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What’s the cure for an ailing health system

["Walt's World with Walter Jones"]
Walt's World with Walter Jones

Walt's World with Walter Jones

Many years ago, when I was living in Saint John, I suffered from low blood pressure and had fainting spells.

The family doctor that I was able to obtain only worked three days a week. He was not old, being I suppose in his mid to late 40s, so me, being who I am, had to know why. He told me that he wasn't interested in getting rich, he just wanted to live comfortably. He also wanted to be able to relax and enjoy some leisure time while he was relatively young and able.

Further questions from me enlisted the fact that he was not alone. Apparently, at least in New Brunswick, at that time there were many more, who were doing the same thing. This didn't register with me at this time. It does now.

I was here before universal health care. Doctors had an office, you went there and they treated you. You paid if you could or bought health insurance. The government took this model over, and as far as I can see, it hasn't changed.

Doctors agreed to join in health care to the extent that they would collect their fees from the government and not bill their patients direct. What has changed is that the doctors gave control to the government. Perhaps that was a mistake.

Governments believe they have to control all aspects of the people they employee, and doctors at least in the eyes of the government, are employees. They were free agents who were contracting with the government for their services. They are still free agents today. They were not and are not government employees.

Rigidity serves the employer it does not serve the employee. An attitude adjustment on the part of the government needs to happen before this will change. We now have a more complicated system and, if it is to work it has to be an integrated, system - a system where patients can move freely, according to their needs.

I do not pretend to know how to fix our system, but I will throw out a few ideas. Maybe offer a system with a salary and benefits, where the government does the paperwork. Offices where two or more doctors share the same patients and are able to work the hours they want

Set up a system where new or not so new doctors can go on locum, have more money available for sabbaticals. This would allow doctors who want to, to recharge their batteries and perhaps improve their knowledge.

The first doctor I had when I moved to Amherst was Dr. Epean, a very good doctor, who moved here from Halifax. He told me,he loved working in Amherst because he was able to do things he was not able to do in Halifax.

He liked working in the ER and he especially liked being able to assist in the OR. I wouldn't have been able to get near an OR in Halifax he told me. We lost him when family called and he had to go.

Nova Scotia is not a one size fits all area. Our area has the highest percentage of the aged in Nova Scotia. We have a high rate of cancer and a not very good record of diagnoses. We also want young people to live here. We need geriatricians, more and better testing, and better or more diagnosticians for cancer. Also we need maternity doctors.

Our doctors are aware of the needs of their communities. Now we have to get the government and NSHA on board. The number one priory of government is to get elected or re-elected. We have to engage them at election time and get them to promise they will deal with our broken health care system. Get it in writing, get it in their platforms, but get it!

Walter Jones writes a weekly column for the Amherst News.

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