EDITORIAL: VIHA cost-cutting wounds seniors

Vancouver Island Health Authority puts financial health before that of patients in clinic decision

Everyone wants to keep health care costs down, but we have to take a second look at the Vancouver Island Health Authority’s decision to cut hours at community labs and cut out home visits for those who are unable to access labs on their own.

Years ago, our health care system began to move away from the attitude that institutionalization is best. New mothers who previously spent a week in hospital after giving birth are now sent home in hours rather than days. Advances in surgical procedures such as gall bladder removal and even the insertion of stents in the heart now have patients heading home in less than a week.

Cutting costs by amalgamating lab services might make good financial sense, but it doesn’t make sense when we want to promote good, preventative medical care.

There are many more support services available to help keep our senior population at home longer, under the care of family members or even under their own care where possible, in order to keep our health care system from being overburdened.

Removing services that allow easier access to health care is a start down a slippery slope to a decline in the overall health of our senior population that we don’t care to see.

As the “sandwich generation” works to put kids through university while taking care of elderly parents, the availability of home lab technician  visits or weekend lab hours is just one more service that allows those of all generations to maintain good health.

Seniors are the people that helped build our health care system. Centralizing lab services or leaving them to the private sector only helps to reinforce the belief the system is now abandoning them.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, in its Make Health Last campaign, states that Canadians are living longer, but not necessarily healthier. It says on average, we spend our final 10 years dealing with sickness and disease.

However, our health care decisions can have an impact on how healthy our final years are, and the services we are able to access will be a big part of that overall picture.

With our quickly aging population, VIHA must begin now to look for ways to accommodate, rather than alienate our seniors.

What it comes down to is a cost-saving versus life-saving decision for VIHA.

 

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