The un­doc­u­mented fea­tures of liv­ing in the north

The Aurora (Labrador City) - - Editorial - Thom Barker

I pre­fer, of course, to write about how won­der­ful it is to live on the north coast of Labrador.

It is not with­out its chal­lenges, how­ever.

Ac­cess to med­i­cal ser­vices is one of them. That is not to dis­par­age the ser­vices that are avail­able, or the car­ing peo­ple who pro­vide them, but, let’s face it, sim­ply on economies of scale alone, what can be done in an iso­lated com­mu­nity of 180 peo­ple is go­ing to be lim­ited. We’re for­tu­nate to even have a clinic and nurse prac­ti­tioner.

For the sake of full dis­clo­sure, that nurse prac­ti­tioner hap­pens to be my wife, which is a dou­ble­whammy for me. As ex­cel­lent as she is, health care providers are eth­i­cally not sup­posed to pro­vide health care to fam­ily mem­bers. And, since our nurse prac­ti­tioner is one of the most eth­i­cal peo­ple I know, I’m left, for the most part, with the roughly quar­terly vis­its from the M.D.

Now, for­tu­nately, I am gen­er­ally health­ier than I have any right to be given my per­sonal his­tory, but a cou­ple of weeks ago, my eye started itch­ing. Over a cou­ple of days it start­ing to re­ally hurt and swell. On the fourth day, I woke up with sig­nif­i­cant im­pair­ment of my vi­sion.

We live in an amaz­ing tech­no­log­i­cal era and are for­tu­nate in Postville to have a tele­health ro­bot (okay, they call it some­thing else, but ro­bot is more fun). I was able to re­motely see an E.R. doc­tor in Happy Val­ley-Goose Bay, who con­cluded, be­cause we were po­ten­tially deal­ing with my eye­sight, that I should fly out.

No of­fence to Goose Bay — it’s as fine a town as we have in the Lake Melville area—but hav­ing just been there less than a week prior, on my way back from my sum­mer va­ca­tion in Ot­tawa, go­ing back was about the last thing I wanted to do.

We al­most didn’t get out. Flight times in the north are more like sug­ges­tions than sched­ules and, as we waited, the weather started to come down. The pi­lot told us Hope­dale and Makkovik were com­pletely flat. Our win­dow was small. Some­times, even get­ting on a flight is no guar­an­tee. The pre­vi­ous week, we flew from Goose all the way to Hope­dale, then Postville, but had to turn around and go back be­cause we couldn’t land.

Long story short, from the time I ar­rived at the clinic that morn­ing un­til the time I was done with the doc­tor in Goose, it was a full nine hours only to find out it was noth­ing sight-threat­en­ing and the “pre­scrip­tion” was warm com­presses. By the time I got home, it would end up be­ing 34 hours — the flight home was sched­uled for 2:30, but a mede­vac pushed it back to 4:30.

I will not lie and say it was not a tad frus­trat­ing, but, glass-half­full, I do feel for­tu­nate to live in a coun­try where a guy who chooses to live in a re­mote area still has ac­cess to qual­ity health care, even if it is on the in­con­ve­nient side. And I cer­tainly would not have wanted to find out it some­thing se­ri­ous just to jus­tify the time and ex­pense.

Yes, ex­pense. While the ac­tual health care as­pect of it is cov­ered (thank you Tommy Dou­glas), it’s far from free. By the time you add it all up—flight ($103), cabs ($45), ho­tel ($150), meals ($50)— you’re out-of-pocket $350.

Again, I am not ac­tu­ally com­plain­ing. I’ve writ­ten be­fore about the high cost of veg­eta­bles and other per­ish­ables and asked the ques­tion: What would you pay to live in par­adise?

How lucky am I to have been born Cana­dian in an era of un­prece­dented af­flu­ence, to have the op­por­tu­nity to choose to live where we want and af­ford the as­so­ci­ated costs, both fi­nan­cial and lo­gis­ti­cal? I re­fer to it as win­ning the lottery of birth.

There is an old joke that harkens to my days in the high tech busi­ness. We would re­fer to soft­ware bugs as “un­doc­u­mented fea­tures.”

I guess you could say the chal­lenges of liv­ing on the north coast are un­doc­u­mented fea­tures.

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