The prescription is collaboration

I would like to thank Sidney MacEwen for responding to my recent opinion piece "Wisdom in the room going unnoticed" (The Guardian; July 13, 2018).   It seems that there is more that we agree about than we disagree about and this instils hope for collaborative efforts moving forward. We agree that Eastern PEI is facing huge challenges with the failure to provide consistent access to acute and primary health care at KCMH.   We agree about the high level of interest in the room the night of the community forum in Montague. And although Mr. MacEwen suggests otherwise, I agree with him that the people in the room that night voiced many concerns and solutions worthy of consideration. It was hearing this, in fact, which motivated me to write my opinion piece.  Excuse me for repeating it, but I think the observations I made are important enough not to be dismissed: “Community members spoke of collaborative models and going beyond the same old, same old solutions for the challenges in acute care.  They offered solutions, identified problems with professional territoriality, pointed out when the statistics being offered were inaccurate or misleading, and concerningly, spoke of the lack of consultation with frontline health workers and community members.”

I believe Mr. MacEwen and I would agree that what is needed is ‘dialogue’, however I disagree with him that ‘dialogue’ accurately portrays what happened that evening.  

As someone who works in community engagement (as well as psychology) I am keenly aware that good community engagement ensures that the public’s concerns and contributions will influence the outcomes, and that those who are affected by a decision are directly involved in the decision-making. Actively listening to what questions, concerns and ideas the public brings is the first step in reaching viable solutions. Solutions that are presented to people before their questions are heard are representative of only one set of ideas or one possible solution and do not reflect a process of dialogue. And herein lies the key difference.

Over the past many months I have been listening to Islanders concerned about, and engaged in, Island health care.   A picture is emerging from these dialogues. It is one of a more collaborative model of acute and primary care where allied professionals work within an expanded scope of practice - a point on which Mr. MacEwen and I agree - and the health care services reflect the unique needs of the community and the patients they are serving.   

As a resident of Kings County, living a mere 12 minute drive from KCMH, I feel strongly that the way forward to sustainable and community-relevant solutions for rural health care is through authentic dialogue and engaging in open and respectful conversations.  

Susan Hartley is the Green Party of PEI's Shadow Critic for Health & Wellness