Live Well, Do Good

Brandon: What Kind of a City Do We Want?  (2)

Brandon Sun, September 29, 2005 - David McConkey

Part Two of Two

One of the downers about Brandon right now concerns health care. How we can have a gleaming new hospital, but so much dissatisfaction and anxiety?

We know we need good health care. But is what we want attainable for a small city in today’s world? The Conservatives say they can do a better job of bringing doctors to Brandon. The NDP says exactly the same thing. Since both political parties agree, there is little real debate. Here are five suggestions to liven up the discussion:

1)  Stop pestering our politicians.

Every letter to the editor, every phone call, every email, floods them with more information. Politicians can’t handle what they have now. They are already very confused. Not only that, they must be very frustrated. Leave them alone for a while!

Politicians of both parties are under the delusion that they can lure more foreign doctors to the province. Yet other places offer a milder climate, less work, more pay, and lower taxes. And Alberta is about to get even more attractive as it can afford to put much more money into its health care system, and lower provincial taxes to boot.

Manitoba already spends more per capita on health care than any other province. Yet we still can’t compete. The rules of math actually apply: yes we should pay doctors more, but then we must learn to get along with fewer doctors.

In the meantime, let’s leave our politicians alone. Maybe then they will be brave enough to acknowledge that Brandon just cannot have the doctors and specialists we would like. If they can do that, let’s engage them in real discussions of where we go from here. (If, after reflection, they still repeat empty promises, let’s replace them in the next election.)

2)  Look at alternatives which we can afford.

Let’s look at training other health care professionals, such as advanced practical nurses, to do more. Let’s look at more focus on health, as in the updated adage, “62.5 grams of prevention is worth a kilogram of cure.”

At least one prominent Brandon community leader urged the Brandon Regional Health Authority not to build the new hospital. Instead, he argued, put more money into an Internet-based system.
We could then get diagnoses from doctors and specialists who would not move here, but would go online. Rather than think of a building of “bricks and (glass) windows,” maybe we should think of “clicks and (Microsoft) Windows.”

3)  Entertain really bizarre ideas.

We can’t pay more doctors more money, because that would mean higher taxes. Our high taxes are already scaring doctors away. What about asking the public to donate money directly to our doctors? “A Bed for You, A Bed for Me” could become “A Doc for You, A Doc for Me.”

Usually, we are asked to donate to a charity that helps the poor. This new charity would be one that helps rich professionals. It might be just crazy enough to work.

Cash would be preferred. Golf club memberships and new appliances also would be accepted.

4)  Insist that the private / public debate be relevant to Brandon.

The private / public debate is occurring now across the country, in the courts and in groups such as the Canadian Medical Association. But how much of the debate is relevant to places like Brandon?

For example, right now, the Manitoba government is going to court to insist on its right not to pay for some abortions, just because they are performed at a private clinic in Winnipeg. Except the public hospital could only provide an abortion in four to eight weeks, and the private clinic could perform one right away.

Earth to the Manitoba government: women needing an abortion don’t have weeks and weeks to wait. In the controversy of this private / public debate, however, the needs of women outside Winnipeg can easily be overlooked altogether.

We know that we already spend our own dollars on private services such as drugs or a visit to the dentist or eye doctor. Sometimes we must pay for publicly-provided services, such as a City of Brandon ambulance
ride. And, many services paid by public Medicare are provided by private businesses such as the Western Medical Clinic or the Brandon Clinic.

We may need more private business in health care, or we may not. But let’s insist that this debate includes the needs of people in Brandon.

5)  Recognize global realities.

We are really confused when we think that the answer for Brandon is to bring doctors here from Africa and Asia. Haven’t we got this backwards? Shouldn’t relatively wealthy places like Manitoba send doctors to developing countries, rather than the other way around?

Brandon is in the twenty-first century. Let’s figure out an appropriate health care system.

* * * 

See also:

Brandon: What Kind Of A City Do We Want?   (Part 1 of 2)

Dark Side of Brandon’s Past

Discovering Historic Downtown Brandon

It’s Only Fair to Care, Downtown, Over Coffee

Citizen Active

Can We Nurture and Retain Famous People in Westman?

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