Thursday, February 27, 2014

Poverty, Health Care & Leo Glavine

Good day my friends out in Cyberspace! I hope that the day has found you well. Mine started abruptly this morning shortly after four when one of the residents in my domicile decided to cook some supper and make an international phone call. However, it has improved significantly. I start a little four day vacation later today so there is that to look forward to. Today I just want to share some thoughts I've been carrying around since reading and hearing about the remarks of the Provincial Health Minister, Leo Glavine, where he blames poor health on poor people; going so far as to single out those on income assistance. You can read it here.

If you took the time to read this, and unless you're an extreme right-wing conservative, you're probably somewhere between annoyed and 'I can't believe he said that'. The truth is, the Minister made a number of particularly disturbing and insulting statements in his release. While some have demanded an apology and few requested his resignation, I don't think either would really suffice. The problem isn't in the statements, it's that he believes in them and worse, they indicate much deeper, underlying and disturbing thoughts are lingering below the surface. 

"Years and hundreds of programs have tried to help people understand their part in the healthcare equation and everyone needs to put these teachings into practice."

When I read this what I'm actually hearing is: "You had your chance to do it your way and you didn't so watch out because it will soon be my way." Now, it could be that I'm biased in terms of politics or it could be that I'm swayed by statements like this because they're similar to other tyrannical statements I've read but I find that statement one of the scariest in the entire piece. Onto the next.

"As minister of health, it is my job to improve the health of all citizens. To do this, we need a population that looks after its own health."

It's all your fault.

"Do we need to take further drastic measures? Some have suggested looking at the banking model."

This is another extremely frightful statement. Treat Health Care like a banking system? Has Mr Glavine taken a recent look at financial state of the global economy? While he does go on to reference the Canadian banking system, I stand by my question. The banking systems of the world, even Canada, are flawed and based entirely on debt. I'm not going to get into a rant on economics, there are plenty of other posts available on that topic, but what I will say is that before we go trading out our current system that we don't trade it for one equally flawed and broken.

"They must prove that they practice a healthy financial lifestyle before being able to borrow money."

This is a terrible, terrible analogy of how good old Leo wants to run things. If you can't prove you meet a certain standard of health, you don't get to see a doctor? How discriminating is that? Who will determines these standards and guidelines? How long do I have to be "healthy" before I am applicable for Health Care? Are we just shutting the door on all senior citizens once they reach a certain age because the older we get, the more health care we need. 

And if we can "prove" our health Mr Glavine, then what? We get the same free health care services as before? And do those who are deemed too unhealthy for health care still continue to pay for it? Obviously this statement was not thought through.

"But, copying this approach would be archaic and inhumane, and it is not for me to judge those who are dependent on the system."

It's not for him to judge yet the entire article is nothing but judgment. Judging people who don't fall under his perception of healthy; or living a good life; or being a good citizen. This individual is sitting in an elected position of public office with near inscrutable power and he uses it to chastise the very citizens who elected him there. It really feels like Mr Glavine has an Iron Fist when it comes to who should be receiving Health Care.

Then there are people who are cognizant abusers of the system. They accept government assistance, yet still have money to travel.  These people are abusing their neighbours’ hard-earned money. The goal of assistance programs is to help people out of a difficult time, not give people free money."

Where to begin....and end. I think I will try to be brief on this despite the fact that I could probably write an entire other blog post simply off those few sentences. The fact is that there are people abusing all systems, in all places, at all times. Not just the poor but the middle class and the upper class and the wealthy on top of them as well. There are bad seeds among any socially labelled group, class or organization you wish to name. It is, currently, an inescapable fact. To state that a small minority of individuals abusing the social assistance program are responsible for high costs in health care is absurd. One might point out the high costs of politician's pensions as a contributor to the high costs of health care and other social programs; but we won't.

"Proactive healthcare is the best way to restore long-term wealth to our province."

This is an accurate statement and claim. No argument that the best way to save money on health care is through preventative measures and proactive treatments. At least Mr Glavine had one intelligent statement to make.

That concludes thoughts about some of the things the Health Minister had to say in his op-ed piece. I now have a few general statements to make as well. Firstly Mr Glavine, I have been on social assistance and while I am unsure who you are speaking of, I can assure you that the only travelling I could afford was on a public bus to get to and from potential places of employment. The amount of money provided was barely sufficient enough to survive and had it not been for the services of local food banks, I most certainly would have had a much worse time.

As for poverty, have you ever tried it Mr Glavine? Have you tried to eat healthy food from a grocery store when you have to choose between rent or power? Do you know that corporations market unhealthy products towards those living in poverty and make those products MORE affordable then health food? Does Mr Glavine understand the difficulties in putting children in extra-curricular activities when you can barely afford their lunches? I doubt Mr Glavine has any real sense of the reality that those who live in poverty have to go through just to survive; let alone to live a life. 

We are all human and we all deserve to live a happy and healthy life. In order for that to happen yes, we all need to make a personal choice to lead better lives but it becomes a much more complicated affair when that personal choice is between leading a better life or surviving through the day. I worry about the possible day where I may find myself once again fighting for survival and needing to visit a hospital for health care; I may well not be welcomed.