November 17, 2018

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Opinion

Taking the pulse of health care

Canadian system gets a checkup

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/10/2015 (1141 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It wasn't necessarily intended to be political, but it very likely will be.

When the producers of the ambitious CBC medical-documentary series Keeping Canada Alive sent more than 60 cameras into Canadian communities last spring to capture a day-in-the-life look at hospitals, health-care facilities and care homes across the country, the agenda was simply to give TV viewers an intimate and informative glimpse at a system that most Canadians consider to be one of the nation's core values.

But its arrival in prime time (premièring Monday at 9 p.m. on CBC) less than three weeks before a federal election almost assures the series will become part of the discussion that helps Canadians decide who should form the next national government.

"The series was in development for a long time before the election was called," says creative producer Dianna Bodnar. "It's been in development for way more than a year, but I certainly don't think the timing, as it has worked out, is a bad thing at all. I do think questions about health care are really important for all of us to ask ourselves, and the point of this series is to inspire Canadians to start, if they haven't already, to think deeply and talk about health care.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/10/2015 (1141 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It wasn't necessarily intended to be political, but it very likely will be.

When the producers of the ambitious CBC medical-documentary series Keeping Canada Alive sent more than 60 cameras into Canadian communities last spring to capture a day-in-the-life look at hospitals, health-care facilities and care homes across the country, the agenda was simply to give TV viewers an intimate and informative glimpse at a system that most Canadians consider to be one of the nation's core values.

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But its arrival in prime time (premièring Monday at 9 p.m. on CBC) less than three weeks before a federal election almost assures the series will become part of the discussion that helps Canadians decide who should form the next national government.

"The series was in development for a long time before the election was called," says creative producer Dianna Bodnar. "It's been in development for way more than a year, but I certainly don't think the timing, as it has worked out, is a bad thing at all. I do think questions about health care are really important for all of us to ask ourselves, and the point of this series is to inspire Canadians to start, if they haven't already, to think deeply and talk about health care.

"The questions in front of us are so critical, and I think the personal stories and the facts you'll learn in their context will really help to personalize some of the problems and issues we're facing."

Keeping Canada Alive was filmed in 24 cities across Canada during a single 24-hour day — May 6, 2015 — and its six hour-long episodes will showcase just a small fraction of the footage its camera crews captured. In addition to what will be shown in the TV series, Keeping Canada Alive also has a website (www.cbc.ca/keepingcanadaalive), designed by Winnipeg-based Tactica Interactive, on which more than 40 additional hours of content can be viewed.

The series première follows six stories (none of which take place in Winnipeg), beginning with a Vancouver couple waiting anxiously as surgeons prepare to operate on their three-month-old son's dysfunctional heart.

In Calgary, a camera follows an elderly woman as she begins yet another day of caring for her husband, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease.

A segment in Charlottetown has a film crew riding along with paramedics working in a decidedly rural and distance-challenged environment. In Toronto, a 28-year-old military veteran, who survived a tour of Afghanistan and then broke his neck in beer-league hockey game, grits his teeth through a series of physical-therapy exercises.

Still in Toronto, a Jamaican-born young woman undergoes laser surgery to increase mobility in her arms, which were badly burned by a hot-soup spill when she was a child.

And later, Keeping Canada Alive travels to Nain, Labrador, and watches as a nursing team works to provide care — with the help of a robot-monitor connection to a doctor 370 kilometres away — to a community that has not had a resident physician since the 1980s.

CBC
Left, Dr. Joel Fish, medical  director of the burn unit at Toronto�s Hospital for Sick Children, examines a 17-year-old  patient�s scars.

CBC Left, Dr. Joel Fish, medical director of the burn unit at Toronto�s Hospital for Sick Children, examines a 17-year-old patient�s scars.

"We had an overwhelming number of stories to choose from," Bodnar says of the cut-down process that led to the final six ready-for-air episodes.

"We had a lot of possibilities, so it was really a matter of going through them and balancing — choosing which ones we thought would resonate the most, while at the same time balancing issues that are at the forefront of health care with stories that are more in the background. We went to small towns, bigger cities, remote communities — it really was like putting together a giant puzzle."

A shot-in-Winnipeg story is featured in Keeping Canada Alive's second installment (which was not available for preview), featuring a woman seeking support from her family as she deals with shoulder pain that might signal her multiple sclerosis is progressing.

Two other local segments, both shot at St. Boniface General Hospital, are included in the series' online collection: one follows the hospital chaplain through her daily rounds, and another focuses on a retired couple who hold infants in the neonatal intensive-care unit as part of the hospital's "baby cuddler" program.

Bodnar says it will be up to viewers to decide whether the health-care system portrayed in Keeping Canada Alive is functioning properly or in a state of crisis.

"What I think is that when you come to the end of an episode, or when you come to the end of the series or watching footage online, it will make you feel, and it will make you think about what you want from your health care and for your loved ones, and whether you think it's working or not."

brad.oswald@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @BradOswald

Brad Oswald

Brad Oswald
Perspectives Editor

After three decades spent writing stories, columns and opinion pieces about television, comedy and other pop-culture topics in the paper’s entertainment section, Brad Oswald shifted his focus to the deep-thoughts portion of the Free Press’s daily operation.

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