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Letters: On Health Care

Dickens’ testament on life in the 1800s bears witness today, for the more we seem to move forward feeling good about where we are as communities of people in this great province, the more we seem to slip backwards in a reality of renewed chaos.

Always an eternal optimist, my own view of things certainly has been challenged when it comes to the future of health care. Let’s start with an 1,800 km road trip. Last week, driving from Port aux Basques to St. John’s, arriving on the parking grounds of the largest health care facility in the province has added to my bewilderment of just where are we headed. Surely in the name of common sense and to eliminate utter foolishness some of the things we have to travel across the island for could be done on the west coast.

Welcome to the Health Science Complex – A barricaded ‘pay as you wait’ gated parking lot. A thousand vehicles sitting empty. Hundreds of people spanning across this space weaving in and out of the parked vehicles. All funneling through a set of doors of this monstrous health care facility. Who in God’s name keeps track? Who takes notice? The parking attendant sure does. That’s another bill to be paid.

Why have we reached such a constant stream of need? What awaits in our future? I guess this was the purpose behind the Health Accord. Will a goal of an ultimate mega-centralized health care be our future? Will our new reality be to abandon life beyond the Avalon to access specialized health care?

House for Sale. Forced to move for health care. Scary thought. But this will happen when specialist services are concentrated in one central location. Or is what we now see a broken model of health care scrambling to fill gaps? Too many questions. Too few answers.

“There is no crisis.” Provincial Health Minister Haggie talks of seeking future direction from, a provincial Task Force working to re-imagine health and health care in NL. No crisis! That’s the minister’s story. The Premier has uttered the word ‘crisis’. Who is correct? I am with the Premier Furey. A crisis literally, and a crisis in confidence of his government’s ability to deliver on health care is growing.

Along the Southwest corner we join the thousands travelling by road at personal expense, facing the province’s record high gas prices and expensive overnight accommodations while forging on a four-day menu of chicken burgers and fries, with not even a green salad to buy. “Skip the dishes” appears to be the dominant theme at St. John’s take outs these days. Try finding a piece of toast. They come in twos, at $2 a slice plus tax.

I cannot imagine the expense encountered by friends from southern Labrador, the Great Northern Peninsula or the home of our family roots along the south coast of the province not connected by road.

Interesting that in the age of medicare equal access for all is not so equal anymore. The cost associated with travel is crippling families already burdened with worrisome health matters. For some it is a heavy burden they refuse to take, a sad reality. Other stories abound around those travelling only to find appointments cancelled. Rescheduled appointments become another costly venture.

Given all the inner wrangling and differences in opinion between the Premier, Minister of Health, specialists, doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, pharmacists, practical nurses, house keeping, lab, X-ray, occupational, nutritionist, ambulance, and so on in this endless list on the health care agenda, one cannot be certain of where the future rests.

One in five in the province are not so fortunate. One in five have no family doctor. There is a grave shortage of family doctors as rural clinics are forced to scramble looking for replacements. Meanwhile there is no shortage of applications at MUN’s medical school. Why such a serious disconnect? Who has dropped the ball?

A fine friend observed, “Health care may not be broken but bent, for sure.”

There are days when I am not so sure.

Health care in crisis. Personal health at stake. The Premier had shown leadership. No more rhetoric. Actions needed.

The clerk at one of our booked hotels needed to be reminded that, even though Charles Dickens has been gone for a little over 150 years, the use of the word foolishness still applied. A quoted price for a room at the hotel for $84 was later presented as a bill of $175. Utter foolishness. A driver’s licence as proof of identity said Newfoundland not Disneyland.

However such a move demonstrates the vulnerability and cost involved when people are forced to travel for medical services.

John Spencer Port aux Basques

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