Editorial: Rural services: In touch, or out of step?

Andru McCracken, interim editor

Northern Health’s decision to cut of prenatal classes is happening at the same time as a surge of pregnancies in the valley. It doesn’t make sense.

Over the last calendar year more than 20 children were born in Valemount and according to reports from McBride a new wave is on the way there.

Is it unusual for Northern Health to be so out of step with the community?

Is this an atypical blip, or a structural flaw?

How would we know?

As an individual user of health care services I don’t have a full picture of the services on offer or know if they meet expectations. Just my own experiences. Many good. Some bad.

Few people likely remember that we used to have local representation in a much smaller health authority. Local people sat on the board and advocated for services from a local perspective. It was their job to have a sense of the services being offered. And it would have been natural that if a required service wasn’t provided, management could easily glean information from the board and provide it.

How is the new super-sized health authority keeping track of our needs?

Have they lost touch with us? It wouldn’t be the first time a centralized bureaucracy was out of step with rural regions.

Maybe something has been gained by moving to the larger health authority. Perhaps efficiencies in the economy of scale are vastly reducing the tax burden of health care. Perhaps it is easier to recruit doctors to a larger health authority than a smaller one. Perhaps the cancer treatment centre in Prince George would not have been a possibility without a centralized health authority. I don’t really know.

Whose responsibility it is to know?

There is a simple truth that may be corrective: service degrades when there is a lack of feedback. Without feedback there is a lack of accountability.

Is it time to bring a measure of feedback and accountability to the Northern Health Authority?

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