We are still a long way from ‘seamless’ care
This past week I watched the local broadcast for the Burnaby city council meeting.
Councillors and the mayor were discussing the progress and process needed to further the proposal for alterations, including zoning changes, to convert the 401 Motor Inn into a housing complex for the homeless.
In the newspaper I saw a letter criticizing Mayor Derek Corrigan for not making any progress, nor active policies, for the sad shortage of accommodations in Burnaby for the homeless as compared to other cities. In council chambers the numerous obstacles for the 401 conversions were cited in a voluminous report prepared by city staff. One of the main obstacles was the need to ensure that once established with “sustainable funding” that only Burnaby residents would be eligible.
What an incredible bureacratic obfuscation, I thought, one surely to fail as the funding was contingent on getting provincial and federal agencies on side!
My work in the health field includes dealing with marginalized individuals such as those with mental disorders and substance issues. I have witnessed such patients caught in jurisdictional limbo when trying to get better care as the various agencies shuffle responsibilities due to a person’s home address.
One sad, frustrating case involved a person needing counselling, who worked in the local hospital but who lived in Vancouver. It would have made so much sense if she got the counselling close to her work, thus encouraging her health and well-being. But her home address was the clincher, and it was left up to us to arrange supportive counselling in Vancouver.
We never made it to those resources through the most turbulent stages of her illness, because the waitlist in Vancouver was so lengthy, and the hoops we needed to get the application was dragged out. Health issues are not limited by addresses, and people really do move around a lot, especially with the increasing cost of housing and of living.
This is the NIMBY way of thinking. Health care and social planning is often hamstrung by jurisdictional blinders. In the aforementioned council meeting did anybody question the fact that the homeless really have no real address to be shut out in this way?
The areas of health (mental, social, addiction and homelessness, etc) need to be tackled in a broader way to have meaningful impact. All levels of government need to be more proactive, and more mutually cooperative to give any hope for true progress.
These problem areas of health are all interconnected, and we have a long way to go to the “seamless” care we all dream about to arrive, because nobody has the broader picture in mind, nor the political will to find better solutions.
John de Couto