To the editor,
History has a frequent tendency to catch up and profoundly influence current events.
Jean Chretien and Paul Martin during the Liberal federal governments from 1993 to 2003 decided to cut back by over $25 billion payments to the provinces required for the public health care system. Although they'll deny it, this was "the salami method in action," gravely weakening Canada's public system by drying up essential funding and forcing an ultimately discontented public to seek health care in a private system like the currently broken and dysfunctional profit-seeking private U.S. health care system which leaves 45 million Americans to seek wellness by eating an apple a day.
The new mantra that flowed out of panicked Capital Health administrators and from the Dalhousie Medical and Nursing Schools' leaderships was to drastically reduce the number of nurses in training, technologists, supervisors and first year medical students. The Victoria General and Halifax Infirmary senior administrators went on numerous trips to the U.S. to learn the American health care system and came back with the earth-shaking idea to call patients “clients,” and to make themselves vice-presidents like a typical U.S. company. They also privatized housekeeping and laundry and converted the cafeteria into easy availability for junk food and soft drinks.
Health care quality declined significantly but many health care professionals didn't speak out because they feared for their jobs, not unlike today's federal public servants.
The nurses of today are over-worked, understaffed, forced by circumstances to work overtime and are often dependent on casuals to come in. Casuals are often unfamiliar with the patient's history. Regardless of attitudes, those working shift work fall prey to physical and mental illnesses associated with disruption of circadian rhythm. They are also prone to making more errors and to be involved in more car accidents.
Capital Health administration and the provincial government should look at themselves in the mirror and stop criticizing our stressed-out nurses. Further, they should get the Hospital administrators to leave their desks and help clean up our unsafe, disgraceful and dirty hospitals.
Morris Givner, Ph.D., FCACB, FCIC,
Professor of Pathology (Ret.) and Associate Professor of Medicine(Ret.), Dalhousie University