Friday, April 3, 2009

Health Scare

In just one month, we've gone through at least six discrete news cycles: the release of the Cameron Report and calls for Wiseman to resign; Curious George Baker's circus and its aftermath; the tragedy of the helicopter crash; the bold and brilliant Throne Speech and budget; the debate and non-celebration of 60 years in Confederation; and now the Hydro announcement.

That's more than one news cycle per week (not counting the ongoing negotiations between Dangovt and the nurses union), each with multiple official press releases, media scrums, call-in show prattle, and associated conspiracies.

Throughout all of this, the crises in health care continue. As I mentioned in a previous post, CBC has done the best job of any news agency in reporting the different facets of the crisis:

Their coverage has been thorough and balanced. But with the relentless series of VODW Events of the Day, the multiple crises in health care are getting lost in the feverish cycles of ranting & roaring. And there is a danger that the intense focus on the Cameron Inquiry and its aftermath will produce a "Cameron Effect," whereby the wide range of problems in health care will get reduced to only cancer treatment.

While today's dramatic headline in the Tely is Power to the People, it's worth pausing to consider the other stories that continue to go unresolved. I have no doubt that these problems stem from many years of funding cuts, neglect, and mismanagement; however, DW has been in power for six years and, despite what cabinent members shout during Question Period, not everything in the entire universe can be blamed on Roger Grimes.

So if you're looking for a break from the latest news cycle, check out this CBC series:
File 1:File Name: Story 05 - Locums.wmvFile Size: 14 MBDownload Link:

File 2:File Name: Story 04 - Arthritis.wmvFile Size: 12 MBDownload Link:

File 3:File Name: Story 03 - Rural GIM.wmvFile Size: 36 MBDownload Link:

File 4:File Name: Story 02 - Wait Times.wmvFile Size: 43 MBDownload Link:

File 5:File Name: Story 01 - ID.wmvFile Size: 37 MBDownload Link:

As with most aspects of governance, money is at the root of many of these problems, but it's more complicated than that. For example, the imbalances between how the Department of Health deals with some specialists, such as oncologists, and other physicians continues to generate serious, and yet avoidable, difficulties for everyone involved. Now that there is a media blackout of the negotiations between the nurses union and the government, perhaps focus can shift back to the NLMA -- that is, until the next big energy announcement.

It seems that provincial politics has devolved into a type of Announcement Government. Public discourse revolves around the latest bold and brilliant achievement, as Dangovt saturates the media with press releases, media scrums, and call-in blather.

This saturation campaign is highly selective: while some official events get cooked and re-cooked, with the public eating leftovers sometimes for weeks, other issues become non-events, exiled to media Siberia. Whereas NALCO can't seem to get out of the news, the NLMA can't get into it. Whereas the MUN mess and the 60th anniversary were sent to the PR gulag, the apparently modest agreement announced yesterday is absolutely historic.

A lot of things bothered me about the Speech from the Throne and the budget. It wasn't just the prattle and the bombast; it wasn't just Kennedy citing CRAPolls as justification for not defending his budget; and it wasn't just the contempt they showed the nurses union.

No, in the end, what was the most repugnant was their insistence on speaking for everyone in NL, even you. It was their insistence that you must be optimistic about this government. It was their insistence that this optimism be the most optimistic in the western world.

This propaganda does what all propaganda does: it excites some people, turns off others, and feeds the anger of those who feel slighted. If you listen to the physicians in the CBC series, it becomes readily apparent that it's not all about funding; it's about the fact that they feel that no one in the government is genuinely listening to them. But listening is extremely difficult in a world of Optimistic Correctness:

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