By Michael J Morris
UPDATED! Just over six years ago I was standing in the security line at the Greyhound station in Calgary waiting to be cleared to board the bus to Cranbrook after a quick trip to Foothills Medical Centre a few days earlier by air ambulance. I had just been discharged from Foothills and was anxious to get home where my cat Buckwheat had been looked after by friends for the previous 10 days.
I struck up a conversation with the lady behind me in the line, and after telling her where I had been, the conversation turned to the challenges facing the health care system. It turned out that she was a retired registered nurse who had also sat on health councils designed to provide input to the government from the people. Anyway, we chatted for a bit, and agreed that a national conversation by Canadians was needed on the health care system.
Now, in the midst of a federal election campaign, Canadians should insist that the future of health care is an issue and all the parties clearly state their position.
My experience at Foothills and at the East Kootenay Regional Hospital brought into clear focus that while I received excellent care in both hospitals, that may not always be the case as they are stretched to capacity, and packed with patients whose average age would be at least 60 by my unofficial survey. I wandered about the units I was in as soon as I was mobile and did an anecdotal survey on people's ages -- nothing scientific. And, the baby boomers are now starting to hit 65..
Let me be real clear on one thing. At Foothills which is a huge high level medical centre and at EKRH which is a regional hospital in a small community, I was so fantastically impressed by the professionalism and dedication to provide excellent patient care from doctors, nurses and all other staff despite how busy they were. Nobody ever lost his/her friendly attitude in either place.
To me, the looming health care crisis is the fault of successive federal and provincial governments, and to some extent municipal governments too, who have failed us as Canadian citizens by looking at our health care as a cost item in a budget rather than an investment in our well being. They knew the population was aging. They knew that health care professionals would be retiring. They simply failed to invest over the years and make necessary changes to ensure the viability of the health care system with a focus on patient care.
Angela Mulholland of CTV News has reported that "Most Canadians think this country needs a national strategy for seniors health care, believing such a plan would help keep seniors in their homes as long as possible, according to a new poll released by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA)."