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Health-care planning needs drastic changes

Health-care planning needs drastic changes
Hopefully, many locals will come out Wednesday evening to tell the government to make changes that will actually improve our health care.
Hopefully, many locals will come out Wednesday evening to tell the government to make changes that will actually improve our health care.

Health-care planning needs drastic changes

By Allan Garbutt
By Allan Garbutt
Letter to the Editor
Shootin’ the Breeze Letter to the Editor
January 24, 2024
January 24, 2024

Concerned about the coming changes to health care? Worried about the current state of health care in southern Alberta?

The Alberta government is giving you a chance to express yourself this Wednesday evening at the Heritage Inn. Not that many of us likely knew about this. Indeed, most Pincher Creek readers of Shootin’ will have to rush to register for this event, since it is at 5 p.m. Wednesday (that is, today). Readers in the Pass have probably missed their chance, since that meeting is set for 10 a.m.

The discussion seems to be focused on the upcoming changes to the structure and function of what is currently known as AHS. We are to get that behemoth chopped up into four pieces. Which might be fine if our problem was just the way that management is structured.

But, it is not.

As a retired physician with 26 years of practice in Crowsnest Pass, I lived through multiple reorganizations (or, more accurately, redisorganization). Each created its own special kind of chaos for at least a couple of years. The system, if you can call it that, kept functioning due to the goodwill of the front-line troops.

After years of being overworked and being told that they are not worth whatever their wage might be, there is very little goodwill left. If chaos follows a management shuffle, there will not be goodwill to pull function out of the chaos.

 

Ace of spades card on ad for Chase the Ace at the Pincher Creek Legion

 

Anyone who has contact with health-care workers knows that what is lacking is not managers. What we need are workers and “stuff.” In case our politicians have not noticed, health-care workers are in short supply across Canada and indeed throughout the world.  You do not get them by tearing up contracts, offering lower salaries than the competition, and promising to make huge but unspecified changes to how the system is run.

Similarly, the system needs “stuff,” starting with long-term and acute-care beds, plus the technical equipment to support them.

None of those people and things will come to be just because a politician is unhappy with the current state of affairs. Training a doctor takes at least nine years after high school. A nurse requires at least four years. Lab and X-ray techs need two years for the basics, and more for extra skills.

Building hospitals is a 10-year process, from idea through planning, construction, staffing, commissioning, and receiving patients. The new long-term care building in Crowsnest Pass took a couple of years to plan, and another couple to build. Not to mention the years of asking that preceded approval to build.

 

 

Alberta is growing rapidly, with nearly 200,000 new residents moving here last year. Not to mention the babies that were born here. Since every thousand folks require about two doctors of varying types, the province needs close to a net of 500 new doctors each year, just to stand still. And, that 500 does not account for retirements and other losses. We are not building any giant new hospitals in the near future, and not many smaller ones.

Unless we make drastic changes to how we plan for our health-care system — from training, recruiting and retaining staff to planning and building infrastructure — our health-care system cannot improve. Splitting up the management team will not do that, at least not for a few years.

Hopefully, many locals will come out Wednesday evening to tell the government to make changes that will actually improve our health care.

Allan Garbutt
Resident of Cowley, Alberta

 

Table setting of wedding venue — the Cowley Lions Campground Stockade near Pincher Creek in southwestern Alberta.

 

Shootin’ the Breeze welcomes submissions about local issues and activities. Personal views expressed in Mailbox articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect views of Shootin’ the Breeze management and staff. 

Concerned about the coming changes to health care? Worried about the current state of health care in southern Alberta?

The Alberta government is giving you a chance to express yourself this Wednesday evening at the Heritage Inn. Not that many of us likely knew about this. Indeed, most Pincher Creek readers of Shootin’ will have to rush to register for this event, since it is at 5 p.m. Wednesday (that is, today). Readers in the Pass have probably missed their chance, since that meeting is set for 10 a.m.

The discussion seems to be focused on the upcoming changes to the structure and function of what is currently known as AHS. We are to get that behemoth chopped up into four pieces. Which might be fine if our problem was just the way that management is structured.

But, it is not.

As a retired physician with 26 years of practice in Crowsnest Pass, I lived through multiple reorganizations (or, more accurately, redisorganization). Each created its own special kind of chaos for at least a couple of years. The system, if you can call it that, kept functioning due to the goodwill of the front-line troops.

After years of being overworked and being told that they are not worth whatever their wage might be, there is very little goodwill left. If chaos follows a management shuffle, there will not be goodwill to pull function out of the chaos.

 

Ad for Aurora Eggert Coaching in Beaver Mines

 

Anyone who has contact with health-care workers knows that what is lacking is not managers. What we need are workers and “stuff.” In case our politicians have not noticed, health-care workers are in short supply across Canada and indeed throughout the world.  You do not get them by tearing up contracts, offering lower salaries than the competition, and promising to make huge but unspecified changes to how the system is run.

Similarly, the system needs “stuff,” starting with long-term and acute-care beds, plus the technical equipment to support them.

None of those people and things will come to be just because a politician is unhappy with the current state of affairs. Training a doctor takes at least nine years after high school. A nurse requires at least four years. Lab and X-ray techs need two years for the basics, and more for extra skills.

Building hospitals is a 10-year process, from idea through planning, construction, staffing, commissioning, and receiving patients. The new long-term care building in Crowsnest Pass took a couple of years to plan, and another couple to build. Not to mention the years of asking that preceded approval to build.

 

 

Alberta is growing rapidly, with nearly 200,000 new residents moving here last year. Not to mention the babies that were born here. Since every thousand folks require about two doctors of varying types, the province needs close to a net of 500 new doctors each year, just to stand still. And, that 500 does not account for retirements and other losses. We are not building any giant new hospitals in the near future, and not many smaller ones.

Unless we make drastic changes to how we plan for our health-care system — from training, recruiting and retaining staff to planning and building infrastructure — our health-care system cannot improve. Splitting up the management team will not do that, at least not for a few years.

Hopefully, many locals will come out Wednesday evening to tell the government to make changes that will actually improve our health care.

Allan Garbutt
Resident of Cowley, Alberta

 

Ad for Dragons Heart Quilt Shop in Pincher Creek

 

Shootin’ the Breeze welcomes submissions about local issues and activities. Personal views expressed in Mailbox articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect views of Shootin’ the Breeze management and staff. 

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