Taking a scan of the facts rules out diagnosis of guilt


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This isn't easy to say, or admit. But, sometimes you just need to get something off your chest. Ladies and gentlemen, I too was a "queue-jumper," and wilfully participated in prioritizing the treatment of my injury over others many, many years ago. I did it, I liked it and I didn't feel bad about it until now.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/04/2017 (1983 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

This isn’t easy to say, or admit. But, sometimes you just need to get something off your chest. Ladies and gentlemen, I too was a “queue-jumper,” and wilfully participated in prioritizing the treatment of my injury over others many, many years ago. I did it, I liked it and I didn’t feel bad about it until now.

For those of you who missed last week’s stories about professional athletes skipping to the front of long MRI lines, this is what we are now referred to in certain circles: queue-jumpers.

At first, I have to admit, I fretted and was embarrassed and concerned about whether my name would be released to the public. I looked at the timeline, reflected on my injury history, realized I’d had at least a couple of MRIs in that time period — that I pretty much got the day after a game — and it dawned on me that just like Dustin Byfuglien and Drew Willy I, too, had trampled all over grandma and made my way to the front of the line.

JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Auditor General Norm Ricard: 'We believe that [the MRI] is a public asset that all members of the public should be given equitable access to'

So, like anyone with a guilty conscience and having learned this trick in professional sports, I desperately sought to become an expert on queue-jumping and MRIs so I could pass the blame on to someone else — as many of my former colleagues in sports do to escape all negative scrutiny and accountability.

The first thing I stumbled across was one of the latest CIHI (Canadian Institute for Health Information) reports, which stated that since specialists are no longer the only doctors ordering MRIs, approximately 20 per cent of scans in the public system are medically unnecessary. So already, one in five patients waiting for an MRI don’t actually need one, but that’s not a get-out-of-jail-free card, just a fun little statistic to warm up with when trying to pass the buck.

Additionally, it turns out professional athletes are not the only ones who jump the queue. Quite frequently, amateur athletes, along with many others (including grandmas) who sustain acute injuries, also cut to the front of the line. So as much as we current and former professional athletes like to think we are special, we really aren’t.

Even if we weren’t talking about apples and oranges, between acute and non-acute injuries that affect one’s ability to do their job on a daily basis, an MRI machine at a place such as the PanAm Clinic runs about 9,000 MRIs a year. So if 149 MRIs for professional athletes were counted over eight years, that’s — wait, let me do the math — 72,000 MRIs divided by 149 is .00206944. I’m no mathematician, but that doesn’t seem like it’s a frequent occurrence.

While it is true that neither the Bombers or Jets paid for that MRI machine — the Jets weren’t even back in town yet when the Workers Compensation Board made its donation to secure one, and well, the Bombers don’t roll with cash like that — they do pay the same amount as each and every WCB case that goes through, and it makes sense. WCB cases needing MRIs are acute injuries that happen at work. When a Jet or Bomber gets hurt, it is acute, and unless it was that time when I dropped a 45-pound plate on my baby toe at the gym — and didn’t get an MRI — it happens at work, too.

The WCB, on top of its initial investment, pays more than $800 for each person they send to the front of the line, above and beyond, actually, what it costs per procedure. The Bombers and Jets, even though they are skipping the line at a microscopic rate, do exactly the same thing. This WCB model is the exact-same practice used in hospitals in Toronto with the Argonauts, Maple Leafs and Raptors.

So what happens with all of that money that comes from the WCB or those few athletes? It turns out the surgical department at the same facility where the MRI is runs over a million-dollar deficit every year and the money generated by us queue-jumpers pays that down, along with a few hundred extra MRIs for the public. So queue-vaulting pays for surgeries that otherwise wouldn’t happen — which would increase wait times — and for additional public MRIs that the region doesn’t have to pay for.

Of course it would be ideal if the Jets and Bombers had their own private machine to play with, but private MRIs for medicare-covered patients is still illegal under the Canada Health Act, although they are available in Quebec, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. The federal government is threatening to withhold transfer payments for those offending provinces.

Discovering the extent of an injury as soon as possible in professional sports is about as critical as it gets. It can potentially cost a franchise millions of dollars — not knowing the health status of an athlete — as players that are moved off active rosters and on to injured reserve do not have their salaries count against the salary cap. It is also, decidedly, a competitive disadvantage.

If you were dismayed by the news from ESPN recently that the Jets are currently at the top of the no-trade-clause list for NHL players, start shuttling them to North Dakota for MRIs on a minus-35 degree morning on treacherous Highway 75, and watch them become a permanent fixture on that list. Unnecessary delays that cost local teams both time and money, for a prioritization sequence that is available to all, is nothing any of us “jumpers” should feel too bad about.

Doug Brown, once a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears weekly in the Free Press.

Twitter: @DougBrown97

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