Opinion: My personal commitment to make health care safer inspired by “Falling Through the Cracks”

By Dr. Dennis Kendel

Posted on Mar 13 2019 | 844 views

Opinion: My personal commitment to make health care safer inspired by “Falling Through the Cracks”

Prior to the viewing of “Falling Through the Cracks: Greg’s Story” at the Broadway Theatre in Saskatoon on March 7, 2019, I had viewed this film six times. On three of those occasions, I served on the response panel following the viewing.

 

I would have thought that my emotional response to this story of Greg Price’s health care experience would have diminished with successive viewings. It hasn’t.

falling through the cracks saskatoon panel

Discussion panel after the Saskatoon screening of Falling Through the Cracks. Left to right: Darlene Dyck, Dr. Mark Wahba, Dr. Dennis Kendel, Teri Price, and Dave Price

As I took my place as a member of the response panel on March 7th, I was as emotionally distraught as the first time I viewed it. I was relieved that Dave and Teri Price, Greg’s father and sister, were slated to speak before me. I don’t think I could have spoken immediately.

Behind each “number” is a person

Through various roles I have held in our health care system, I’ve become painfully familiar with the statistics about patients who die or suffer irreparable harm from gaps and errors in the care they receive. Between April 1, 2017 and March 31, 2018, a total of 188 such critical incidents were reported to the Ministry (Ministry of Health’s 2017-18 Annual Report).

photo of greg price

Image of Greg Price. Source: CBC.ca

Though these numbers are troubling, we are inclined sometimes to lose sight of the fact that each number is a person – someone’s child, sister, brother, parent, wife, or husband. When we or someone close to us suffers harm, our emotional response is more raw. We may experience an array of emotions, including sheer outrage, anger, grief, sorrow, and persistent sadness.

A remarkably strong family

In the wake of Greg’s death on May 19, 2012, I expect that Greg’s family experienced all of these emotions. I know they still deeply miss him. In the early portion of the video, one gets a glimpse of what a dynamic, caring person he was. His untimely and unexpected death has left a gaping hole in the Price family.

Greg’s family could have elected to be persistently embittered by their loss. But this remarkable family chose to do everything within their power to use this tragedy as a springboard for making health care safer for all of us through their many initiatives.

Dave and Teri Price

Greg’s father, Dave, and Greg’s Sister Teri. Dave and Teri were both a part of the Saskatoon screening  Source: Calgary Journal

I’ve had the privilege of getting to know Dave and Teri Price personally. I’ve come to deeply admire and respect their sacrificial and tenacious commitment to making health care safer. One or the other, or both of them have now travelled to over 150 locations (and counting) to personally engage many hundreds of people in a dialogue about lessons to be learned from Greg’s fateful health care journey.

We all have the ability to positively shape the future of health care

The Price family has a profound understanding of the truth that each of us has some capacity to positively shape the future of health care wherever we live in Canada. Some of us may be in a position to influence public policy related to health care safety. Others may be in a position to change the way care is organized and delivered. Some may be able to optimize safety through their diverse professional roles at various points of patient care in the health system. And, all of us have the capacity to become more informed and activist when we, or members of our family, are in need of health care.

I’m glad that watching a video about Greg’s Price’s health care journey still tears at my heart. I’m glad that it evokes in me a deep sense of frustration with the status quo. I’m glad that it jolts me out of complacency and challenges me to consider what I can personally do to make health care safer in Saskatchewan. I sincerely hope it has this impact on every person who views it.

Our personal commitments to make health care safer

Every person attending the “Falling Through the Cracks” viewing on March 7th received an event program. On the last page of that program there was a challenge put forth to each of us to make a personal commitment focused on changes that might make health care safer. This prompted me to reflect on what I might be able to do.

Falling Through the Cracks Saskatoon event program

Event program from the Saskatoon screening of “Falling Through the Cracks” on March 7th, 2019

What can I do to make health care safer?

In the course of that reflection, I thought about my roles as a citizen, a husband, a father, and a grandfather. I also thought about possible future experiences as a patient. Finally, I thought about my privileged current position as the interim CEO of the Health Quality Council (HQC).  These are my commitments:

  • When I next become a patient, I will be fiercely and unapologetically assertive in asking about all plans for my care and expect to receive full and timely information about each step in my care plan.
  • As a husband, father, and grandfather, I will strive to ensure that my family members are equally assertive patients and I will not hesitate to provide advocacy and support to them in their health care journeys.
  • As a citizen, I will become more proactive in informing my MLA, the Health Minister and the Premier of Saskatchewan about the urgency of assuring that all citizens will very soon have electronic access to all their health information.
  • During the time that I remain privileged to serve as the interim CEO of the HQC, I will do everything in my power to forge and support inter-agency collaboration focused on improving patient safety in all health care settings across Saskatchewan.

What commitments are you prepared to make?

I would encourage you to make a list of your commitments. To motivate and embolden your friends and other citizens to become health care safety advocates, I would encourage you to publicly share your commitments via social media and other channels using the hashtags: #GregsWings and​ #inspiredbyGreg.

No one should be complacent about current risks of harm from gaps in health care. Through concerted effort, we can close those gaps. We need a social movement committed to patient safety. We need you to be part of this movement. Please get involved today.

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Categories: Blog, Patient and Family-Centered Care, Insights

Tags: patient- and family-centred care , patient safety , patients , quality of care , Saskatchewan health care , Dr. Dennis Kendel , patient and family advisors , Saskatchewan Health Authority , greg's wings , greg price , Falling Through the Cracks: Greg's Story

1 comments on article "Opinion: My personal commitment to make health care safer inspired by “Falling Through the Cracks”"

Malori
3/15/2019 8:20 AM

Thanks Dr. Kendel for your leadership and vulnerability in this blog post. I am one of those patients who has "slipped" into the cracks in our system. Over the last nine years, I've advocated for my care and recognize that, when the health system engages me as an expert of my own body and experience, the "cracks" seem to disappear.

My pledge is to advocate for the referral process between providers to become transparent to the patient. No longer can we assume that faxes or letters will be sent between providers - I will boldly ask my providers to this and encourage others to do the same.


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