Thursday, March 23, 2006

Publish Day - Ink Blog - Dying hospitals

Canada is blessed - or cursed, depending on your perspective - with a government-funded health care system that aims to deliver a basic level of care to all Canadians, regardless of their socioeconomic status. It's one of the hallmarks of the country, but it's been in severe financial straits for years.

When the province of Alberta - currently flush with cash and feeling very cocky because it hosts the majority of Canada's oil resources - began making noise about privatizing parts of the system and challenging the federal government's will, I began to see the roots of a counterproductive debate that would further undermine the national system.

A recent announcement to cut the budget of a local hospital gave me the opportunity to share my thoughts.
Health-care policies ignore local needs
Published Friday, March 3, 2006
The London Free Press

While Ottawa bickers with Alberta over the legality of privately-run health care, hospitals closer to home are starving to death. St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital has just announced 56 job cuts as it tries to control its deficit.

Hospitals across the province have been forced to practise this nip-and-tuck approach to fiscal management since Queens Park ordered all institutions to balance their books. And when the money allocated by the government fails to keep pace with changing demand, hospitals have no choice but to cut to the bone.

These latest cuts will reduce the hospital’s deficit by $2.8 million. But they won’t eliminate it. Could additional budget-cutting lie in store?

However this plays out, the results are always devastating to the community: Patients fail to receive timely, high-quality care, doctors leave and the freefall continues.

The future of health care in this country won’t be secured by senseless territorial battles between different levels of government.

If anyone in the hallowed halls Parliament is paying attention, we’re dying here.

Your turn: Can society afford to have a minimum health care standard? Can it not afford it?


Anonymous said...

Our hospitals in Montreal have the same problem. Those who can run, do, and the smaller operations either shut down for periods or restructure, its all about money, who has it, who needs it and who doesnt have enough money to operate safe, fiscally responsible hospitals.

The shriners project and the Glenn yards project has alot of people up in arms, and if we had the money i think both projects would get built.

We "CAN'T" afford minimum healthcare standards. because people are suffering across the board. and equal care across all needs has not and is not met equally. That depends on where you live, in regards to a city center.

If we stopped paying politicians big money and if we could stop the scandals and the failed investment programs and scams, and we took much needed money from those who have too much already, Canada COULD afford equal and reliable care for all.

It just depends (like me) what medical circle you run in (meaning the specific care) one needs. The very young and the elderly are in big tourble across Canada, and that is not fair.

Things won't change until we cut the salaries and raises of those in power in Ottawa and use that money to help the common Canadian.


Terry said...

In BC we pay our monthly premiums for basic (or emergency) care. There is nothing "free" here in any sense of the word. Our coverage doesn't even allow an annual checkup, which I find ridiculous. Penny for penny, it is actually cheaper for me to buy Blue Cross than it is to pay MSP every month (Luckily I'm in good health). Sadly I don't have a choice. On the plus side, when I was injured last year, the ER staff was fast, friendly and totally professional.

I think there has to be one level of government that looks after basic and emergency care. Period.

I also think there should be only one union for healthcare, as a different one goes on strike every year and buggers the system all up.

Nicole said...

I struggle with this as someone working in healthcare in the U.S. as well. It pains me to think that people have to choose between paying their electric bill or purchasing a prescription. And it seems, truly, that some level of care should be guaranteed to all.

I think what bothers me in the bigger picture is the bigger societal shift needed to focus on prevention and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. These behaviors naturally cut costs but are difficult to change at the level of the individual and the culture. On one level, we teach people how to take care of themselves and make better choices. On the other, we regulate the market and shift attitudes such that a Quarter Pounders and cigarettes become less available and less acceptable.

Karen said...

This is very interesting in view of the fact that many Americans feel that this is the direction in which we should be heading. I'm not sure. It seems that both ways are fraught with problems. Thanks for your thoughts.

Here via Michele's....

keda said...

i dont reallu understand how it works there but we have the national health system in the uk which is also failing for lack of cash.
i believe that its crucial to every country to have affordable or free healthcare for all.
it works in many european countries so with common sense and without corruption it should work anywhere.
i believe however that means testing etc is crucial. it seems silly however that someone earning hundreds of thousands of pounds a year be entitled to free healthcare when he/she could afford to put at least a little towards towards it. also in the uk anyone- including foreign tourists gets free healthcare in the nhs hospitals. this costs us millions a year and sometimes, if there is a problem- as often happens due to overworked doctors and the generally run down system, it gets suedby these tourists ( i've heard of a few, but particularly 4 years ago i remember a £4 million payout to an american millionaire!).
i would be happy to pay a small fee dependant on my means, to ensure that others could benefit from a decent standard across the board. its an investment for my children and even for myself as i get older. surely it makes more sense than running the public health service to the ground so that anyone with any money ends up buying completely private healthcare and avoids it entirely.
and if that is the way its going to go then at least tax the private health sector more and put that money back into the puplic system.
we in the uk could also stop shooting people in far away lands and put the savings from arms back in too.... i know silly silly me...

keda said...

sorry that was so long....

surcie said...

Sure sounds better than what we've got here in the US--a catastrophe with no plan for improving the program in site.

Kat said...

Those are really good questions. It's hard to say. As an American I'm definitely impressed by Canada's approach to healthcare. But it seems like the idea may be better in theory than practice. I am fortunate to work for a large corporation with excellent health benefits, so this is not a topic to which I give enough thought.

Yaeli said...

Here in australia we are having similar problems. Part of the problem is that public hospitals are run by administrators and the administrators are very rarely doctors or nurses... the people who really are in touch with the community's needs.
Governments also need to re-consider their priorities. If they put more money into healthcare would the heath system be in the position that it is now?

Michele sent me again.

doughboy said...

Today's Toronto Star editorial says that "the average annual rate of increase in health-care spending for the past five years has been 7.8 per cent" because of "a population that is both growing and aging and by expensive advances in medical technology." It goes on to say that "spending on health will increase 5.8 per cent in the coming fiscal year (2006-07), 5.4 per cent in 2007-08, and just 4 per cent in 2008-09." There's lots of places in this economy where we can cut spending in order to put it where our priorities are. I think that Jeremy's on the right track when he suggests that we should stop paying politicians big money. It's time that we got back to doing things for the community, for the common good, and not because it's good for our own personal bottom line.