Thursday, October 28, 2010

Damocles' Sponge

There's been an issue, quite recently in Alberta, regarding hospital wait times, specifically with respect to emergency rooms. A group of doctors penned a "letter of horrors" detailing some particularly unfortunate events that occurred as a result of overcrowded hospitals, and over-stressed emergency rooms. 
People who should otherwise be keeping a cool head about things, lost their shit and decided to focus on a few unfortunate circumstances, rather than the system as a whole, (which may or may not be lousy, this situation tells us nothing, and that's not what I'm assessing) and  proceeded to leap in, both barrels blazing.
The minister of health, Gene Zwozdesky, responded by putting limits, definable numerical limits, on wait times, such as 4 hours to be in and out, and 8 hours to a hospital bed. He's confidant enough to have pledged to bring about this new policy by December, or bureaucratic heads will roll!
Boy, that's sure cracking, Mr. Zwozdesky, how's that going to work?
The thing is, we don't know. Two months is not long enough to hire and train new people, a handful of beds are being opened up, but that's not going to get anyone seen any faster, and I don't believe that the slow-down is because medical staff are simply unmotivated, so haranguing them is not going to do any good. I'm all for mindless flogging, but I'm not keen on putting energy into "programs" without any sense of direction or plan. So far the plan that's been wheeled out is that we are going to start moving people out of beds, because we need them for new people, because then if someone dies needlessly at least they weren't under our care at the time, right?
This smacks of ridiculous posturing to me.
Loosening the restrictions on when people can or should remain in hospital is just going to result in people being discharged when they shouldn't be. Is it less of a tragedy because then we can say we did the best we could? 
Years later, when election times rolls around again, we might remember the abysmal wait times, but then we'll remember the guy who stood up and "took charge" of the situation, whether or not he did any damn good. Some people may be wondering why we don't offer better incentives to doctors and medical staff, but the answer is simple; that takes time. It takes time to set people up, to build new facilities to accommodate the staff, and to ensure the greater staff is positioned to maximum effect; all this would go past election time, meaning the current health advisor would not be able to reap the benefits of the outcome. That, right there, is what is wrong with politics, and why our health care system is lousy. At heart, no one wants to make the kind of deep-rooted changes that the system really needs, because the initial stage will be unpleasant (think higher taxes) and the outcome is "too far away". Politicians treat voters like toddlers; if we don't get a cookie right away, we're going to fling poop at them (or is that monkeys?). Either way, they believe we don't have the collective brain power to understand what sweeping reforms, that may feel lousy, are going to result in. I hope they're wrong. 

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