Penny Ballem says the kinds of policies made "two hours after question period when it's been a bad hair day for the minister or worse the premier" are "wrecking healthcare systems." That's just one of the additional remarks Dr. Ballem made during her headline-making "breakfast with the chiefs" speech last month in Toronto. At that breakfast, British Columbia's former top health bureaucrat also told healthcare administrators one of her most important jobs was to recognize the "little niggling story" that can "create really ugly policy on the run." For example, back in 2002, as part of the government's extended care reorganization, Grace and Alfred Potvin were moved to a new facility where they were assigned to seperate rooms until a public outcry saw the elderly couple reunited. And, according to Dr. Ballem, "that one little story way out in the Fraser Valley stayed with us forever."
That being said, though, Dr. Ballem identified the 10-year capital plan for the province's health authorities as "the hardest project" her ministry did. The reason: when she and her colleagues presented that plan to the Treasury Board "they practically had epilepsy. They went hysterical" - even though that plan "had been a government commitment in New Era when they came in in 2001." And, as a result, Dr. Ballem joked "we were banished, never to be found again." But her ministry didn't just have a difficult relationship with the Treasury Board.
When the Campbell administration moved to establish its provincial health authorities, Dr. Ballem conceded the government "moved so fast and we had such a difficult agenda that we broke some relationships with municipal leaders and leaders of the health authority and the governments. And whether or not we could have done it if we had done a more inclusive, collaborative process - I don't know. I'm not sure we would have been able to get as many things done. But, at the end of the day, that costs us" - although efforts are now being made to fix that problem.
And there's also lessons to be learned from past attempts to improve productivity in the healthcare system. For example, Dr. Ballem admitted that nurses are "now more productive. But it's not working. They're all on stress leave. They're disabled. And they don't really like their work."