13 September 2009

Questions in search of answers

Just a few observations on announcements from the province’s health ministry lately.

1.  labradore points out that others – like the local news media -  are noticing the odd but telling similarity between the Lewisporte cuts announcement and the one from Eastern Health about breast cancer back in April.

So much for the story then and now that it was all up to the local health authority.

2.  During Cameron, every senior government witness insisted that all the decisions were made by the people at the health authority because that’s what they do; ministers of health and cabinet did not get involved in operational issues.

Like say, deciding whether to shut down laboratory and x-ray services.

Who decided on an operational issue in the Lewisporte case?

Hint:  it wasn’t the regional health authorities.  They found out about the cut the morning it was announced.

3.  And how many times will a cabinet minister refer to the recommendations of the Cameron Inquiry in trying to justify the operational decision made in Lewisporte?

4.  Then there’s the claim by no less a personage than the Premier that the cuts came from the health authorities and that it was aimed at improving the system.

He claims the health authority made a recommendation “to us” for services that should be cut.

He leaves out the important bit, of course, that the health authority didn’t come up with this idea on their own.   They suggested cuts  only when prompted by a request from the health department to suggest cuts in the first place.

And the cuts had nothing to do with either offsetting the cost of the health centre in Lewisporte (as the Friday release claims) or “improving” the system.

That’s plain from the letters released by government late on Friday.

But don’t take my word for it:  Read them for yourself.

5.  And since we are in the questioning mood:  why would a provincial government that is evidently flush with billions in loose change ask for recommendations on what to cut from health budgets in the first place, especially when the sum finally settled on by  - whom?  cabinet, the Premier, definitely Paul Oram – was such a measly, miserable amount?

And that’s based on nothing more than the general political principle that you just don’t go out and randomly shoot off a body part when you don’t need to. 

Cuts make people upset.

Cuts to health care make lots of people really upset.

Burn ‘em at the stake kinda upset.

And they don’t get un-upset easily.

Un-upsetting them will be costly either in blood and/or treasure:  cash or in political strips taken off someone’s hide.

Therefore, as the political wisdom would suggest:  do NOT cut health care unless it is absolutely necessary.

So why in the name of all that is political and therefore unholy would any cabinet in its right mind ask health regions to recommend a list of slashes, some of them valued at upwards of a million bucks.

6.   When did they make the decisions?  Observers of government will note the date on the letters released on Friday is from early 2009, well into the budget cycle and long after decisions would normally be made.  People will start asking hard questions about when all this was decided. Evidently it wasn’t in August.

7.  There is no plan. And when all that is done, ask yourself why a government department would release letters that show their initial talking points were more composed at the Mad hatter’s tea party?

Usually you release evidence that backs your claim, not further hints that – contrary to the Premier’s claims at the bored of trayed last week - people in the departments of government have no idea what they are doing.