When I am the bearer of bad news to patients, I usually tell them that they are not a statistic; that they are an individual who may have a different outcome than what probability would predict. I do this because I believe in giving hope. Without hope, there might as well be no medical system at all.
Whether it is a possible outcome or how long they are going to wait for treatment, it is important to be truthful and treat the patient with the dignity and the respect they deserve; Patient…..with a capital “P”.
With regard to the Wait Time Strategy, we are receiving conflicting information. Both Mr. Smitherman and Mr. McGuinty seem to want to dismiss the voices from the front line providers that are indicating the WTS needs a second look.
The Toronto Star from Feb.13, 2007 reports that Premier Dalton McGuinty admitted recently that his government was hearing lots of stories that its strategy was compromising wait times in other areas, but dismissed them as anecdotal "with a capital A."
This epitomizes what is wrong with a health care transformation agenda that pushes patients who don’t fit the grand scheme to the fringe, to become “anecdotes”, and which attempts to ignore the voices of providers who are working for their patients to get them the best care possible.
Who amongst us wants to be treated as an “anecdote”? Which patient wants their medical journey to be treated as an “anecdote” with the implied message that their problems aren’t real and are inconsequential?
A recent survey of surgeons across Ontario, conducted by the OMA, has prompted calls by Ontario doctors to measure the wait times for all surgeries and to measure a patient’s full wait time, including the time from when a patient visits their family doctor to when they receive the proper treatment.
The Toronto Star reported on Feb. 14, 2007 that:
While Smitherman dismissed the Ontario Medical Association survey of 640 surgeons as "questionable," he said the province will likely expand wait-time tracking beyond hip and knee replacements, cataract surgery, cancer surgery and MRI scans to see where patients are waiting the longest for care.
"That will give us a much better opportunity to direct funding in the appropriate way,"
Smitherman said. "But anybody who pretends we have the resource base to do everything at the same time is really just pretending.”
Also not mentioned are the wait times for many, many non-surgical treatments and even just a specialist appointment.
Even wait times in Emergency Rooms are reported to be missing the target.
Smitherman announced he was putting the ED wait time targets announced in October on hold. "We're already having a difficult time," the minister said at a press conference. "Applying a standard that may in fact be artificial is not something that we have an interest in."
But it is something many patients have an interest in because their health and their lives depend on it in a country that denies individuals the right to pay for their own medically necessary care at home while attempting to sustain a system that appears to be developing cracks at a rapid rate.Almost a year ago, I wrote in the Ottawa Citizen April 14, 2006 that:
“Care guarantees that cover only a few service areas are of no consolation to millions of Canadians whose medical needs fall outside these services. Wait times for many other areas exist, they just aren’t being measured.”
If we are to give patients the dignity and respect they deserve, then we must acknowledge that they are part of the solution and give them the freedoms required to help themselves.