Saturday February 12, 2011


BC Politics

Docs Support BC Green's Healthcare Overhaul Plan

Health Authority model fails patients and care workers

Submitted by Rebecca Helps, Green Party


he Health Authority model of healthcare governance should be scrapped in BC, according to the province's Green Party and two former Nelson doctors.


Retiring Nelson pathologist Dr. Lee Hutton and former emergency department physician Dr. Richard Fleet said the Health Authority model has reduced patient services while at the same time raised administrative costs.

"It is time to rethink the way healthcare is provided in BC," Jane Sterk, BC's Green Party leader, said after communicating with both doctors. "Greens believe BC needs to move away from the Health Authority model."

Hutton said HAs have resulted in closure of half the beds in the province, closure of entire hospitals, and decreases in the pay of workers, causing many nurses and technologists to either quit or leave the province to work elsewhere.

"It is obvious that health care is being run, not for care, but for public relations," Hutton said.

He said the 'authority model' hasn't saved the taxpayer even one cent, as administration costs in HAs have skyrocketed and more money has been spent on buildings to house extra administrators, fleets of cars to transport them and cosmetic upgrades to hospitals.

"The Interior Health Authority is in the process of replacing the RNs in the ERs with LPNs and in long term care - like where my parents are - replacing the LPNs with care aids," said Hutton. "They are assuming this will go unnoticed by the public but all health care workers I have spoken with say this is totally inappropriate."

He said imposing a corporate model in a socialized medicine system is ridiculous.

Fleet, who left Nelson in frustration and is now a professor of family and emergency medicine at Laval University in Quebec, agrees with Hutton.

He said he noticed a marked decrease in medical and nursing staff morale after the HA model was introduced. "Doctors who worked at patient advocacy were marginalized and ridiculed by health authority representatives in the media, and their clinical judgment, practice patterns and experience were called into question," he said.

Fleet, as a keynote speaker at the Ninth Annual Rural Health Research Society conference held in Fredericton, New Brunswick last September, detailed the situation he witnessed at Nelson's Kootenay Lake Hospital.

"In, 2002, the BC government eliminated the general surgical program and closed the ICU," Fleet told delegates. "Since then, over 6,000 patients travel yearly for specialty care and CT to the closest regional hospital in Trail, 73 km away.

"Between 2008 and 2010, the regional hospital was unable to provide ICU coverage on average ten days per month, meaning transfers to ICUs in Kelowna (447 km) or Vancouver (662km)," he said. "The situation led to increased transfer times with associated adverse events.

"We repeatedly informed health authorities of the potential hazards and proposed solutions," Fleet said. "As these issues were not even considered through administrative channels, and, with unanimous support of the medical staff, we publicly exposed the situation and it was rectified.

"Ultimately, the situation has contributed to reduced morale and resignations of several full-time ED physicians," Fleet related.

In the 2009 election, the Green Party of BC proposed replacing the Health Authorities with a more effective and responsive model of healthcare governance.

"BC patterned the HA model on Alberta's without evidence that it would be better," said Sterk. "The premise was that it would curtail costs and provide better service. The opposite happened. Alberta has abandoned the HA model altogether after creating havoc in that province and costing Alberta taxpayers millions in severance packages for high-priced executives.

"We also need to remove all potential for political interference and political favours from the governance and service provision model that is developed to replace health authorities," Sterk added.

"British Columbians no longer trust politicians and they are worried about the long-term sustainability of our public healthcare system," she said. "Inaction and the continuing reduction in service levels will further erode people's trust in the integrity of our healthcare system. People in rural area are most at risk.

"If we don't listen to the people who are living the problems within our current healthcare system and include them in reforming the system, we will continue to lose physicians like Drs. Hutton and Fleet, something we can ill-afford," Sterk concluded.


About the Green Party of BC

The Green Party of BC is the only major party in BC with no debt. A Green economy would run on the principles of triple-bottom-line accounting, rewarding organizations and individuals that practise environmental, social and economic sustainability and aligning government expenditure decisions with citizens' wishes. 



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