i have been working for most of the month of March in a hospital here in Montreal. I am retired after over thirty years in the system. Occasionally I am called to do fill in periods of work when my old co-workers are sick or on unpaid leave. I love being retired but I also love the pace and interest of the work in social service in a community hospital. I was welcomed by old friends and when I left people seemed genuinely sorry to see me go. A doctor and a head nurse told me I should come back full time and that I was ” needed”. That felt good. It felt good to effect change, to intervene for good ( I hope) at a moment of crisis. Every hospitalization is a moment of crisis for patients and their families. It can be life-changing or part of an unfortunate pattern. It it is never a day just like any other.
I will never go back full time for two reasons. I am happy to be retired and have found other interests to occupy my time. The other reason is that for the foreseeable future, the Provincial Government will not pay me a salary. In fact, there are much bigger and more important cuts being implemented. I was disturbed to see a fundamental change in the mood of the hospital I had come to love over my years of work. People are discouraged, apprehensive, more impatient than I have ever seen them. A popular topic of conversation was how many months or years until people could retire. I saw people working at warp speed, exhausted, harassed. I don’t consider that a safe environment. I am not a statistician, an accountant, or God forbid, a politician. I am starting to be a consumer of health care services rather than a provider. I am one of the infamous baby boomers and the years are starting to take their toll. Although in general good health ( I could boast up until a couple of weeks ago that I took no medication on a regular basis) now I can see some problems looming. In 2014, 7% of Canada’ population was over 65 and next year there will be more people over 65 than under the age of 15. What I just wrote presents a dilemma. People over 65 are big consumers of health care. Normal, they get sick more. But if you don’t have a young working population to pay for these services, there is a serious problem. Politicians usually have two approaches to a problem: they throw money at it or they take a hatchet to it. We are going to live through the hatchet phase for a while. Let’s hope there’s somebody left to bind up the wounds when they’re done. The last letter I got from the Provincial Health Insurance plan ended with the kindly advice to ” look after myself”. Somewhat ironic in the circumstances.