This morning I awoke to read an alarming Letter to the Editor in the Toronto Star by a Kingston psychiatrist, Dr. Janet McCulloch. Now doctors have to seek permission from Veterans Affairs just to treat a vet. No one else in our national or provincial health system is subjected to this suppression of access to immediate health care. This ruling was introduced in June 2009. How many vets knows this? Frankly I am sick about this tyrannical governance of Harper and his cronies. Every days it feels as if Canada is reliving the German history of 1933. We joke about Harper’s ‘thought police,’ but I’m wondering if the joke is on us if Harper wins his coveted majority government. I am reposting Dr. McCulloch’s letter in full because what she is explaining focuses on the Conservatives’ callous attitude towards our vets and why we have to do everything we can to prevent Harpers’ Conservatives from winning in this current election campaign. BONNIE
by Janet McCulloch, Psychiatric MD, Kingston
Wednesday, April 20, 2011 —
Medical care for veterans is the responsibility of the federal government. In June 2009, the Harper government introduced new guidelines that make it virtually impossible for veterans to get the health care they need.
Veterans can no longer automatically receive medical care as they have since before World War I. Instead, a physician needs to submit a request to Veterans Affairs for permission to assess the patient and another request to be allowed to treat them. This process can take weeks and often months. No other Canadian citizens are subject to restrictions like this when it comes to accessing standard medical care. This delay and uncertainty can put veterans’ health and even lives at risk.
This is especially true for my patients, many of whom suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and substance abuse. When discharged from the military because of PTSD, soldiers are likely to be depressed, unstable and even suicidal. These veterans must be treated immediately to keep their symptoms from getting worse. Having to wait for approval from Veterans Affairs can mean the difference between life and death for some veterans.
These problems do not stop once a veteran is approved to receive care. Instead, Veterans Affairs only approves a specified number of appointments (“occurrences”) at a time. Once this number is used up, a physician must submit a new request and once again wait to receive permission before resuming treatment. This new policy endangers the veterans who are most ill by interrupting their care.
According to the Canadian Medical Protective Association, it is unethical and potentially dangerous to delay treatment while waiting for new approval. The government has set up an unworkable bureaucratic nightmare for both the physician and the injured soldier. Decisions regarding appropriate treatment are taken away from the doctor-patient relationship and put in the hands of a distant bureaucracy. Physicians will be unable or unwilling to take on new patients under these conditions.
Veterans deserve to receive the health care that they need when they need it. Because many suffer from severe and even life-threatening conditions, they often need prompt access to care. These veterans served Canada and now it is time that their government serves them. That means electing a government that will restore automatic access to health care for our veterans.