Thursday, October 30, 2014



Got my flu shot the other day at my friendly Shoppers at Bloor and Royal York. Isn't it marvellous, people say, that you can now get a flu shot at your drug store without going to your doctor (if you're lucky enough to have a doctor you call your own.)
It really is an improvement BUT....
I smell a rat made from red tape. It's not as convenient as it could be.
Now Mary and I have always got flu shots. We  got them the first year they were offered. I have no patience with people who don't, and therefore help spread and goose flu season.
 I also think that medical professionals like nurses and paramedics who object and even take union action against compulsory flu shots each fall should go into another line of work because they have a basic misunderstanding about how a public health system should work in a democracy. They're not supposed to spread germs.
As a director on a Toronto hospital board, I was happy to move the motion that when we had a flu outbreak on a ward, any nurses who had avoided the flu shot should be banned from the hospital and receive no compensation.
When my oldest son, John Henry, and his wife Marie, had two premies more than two decades ago at Women's College - they were born at 28 and 29 weeks and were what we nicknamed our 40-ouncers - we weren't allowed to see those tiny red wrinkled beings in their incubators unless we had flu shots.
Now John Henry IV and Marc Oliver are happy handsome studs enjoying life near the California beaches precisely because that hospital had decided not to screw around with a few people's feelings against being dictated to and ordered everyone to have flu shots or else leave.
After all, the flu may appear to be a humble ailment but it can cut through chronic care hospitals, children's wards and nursing homes like the Devil cutting at your health with a gigantic scythe.
So what makes me suspicious that the health ministry has imposed extra conditions and red tape on flu shots from pharmacists that aren't imposed on  doctors? My experience over two years vs. all the years before when I got the shots from my reliable GP's office.
 The great staff working for Bernie Gosevitz, who I call the world's best doctor (when I can get an appointment) take about 30 seconds tops to give me the shot.
 The total time at my Shoppers, even though the boss Barry Phillips volunteered to arrange the shot when I showed up to collect a prescription, took 20 minutes, and then you were told not to leave for 10 or 15 minutes afterwards in case you felt woozy or something.  I also had to fill out a form, which asked for my OHIP card number along with some basic questions. (Now I always carry that card along with my driver's licence, but Mary for some reason didn't have hers. )
There is little doubt that flu shots at our local pharmacy is the thin edge of what could be a large billions-saving wedge where such minor medical matters are handled outside the costly confines of doctors' offices, hospitals and medical clinics.
There is also little doubt that many members of the medical establishment are not thrilled at the idea of letting mere mortals who may have only gone to university for four years look after the minor stuff when they went for an eternity and then they had all those ordeals as an intern trying to work 30-hour shifts each day.
Since the health spending in Ontario has become a Godzilla threatening to consume half of every tax dollar spent by the province, I'm all for anything to keep spending, and the flu, down.
So let's keep it simple folks. It's not as if people are rushing off the streets eager for the hit of a flu shot.

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