I am the type of parent who tries to be conscious of many things and when another person’s child is in my care, I try to cover all my bases. My OCD tendencies lend themselves well to this task. I do all the regular things one would do to ensure the safety of the child left in my charge. I ask for a booster seat if required – heck I even had an extra seat in my car at all times when my daughter was still using one just in case an emergency arose and I had to take another child home from school.
If providing a meal or snack for another child, I ask if the child has any dietary restrictions. If a child has a food allergy and carries an epi pen I ask if the child knows how to administer it so I know if I need to step in (and yes I do know how to use one). After I had my own child I updated my Emergency First Aid training (which I am now realizing has long expired) with a course on infant CPR and resuscitation.
I will sunscreen the kids before they go out and make sure they wear hats…typical parent stuff. I will even prepare a sign-out sheet for my daughter’s birthday parties complete with names, addresses, parent contact info and medical conditions. But one thing I never really thought much about is asking for an OHIP number.
I have often provided an OHIP number to camps and to relatives taking my daughter overnight especially if they are travelling with her. I must admit though that I have never thought to ask another parent for their child’s OHIP number when taking them for the day…that is before one Thursday in July…
This particular day I found myself in the position of having to take someone else’s child to Emergency. The child, who lives in another city, was attending a camp close to my residence and I was listed as the emergency contact. When I got to the camp it was clear that this child required medical attention. After a quick phone consultation with my family doctor we were on our way to the hospital.
Now I know this child’s mother and had all her contact information so I was not worried about being able to get a hold of her to inform her of the child’s situation and get her OHIP number. If by chance I couldn’t get in touch with her Mom, I knew that the hospital could get the number from the Ministry of Health as long as I could provide them with the child’s full name. No problem right?…WRONG.
The Ministry of Health states: ”In an emergency, hospitals will treat you without seeing your card first. But you will have to show your card later if you want the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) to pay your hospital bills.” http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/ministry/hc_system/#3
Typically hospital staff will contact the Ministry of Health to get your OHIP number if you do not have your card with you provided you give them your full name. Great, but still there are problems with this:
- What if you do not know the child’s full name? For instance, you know the Mother’s last name but did not realize that child carries a different last name. Another instance would be not knowing the child’s full first name and /or middle name. I actually have a good friend whose children go by shortened versions of their names. Is Chris short for Christopher or Christian? Other good friends address their children by their middle names rather than their first names. I suspect that many of the parents who might host my friend’s children for a play-date would not actually know these childrens’ full names.
- Even if you have the child’s full name, what if the Hospital cannot get through to the Ministry of Health? How will they get the OHIP number? What happens then?
This second situation is where I found myself that day in July. I had contacted the child’s Mother who unfortunately did not have her child’s card on hand. She had to go home to get the card and call me back. In the meantime, the hospital was trying to get through to the Ministry of Health to obtain the number. After waiting in the Emergency waiting room for what seemed like far too long, especially for the symptoms this child had, I inquired about the delay. At that point I was told by the triage staff that despite several attempts, they had not been able to get through to the Ministry of Health to get the OHIP number yet. The child could not be looked at without a chart and that they couldn’t put a chart through for the child without an OHIP number. I was told that my only other option would be to agree to pay the bill myself which would be at least $375.00.
I was shocked. This scenario had never occurred to me. It never occurred to me that the phones would be tied up at the Ministry and that they would have trouble getting through…Yes they actually call, not go to some database to get it…
It never occurred to me that this would hold up treatment or that I might be required to pay this bill…I was just about to agree to pay it to move things along when they finally got through to the Ministry of Health. They got the number and the chart was put through.
An important thing to note is that while Ontario residents do have the right to emergency treatment without their OHIP card, I was not informed of my options – the option to provide the number later to ensure that OHIP would pay the bill. Some people if presented with the option I was, of having to foot a several hundred dollar bill, would not pick that option without knowing they could provide the card later to get OHIP to pay the bill. They would instead opt for waiting for the call to the Ministry to go through…and ultimately possibly delaying treatment. Let’s not forget also in the event that you do not have the child’s full name, agreeing to foot the bill is your only option as they will not be able to obtain an OHIP number without the full name.
- Get the OHIP number if a child is in your care.
You never know when accidents can happen or a child suddenly becomes acutely ill and a trip to Emergency is required.
- Do not hesitate to inquire when you have questions.
You must know your rights and be prepared to advocate on your own behalf or for those under your care. Hospital staff work hard and try to do their jobs as best they can, but sometimes things fall through the cracks. Triage personnel may themselves not be completely aware of all the rules and regulations and treatment might be delayed if you are not fully informed of your options.
Update: The young child was assessed, treated and recovered quickly from her ailment. As for me, I learned two valuable lessons and will be better prepared the next time another child is in my care … that includes signing up to renew my Emergency First Aid Training.
Photos by Lyndsay Jenkinson