Health superboard not necessarily so super

The study of language has revealed many interesting things – like an appreciation that connotation (the understood meaning of a word) may be more important than denotation (the dictionary definition of a word).

The study of language has revealed many interesting things – like an appreciation that connotation (the understood meaning of a word) may be more important than denotation (the dictionary definition of a word).

So what does the word “superboard” mean to you? The connotation is that of super power – as in Superman or Superwoman.

Why was the term “Central Board” not chosen? This is a much less loaded word and suggests a geographic or organizational position. “Superboard” suggests all-knowing power.

Yet few of the members of the so-called Alberta Health Services Superboard have any frontline medical background. Most of those who do were in a for-profit medical business.

Health-care issues are not well served by those who just look for profitable efficiencies, based on a business model.

I’m not suggesting an inefficient system is good, but I am insisting that judging financially efficiencies alone may be bad.

Is it efficient to stay and talk with a suffering patient if you are a highly paid professional nurse or doctor? No.

Financially it is inefficient.

Doctors should be performing miracles down the hall. But miracles usually happen when sick people believe they will happen – and that only comes from a healthy, open, trustworthy communication with the primary caregivers. And trust is only built over time.

So a real doctor, whose time is worth a lot, stopping to talk and listen to a patient may be making a huge investment in the future – even though, on the books, he or she is wasting time and the public’s money.

The real problem with health care is that we all die.

If the people in charge of health care (the superboard) believe their job is to reduce that possibility, they are mistaken in their objective.

Alternatively, as others have suggested, superboard members (with their corporate background), may be looking for ways to stimulate business opportunities for various private health-care providers – believing that this will provide both economic and business development opportunities, as well as healing services.

But this approach ignores the human need for real care that can only come from long-term personal contact.

I look at the superboard’s push for efficiency with a wry eye.

The Pharoahs wanted eternal life and built the sphinxes and pyramids to ensure it.

The medieval Christian societies of Europe wanted to honour the resurrection of the dead and built cathedrals to glorify God, hoping to guarantee it.

And today, we in the technological society want eternal life and build bio-technological edifices to perform the necessary functions for it – Cross Cancer Centre, Tom Baker Center, Mazankowski Center, etc.

And after all that intense investment in infrastructure we find a few shocking things.

More people die of hospital infections every year in Canada than die of breast cancer (some 8,000 vs. 3,000).

Superbug infections are more difficult to remove from larger facilities; the small is beautiful concept has significant relevance to health care.

Accidents and injuries are No. 3 for health-care resource consumption, but this invisible epidemic is unheard of in the media or in superboard decisions; many of those hospital visits for injuries are related to chronic alcohol or drug abuse that are never addressed.

More young work able men die of injuries than die of cancer, but we never hear about it or don’t do much publicly to prevent it.

Homelessness creates a tier of desperate people who see emergency services as a way to a safe bed, food and a fix – over and over again without a wellness plan, largely because they have no home or food.

The number of beds for addicted individuals is laughably small – talk about a lotto – your loved one won’t get in unless you’re a lucky gambler, and hey – isn’t gambling addictive too?

But we won’t talk about that unhealthy condition as it funds community sports and recreation, sort of.

What if more of that money for infrastructure was invested in human care?

Invest it in people – maybe even nurse practitioners or doctors who could go house to house. Like in the old days.

Before superboards and superbugs. When people cared about each other.

Michelle Stirling-Anosh is a Ponoka freelance columnist.

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