Question party promises and platforms

The disappointing aspect of election campaigns are the simplistic solutions put forth for dealing with complicated issues. As U.S. politician Newt Gingrich (not someone I admire) said, “In every election in American history both parties have their cliches. The party that has the cliches that ring true wins.”

My frustration is the laziness of the public when it comes to informing themselves on the issues. People like an easy idea. If the solution was easy, why wouldn’t any government have implemented it?

In the end I wonder how many eligible voters either opt to support the best catch-phrase or stay home because nothing easy stuck with them.

Given the easy solutions to health care being offered in the current Nova Scotia election, look south of the border. During the 2016 presidential campaign, then candidate Donald Trump promised to fix American health care on “Day One” of his administration.

Several months into office when he wasn’t able to make the changes he wanted President Trump told CNN, “I have to tell you, it’s an unbelievably complex subject. Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.”

Er, yes, anyone working in health care or who had been a patient or a patient family member knew how complicated health care is. That’s true for the United States, United Kingdom, European Union and Canada.

The other troublesome aspect of election campaigns are the convenient memories and editing of facts. Opposition parties are not going to acknowledge the long-term work that has gone into re-aligning the management of provincial health care and the allocation of people and planning for the physical plant (hospitals and clinics). Instead they’re offering to toss money at a problem, ignoring multiple studies that say the problems with Canadian health care isn’t money. More money just makes solutions more expensive, to quote one expert.

And opposition parties promise to hire more doctors. Okay, where are they going to find these doctors? Every country in the western world is facing a shortage of doctors and nurses. It’s a competitive market. The Nova Scotia Health Authority has some impediments to practice, which when those are removed or made less restrictive will go a long way to easing the situation. In the meantime, the fact remains that Nova Scotia has the most doctors per 100,000 population (261) of any province or territory. The national average is 228 doctors per 100,000 people. We need more, but it’s not as if we posted signs saying: don’t come, don’t practice.

It is inconvenient for some on the election trail to admit that Nova Scotia has made investments in expanding existing hospitals and making the system more efficient. To repeat, when in office other parties favoured a status quo which:

  • allowed assets to sit under utilized (Dartmouth General, for example, where three floors had been left unfinished since 1976),
  • did nothing to remediate problems with existing facilities (like the 30-year-old toxic water situation at the VG),
  • supported an inefficient management structure (nine health silos vs one integrated system) that didn’t cooperate or coordinate medical assets (for example, operating rooms in rural hospitals weren’t used, while wait lists for surgeries in Halifax grew). Now some patients needing orthopaedic surgery, like knee replacement, have been given a choice to travel out of their home area and across the province for surgery. Giving the devil’s its due, since the creation of the Nova Scotia Health Authority over 1,000 additional orthopaedic surgeries have been performed. Those wouldn’t have happened under the previous management structure.

Five days into the election, some promises have been questioned by the likes of Doctors Nova Scotia. The issue around doctor recruitment promises is best summed up here:

For a longer discussion about doctor shortages and recruitment, listen to – or read the transcript of CBC’s The Current:

Notice that in British Columbia 15 percent of residents don’t have access to a doctor. A recent report in The Guardian newspaper in Britain says that two out of five GPs in England are about to close their practices. That will leave 265,000 more Brits without physicians. It’s frustrating and frightening not having a family physician, but it’s a broader issue than what one government can do or hasn’t done in our small province.

It’s been said that leadership is not about the next election, it’s about the next generation.

If health care is a deciding factor in how you vote, look at which party has that longer leadership vision and which party offers more than a pretend fast fix between election cycles.



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