What's Wrong with Healthcare?

Thinking inside and outside of the healthcare box. After 41 years of family practice, what's happened to Canada's healthcare system?

Friday, July 28, 2006

Surviving As a Caregiver.

The purpose of today’s entry is to make one thing clear: When I refer to our Health Care System as lacking compassion and humanitarianism, I am criticizing the system, not the people working in the system. In the late 80’s and early 90’s when governments decided to do “something” about the ever increasing costs in our health care system, the mantra at the time was to take a more “business-like approach to health care. It is now apparent, some 15 years later that they have succeeded. Unfortunately, by its nature, looking after sick people is a caring and compassionate activity and attracts people who, by their nature, are caring and compassionate people. Businesses are by their nature self directed and self sustaining, and thus the huge disconnect between our Health Care System and the people working in it.
Dr. Gil Curry, the Calgary Director of Emergency Services states that there is a high level of stress leave, transfers, sick time, etc. reflecting the stressful conditions in the emergency departments in Calgary hospitals. It may be of interest to Dr. Curry that other areas of medicine reflect similar indicators of stress. Home care has problems recruiting nurses and a high turnover rate, family medicine is disappearing (I have known several family doctors who have quit and returned to University to train in some other field), and obviously the Region (from newspaper reports), lacks skilled O.R. nurses. My understanding is that family doctors do not have a long life expectancy and I do know that there is a high rate of divorce, alcoholism, drug addiction, and suicide in the medical profession.
I recall listening to a business leader back in the early nineties. His advice was that loyalty in business in the coming years would be a liability to workers and every worker should look out for his/her self. His position was that companies no longer look at loyalty as a positive trait. He suggested that to be successful as a business in today’s world, companies would be looking at the cheapest labor, have “crash” training programs, and have a high turnover rate. Long term employees translate into higher wages and expensive benefits. The Calgary Region fits in perfectly and attempts to hire part time employees instead of full time employees whenever possible. I am told by middle management executives that having a responsible attitude toward those working under you is not seen as a positive in the business world. The trend is to get all you can out of everybody and to expect high turnovers. Is this what we Canadians are looking for in our health care system? Obviously, this approach is “cost effective” as evidenced by the success of many of the large “chain” companies like Wal-mart, but do we really want a Wal-mart health care system?
For many people, working in our Canadian Health Care System becomes a matter of survival. As a caring person, how does one cope in a system that is uncaring? We can become “believers” in the “system”, and therefore what happens is justified to support the system, we can disagree with what we see and experience but tough it out and eventually suffer the ill effects of chronic stress (to say nothing of the effects this may have on our patients through poor performance), or we can transfer, change jobs, take early retirement, etc (basically move to an area that fits with out temperament and relieves the stress).
So my hat is off to all those who continue to survive and work in our health care “system”. Knowing what “should happen” and seeing what “does happen” on a daily basis is extremely difficult. My advice is to speak out more; caring and compassion should never be something that we should be ashamed of or hide.


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