Monday September 29, 2008
Elections: Time for Politicians to Give Health a Pass?
This week, White Coat, Black Art presents its obligatory election show. Obligatory because everyone says health is important yet no one is taking it seriously. Health issues always land near the top of the list of priorities of Canadians. Balderdash! The only time health is important to most of us is when we're strapped to a gurney with an IV in our veins and some purple liquid about which we know nothing is running through the plastic tubing.
Which is why I think health care is way too important to leave to politicians. They are focused on winning the immediate election and not on reforming our system. Here is the big issue that no one will talk about this campaign:
Who does what? This is not a riddle...it's what I and others see as the big issue of the next 10-15 years. The population (especially those in their senior years) is growing. People are living longer, but they aren't necessarily living better. As people age, they acquire more and more diseases that require a seemingly endless array of ever more complex and expensive treatments.
Think increasing the number of MDs will solve the problem, as do most political parties? Forget it! We will never be able to afford to teach, import, and recruit enough MDs to meet everyone's needs. If we did, then we'd have provincial deficits in the tens of billions.
What we need desperately is to train and recruit what are known as physician extenders...nurse practitioners and physician assistants who can take the easy-to-treat patients, and pass off more complex patients to family physicians, who in turn pass on the most complex and hard-to-treat patients to specialists. And we need to coordinate all three so that they aren't competing with one another but instead complement each other.
That's the kind of talk we need sorely in this election. Not throwing money for bandaids like a few extra MDs at a problem that is not going away.
Kim Campbell once said infamously that elections are not the time to discuss serious issues. She paid dearly for that bit of flippancy, but I'm afraid she's right, especially when it comes to health. I think we need to create a permanent health administration to set up and plan and run the system with as little interference from politicians as possible. I'm not calling for a dictatorship or to make it impossible for people like you and me to have a voice. What I am saying is that we can't trust politicians who function in the here and now to have a vested interest in planning for things they won't get re-elected for.
Previous Comments (4)
I would like to see you do a story on establishing a "National Home Care Program".It would be interesting to see if the Federal Parties have considered changing the Canada Health Act in order to improve Home Care Program Standards across Canada. At the moment, Canadians do not have equal access to Home Care Programs. As a Former Case Manager of a Provinical Home Care Program, I feel it is ridiculous that some Canadians must endure a financial means test and other just a health assessment in order to be eligible to receive services at home.Shari Ritter, September 29, 2008 11:09 AM
You asked which party would do the best for health care and the answer is none of them. Leave us with a monority government so that none of them can screw up things worse than they are already. We didn't need this illegal election and my current inclination is to not vote as a protest.Bill Barton, September 29, 2008 3:15 PM
Thanks Brian for bringing a topic that no one really wants to talk about lately, the fact that we really can't afford to train as many docs as we need. I agree wholeheartedly that we already have health care providers that can help, Nurse Practitioners and Physician Assisstants. I do take issue at your calling them "physician extenders" though. NP's, in most provinces, are independent practitioners who are not 'mini-docs' or 'doc-wannabe's' but well trained and proven health care providers who add to, not extend the traditional medical model.Lesley, September 30, 2008 2:16 PM
You have an excellent show.
I am so happy to have found it and have enjoyed it intermittently throughout this year.
I agree it is surprising that the politicians are not talking about healthcare and that any changes that come to health care seem to happen away from everyday life.
I am amazed that they are so short sighted in any kind of planning for the future major issues we are going to face with my aging siblings and other boomers. It flies in the face of sensibility and growth. To have hotel type cleaners taking over contracts at major metro hospitals in Canada due to the bidding process is scandalous.
What are people to do? It seems that these decisions happen in spite of us! No one will take the responsbility to work things out in a fair and equitable way.
Currently we are helping my 88 year old mother navigate the system as she begins a decline. It is a very difficult process and I can not imagine what it will be like for those less informed and savvy in the hierarchy.
I suppose it is our turn to be worried and perhaps this is the way that it goes...but it feels as if we are standing on shifting ground and there is nothing underneath it.
Keep up your investigations and thank you for your commitment to the greater good.