Wait times for non-emergent surgeries, diagnostic procedures and specialist appointments at our health care facilities throughout the province are often lengthy at the best of times.
This year has been particularly challenging. First we were hit with an historic winter storm which would be known as Snowmageddon. And just when we thought things were back to normal, along comes Covid-19.
This pandemic has had a significant impact on our day-to-day living, a devastating effect on an already fragile economy and a huge impact on our healthcare system.
Wait lists for services, procedures, diagnostics and surgeries have grown exponentially, which has taken its toll not just on our people’s physical health, but in indeed their mental health as well.
Just imagine being told you have a suspicious growth in your body four months ago, and are continuing to wait to have a diagnostic procedure completed and/or to see a specialist.
What would be going through your mind? What could this growth be? Is it getting larger? Is it spreading? By the time I finally get a diagnosis, will it be too late to treat?
Imagine having a heart condition requiring attention and having to wait an extended period of time to receive the surgery you require.
Will it get worse while I await my surgery? Will it result in a heart attack? When I go to sleep tonight, will I wake up?
Imagine going to work in pain every day while you’re awaiting a cortisone shot in your knee.
Imagine the toll it would have on your personal life, as you struggle to do your routine house chores, get groceries, play with your kids, or engage in any physical activity.
There are so many stories in our community like this.
Some are very serious and potentially life threatening and others may be a matter of discomfort, stress and/or worry. In recent days, these concerns have not just been raised by ordinary citizens, but by members of our medical community.
These physicians have basically indicated that the measures being taken by our healthcare authorities to deal with a potential Covid-19 outbreak may actually be causing more harm than good as the condition of patients awaiting “non-emergent” procedures are getting progressively worse.
WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS?
So what is the plan to not just get back to “normal” but to deal with the significant backlog?
Can we utilize more technology?
Can we extend the operating hours of healthcare clinics?
Can we open some of them on the weekends?
Can we bring in additional resources, even on a temporary basis? Are we fully utilizing all of our facilities and the services/procedures that can be offered at each of them? Are there options for patients to travel to facilities outside their immediate area to obtain the service they require at a different facility?
For example, if I live in St. John’s, need an X-ray, and there is a long wait list at St. Clare’s and the Health Science Centre, but there is capacity in Carbonear or Burin, can I be given the option to drive there to get it done?
Is there a greater role for the private sector to play in helping us get through the backlog? Is there more that can be done to expand scopes of practice of healthcare providers to assist in this endeavor?
These are some of the measures that need to be considered as we move forward, as there are so many of our people whose health depend on it.
Unfortunately, there appears to be a lack of will within the House of Assembly to discuss these important matters.
It is therefore incumbent upon us all to take every opportunity to lobby the premier, the minister of health and their colleagues in cabinet to ensure this critical issue is addressed.
Paul Lane, Independent MHA,
District of Mount Pearl-Southlands