Health cuts made without input

The so-called “super” board has come up with a few quick fixes of late, to try to bring the health-care budget back into line.

The so-called “super” board has come up with a few quick fixes of late, to try to bring the health-care budget back into line.

Even I could have looked at a list of operations, noting that acute-care beds or certain mental health operations were costing the system a lot of money.

“Let’s cut these services!” I could have triumphantly cried.

But the problem is that cuts don’t necessarily provide solutions.

We don’t need to just cut the health care budget. We need to create economically viable and humane solutions to our health-care system.

This is where it appears Alberta Health Services is putting the cart before the horse.

The people who are most informed about the costs of operating the system, the inefficiencies and problems are the people who are working in it or being served by it. Yet it appears that the super board has gone out of its way to alienate or exclude those who could really help them solve the problem.

Maybe they are afraid of the union, but they shouldn’t be. It is in the union’s interest to keep jobs, maintain worker safety, and serve the public with quality care.

We now see, with AUPE’s very public campaign “Save Alberta Hospital,” that we have two powerful systems at loggerheads with each other.

I agree with AUPE’s position that cutting Alberta Hospital Edmonton beds will simply dump the chronic agony of long-term mental health consumers onto the public, the police, and the street and will make life miserable or dangerous for the sufferers and community.

Although we hear talk of community care, we can see that all major urban communities in Alberta exhibit a burdensome street population already.

They are already bleeding the system — because they are being patched up at emergency, fed, warmed-up and fixed up, but not healed.

Look at the statistics on the costs of injuries to the system as assessed by SmartRisk. Read “Dr. Lou’s” blog, about the high incidence of injured substance abusers as repeat users of emergency unit dollars.

You would expect Alberta Health Services to start there to solve the problem, rather than exacerbating it by tossing more folks onto the street.

AHS needs to immediately create more street level services and create wholistic wellness programs for these repeat users of emergency.

That will free up and reduce those visits over time, and thus create a healthier society.

For instance, AHS could include an onsite AADAC counsellor to immediately engage those who are clearly injured and impaired.

Develop a personal recovery plan so that those emergency unit visitors will not be back soon, if ever, and not injured due to being drunk, stoned or high.

The other aspect is that AHS is making one-sided decisions, without clear consultation with those who work in the system, and consequently demoralizing and alienating staff. This is dangerous — particularly in a medical system.

Years ago, I worked with a corporation that was making a concerted effort to save waste and improve profits. They asked the employees to help. The results were amazing.

One group recommended turning off unnecessary lights in a shop on the weekends. The annual savings — $75,000.

These incremental changes lead to millions of dollars of waste being saved and the employees loved being part of it.

You can help save costs, too.

When my late mother went through surgery in Edmonton, the hospital wanted to send her to Ponoka’s hospital by ambulance, even though there was no medical reason for it. It was just policy. Always conscious of waste of public funds, she asked if I could drive her there. My mom saved the system probably $1,000.

Rather than alienating employees, the union and the public, AHS should be engaging them. Rather than relying on an imported mathematical expert and a handful of non-medical business people to dictate our future, we should be looking for ways to trim and maximize the system ourselves.

It’s our system, people. Not theirs. Even though clearly we need to complain, we also need to provide constructive input and be more responsible in our use of the system.

Michelle Stirling-Anosh is a Ponoka freelance columnist.

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