Hospital Corp. demonstrates some grace

The Yukon Hospital Corp. is to be commended for stepping up to cover Sheldon Miller's $20,000 medevac bill. There is no question that a mistake was made in Miller's case.

The Yukon Hospital Corp. is to be commended for stepping up to cover Sheldon Miller’s $20,000 medevac bill.

There is no question that a mistake was made in Miller’s case.

Just two days from meeting his residence requirements in the territory, Miller had heart problems.

Medical staff told him he had to be medevaced, but Miller was worried he wouldn’t be covered by the territory’s medical plan. He was told not to worry, the territories would sort it out.

He believed them. He was sent south for treatment. Then he was stuck with a medevac bill that, with interest, soon grew to more than $20,000.

Miller couldn’t pay.

The case, which began in 2005, rolled around inside the civil service for years, eventually landing on the desk of ombudsman Tracy-Anne McPhee.

After a lengthy investigation, McPhee determined the territory screwed up, suggesting it ought to waive the bill.

It wouldn’t.

So McPhee asked Premier Dennis Fentie and Health Minister Glenn Hart to intervene on Miller’s behalf.

They wouldn’t. And they never provided a cogent reason why. They still haven’t, in fact.

By covering Miller’s bill, the nonprofit hospital corporation’s CEO Joe MacGillivray did something graceful.

He saved Miller, who has a wife and three children, from crippling financial debt and possible bankruptcy.

Had the Yukon government waived the bill, it might have set a precedent. By stepping in, MacGillivray may have defused that problem because the hospital corporation is independent of government and makes its own decisions.

He also saved Fentie and Hart from a thorny political problem that, for reasons that are difficult to fathom, they were incapable of handling on their own.

And it took some responsibility for the actions of its employees, who, by assuming that two federally funded territorial governments could find a way to cover the medevac bill of a guy with a heart ailment, goofed. (Understandably, hospital officials now handle such cases with more gravitas.)

And so, in solving so many problems so neatly, MacGillivray’s corporation should be commended.

Postscript: Miller undoubtedly suffered some anxiety in his fight with the government. He may think compensation for suffering is fair, but he should think again.

In Canada, citizens pay heavy taxes to cover health-care expenses. When you get sick, you expect to receive treatment, no matter where you are.

That’s at the root of this problem. Apparently, if you move, there’s a three-month window where you can get screwed by turf wars within provincial and territorial bureaucracies.

Miller has proved that’s a problem that clearly needs to be fixed.

But in the end, Miller accessed Canada’s universal health-care system to get treatment for a potentially life-threatening ailment.

He is no longer stuck with a huge bill.

The system didn’t work smoothly, but a just settlement was achieved.

He may not have received an apology or an acknowledgement of wrongdoing, but he’s no longer $20,000 in the hole either—and that, in itself, is an admission of a wrong.

Now that he’s been through the bureaucratic wringer, Miller suggested damages might be in order.

That’s a fight Miller would have a hard time winning support for. (Richard Mostyn)

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