Get to the root of health savings

Dr. Stephen Duckett paused his invasive surgery of Alberta Health Services by recently inviting employees to pitch in their ideas to help cut costs and maybe win a prize — paid for by him. This would be laudable if it were not so insulting and laughable.

Dr. Stephen Duckett paused his invasive surgery of Alberta Health Services by recently inviting employees to pitch in their ideas to help cut costs and maybe win a prize — paid for by him. This would be laudable if it were not so insulting and laughable.

First of all, if successful, the winner will simply further enrich Duckett, who gets a bonus for cutting costs, while the worker bee gets a paltry prize in a cheesy contest.

Secondly, the time frame is ridiculous. The draw is set for early December. Surely no thoughtful cost reduction recommendations can come out of that kind of a quickie brainstorm.

Thirdly, how will ideas be evaluated?

In context, health services are a huge ecosystem interacting with other ecosystems. They all revolve around life and death issues for patients and livelihood issues for staff.

If the objective is to gain exponential and beneficial recommendations for change, then it is clear that employees must be engaged in a long-term safe process wherein their jobs are not the first thing at risk with each recommendation, and that there is no mentality of “cost destination,” but rather an “efficiency journey.”

By this I mean suppose a janitor comes up with a new idea for dispensing toilet paper that will mean thousands of dollars of saving per facility?

Is this a better cost saving idea than an operating room tech who comes up with an idea of managing post-operative sterility of wounds, which may lead to the saving of many lives and reduced readmission costs — but which may temporarily increase the cost or time (or both) of a procedure?

One could apply the so-called “latte principle” so popular with personal savings.

This refers to becoming aware of incremental, unnecessary expenditures that could add up to monumental savings — if not spent (i.e. the Tim’s double double you buy each morning might be better invested in a tax-free savings account where your money will double double instead).

The only problem is that to generate suggestions, the staff need to feel engaged, respected, committed and job-safe.

So far, the good doctor has done none of that.

Health care is such a complex domain.

Without AUPE, the professional staff, suppliers and the public on board, patient care will decline in proportion to staff morale.

While we tell ourselves we have a billion-dollar deficit in health care, perhaps half a billion dollars of that is due to repairing people who have been in traffic collisions!

If so, then fixing health care isn’t the problem; reducing speeds and improving driver safety — particularly encouraging drunks to crash on the couch instead of the road is the solution.

Believe it.

I recall when my late mother broke her upper arm near the shoulder around Christmas a few years ago.

She was admitted to Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre and put on an immediate fast, slated for surgery the next morning.

That night a few busted up Albertans arrived from Hwy 2 by ambulance. Her surgery was bumped, again and again, as each day more traffic victims arrived over the course of a week.

By the time they got my Mom’s bone set, the weakened healing process in her old bones had run out of jam.

A few weeks later, the pin fell out of her arm and she was back in again for more surgery and another delay as more road kill had to be reincarnated.

What should have been a one-time-only $10,000 bone surgery for her had to be done twice ($20,000), plus a $10,000 week in hospital with Mom tying up a bed and other slated surgeries rescheduled.

Add on about $1 million worth of surgery for all those traffic collision victims that week, plus their long-term care, recoupment and rehabilitation . . . well, no wonder we’re over budget in health care!

If we see it from this perspective, obviously staff cuts, hiring freezes and such will never address the unpredictable volume of traffic collision users of health services who need extensive, intensive and very expensive emergency care to save their lives and restore their bodies.

We need to reduce traffic collisions in order to reduce health-care costs.

We need to address addictions — to stop the drunk or stoned from driving.

And, of course, in-hospital there are undoubtedly dozens of incremental savings that the staff could come up with, if they had a feeling that suggestions would be received with respect.

But Duckett’s contest prize offering completely disregards the need and the opportunity for long-term meaningful engagement of the brains and experience of Alberta Health Services staff.

It also fails to address the true source of the drain on health resources.

Michelle Stirling-Anosh is a Ponoka freelance columnist.

Just Posted

Scares and chills await at haunted house in Red Deer

Zed Haunted House helps raise money for Boys and Girls Club of Red Deer District

PHOTO: Renewable Energy Fair at Red Deer College

The Renewable Energy Fair and Workshops event was held at Red Deer… Continue reading

PHOTOS: Red Deer College Queens host third annual Pink in the Rink game

Queens raised $12,035 for the Central Alberta Cancer Centre.

PHOTOS: The Mustard Seed CEO speaks at Seeds of Hope Gala in Red Deer

The first-ever Seeds of Hope Gala was held at the Red Deer… Continue reading

Person airlifted to hospital after collision near Innisfail

One person was airlifted to hospital after a serious collision west of… Continue reading

WATCH: Make-A-Wish grants Star Wars loving teen’s wish

The Make-A-Wish Foundation granted Anakin Suerink’s wish in Red Deer Saturday afternoon

Turkey to reveal details of probe into Khashoggi’s killing

ISTANBUL — In a sign of growing pressure on Saudi Arabia, Turkey… Continue reading

Utah truck driver is jailed without bond after crash kills 6

HEBER, Utah — A man suspected of driving under the influence remained… Continue reading

A ragged, growing army of migrants resumes march toward US

TAPACHULA, Mexico — A ragged army of Honduran migrants streamed through southern… Continue reading

Postal workers to begin strikes in 4 Canadian cities Monday if deal not reached

OTTAWA — The union representing 50,000 Canada Post employees says it will… Continue reading

Migrant caravan swells to 5,000, resumes advance toward US

CIUDAD HIDALGO, Mexico — Despite Mexican efforts to stop them at the… Continue reading

“I don’t feel real”: Mental stress mounting after Michael

PANAMA CITY, Fla. — Amy Cross has a hard time explaining the… Continue reading

Toronto residents set to vote Monday on the next four years of civic leaders

Toronto’s municipal election campaign, marked by unprecedented provincial interference, ends Monday when… Continue reading

Former PQ minister Lise Payette remembered as role model for female politicians

MONTREAL — Members from across Quebec’s political spectrum gathered at a downtown… Continue reading

Most Read