A made-in-Manitoba web series is poking fun at the lengths Canadians have to wait to receive medical care.
“Larry Saves the Canadian Healthcare System” includes 11 bite-size webisodes in the form of a satirical musical. The series examines what’s wrong with Canada’s healthcare system and what can be done to fix it.
Dr. Sara Kreindler, professor of community health sciences at the University of Manitoba, is behind the cheeky project.
“It’s a zany romp with a mission: to build public understanding of health-system issues and confidence to participate in the conversation,” Kreindler says. “Understanding the system is the first step towards fixing it.”
Kreindler, who is also a writer and composer, researched emergency room wait times before launching the series and creating a roster of characters.
Larry is the star of the series and is played by Toby Hughes. The idealistic young policy analyst seeks a cure for ER crowding, but instead encounters ever-deeper layers of system dysfunction — plus dancing doctors, singing nurses, and the ghost of Tommy Douglas.
While the satire is off-the-wall and deliberately exaggerated, Kreindler stresses that the evidence at its core is accurate, drawn from years of research and synthesis. It also takes inspiration from her eight years as an embedded researcher in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, a role much like Larry’s.
“I was bursting with laughter,” said Dr. Alecs Chochinov, a Winnipeg emergency physician. “It was incredibly cathartic to watch because Larry gets our world. It gets us to laugh at our world while managing to shine a more powerful light on it than most any policy paper. I’d call it required viewing — not just for patients, but for all those hospital executives and government big shots it skewers so hilariously.”
The web series began life as a theatre script, but pivoted to a digital format once the pandemic hit. Director Ann Hodges was brought on to breathe life into the series, as was a full talented cast with experience performing with the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Rainbow Stage, and Manitoba Opera.
The first four of 11 episodes can be viewed on YouTube.