Canada's killer health care & Natasha Richardson
If her accident had occurred in the US, it is very likely she would have received the proper diagnosis, testing and care to save her life. It is important to remember that when Democrats are pushing for the Canadian health care system. Canadians often have to come to the US for CT scans because they are rationed up there. Rationed health care means waiting and that can be critical to many patients.
COULD actress Natasha Richardson's tragic death have been prevented if her skiing accident had occurred in America rather than Canada?
Canadian health care de-emphasizes widespread dissemination of technology like CT scanners and quick access to specialists like neurosurgeons. While all the facts of Richardson's medical care haven't been released, enough is known to pose questions with profound implications.
Richardson died of an epidural hematoma -- a bleeding artery between the skull and brain that compresses and ultimately causes fatal brain damage via pressure buildup. With prompt diagnosis by CT scan, and surgery to drain the blood, most patients survive.
Could Richardson have received this care? Where it happened in Canada, no. In many US resorts, yes.
Between noon and 1 p.m., Richardson sustained what appeared to be a trivial head injury while skiing at Mt. Tremblant in Quebec. Within minutes, she was offered medical assistance but declined to be seen by paramedics.
But this delay is common in the early stages of epidural hematoma when patients have few symptoms -- and there is reason to believe her case wasn't beyond hope at that point.
About three hours after the accident, the actress was taken to Centre Hospitalier Laurentien, in Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts, 25 miles from the resort. Hospital spokesman Alain Paquette said she was conscious upon reaching the hospital about 4 p.m.
The initial paramedic assessment, travel time to the hospital and time she spent there was nearly two hours -- the crucial interval in this case. Survival rates for patients with epidural hematomas, conscious on arrival to a hospital, are good.
Richardson's evaluation required an immediate CT scan for diagnosis -- followed by either a complete removal of accumulated blood by a neurosurgeon or a procedure by a trauma surgeon or emergency physician to relieve the pressure and allow her to be transported.
But Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts is a town of 9,000 people. Its hospital doesn't have specialized neurology or trauma services. It hasn't been reported whether the hospital has a CT scanner, but CT scanners are less common in Canada.
Compounding the problem, Quebec has no helicopter services to trauma centers in Montreal. Richardson was transferred by ambulance to Hospital du Sacre-Coeur, a trauma center 50 miles away in Montreal -- a further delay of over an hour.
Because she didn't arrive at a facility capable of treatment (with the diagnosis perhaps still unknown) until six hours after the injury, in all likelihood by that time the pressure buildup was fatal. The Montreal hospital could not have saved her life.