Premier Wil­liams leaves us guess­ing

Cape Breton Post - - COMMENT -

Danny Wil­liams has bro­ken cover with a blunt but less than clear ex­pla­na­tion for why he chose to have heart surgery in the United States rather than Canada. “ This was my heart, my choice and my health,” the premier of New­found­land and Labrador de­claimed from his con­do­minium in Sara­sota, Florida.

There’s no ar­gu­ing with that, as far as it goes. The only ques­tion is what pe­cu­liar obli­ga­tion goes along with this by virtue of Wil­liams’s po­si­tion as a prom­i­nent po­lit­i­cal fig­ure in the coun­try whose ac­tions might be ex­pected to have some in­flu­ence on pub­lic at­ti­tudes to­wards the health care that we have.

Cer­tainly, few Cana­di­ans would say Wil­liams’s obli­ga­tion would ex­tend to sub­ject­ing him­self to trauma or risk for the sake of po­lit­i­cal op­tics. From Wil­liams’s com­ments it’s ap­par­ent that he be­lieved Mount Si­nai Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Mi­ami of­fered him the “ best pos­si­ble health care” for his con­di­tion, a leaky mi­tral valve, notwith­stand­ing his in­sis­tence that he also has “ut­most con­fi­dence in our health-care sys­tem.”

How­ever, Wil­liams in his pub­lic per­sona did owe New­found­lan­ders and all Cana­di­ans a full, clear ex­pla­na­tion of his de­ci­sion, and on that he came up short. Never mind that right wing zealots op­posed to Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health-care re­form pro­pos­als in the United States seized on Wil­liams as a poster boy for their cru­sade, sup­pos­edly prov­ing that even this head of a prov­ince didn’t trust his health to so­cial­ized medicine. That crazi­ness is not Wil­liams’s re­spon­si­bil­ity, but clar­ity to Cana­di­ans is.

Wil­liams’s re­marks at first were in­ter­preted as mean­ing that min­i­mally in­va­sive valve re­pair isn’t avail­able in Canada but what he ac­tu­ally said is that it “was not of­fered to me in Canada,” which could mean that Cana­dian spe­cial­ists in the pro­ce­dure were con­sulted but rec­om­mended against it in his case, favour­ing the al­ter­na­tive full or par­tial ster­notomy – open­ing the chest.

Dr. Thierry Me­sana, chief of the Uni­ver­sity of Ottawa Heart In­sti­tute car­diac surgery divi­sion and de­scribed by Maclean’s as a lead­ing au­thor­ity on mi­tral valves, notes a re­cent sur­vey pub­lished at the So­ci­ety of Tho­racic Sur­geons meet­ing which ex­pressed cau­tion in use of the pro­ce­dure, show­ing it is not rec­om­mended for com­plex re­pair and car­ries a higher rate of com­pli­ca­tion, es­pe­cially strokes. The cau­tion about com­plex­ity is in­ter­est­ing in light of ear­lier re­ports that Wil­liams had ex­pected his surgery to last 2 1 ⁄2 hours but it ac­tu­ally went six.

The irony here would be if Cana­dian spe­cial­ists had of­fered the sound­est, most up-to-date med­i­cal ad­vice only to see their health sys­tem later slammed as back­ward.

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