Health PEI failing ordinary Islanders ... again
Back in the spring when Health Minister Doug Currie was performing his health care reform photo op roadshow he repeatedly was asked for specifics of the plan. Repeatedly the minister and the minions in Health PEI ducked and dodged questions as they ignored every single piece of advice and insight offered by ordinary Islanders.
One of the more consistent questions posed centred on ambulance fees. It is a fair question. Who will pay the $150 trip from one hospital to another?
This is not a case of rural crankiness at change. Government’s whole health reform scheme is built around the premise that it is cheaper to shuttle Islanders from Summerside and Charlottetown to rural hospitals for recuperation.
If ambulatory care is the core of the plan it is a no-brainer that Health PEI could answer specific questions. But if the minister and his ever expanding bureaucracy did know, they weren’t sharing it with the ordinary Islanders who showed up to meetings from O’Leary to Souris.
Who will pay for ambulatory care only became an issue for Health PEI after two Islanders refused to pay. In one instance a senior said he had arranged transportation with a family member and the ambulance was unnecessary. The ambulance took him anyway. The Ghiz government has sent that file to a collection agency. The second saw a patient transferred from Charlottetown to Souris to recuperate following a heart attack. It was these headlines that spurred Currie to launch a review that won’t be completed until September.
Interestingly, Health PEI claims there has been no change to government policy. If that is the case, why didn’t Currie and his bureaucrats outline precisely and clearly who will and will not be charged for ambulance transportation? Why wait until those with the gumption to fight government speak up? And why are Islanders sent to rural hospitals for recuperation being billed?
Either the Ghiz government is using ambulance fees as another way to pickpocket Islanders, like it has with hundreds of other fees, or its health care reform strategy is so poorly drafted that vital questions are unanswered before implementation.
Rather than cut patronage, the size of cabinet, executive assistants or a swollen bureaucracy government’s strategy to defeat the deficit is to foist as much of the deficit fight as possible on ordinary Islanders.
Ambulance fees are just one more example.
But there is more to the nickel and diming of health care than ambulance fees. Government is now suggesting Island doctors not be so quick to send patients for diagnostic testing. It claims that a large number of tests are unnecessary.
What the suggestion implies is that Health PEI does not trust Island physicians to do their job. It is an attempt to control how Island doctors work. This attempt at chilling physicians may lead to necessary tests going uncompleted.
An independent grassroots Island-wide organization produced a special publication recently that used government’s own statistics to show efficiencies can be found and rural health care service can be not only maintained but also enhanced.
While ordinary Islanders are talking about the content, the effort has thus far failed to alter government’s centralization strategy. There has been no attempt to reduce the size of the health care bureaucracy that is 3.5 times the national average. The government just keeps cutting front line services.
The Ghiz government does this at its own peril. Rural PEI is not just a punching bag. It is the driver of the economy. It is home to 55 per cent of the population. And its residents are frustrated with Charlottetown decision making that imposes ‘solutions’ without first determining how they will be implemented and, more importantly, their impact on rural communities.
Paul MacNeill is Publisher of Island Press Limited. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org