Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Issues: #1 Healthcare in Princeton...

The reality as I see it is that Healthcare in Princeton underpins every issue facing voters in this election. Furthermore, the issue is far more complex than a simple "save our ER"! Without viable, comprehensive and accessible health care here, everything else is a non-starter. For example;

1) The threat of future ER closures, which continue to hang like the sword of Damocles over us in spite of recent efforts to attract Locums through accomodation incentives, will ensure that;
  • The cohort of Seniors who came here in the '90's for affordable retirement will continue to leave - if they are able to sell their homes here. Or as they pass on, few new recruits will be found to take their places. Population will continue to decline.
  • A new cohort of Seniors, who could provide much-needed economic stimulus for the area (in the form of home purchase, daily living expenditures and family visit tourism), will not be induced here solely by (becoming again) affordabe real estate and the ready access to recreational opportunities.
  • New business startups will be influenced by medical services uncertainties, and all things being equal, will locate in areas with more reliable emergency and specialty medical systems in place
2) Even if 24/7 ER is reinstated successfully, the dearth of other healthcare services in Princeton will continue to influence people's decision to relocate here, or even to stay here. For example;
  • Generations of Princetonites still residing here were born in either the "old" or the "new" PGH. The sense of belonging instilled in someone by being born there cannot be underestimated in creating and fostering a successful community. I was born in the "old" PGH, and through 26 years of international living, I never forgot where I came from. I doubt that my daughter, who will be born in Pentiction General, will have the same emotional connection to Pentiction.
  • The lack of a functioning operating room means that victims of home, industrial or traffic-related accidents from any age-group face the prospect of long ambulance or time and weather-dependent helicopter evacuation.
  • People with chronic health problems, young couples planning families, and new retirees looking for a secure retirement home, will all think twice about locating in Princeton.
  • The lack of any specialty medical services in town means that our local GP's will outsource cases in growing numbers to the centralized services in Penticton, Kelowna or Vancouver.
3) The possibility of continued decline in services offered at PGH will contribute to the area's growing downward economic and population spiral.
  • Seniors now living here will continue to seek alternative retirement havens.
  • Newly retiring seniors will give little consideration to Princeton as a place to retire to.
  • Young families will prioritize employment searches to areas with better medical and social support systems than Princeton.
  • Entrepreneurs from any specialty area of production, marketing or tourism conducting market analyses will look for population centers showing signs of stability or growth rather than the stagnation and decline which characterize Princeton today
In summary, the issue of 24/7 ER service in Princeton is only a single salvo in a long-running war of attrition of medical services in Princeton. Perhaps more importantly, the provincial government seems hell-bent on centralizing medical services in BC and the Princeton ER closure is just one of many similar stories throughout the province.

The question for Princeton residents is not, "Can we save 24/7 ER", but "How can we offer viable, comprehensive and long-term solutions to the medical services shortfall for Princeton residents". It's not just about 24/7 ER. It's about the right to be born and, if we choose, to die here. It's about the ability to seek specialy care without having to mount an expedition to a centralized facility. It's about turning Princeton General Hospital back into the vital community resource it once was. It’s about revitalizing, not just PGH, but the Town of Princeton

There may be an option we should consider, and that would be to withdraw completely from the tyranny of the IHA. It is my understanding that several BC communities even smaller than Princeton have done this and are doing far better under their own management than under the Big-Brother supervision of the IHA. I am at an early stage of learning the logistics and ramifications of such a move, but it I am interested in the following questions around this;
  1. What are the specific steps necessary to withdraw from the IHA?
  2. Do we have an appropriate agency in Princeton to sponsor such a move?
  3. If we withdrew from IHA, would Princeton be eligible to receive the same provincial funding for healthcare in the area that IHA now receives on our behalf?
  4. If so, would this funding allow for the rejuvination of our hospital to include 24/7 ER, a functioning Operating Theatre, birthing facilities and  limited specialty care (eg. joint, oncology or paliative care specialties)?
  5. If not, are there alternative funding arrangements (e.g. additional business and industry partnerships) that could be explored to raise necessary funding for the above, and
  6. Could Princeton attract the professional expertise to staff such an expanded facility?
If the answer to the majority of these questions is "Yes", if there is truly another option to a continued uphill battle with the IHA for modern, comprehensive and accessible healthcare for Princeton, I will be unstinting in my efforts to support those who have already been engaged in this battle for some time.  The Save Our Hospital Coalition and the people behind this who have achieved so much to this time deserve more than lip service in the future.

If elected as your new Town Councillor, I will make investigating the overall situation of medical services in Princeton and contributing to a comprehensive medical services strategy for Princeton a major focus for my tenure as Councillor.

With my Best Regards to the People of Princeton
Rob Rubis