What the public needs

This headline for an article jumped off the wall as we reviewed editorial options this week: Family Health Teams, hospitals want to hear from public about local needs.

It’s refreshing when organizations seek public input, particularly as it relates to serving the public they are mandated to serve.

From time to time, we see other groups reaching out to their “customers” or “clients” – for example, Centre Wellington council’s pro-active town-hall meetings to update and receive feedback on council activities. Although the exchanges aren’t as interactive as we are sure the mayor would like, few can deny council kudos for at least trying to mingle with the folks.

No process is perfect. In fact there are very few places to debate big-picture issues without having to defer the topic to one level of government or another. This aspect becomes particularly clear when people start talking about funding, whether it’s the province expecting matching funds from the federal government or demands that local municipalities come up with their share on big projects. That aside, here are some ideas on what the public needs.

On health care

The public needs to see a sense of urgency and understanding of patient needs.

Perhaps the most curious phrase we heard lately was that our health care is so great – when you really need it. We don’t think that’s good enough, particularly when the emergency ward and walk-in clinic wait-times are so long that people get frustrated and leave. One could argue they weren’t that ill, but that isn’t a fair judgment necessarily.

Many patients simply need to confirm they’re going to recover and not get more ill. Often this step used to be dealt with at their doctor’s office, but many doctors have limited spaces for appointments each day. It seems to us we need to refocus health care on overall wellness as opposed to managing crises.

For seniors

For the first time ever census data shows the senior population outnumbering youths. Everyone saw this coming, but no one chose to act in advance of the dilemma.

Seniors and their caregivers have limited options for a number of reasons. Patient privilege makes it pretty difficult for families get the answers they need from a family doctor. Help is limited to the worst of cases. Waiting lists can be two to three years long for access to long-term care and that wait happens after an assessment of need. As for in-home services, also requiring an assessment, it makes it easy to suggest patients and caregivers quickly feel victims of “the system.” There is something not right with that.

On housing

Affordable housing options are very limited and again, waiting lists are years long in many cases. Despite efforts by local government (and Wellington County certainly has tried on this front), a substantive strategy to actually deal with building safe, accessible housing with rents based on income, is not yet on the horizon. For those of us that understand what is happening and the oncoming crisis, it’s pretty depressing to see so little progress.

On mental health

There is little coincidence that we end our set of ideas with the subject of mental health.

Truth be told, our list reflects conversations in the past week with several people trying their best to get by. Their voices for the most part go unheard and like many of their generation they have too much pride to speak out – especially in public. So they suffer in silence and put their best foot forward.

What the public really needs is action – now.