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Tuesday, April 06, 2004

88 dead? 

Health minister won't meet with doctor who blew the whistle at Saskatoon ERThis is a huge story here in Saskatoon now.
Dr. Jon Witt was head of emergency at Royal University Hospital. He'd been saying, internally, that medical staffing in the ER was dangerously low. So last fall, right around the time of the provincial election, he worked out a deal with the health minister and the health region to improve staffing. Then nothing happened. Then in January Wittt wrote to the health minister complaining that the region has reneged on the deal. Then the letter was made public somehow, not by Witt. Then the staffing probltem was fixed. Then Witt was fired by the region for supposed incompetence. Then the staff and other ER physicians got solidly behind Witt and began agitating for his reinstatement. Then the health region began to say Witt was exaggerating, after all the hospital's chief of medical staff said everything was fine.
Then it got even uglier -- Witt released 88 cases where he said the patients were not treated at emergency the way medical practice guidelines say they should have been and they died in hospital less than two days later.
Oops! Well, the health region wanted a body count, now they've got one.
So now they're investigating, they say.
Its predictable that this health region's next step will be to fingerpoint the whistleblower -- I wouldn't be surprised if they now try to blame these deaths on Witt himself, as though it was his fault all along that medical staffing in the ER was insufficient. "See, we told you he was incompetent"
This is the same health region which has adopted the practice of cancelling surgeries at the end of each fiscal year, so their books look a little better, but also gave a $100,000 grant to the university's sychrotron and tried to hide it. This is the region that switched the ER doctors onto a new pay system then didn't pay them for six weeks.
And instead of the health region really looking at what it is doing, and perhaps even questioning the quality of advice it is getting from its top medical staff, the whole thing will likely just end up in court as a wrongful dismissal suit. Oh well, just cancel a few more surgeries to pay for it!
Today Witt said "unless health-care workers have confidence in their administrative leadership, the system really breaks down and when the system breaks down, the patients suffer"
So what can we do if the patients don't have confidence in the administrative leadership either?

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