Friday, September 29, 2006

British Columbia in denial over healthcare

British Columbia in denial over healthcare

The media in BC have made it known that the provincial government is about to spend $10 million on a public forum which is aimed at engaging public participation in the debate on health care and its cost to the community. In her most recent budget speech the minister for finance suggested that healthcare in the near future threatens to absorb most of the province’s budget. One can assume that her speech and the recent proposal for public debate are somehow linked. How are we, the public, to interpret the message we being sent by the provincial government? What is the question we are being asked? Is this more than a $10 million discussion to demonstrate publicly that the government is at work, hoping to find solutions to a spending problem? Or is this a sincere $10 million question, the answer to which will solve the approaching threat of unmanageable healthcare costs?

Criticism of the healthcare system in British Columbia abounds, as does criticism of the medical profession and of the unions responsible for workers in healthcare. Equally, there is no shortage of resentment and severe criticism of the large, mostly global producers, of over the counter and prescription drugs. The system, the practitioners, workers and unions then may be seen as largely argumentative and disagreeable conspiracy of ‘me first’ players all vying for the upper ground in what is generally known as the healthcare system. Upper ground, in this case, is not a reference to morals, but rather a reference to financial gain. The system will argue that in order to maintain effective levels of service it needs specific funds. The practitioners with their reputation for bleeding the system will not disappoint when it comes to arguing their importance to the system, and not to be outdone, the unions will argue as pointedly as the practitioners that they are far from occupying the upper ground when it comes to compensation for their role in caring for the ill and the injured in British Columbia. As the demands for a ‘fair share’ of the medical pie grow so do the pressures on the public purse. Ironically, the public is the singular source for these funds. I attended a local BBQ this summer where Gordon Campbell quipped that there is only one kind of money and that was ‘your money, the public.’ We all agree on that view, no matter what our political background or beliefs. One would think, naively perhaps, that as it is our money we ought to have some say in how it is spent. That being the case, the proposed forum on healthcare in British Columbia is perhaps not as off-the-wall as one may think on first hearing about it.

The public, however, seem to forget that as individuals they are solely responsible for the escalating costs of health here in this province and indeed in many other provinces and countries in the developed world. The public, the practitioners (public and private), the healthcare systems, the unions and their members, the care facilities boards and management, drug and equipment manufacturers come together to form a confluence of attitudes and demands which result for the most part in the gouging of the ill and the injured. The public and the lifestyle choices made by the public over many decades seem to have brought the healthcare system close to the edge of irreparable failure. In short, the healthcare system is itself terminally ill. The malaise it seems stems from the public’s own desire for increased care based for the most part on its addiction for care; an addiction which had its origins in a genuine need, but which over time has been corrupted by all the parties. Government, in British Columbia and elsewhere, has ignored the threat of healthcare costs at its peril. Before even asking the question it seems clear that the public needs to recognize that it is the problem and that for a solution it needs to act more responsibly and in the event it does not, it should be prepared to pay more and more for curing ills which it could have avoided in the first place through healthy living. Obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, cholesterol and the long list of other complaints that face the public today are a result of poor education and lack of appreciation of the effects of an unhealthy lifestyle. We can spend the $10 million or we can simply skip forward to answer for 10 cents; the public can save the economy by living healthy and vacating the waiting rooms in our general practices and walk-in clinics which seem occupied largely by people who have little else to do than seek the sympathy of a doctor for 15 minutes and who are prepared to wait 2 hours for the privilege.

No comments: