LETTER: Interior Health’s false economy

From reader Hugh Sinclair on Nelson’s loss of ophthalmologist

Re: “Nelson’s only ophthalmologist to retire in February,” Jan. 2

We have come a long way since Tommy Douglas leveraged his balance of power in Ottawa into the national health care establishment in the ‘60s. Back then, the doctors left Canada in droves for what they believed was more money in the States. Now we have one of the better (but by no means best) universal health care systems in the world.

And we still have doctors such as Dr. Brian Day in Vancouver challenging the validity of our system. And there are others who doubt we are getting the best bang for our medical care buck. Unfortunately for us in the interior of the province, it is the bean counters who again and again hold us to ransom to squeeze the last possible iota of efficiency from the system.

Let the waiting lists grow. Let the patients travel all day long for a 15 minute slice of a doctor’s time since it will perhaps save the government a tenth of what the patient pays in travel expenses. It is false economy of course to consider only one small aspect of our total health care as being more important than the system as a whole. What our accountants fail to even think of is the overall effect of their miserly decisions.

Here in Kaslo, we were without primary care at all while the government stonewalled for some years any attempt to provide a doctor. You will remember a similar problem in Nelson around the millennium. Nakusp has had its own share of similar problems. The common thread is the mean attitude of the health authority towards providing even basic care for the population who, after all, are the ones who ultimately pay the bills.

We don’t need two ophthalmologists in Trail and let the rest of the region slide. Perhaps it is marginally more economical to have them both in one city, but the human costs for patient travel and stress, especially in bad weather must be considered. If there is someone competent and willing to assume the mantle of Dr. Maytom, it makes sense from the viewpoint of the system as a whole to allow that person to step into those shoes. We would all be far better off.

Hugh Sinclair


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