I well know there are difficult decisions to be made in health care. The current situation with Interior Health’s laundry service in the Kootenays is just another example of what I see as trying to make decisions using short-sighted accounting. What seems to be left out of the equation and decision-making process is how we consider and involve communities, patients, the public and ultimately, health, in the decisions.
Health care dollars don’t come out of some magical fund and there is not “free” health care. The money all comes out of our pocket on many levels: MSP premiums, provincial taxes, regional district taxes, the contributions we make to hospital foundations, dollars raised by hospital auxiliaries, right down to parking fees paid at some hospitals.
Simply put, capital funds (the money spent on equipment, buildings etc.) are kept separate from operating funds (the money to provide staff and supplies) and, of course, there are limits to both pots of money. There are complicated processes and fierce demands for capital funds throughout the region on an annual basis. So, whether the money comes out of investing in equipment locally or contracting out to someone else, the funds come out of our pockets.
There is no question that there is a need for clean laundry in hospitals and other health care facilities. What seems to be under discussion in the current situation is “Should capital funds be spent on upgrading the laundry equipment at Kootenay Lake Hospital?”
This is not the first time our community has been hit by situations like this. We have lost many government services and educational facilities over the years. Health services in our area have also lost many local jobs due to centralization, restructuring and “efficiencies.”
Losing a service and staff affects many things. Take a moment to think it through. The community loses jobs and that ripples right through our local economy — from grocery stores, to housing markets, to car dealerships to taxes — I could go on and on but the effect is a less vibrant and healthy local economy.
Think about the friends you may lose as they leave to find work and the loss that will be to you and the community.
Think about the individuals who lose work and the effect this has on their health and their families.
Think about staff morale at local health care facilities — the loss of one’s co-workers does not help create a healthy workplace.
Think about the environment — in this instance, more trucks on the road for greater distances does not help create a healthy environment. Think about the dollars already invested over the years on equipment and renovations to the hospital for our local laundry.
Think about the fact that someone, somewhere is going to be making money providing this service, perhaps at the cost of poorly-paid employees and corners cut on product quality.
Think about the hidden costs — when any service gets relocated there are always loose ends that have to be picked up by remaining staff.
Think about long term — is anyone doing the math or following up on whether or not this will save dollars over the long haul? Does a decrease in a capital cost really result in any saving?
When will someone design the health equation which will take into account all the factors necessary for true health, an equation that would help make responsible choices of where our health care dollars go?
How does IHA hear our voices in these decisions? Who will hold organizations that spend our dollars to account to ensure we help create healthy individuals, healthy workplaces, healthy environments and healthy communities?
Valene Foster, Ymir