Medical Emergencies Onboard

davidglallen - July 21, 2008

Two recent incidents (July, 2008) when GLCC members required urgent medical attention in Ontario,  prompts me to remind everyone of the following background to the Canadian (Ontario) health care system.

1.  As both incidents illustrate there is excellent medical care available in both Little Current and Gore Bay on Manitoulin Island.  The former is a hospital and the latter a medical centre.

2. Emergency departments (as in the one in Little Current) must treat everyone regardless of race, income, nationality or ailment.

3. For non-residents of Canada there will be a charge for use of the facility and a charge for the professional services of the physician.  These charges are not the same and in recent years have been substantially increased to provide additional funding for hospitals in a category called "non-resident income".  Most physicians are private entrepreneurs and are on a "fee for service" basis which is usually unrelated to any hospital relationship they might have.  There are no "standard" rates.

4. Should the medical care required by any patient arriving at a local emergency department be beyond the capability of that facility there is an excellent public air ambulance service across Ontario.  In the case of Spanish, Little Current, Gore Bay or Killarney, for example, patients are routinely transferred by helicopter or fixed wing aircraft to Sudbury or Toronto.  The normal custom in these cases is to stabilize the patient and then transport.

5. Emergency departments are busy everywhere but in all instances, the priority in which a patient is seen is dictated by their symptoms as described on arrival.   Time of arrival in no way dictates the order in which a patient is treated.

6. Always ask where you should get a prescription filled.  Hospitals and doctors' offices know both the availability and use instructions for the specific drugs they prescribe.  Follow their recommendations.

7. It is to your advantage to carry ""out of country"" medical/ hospital insurance.  As one popular credit card says......."Don't leave home without it".

8. In most environments a call to 911 brings a tiered response from police, fire and ambulance.  Please note that the excellent response by the Canadian Coast Guard (Thunder Bay Coast Guard) in the Georgian Bay and North Channel areas is not part of the 911 system.  These resources must be accessed by VHF on Channel 16 or *16 on your cellular phone.  In some areas the assistance of the Ontario Provincial Police marine units is available by calling the closest OPP office.  Where there is no local police force, the OPP is part of the response to an emergency. They may also be called on the VHF radio but do necessarily monitor the frequency.

I trust this is informative.  I will continue to update this material throughout the cruising season.


David G. Allen

Rear Commodore, Georgian Bay