat the pants off us to the point where we cannot compete in building things our ancestors invented.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 9:26 AM  

  • The bill was $6,400 for an examination.

    Hogwash.

    Japan, Singapore, even those Commies in Hong King all live longer than we do -- and it's getting worse.

    Right. Because Japan, for instance, has a 3.2% obesity rate as compared to our 30.6% rate.

    By Blogger Pablo, at 9:44 AM  

  • Hogwash? Are you calling me a liar sir? Very brave of you, but I know this family very well and have for years and the kid is not "obese" and I do know for a fact just exactly what his ambulance trip to the Emergency room cost because I've seen the bills -- and of course you don't and you haven't, so I suggest you go and wash your own hogs. You may be better suited to it than to this argument.

    People with good medical insurance live quite a bit longer in the USA: fat, thin, rich or poor and everybody smokes like Crazy in Hong Kong and breathes polluted air - and yet they live longer largely because they can afford check ups and things many Americans cannot.

    As cheap as your argument is, I'm not buying it nor are the majority of Americans who unlike you, have a vested interest in preventing change at the expense of your country's health.

    We pay more for medical care than other countries with worse results and the industry makes huge profits from it by limiting coverage to those who need it least. I've been a stockholder of health care corporations who squeal like hogs about being regulated and taxed out of existence while bragging to the stockholders about record windfall profits.

    You don't go to the ER with cancer Pablo, nor with MS or Cystic Fibrosis or Alzheimer's or leukemia or chronic heart disease or COPD or if your kid has a birth defect or if you find a lump in your breast or blood in your stool or anything else requiring health care - you just go home and die and increase the profits of the HMO's and the cost to the taxpayer.
    You don't even have an annual checkup because like some 13% of the people in my home town, you're unemployed and can't afford it. You don't even know you have high blood pressure or clogged carotid arteries - you can't afford a sonogram or MRI which may equal half a years income. You just wait until you collapse and until a minor problem becomes fatal - and you wait in the emergency room.

    It's the uninsured that are dragging down our statistics and healthy people are having claims denied for bogus reasons and you know it.

    Are you paying your own medical insurance? Have you been hospitalized recently? Have you been denied coverage because you were once prescribed anti-depressants years ago, or denied a claim on a policy you've paid on for years because you neglected to mention you broke your arm in high school? Do you have any idea of what you're talking about or what's going on -- or are you just a shill for the people who profit from suffering?

    Do you have any data indicating that our shameful infant mortality rate is the result of obesity or that the Swiss or the Germans or Swedes, or Scotts are healthier because they're less obese? I doubt it.

    Are we dumping TB patients on the street to infect others because they are obese -- or because they have no insurance? Is obesity the reason that the biggest cause of homelessness and financial collapse is calamitous medical expenses -- which in turn leads to less preventative care which leads to further disease? Hogwash indeed.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 12:56 PM  

  • "The bill was $6,400 for an examination."

    I repeat: Hogwash. I'm not offering any conjecture as to why you'd make such an obviously false statement, but it is what it is. Hogwash. Examinations do not cost $6400.

    By Blogger Pablo, at 2:39 PM  

  • "...this doesn't mean that the American system is better..."

    Of course you are correct: if needed medical care is not available in Canada, but is available across the border in the USofA then this proves that the Canadian health system and the US health system are both equally in need of fixing.

    /snark off

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:19 PM  

  • Infant mortality in the U.S. seems high because the U.S. actually keeps accurate records. Most countries do not even report a live birth in their statistics unless the baby survives for 72 hours.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infant_mortality_rate#Comparing_infant_mortality_rates

    I do not doubt that in most countries with socialized medicine, the state is also probably playing with the statistics. The government lies to you about everything else, why not this?

    And if the baby in question was the son or daughter of a member of parliament or a politically connected friend of one, can you honewstly say that a NICU bed would not have been found?

    You're fooling yourself, Mr. Stickings. Canada has excellent health care for its oligarchs, and Obama is simply trying to implement a Chicago-style system here -- the friends of Mr. Capone get all the bootleg they want, while everyone else gets the shaft.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:18 PM  

  • I suspect I'm the victim of a language barrier. If the baby and mother were guaranteed care in Canada, then why was it necessary for the baby to leave Canada to find a unit capable of providing the care he needed?

    I understood a guarantee to be something like a certainty or some kind of promise or assurance something would be the way it was represented to be. However, Mr. Stickings may be referring to a dictionary not available to me that includes a more elastic definition.

    By Blogger Friar, at 11:25 PM  

  • I concur. The story of the $6,400 examination and the supposed loss of a home that will follow from it is a naked lie. I'm an active duty Army physician assistant by the way, so I particpate in socialized medicine, including routine exams and coding. I assume liar didn't feel his logic had sufficient punch without the Big Sad Story.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:41 AM  

  • Capt: Frogg: Argument by amplitude and by atypical anecdote. Now that's Republican.

    I find it laughable you make this statement and then proceed with an atypical antidote. Are you Republican? Why do you self-hate?

    Even assuming what you said was entirely true, the reason it costs as such because of all the free treatment ER's have to give to illegal aliens and other reprobates who use the ER as their primary care physician. The cost for all that "free" care has to go somewhere, so some poor dope who isn't here illegally and pays his taxes ends up taking the hit.

    Just like Canada, where "free" care invariably means someone else has to pick up the cost. Since the Canadian healthcare system values dollars more than lives, those who can't be outsourced to the south are merely denied treatment and left to die a slow, agonizing death.

    After all, as long as you can stick it to the US by having a "less costly" healthcare system, who cares how many thousands die from terminal illness? Socialized care is cheaper, ignorance is strength, freedom is slavery.

    By Blogger BKennedy, at 7:04 AM  

  • Oh, how cute, you changed Fogg to frogg. you folks are just so witty which in a pompous, all knowing asshole is such a charming characteristic.

    Ok, call me a liar, obviously I know better but you're too anonymous and far away for me to prove my assertion, but of course I saw, and I know and you're all full of your selves and all full of shit, which appears to be the same thing.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 10:46 AM  

  • Actually I misread, my bad, but given your astounding penchant for projection I hardly think it matters, ya old Foggy.

    I'll get off your lawn now.

    By Blogger BKennedy, at 5:59 PM  

  • Your bad what? or do you just like to appear populist by using outdated and cliche ghetto slang?

    Before you finish congratulating yourself on being so much like the boys from the hood, go look up the cost of an emergency ambulance ride and a cranial CAT scan and a full blood workup and see how much of a liar I am and what kind of an ignorant little twit it makes you when you prance about the page telling me I'm "projecting" something.

    So tell me -- what do you think these things cost where you live.

    It's so easy to call someone a liar and so cheap when you offer not one shred of evidence to back up your bit of theater. You'd find it quite difficult, for instance, to refute charges that your mother was a syphilitic crack whore.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 10:11 AM  

  • Captain not only was she a crack whore but she pimped her baby to gay liberals for Tim Horton's gift certificates.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:27 PM  

  • I'm reading this blog as I am researching and aspect of prematurity. I am rather shocked at the extraordinary unpleasantness that this sad situation has developed into. No country, that I can think of, is without difficulty in funding healthcare, so don't let the plight of this family degenrerate into a border squabble about who has the best facilities for them. Canada and the US are both excellent places for being treated.

    By Anonymous Tina, Bristol, UK, at 10:34 AM  

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