that’s no joke

On my way to the dreaded mammogram, I had my five minutes of fame. A word about the mammogram first. It’s one of those annual things we have as a luxury of high funding from the breast cancer prevention lobby and a generous if lop-sided health care system. Demographics would say I’m not at risk but the statistics these days suggest anyone with a hormonal system is. (That includes you gentlemen.) Still and all, I’ve avoided it for the last four years, seeing it mainly as a waste of good health care dollars to make a glass plate sandwich of my boobs – although it is a good test of my skills with the Anapannasati Sutra. But I now have a new family physician who is much too young to be ordering me about but I’m going to let her because as a health care professional myself, I know I am the worst patient anyone can have.

So. On my way to the dreaded mammogram, I had my five minutes of fame. At the doors of the hospital, which is a lovely 10 minutes walk from my office, was a film crew polling patients about the health care system. The Canadian Medical Association Annual General Meeting is coming up and this was to be a feature at their gathering. They asked questions that were actually quite pointed about our health care system.

My answers in narrative form: The Health Care System is broken. That simple fact makes little waves in battle for dollars. There’s a lot of blaming and shaming with fingers fiercely pointed at organizational dysfunction. But under the egos that place research and body counts as gold standards for health care delivery are very frightened people who are staunchly protecting their turf. And in their fear, it is unlikely that they will see the futility of throwing more money into a broken bowl. What they miss is that efficacy studies – while I am a strong advocate of them – mean squat when the most vulnerable populations in our province are literally dying as they wait on long lists for care.

Do we need more money poured into the medical system? Not if it excludes mental health and long term care for the elderly. I obviously have a bias but it’s justified. Mental Health Services are only free if you see a Psychiatrist. And few people can because you have to have a family physician who refers you. (It’s a way of circulating those dollars.) These days fewer and fewer people have a family physician. Because, guess what? There’s a dirth of physicians. It costs too much to train them and there are too few spaces in medical schools for the number we actually need. Sure, you can see a Psychologist but unless you have one who will adjust their fees and, even if you do, you need an extended health care plan for what it costs. And, guess what? Fewer and fewer people have those because organizations can’t really afford them. And so the wheel turns.

Of course, there’s an obvious solution. Bring all the para-medical professionals under the umbrella of Health Care Services. Create a sangha of professionals who are willing to contribute as a community. It means seeing suffering as our communal diagnosis and treatment as our practice. It means taking on the desire to bring all beings out of their hell realms simply because that’s what we must do. But that also means letting go of our turf and the turf wars. It might even mean seeing each other as equals facing a common end point.

Likely? I don’t know. It’s the old joke: How many Health Care professionals does it take to change a light bulb?

We’ll never know because every time there’s one to be changed, the program ended last week because of funding cuts.

And that’s no joke.

3 thoughts on “that’s no joke

  1. and then there’s alternative and preventative care and, and and…. yes, very broken, yes to turf wars. sigh.
    look forward to seeing on the 6 oclock news (if I watched it)! thanks for being the voice of reason!

    • Hey! There you are! I’ve been missing you (and miss reading your posts).

      I spent the last year doing my Chaplain internship at the mental health hospital here. Talk about a broken system! It amazes me that we still have such a HUGE divide between the medical fraternity and the rest of the care-giving world. It makes no sense!

      Hope you are well. Off to read about your garden slugs!

  2. This sounds very similar to our healthcare system. Here we have become a nation of healthcare for the wealthy. Family practice physicians are waning here too – not lucrative enough for them. Some have opted into these VIP programs where the patient has to pay $1500/yr to the doctor up front and then gets to see the dr whenever they want – no waiting. Gets VIP treatment – I guess whether necessary or not. But – you also have to pay for a health insurance plan to cover lab work and other expensive diagnostic procedures like CT scans – in the name of “preventative medicine” – another money maker for the insurance industry.

    I would also love to see “alternative medicine” covered, as that is also becoming outrageously expensive and only affordable to the few.

    Reform is obviously needed for both our countries. It would be nice if the doctors stood up and said enough! But it seems they too have bought into “the system” – the “medical circus.” It really would take a change of heart, a change in the way we *see* – and a change in the way we practice life…

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