Treat med­i­cal spe­cial­ists with re­spect

The Compass - - OPINION -

Ev­ery New­found­lan­der and Labrado­rian with the pos­si­ble ex­cep­tion of some ill-con­nected res­i­dent of the Funks knows that health care in this prov­ince is just a tri­fle short of per­fect. In­quiries have been held, re­ports is­sued, con­clu­sions sifted and stud­ied, rec­om­men­da­tions made and im­ple­mented.

Ev­ery­one has a health-care story, and the sad truth is that, given that hu­man lives are at stake, some of these sto­ries end in tragedy.

The lat­est cri­sis in a long se­ries of lurches and stag­gers is the res­ig­na­tion of 14 med­i­cal spe­cial­ists. They will leave the prov­ince in Fe­bru­ary.

Lest any­one think this is a cri­sis that sud­denly ap­peared, let’s cast our fo­cus back to 2008, when an­other group of spe­cial­ists an­nounced they were leav­ing, com­plain­ing of over­work and un­der­pay­ment.

The govern­ment strat­egy was to pub­licly trash the spe­cial­ists, to leave the pub­lic with the im­pres­sion that these doc­tors were al­ready over­paid, and greedy for more. When that failed and there was no res­o­lu­tion in sight, the premier met the spe­cial­ists in pri­vate and of­fered to meet their de­mands. They agreed.

In the news con­fer­ence that fol­lowed, the premier hinted darkly that the set­tle­ment he had re­luc­tantly agreed to at the 11th hour, set a “dan­ger­ous prece­dent.” Nonethe­less, he in­sisted there comes a time when some­one has to “step up.” The premier was that man.

This was in early 2008. In the au­tumn, an­other group of spe­cial­ists wanted to be paid what the first group got. Equal pay for work of equal value. Ei­ther that or they were go­ing to walk. Af­ter a pe­riod of abus­ing those spe­cial­ists, too, the premier once again “stepped up.”

Are you be­gin­ning to see a pat­tern here?

That’s two stand­offs and two “step­sup.” Many more steps and an es­ca­la­tor will have to be in­stalled. Be­cause es­ca­la­tion is what is hap­pen­ing.

Four­teen spe­cial­ists this time, a num­ber at­tract­ing na­tional at­ten­tion in the me­dia and in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion in med­i­cal cir­cles. This bizarre pat­tern of bel­liger­ently be­rat­ing em­ploy­ees be­fore giv­ing them what they want is gar­ner­ing a black eye for this prov­ince among doc­tors who might be look­ing at New­found­land and Labrador as a place to prac­tice.

Some of them may be Me­mo­rial med­i­cal stu­dents whose front row seat at this spec­ta­cle may con­vince them this is the last place to con­sider set­ting up shop.

If and when the premier “steps up” once again and set­tles with the 14 of the moment, will the dam­age al­ready be done? And where did this “step-up” ex­pres­sion come from any­way?

Like so much of what the premier says, it is a busi­ness­man’s cliché bor­rowed from the sports world. It’s a base­ball ex­pres­sion: the bat­ter “steps up” to home plate. There he stands, wait­ing for the op­pos­ing pitcher to throw a ball made of horse hide at him, as hard as he can. Then he, in turn, tries to hit the horse hide back, as hard as he can, with a great big stick.

When you use a big stick and horse­hide to carry out con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions, what of value can you hope to pro­duce? The most likely prod­uct is waste, ac­com­pa­nied by a lot of noise, and an un­pleas­ant odour, burst­ing forth from the exit end of the horse.

Ap­proach­ing any ne­go­ti­a­tion as a con­fronta­tion where one side must lose in or­der for the other to win is guar­an­teed to waste time and re­sult in bad feel­ing. When peo­ple feel bad they say things bet­ter left un­said.

That can lead to a lit­tle girl ask­ing her Poppy why peo­ple are say­ing such nasty things about him. No­body wants that.

Memo to Poppy: Put down the Big Stick. For­get the horse­hide. Get rid of the cross-check, the slash, the el­bow. Un­der­stand that these 14 med­i­cal spe­cial­ists are im­por­tant mem­bers of our com­mu­nity.

They pro­vide an es­sen­tial and pre­cious ser­vice. Most im­por­tant, they are our fel­low hu­man be­ings who de­serve to be treated with re­spect. Treat them that way and, in the long run, all of us will be bet­ter off.

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