Election Show Mailbag

On our election show this week, we tried to make the argument that health care is the sleeper issue of the campaign.  There's a good chance that the next federal government will be negotiating a new health accord with the provinces.  Our show generated a wide range of comments from you.

"I am constantly hearing the phrase "Two Tier Healthcare System" and what a danger this presents.  We already have a two-tier system:  those lucky to have a benefits package from our employers and those who do not.  Although I may receive treatment from the same physician for a condition, the fact that I can recover while receiving my income and without losing my job is surely as important to my recovery as opposed to someone with no benefits package who may be without an income while recovering.  Beyond that, I have dental treatments that I need which I could never afford on my income, and other preventative treatments.  Lets tackle these inequities."
From:  Margaret Broomfield, Toronto

"Prefacing Monday's program by adding that the panel of candidates represented the "main" political parties outside Quebec does not redress the democratic deficit of not including panellists from the Bloc and the Green Party.  I challenge you to redress that wrong by allowing candidates from those two parties to answer the same questions on your next show.  Otherwise, thumbs down, WCBA!"
From:  Hilary Perrott, Saanich, British Columbia

"I enjoyed this weekend's program as always.  However I was left perplexed by one thing.  Yours is not the first program or article to point out that, across Canada, we have many people in acute care beds waiting for long-term care beds that are in short-supply.  If closing one acute care bed would yield three long-term beds then why are we not doing so?  It can't be a shortage of acute care beds, since each closure would actually free up two such beds.  This would seem an obvious first step towards improving our health-care system to address the demographic change at little cost.  So, it is either not that simple, or there are other factors preventing it from being done.  I hope you can follow-up on this issue.  Thank you for the great program."
From:  Jason Scott, Ottawa

"When I have a medical problem, I can go to my clinic and see my nurse practitioner if it's a simple problem or my doctor for something more complex.  If I'm given a prescription I can have it filled by the on-site pharmacist who can also council me, or I can walk back down the hall and my practitioner can suggest another drug more suitable for my condition.  If it's a diet issue, I can see the on-site nutritionist and discuss an appropriate diet.  If there are emotional components to my medical condition, or if I need counselling, I can see the on-site counsellor.  And if something happens after hours, I call the clinic, and can speak to a doctor who has access to my personal files, and who can advise me, get me emergency prescriptions, or call the emergency department to tell them I'm on my way.  I believe that this has saved the heath system many dollars, and has been an excellent resource for me and for my family."
From:  Nola Tonkin, Vancouver

"Dr. Jeffrey Turnbull, President of the CMA, stated that more accountability is required from hospitals and provinces regarding federal funding.  Let me illustrate the flip side of this.  Eighteen months ago, I was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of bladder cancer.  Time was of the essence. My surgeon told me that he had cancer patients who needed immediate surgery waiting for three to four months for surgery.  He told me that the reason was that the province was paying the hospitals more money for hip replacements and cardiac surgeries, with the result that those operations received priority bookings.  Now, I can understand the urgency of cardiac surgery but how can a hip replacement take priority over a stage 3-cancer case that needs immediate attention?  The surgeons have to book their urgent cancer patients through the emergency department in order to get an operating room quickly.  When I was admitted, I waited two days in emergency for the surgery that I needed so desperately.  The result of this is, of course, an increase in emergency admissions and an inadequate response time for cancer cases in favour of hip replacements.  This is the unintended result of making hospitals accountable for reducing wait times for hip replacements in return for more funding. Accountability for wait times must be handled with a wider perspective of all of the results."
From:  Catherine Smith

"I was dismayed by the lack of midwives in the conversation.  The savings midwifery care and home birth offer the health care system are undeniable, and the benefits are being constantly reaffirmed by new studies.  I want to see a political party take a strong stance on midwifery and home birth as a nation wide issue."
From:  Caitlin, Rooney, Halifax

"Is it physically impossible for politicians to answer questions - questions of deep importance to every Canadian - without resorting to party-bashing? Can they speak to an issue without all the while delivering sideswipes to their opponents? Perhaps that's a topic White Coat, Black Art could address some day! In the meantime, I live in hope that I can make an informed decision on Election Day, despite the politicians' attempts to evade clear answers. I always enjoy your show - keep asking questions!"
From:  Patricia McCowan, Toronto

"I usually really enjoy your show.  I'm a little confused why you decided to have highly partisan guests on your show.  I found myself just ignoring what they were saying since they were contradicting each other.  It detracted from an interesting episode.  I really enjoy the show.  Keep up the good work."
From:  Daniel Latimer, Fredericton

"You and your guests stated that health care delivery was being restricted in various parts of Canada because of a shortage of doctors.  In fact, a number of facilities in rural Manitoba have been closed recently because of shortages of nurses and technicians.  Increasingly we have clinics, staffed by doctors and receptionists, providing guidance and diagnoses and prescribing tests.  However, our hospitals are closing down because we don't have the nurses to provide patient care, or the technicians to do x-rays and other tests.  Doctors are essential, but there's a lot more to the system than them, and we need the whole system to work."
From:  Thor Thorleifson, Manitou

"All your guests talked about "healthcare" when in reality they were talking about sickness care.  Why no mention of preventive policies to keep people healthy? Nutritionists and the removal of junk food from schools, universities and hospitals and patient menus would help teach people to keep their health.  Incentives to have better health could help as well."
From:  Irma Cohen, Ottawa

"We already have multi-tier medicine in Canada, and have for a while.  If I break a leg, I go to hospital, and its covered.  But, when I go home, if I need medication, a chiropractor or physiotherapy, it's not covered unless I have extended health benefits."
From:  Paul Gabber, Toronto

"I appreciated your topic this morning and particularly the focus on engaging other health professionals in the delivery of health care.  There are many opportunities to use nurse practitioners, dieticians, social workers and others in order to address the social determinants of health, not just medical needs.  As the Chief of Social Work at the Ottawa Hospital, we have a dept of one hundred and twenty social workers providing care to inpatients and outpatients.  Most people do not understand how a social worker can make a difference in health care."
From:  Karen Nelson, Ottawa

"How unfortunate that you picked political adversaries to discuss health system solutions. They are much more interested in scoring political points than in solving the real problems.  It is too painfully obvious. Thanks for giving us a real taste of black heart."
From :  Jean-Pierre Mayer, Sudbury, Ontario

Thanks to all of you for writing in.  And don't forget to vote on May 2.

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