Saturday, February 6, 2010

Bleak House redux: Don’t get cancer in Västmanland!

I am sad today to relay the situation of a man awaiting treatment for colon cancer at the Västmanland County Hospital. The article appeared in today’s edition (February 6, 2010) of vlt, the regional newspaper for Västmanland.

In October 2009, the man visited his primary physician. It was determined he had blood in his stool. The doctor referred him to the Västmanland County Hospital for a colonoscopy. (Note: until recently, you could only get a colonoscopy in Sweden if you had symptoms of illness. It is used as a diagnostic not preventive test.). He was informed by mail there is a 4-6 month wait for a rectal exam. Because he was in so much pain, he contacted his primary doctor again to intervene on his behalf. Six weeks later he got a colonoscopy. He received a diagnosis of cancer on December 17.

He was then referred for chest and abdominal x-rays. On January 5, he received a stratum(?)/layer(?) x-ray. Six days later, he met a surgeon who confirmed he had a malignant tumor in his colon and that the cancer had metastasized into his liver. That same day he received chemotherapy through a vein in his neck and the surgeon hand-delivered a referral to the oncology clinic. “Everyone knew it was urgent,” the man says.

Since then, he has heard nothing from the hospital. What he does know about his cancer he has researched on the internet. Although he’s in great pain, he has received nothing for it. He takes only aspirin, which doesn’t help. When he calls the oncology unit, he is told there is a long wait for treatment and he has to just wait his turn.

The head of the oncology clinic was also interviewed in the article. She says the man will receive treatment as soon as he is admitted to the clinic. She says the waiting time, which is currently many weeks, is unusually long right now because the clinic is reorganizing its journal system. It has even had to offer night and weekend patient hours. The clinic prioritizes patients who have acute pain, she says.

“But cancer is never an active (sic) disease," she continues. "Medically speaking, it is not acute. It actually doesn’t matter if patients have to wait a few weeks or a month.” She also notes that the surgical unit, which performed the colonoscopy, should have helped the man with pain management when he was diagnosed with cancer. Only when he officially becomes a patient of the oncology clinic does the oncology clinic take care of him.

I've often worried what would happen if I got seriously ill and had to get treatment at the Västmanland County Hospital. Unfortunately, now I know.

1 comment:

  1. Evening and weekend hours for doctors and lab workers! What is the world coming to?!


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