Interface a root problem

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I suspect there are probably a few thousand people in this community more qualified to opine on the state of local healthcare than I. However, here I am.

In the course of my duties manning this particular public confessional there are very common and specific grievances in the local health care experience to which I frequently bear witness.

Mary Vahovick’s letter to the right is an example of a recurring narrative that never seems to be addressed despite all the talk of ‘best practices’ and Dryden’s role as a ‘pioneering’ player in the delivery of rural health care in the province.

As the province prepares to spend $2.5 million in Dryden and five other communities to examine ways to solve problems by integrating services, we can only hope it acts on the linkages between some of its obvious problems.

Is an overly onerous booking system for long-distant appointments at the Dingwall Clinic pushing most in need of medical attention to the emergency room? Is that a problem, or is it by design?

There’s this unresolved ambiguity that exists about the role of the local Emergency Room. By its very name and my experiences in other places, it would seem this is not the place to seek treatment for my suspected ear or throat infection. The need to pack a novel and a phone charger to an emerg visit for a relatively minor ailment seems to support those suspicions. However, there doesn’t seem to be anywhere else to go.

If the clinic can’t tend to a patient’s issues with less than two weeks notice, then that service is of little use to people whose needs call for prompt action.

Even for those whose needs for care can wait, what about those who work the same hours as the clinic and are not at liberty to jump through their rather restrictive hoops for booking an appointment? I know people who enlist their retired parents to camp out by the phone in hopes of snagging an appointment as though they were prized concert tickets.(We must acknowledge that there has been a very recent attempt to extend these hours on a trial basis).

If that service also acts as the portal through which residents sign up for a family physician, then that’s a problem too with direct linkages to how the community interfaces with its health care system.

While Dryden seems to have made some laudable strides with its Family Health Team concept in easing pressure on the system and improving outcomes for those who managing a chronic illness, there seems to be a palpable dissatisfaction among users who suffer from the kind of ailments that, anywhere else, you would simply go to a walk-in clinic to be treated for.

In the end I suppose the real question is: does ‘best practices’ mean ‘best for patients’ or ‘best for the budget’?

We hear an awful lot of inside baseball about DRHC’s challenges and successes as an early adopter of pioneering health care practices, yet if ours is truly a system to be emulated as a model of rural health care delivery, there are some obvious gaps to be acknowledged and addressed.

—Chris Marchand

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