Blog Archives

We’re Number One


As an individual, born and raised in Saskatchewan, I cannot help but swell with pride whenever someone from my native province comes up with a unique invention, idea or approach to a problem. From medicare to wheat production, Saskatchewan ingenuity, get up and go, and sheer stick-with-it-ness have often led the world. Some examples:

  • Though few remember, in 1951 the cobalt bomb was invented in the city of Saskatoon, pioneering all subsequent forms of radiation therapy used in the treatment of cancer.
  • Other places have given it their best shot. During a 400 year period, early inhabitants of Oaxaca removed the top of a mountain and created the city of Monte Alban. A laudable achievement but… in just one year (1970) Saskatchewanites built an entire mountain and opened a ski resort. Not only that, they located it on the bald prairie and threw in a man-made lake!
  • In 1993, Michael Jordan decided he wanted to play baseball instead of basketball and he was signed by the Chicago White Sox. Michael did not do well in his new sport and soon returned to the basketball court. The White Sox obviously had the wrong goal. When I was growing up, Saskatchewan baseball teams dressed hockey superstars such as Gordie Howe and the Bentley brothers in baseball uniforms. The aim was not to turn hockey players into Babe Ruth but to ensure capacity crowds, a goal easily accomplished, notwithstanding prairie thunderstorms and the fact that, like Michael Jordan, many hockey stars turned out to be mediocre ball players.

Following in this “first-bigger-better” tradition, Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon has again ensured the city and the province a noted spot in medical history. Let me explain.

Last August, a lady named Sharon Hogg survived surgery for a brain tumor. Two days later her family took her for a short walk around the hospital grounds in her wheelchair. Unfortunately, as they re-entered the hospital, Mrs. Hogg suffered a seizure. Her son immediately ran down the corridor to Emergency and alerted a nurse stationed at the triage desk.

The nurse quickly assessed the situation and then explained to Mrs. Hogg’s son, “There’s nothing I can do. You have to call 911.”

Fortunately, Mrs. Hogg survived. However, the press and other media were unnecessarily critical. Royal University Hospital and the triage nurse were simply pioneering another Saskatchewan first—the solution to rising healthcare costs.

It works like this. When patients arrive at the ER, they are told to go home and call 911, the beginning of an endless loop where no one ever has to be treated—much like getting the same operator back on the line after 40 minutes on hold waiting to speak to the manager. The procedure leads to incredible savings. Patients go around in circles until they either heal or die. The result is a reduction in the use of operating rooms, hospital beds and emergency facilities. Most important, it allows doctors more time on the golf course and decreases the time busy triage nurses have to spend sorting out the order of treatment for wounds and illnesses.

Variations of this approach can be used in other areas of emergency service. For example, every 911 call reporting a fire could be routed to a fire-hall where an operator could simply direct the caller to re-dial 911. True, firemen and firewomen would go the way of button overshoes … but most could probably be retrained as part-time triage nurses.

Another area of potential savings is crime fighting. When police arrive at the scene of a felony they simply tell the victim to dial 911 again. They then proceed to a nearby donut shop. Once crime victims become used to this procedure it should be an easy matter to dial the donut shop directly where the policeman on duty can instruct them to dial 911. Imagine the amount of time saved by underfunded police departments, and the benefit to the environment as donut shops no longer have to toss out the undrunk double-doubles and half-eaten honey crullers abandoned by officers jumping up to answer emergency calls.

These are just a few examples. There are many possibilities. Think of the potential savings in areas such as mountain rescue, coast guard operations, animal distress and military preparedness.

Rather than criticism, perhaps a certain triage nurse should be nominated for the Order of Saskatchewan.