On Jan. 27, 2020 at 5:50 p.m., I arrived at the council chambers in the Ashcroft Village office for the Committee of the Whole meeting. The posted time was 6 p.m., but it had began an hour earlier than the posted time.
Incorrectly posted times on the Public Notice posting place, inaccessible at the best of times to the public, is but one strategy to suppress public engagement. For those people who attend council meetings, be aware that agendas are no longer being printed for the public in the gallery. Unless you have an electronic device to which you downloaded the agenda package from the Village website beforehand, you will be hard pressed to follow the proceedings.
If you attend Council’s Committee of the Whole meetings, be prepared to be ignored or shut down should you wish to give input as a member of the gallery, even though the current procedural bylaw states explicitly that COTW meetings “shall be an opportunity for dialogue between [delegates or] the public in the gallery with Council”. If you are patient enough to wait until the end of a regular council meeting that follows the COTW, there is supposed to be 15 minutes for questions according to the present procedural bylaw, but the council has not been following its own bylaw.
This non-compliance with its own bylaw is all about to change as a new Procedural Bylaw No. 834 has been drafted. Hidden amid the 33 pages of general obfuscation are the changes to align what the council has been doing at COTW meetings and how much time they have been allotting for question period. Other changes are also being considered to restrict public feedback, such as releasing online agenda packages to the public only on Monday mornings instead of Friday afternoons.
Amazingly, the proposed Procedural Bylaw No. 834 was drafted in under two weeks without any direction from council to take on this task and despite the administration being “overstretched”. Passing it will incur even more staff time to repeal and rewrite impacted policies and documents.
Council should welcome public involvement. Elected officials are representatives of the public and were members of the public before taking office. Though they are led by administration, it is ultimately council that will decide the role of the public in its future proceedings.
As I write, patients are making long journeys to visit specialists for simple “face-to-face” consultations, even though all diagnostic work has been completed and the reports forwarded.
But what if it were possible to be referred to a specialist and have all diagnostic work completed close to home, followed by a virtual consult? Then, once diagnosed and working within a single province-wide electronic communications system, develop a treatment plan, book appointments, and communicate with all needed service providers? Results and reports flow to your specialist, GP, and other service providers who all communicate. That is a team!
What if incorporating this model using a province-wide electronic/virtual communications network were to result in our system moving closer to becoming patient-centred care?
Alas, with few exceptions patients, their families, and caregivers are required to make long, expensive, stressful, and unnecessary trips for face-to-face consults when a virtual consult would provide the same outcome. The ability for patients to communicate virtually (when appropriate) with their health care provider will save days of negotiating difficult travel conditions, significant and unrecoverable costs for meals and hotels, and reduce time away from work. Expenses borne by patients fly under the radar because they are not included on a Ministry of Health budget line.
After 20 years of government plans and promises to implement a province-wide Electronic Medical Records and Virtual Health Communications system we have six Health Authorities (or more, depending on how you count them) who can’t communicate with each other, and a series of local, single condition, time limited pilot projects using virtual communication, all successful. Then reports, mumblings around providing permanent service, then …
The Ministry of Health Virtual Strategy Department is “developing a framework” which is beginning to look much like a reinvention of the wheel. National and international studies extolling the advantages of virtual communication abound.
A Saskatchewan experiment included “green” benefits, claiming six million kilometres saved.
My research shows that physicians and patient advocacy groups are uninterested in a province-wide system serving all citizens (taxpayers). Commercial competition is fierce. We are more than halfway through a four-year election cycle, so unless there is a concerted effort to introduce a universal electronic medical record/virtual communication system soon it will drop off the “to do” list again.
Retired Health Care worker