Who could argue against the idea of vaccination against a dreaded disease? In the 1950’s we took smallpox and polio vaccines; I was too young to know whether there was objection, but if so, it was quiet. I just recall all the kids in my school going to the gym and getting it; it was our duty and privilege.
While the influenza vaccine has been the contributor to death for hundreds of older New Brunswickers over many years, and while there is an annual plethora of sources of influenza vaccination, there has been consistently a core of people in society, including health care professionals and staff at all levels, who have not joined the parade. And each year, nursing home beds become available as people die from influenza. In most cases, those who have succumbed in long term care have been people with high levels of multiple co-morbid conditions. Any one of the conditions could claim their life and the influenza tips the scale for them.
As a father and grandfather, I have watched each year as influenza goes through the schools that my kids attended causing significant absenteeism; and we just came to accept it. Meanwhile, the standards of design and inspection of public washrooms in our communities often does not encourage great personal hygiene and, while cited decades ago as an issue, remains an issue.
Mr. Higgs’ remarks to Brunswick News as reported on August 14 is right on the money. For decades that has been a message echoed by some of the most qualified leaders in the system in New Brunswick. Indeed, as the system has stumbled since the initial reforms of 1992, the issue of politics in the system has come up over and over and has been a source of major discouragement to many wonderful clinicians and administrators. When you have trained for anywhere from 4 years to 15 years to become the best you can be, the last thing you want to see is inconsistent direction, over-concern for photo-ops and tactics that respond to symptoms without solving real problems.
Many seasoned observers describe the Canadian health system as the third rail in Canadian politics; that is, the politics of the system is so powerful that governments deal with issues very gingerly. That was ever so obvious in the 1990’s when the great work initiated by the McKenna government became the target of would-be politicians who wanted to get elected. Changing the direction of anything in health care is challenging and cannot happen by issuing edicts or policies or election promises. Once the announcements are made, the hard work begins, work that involves responding to angry people, professionals or the public, showing people a better way when they didn’t know a better way was necessary.
Ken McGeorge, BS,DHA,CHE is a career health care executive based in Fredericton, NB, Canada.