Don’t Get Sick

Work in Progress

By Ivan Morgan

Recently I stood in a long line at a local hospital. Stretching in front of me – and far behind me – were many people waiting patiently to have their health issues addressed. A harried worker behind a plexiglass screen did her best, a huge sign hanging above her warning folk not to lose their cool. “Inappropriate behaviour, verbal abuse will not be tolerated blah blah blah).” That’s someone’s idea of a solution to people’s frustration. Behave.
As I stood there, I thought of the hundreds of millions in oil revenue from our oil resource pumped south to oil company shareholders in the USA. Money we aren’t getting for health care.
I thought of the billions of dollars wasted on Muskrat Falls. Money we aren’t getting for health care.
I thought of the hundreds of millions of dollars spent every year just to service the interest rates on decades of money already borrowed in our name. I thought about the billions from Churchill Falls that goes to Quebec instead of us. Money we aren’t getting for health care.
A clever person who knows about these things recently told me the cost of servicing Muskrat Falls debt (paying the interest and whatnot), if and when it comes online, will cost you and me $770 million a year. Not to pay it off mind, just to keep our heads above water.
If your eyes are glazing over at these sums of money, join the club. Mine were glazing over typing them. And that’s part of the problem.
As a former journalist and political researcher, it was my job to know these numbers. Few understand them. No one wants to hear them. They are mind numbing. They are too big to comprehend.
Just try and wrap your head around this the next time you hear a politician talking billions of dollars: a million seconds is 11 days, a billion seconds is 31 and a half years.
I was standing in that line for some time, so I had lots of time to think. Why was there only one worker? Why was the paint peeling on the walls and the chairs torn and worn?
Why, for that matter, are there so many people without family doctors? There’s only a half million of us. That’s the population of Brampton, Ontario.
Why are we all so complacent?
I know some consider it in bad taste to make political things personal, but how can you not when you are standing in line with all these other quiet, patient people – coughing, wheezing, bent, infirm – waiting for too long for help?
I watched that lone worker, dealing with this unending line by herself, as best and as professionally as she could. She was good to each of us in turn, but clearly stressed.
For all of us, at some time or another, this is going to get personal. Health care is personal – its very personal.
The system is crumbling, we’re broke, and no one seems to have an answer to the problem, other than nickel and dime cutbacks on services you and I depend on and can’t go anywhere else to get.
I have attended many government announcements over the years where federal and provincial politicians pat each other on the back over financial deals they have reached, supposedly to benefit the rest of us.
They make bold statements which are written for them, hoping they will make the evening news. Better days are on the way! Boldly towards tomorrow! Those of us of a certain age will remember, “Have not will be no more.”
Those words ring hollow in a dingy waiting room, paint peeling on the walls, standing quietly in a long line waiting for one overworked clerk to serve them.

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