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Canada's Apartheid, by John Stackhouse
Stories
Introduction
  Nov. 3

Welcome to Harlem on the Prairies
  Nov. 3 (Saskatoon, SK)

Crystal's choice: The best of both worlds
  Nov. 5 (Mississauga, ON)

How the Mi'kmaq profit from fear
  Nov. 6 (Cape Breton, NS)

The healing power of hockey
  Nov. 7 (The Pas, MB)

Norma Rae of the Okanagan
  Nov. 8 (Westbank, BC)

Comic genius or 'niggers in red face'?
  Nov. 9 (Regina, SK)

Praying for a miracle
  Nov. 10 (Lac Ste. Anne, AB)

To have and to have not
  Nov. 12 (Moosonee, ON)

Trouble in paradise
  Nov. 19 (Tofino, BC)

A cut of the action
  Nov. 26 (Wabigoon, ON)

The young and the restless
  Dec. 3 (Ashern, MB)

The wireless warrior's digital dream
  Dec. 10 (Ottawa,ON)

'Everyone thought we were stupid'
  Dec. 14 (Salluit, QC)

First step: End the segregation
  Dec. 15 (Last in the series)

 

To have and to have not

Story by John Stackhouse. Photos by Patti Gower.
The Globe and Mail, November 12, 2001

Part 4 of 7: Patching up the wounds of an afflicted society


Moosonee, ON The Weeneebayko managers say they have created something different, something that bridges the vast medical expertise of Southern Canada with the vast social needs of the North. If so, the bridge is held up by Michael Green and Elaine Wabano.

The overnight shift at Weeneebayko is beginning and Green, a preppy 32-year-old from Vancouver, enters the emergency room in khaki pants, a golf shirt and loafers, and prepares to patch up the wounds of an afflicted society.

The son of international development workers, he has lived in Uganda, Nigeria and the South Pacific, and practised medicine from Papua New Guinea to a native hospital in the Miramichi region of New Brunswick.

But here on the James Bay coast, as Weeneebayko's chief of staff, he faces a different task.

Early in his 12-hour shift, a call comes across the radio from an ambulance crew en route with an injured man whom Green guesses, rightly, is "HBD," for "has been drinking." The acronym comes across the radio so frequently it begins to sound as repetitive as "fries" to a drive-through attendant.

Green isn't fazed. He did a stint at an inner-city hospital in Vancouver and knows full well about the causes and consequences of intoxication. His first patient tonight - a middle-aged man named Michael - arrives with his head bloody from an apparent fall. Green stitches his forehead and orders a blood test. The man's alcohol level is 56 millimoles per litre - a good multiple of the intoxicated threshold of 12. He's much closer, in fact, to death (the lethal level is 80). But Green says he'll be fine.

In a short while, another call comes from the nursing station up the coast at Fort Albany, where a drunk has just come off a binge and can't find his blood-pressure medication. Later, a woman is rushed into the emergency room, her left wrist slashed so deeply by a broken beer bottle that two sliced tendons stand visible. She, too, is HBD, and suicidal. Green welcomes her back.

He has seen enough of the north, and the world, to know he can do little more than treat people's injuries here, and help develop a better hospital. During his six years at Moose Factory, he has seen too many other doctors who consider themselves saviours, no different really from the missionaries who once ran this hospital.

"I'm not going to march down to the council chamber and say, `You have a problem with drugs,' " Green says during a lull in the middle of the night. The inebriated man and suicidal woman are sitting on their ER beds chatting.

"The community is aware of what its issues are," the doctor continues. "Sometimes outside people may have different sense of what the priorities may be."

The danger of outsiders may not last long anyway.

THIS STORY AT A GLANCE (Parts 1 to 7):


Photo Essay
Gateway to the arctic

1. 'The first nations get much better health care'
A two-tier health-care system for two communities

2. A blessed Cree community
An island reserve with its own luxury hotel, cable TV company, shopping mall and elders home

3. The region's health care schism
Provincially run hospitals where Ottawa pays the bills for natives

4. Patching up the wounds of an afflicted society
"I'm not going to march down to the council chamber and say, `You have a problem with drugs' "

5. Health care in isolated communities
The only hope seems to lie in a MoCreeBec nurse-practitioner

6. Moose Factory's epidemic
Persuading her patients to modify a lifestyle that is killing the Crees of Canada's North

7. "I've never seen anything quite like this."
Cutting costs, merging two hospitals


 
 

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Two worlds - photo essay


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