Sunday, 6 October 2013
Diary of a Bleeding Heart
Wearing your heart on your sleeve - leading with your heart - breaking your heart - dwelling in the land of the under-dogs who can't even find their boot-straps, let alone pick themselves up with them. This is the world I live in - the narrow scrap of landscape that has always shaped my perspective. In the political spectrum - where I have deliberately tried to never pick a side -and in my work (through several administrations) I preferred to focus on individual ministers and staff for whom I had the privilege to work - their values, integrity, their strength in the face of pressure. People like to think of health care as altruistic - nothing but caring saints who perform daily miracles tending to the vulnerable and infirm. As a patient, I have more than experienced that side - but it is also a business worth billions, consumes more tax dollars than any other ministry, escalates many times the percentage of population growth each year and as the crop of baby boomers succumb to all of the physical joys that aging brings - the pain is only just beginning. As the Americans fight their battles over offering a shred of health care protection to the millions of the un-insured - we continue to whine and complain about what we largely take for granted. But it is not perfect. Huge swaths of rural areas and small towns are finding out where simple demographics have been leading us for some time now - that the imbalance between the numbers of people entering the healing professions and willing to ply their trade in more remote areas is dwindling while the numbers of the needy continues to grow. The infrastructure, left un-tended for many years - is in need of expensive overhaul in many communities. There are no easy answers but it is important to pay attention to who is pulling the strings - what vision we want for the future and what we are willing to give up and pay for in the name of "universal" health care. It will never be all things to all people - and frankly it wasn't when Medicare was hatched. Long-term care wasn't even part of the equation in the beginning - ditto the now common and growing number of technological advances and diagnostic tools we now can't live without. In my own mind, prevention (in all of its forms), harm reduction, and long overdue action on dying with dignity are three of the least expensive and appropriate places to start. But then again, I have a bleeding heart.