Monsters Under the Beds (Or in the ERs)
Last week, Nova Scotia Liberal MLA Dave Wilson appeared at a news conference along with an ER physician claiming that the emergency room system in Nova Scotia is in crisis. According to Wilson, the Liberal Health Critic,
"In 2006, ERs in Nova Scotia were closed for over 3,700 hours - that's 154 days. That is almost 1,600 more hours than the year before," he says. "In fact, since 2001 ERs in this province have been closed for a total of almost two years. That is unacceptable."
Wow, that does sound excessive. Is the system failing Nova Scotians?
Wait, that's really the point, isn't it - IS the system failing us?
The trouble with this particular iteration of monster-shouting is that the information presented lacks any sort of context to prove that this is, in fact, a particularly dangerous or even unusual state of affairs.
Has anyone died or suffered debilitating disease due to a lack of ER services? Has anyone been turned away because the ERs were closed? There is no indication either way according to the information we are presented with. Is the solution to this problematic condition to keep all emergency rooms open 24-7?
I needn't tell anyone with a modicum of fiscal intelligence how impractical that idea is. Smaller communities, while needing some degree of emergency response and treatment facilities, lack the population density to have the type of constant demand that exists in larger centres. I, for one, don't think the Liberal critic would be any happier if these small-town ERs were staffed constantly, because it would be an obvious waste of money, and without any indication of how the situation is negatively affecting the citizens of the province, it would be completely irresponsible in many other ways, as well.
While I agree that there needs to be much more encouragement for medical students to enter into emergency medicine (a stressful specialty, to be sure), and for our local med school graduates to remain in the province, without the evidence of harm or even actual need, this 'crisis' is constructed from nothing but fear.
The press conference was clearly designed to elicit the anxiety of the public, and serves no one's interests except those of the Liberal party. I'm not equipped to dispute the information presented, but if you're going to convince me that this is nothing more than cynical exploitation of the fears of the elderly and the infirm, you'll need to show me some proof.
That goes for any of these types of assertions - can you prove to me that beds that are closed in small hospitals are actually needed, or are you playing on the fears of older citizens, who will then ask themselves, "But what if they are needed?" You can't govern or budget according to what if's. As my boss says, "What if a Martian lands and asks for something?" It's an illustration of how absurd the 'what-if's can get.
The way I see it, the political script goes like this:
1) create anxiety where there is none
2) exploit the anxiety for political gain
3) get elected
4) continue making decisions or investments in the same way
5) repeat as necessary
This type of blatant politicking, if you'll pardon the expression, makes me ill. Wow, lucky I don't live in a rural area, isn't it?
Stirring base emotions is not solving problems or shedding light on truth, it's pure politics, which, quite frankly, our health care system could use a little less of. Show us proof, Mr. Wilson, or shut up.