Elected officials bid not to talk?
During the last municipal elections, in Oct. 2001, everyone running for the various political bodies was quick to point out they believed in open and transparent government.
They all committed to keeping constituents informed and answering concerns they may have, within their capacity as an elected official.
So when an elected official, called to comment on a board or council decision, says they can't talk because there's a policy in place stating the only people to talk to the press are the chairperson or CEO of the organization, one has to question the situation.
Such is the case with recent developments at the RHA.
Dr. Robin Laughlin spoke to South Peace News about what many area doctors consider to be a physician crisis.
Of course, you always need to reach out to others in the organization and talk to them. So I called our elected officials. The one I did get hold of told me she couldn't talk about it because of the policy.
She noted that the policy is a problem and elected officials are in a position where they answer and are accountable to those who elected them. But the policy exists for the RHA and that's what she has to abide by.
To get to the bottom of the matter I called Marian Wolitski, RHA chairperson. He confirmed its existence.
After a few seconds more he says the elected officials can talk to whomever they want. But press releases and announcements from the RHA, are to come from the chairperson or CEO.
So more phone calls to Marie Savill and Rose Kasinec, elected to the RHA by the High Prairie and area, about a physician shortage have still turned up short.
Kasinec was available but minimized the problem saying it's happening everywhere in Canada.
But the issue of how the RHA is going to deal with this crisis, unless you go to town council meetings and have the opportunity to talk to doctors who are concerned over the lack of service, is being kept under wraps.
Perhaps RHA members don't want the public to know because they believe the public to be a hysterical body. That appears to be a very general answer when you ask elected officials about something that will directly affect the masses. Accounting for a board or council decision, isn't a favourite pastime for politicians either.
Of course there's always the fall back: "the press blew it out of proportion."
When all else fails, shoot the messenger.
They want to deal with it behind closed doors, and when they feel the crisis is past they're a little more open. But they'll still play down the seriousness of the matter.
Is that what's happening here?
On Aug. 19 the RHA will meet with High Prairie, the M.D., Driftpile, East Prairie, Gift Lake, Peavine, Sucker Creek and local physicians.
They'll discuss High Prairie's situation.
Possible solutions could include anything from aggressive recruitment practices to temporary solutions such as locum coverage. A string of locums should be available in the near future, but that doesn't answer the shortage problem.
Steps need to be taken. As Laughlin said, this has been a problem for a while. But apathetic responses in the past have compounded the problem. Now it's time for they, the doctors, and the political bodies they have to deal with to find solutions.
Whether this will be too little too late remains to be seen. But hopefully, with participation from all the concerned communities, ideas and input will run rampant.
And hopefully, the RHA will refrain from protecting the public from information that's theirs to know, analyze, criticize and judge.
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