Off loading expenses?

Cost-cutting is the narrative that has dominated our medical system for the past two decades.

Fraser Health continues to insist the changes it’s making to Chilliwack hospital’s rehabilitation clinic will ultimately benefit the people it was created to help: patients and their families.

However, the arguments failed to convince many at a town hall meeting organized by NDP MLA Gwen O’Mahony Tuesday night. (Cancel rehab closure say residents at ‘town hall’ meeting)

Indeed, it looks more like a decision based on cutting costs – like so many made in health care these days.

This should not come as a complete surprise. Cost-cutting is the narrative that has dominated our medical system for the past two decades. It’s the reason behind the regional approach to health care delivery: share services, consolidate resources and create efficiencies.

But while that approach may work in Metro Vancouver, where centralizing services at another hospital may only result in a longer bus or skytrain ride, it’s a little different here. Chilliwack is 35 kilometres from Abbotsford, with no transit service. The result is an efficiency paid for by the very people the service is intended to help.

And these are already vulnerable individuals – people who may be unable to work while they recover from their accident or illness. Their families, too, are affected because it is they who will assume many of the duties of the clinic as the program moves to a more home-based model.

It has been a governing tenet of health care over the past few decades that home care is preferable to institutional care. Not only is it less expensive to operate, outcomes for patients demonstrably improve.

The failing, however, has been in the provision of adequate resources in the community to support these individuals.

Fraser Health apologized for the manner with which the rehab closure was handled.

We hope that the execution of this “improved” service is more successful than its communication. However, the health authority has given us little reason for confidence.