I have been thinking about our healthcare system since reading the article from the Grey Bruce Health Coalition and the funding announcement for Long Term Care (LTC) which alluded to LTC admitting patients from acute care to Long Term Care as Alternate Level of Care (ALC) as well as funding for needed equipment. Recently our family has been accessing our local and regional healthcare system. Having worked in healthcare for over 30 years I would like to share some thoughts based on our recent experiences.
Thought 1 – In Meaford we benefit from great healthcare workers – doctors, nurses, therapists, technicians, and other workers in the system. My husband has been receiving treatment for over 6 months now (5 months at home) and we have nothing but praise for the treatment he has received. As citizens we need to look after our healthcare staff since they are a diminishing resource. Healthcare, like other human-based occupations, is in a staffing crisis and the next generations are not looking positively on joining the ranks. I believe the system is the problem and we as citizens need to be part of generating solutions.
Thought 2 – Is healthcare humanity, science, or business? Well, it is all three but if these three elements don’t work well together or in synergy, the system begins to fail. Humanity refers humaneness; benevolence but our system refers to beds and cases not patients. It is dehumanizing and I believe dehumanization is one of the greatest failures of the healthcare system. The patients and the staff are dehumanized and therefore the system becomes dehumanized. Science – Definitely healthcare is a science – most treatments are evidence-based or evidence-informed for best results. Following these practices leads to better care and outcomes but again our system often fails to follow through or moves patients to other parts of the system without adequate knowledge of the ability of the new placement to continue the evidence-based practice. Business – again definitely but it is a business that I feel often forgets its core values – to ensure the health and treatment of patients employing humanity and science. Not remembering or being dedicated to its core values means many healthcare dollars are wasted and patient outcomes are poor.
Thought 3 – Transparency is needed in relating the costs transferred to the patient and family as they move through the system. We are used to thinking that our healthcare is basically paid for by the government. Yes, we know we pay for some things but much of the expense is covered. We have experienced the inequity of healthcare within its own system. When my husband was discharged to home on Home and Community Care Support Services, we were naïve. We are very grateful for the nursing and supplies which are covered by the government, but we did not realize the cost of a hospital bed and specialized mattress rental, sheets, pads, lab work, etc. which we are now responsible for paying. Our monthly expenses have risen by at least $500. Though the treatment plan is unchanged the costs are now ours to bear. Transportation is also our responsibility. In Ontario we have regional health systems with tertiary care being located in a university cities. Part of my husband’s care plan is to see a surgeon in London for a clinic appointment. He can’t sit so we hire a transport ambulance for $1,900. We are lucky to have savings and own our house, but these costs are not sustainable for most people over time. I wonder if there will be a cost or co-payment for ALC in LTC which was our other choice at discharge?
Last thought – I am not keen for several reasons on for-profit clinics or hospitals and would like to see evidence to support this move. My greatest objection is staffing. We have a healthcare system now that is understaffed because staff cannot be found. So, if we add another tier to healthcare – hospital, community care, long term care, and now private hospitals and clinics – where are the staff coming from? I would prefer our healthcare dollars to remain in the present system and create the solution for access there.
I believe in our system, but it needs to be revamped. Equity and a dedication to correctly aligning the three elements of healthcare – humanity, science, and business would benefit our system. We, as citizens, need to support our local healthcare organizations and charities that support patients. We need to be vocal to the government about the type of healthcare we want to support to ensure access and beneficial treatment for all of us.
Mary Solomon, Meaford