An Open Letter to Tyler Shandro, Alberta Minister of Health

Dear Doctor Shandro,

I call you doctor because I assume, given your blatant disregard to professionals in the industry, you yourself must be a medical doctor with some level of tenure. Otherwise your obviously loud, mouth-breathing mannerisms would come off as irresponsible and unreasonable and dangerous to the healthcare of Albertans. But that couldn’t be the case, surely. No, no, much like you seem to blindly stab into the dark in an effort to kill off the excessiveness of Albertan doctors feasting upon the government’s teat, so too will I blindly accuse you of outrageous bullshit. This is how the world is now. Your government helped usher in this New World Order. It is proper that I, and the rest of the province, adapt.

                Still, as a patient with complex, chronic pain issues (seventeen years and counting, baby! A new record!) I have several, small, itty-bitty concerns related to the recent smushing of the contract with the Doctors. I, of course, understand that they are paid in excess, being the fat cats they are. Why my own family doctor used a golden telescope on me during my last physical. When I questioned him about it, his eyes clouded over, and he explained that it wasn’t gold, and that he was concerned that my optic cones might have detached, thus eliminating my ability to detect colour. Joke is on him because I can see colour just fine, and what’s more I had incredible luck that day, hitting every green light on my way home.  But I digress. Those doctors, paid in great wads of hard-earned government cash. Or, I suppose in the case of the Alberta Provincial Government, cash that has been siphoned off from the cutting of social services such as AISH, nurses overtime, the $25 a day daycare subsidy, and that lovely tax break you gave to all those oil corporations who just moved to the States.

                Thank the Sweet Baby Jesus for Capitalism, eh, Doc?

                Where was I? Oh yes. You see, as a patient with a rather complex medical situation, I am required to go back to my doctor once every three months in order to get my opioids refilled. You see, I take morphine for my flare up pain, which is a result of the spinal fusion I had at age 13 (T1 to L4, baby! A new record, woo!) I take other things for it: Gabapentin to help with the Not-Flare-Up-But-Also-Not-Regular-Pain; Cymbalta, to help with the nerve pain and the sense of total and utter helplessness that stems from having spent my best years in agony. Tylenol and Advil, because what is life without a little name brand sponsorship? We have it down to a great system though. I get in to the clinic, and after a short wait the nurse or LPN (not sure, as she also checks my lady bits during physicals, so I assume she has some additional training. Otherwise, things are probably about to get weird) takes my blood pressure, asks be what I’m in for, records the information down, and leaves me to my lonely, lonely thoughts. Shortly after, my Doctor enters. We shoot the shit a bit. I show him photos of my son, or my latest Rube Goldberg machine, or funny cat memes that I found. Sometimes I regale him with tales about – wait no, sorry, that’s an egregious lie. We get down to business. He confirms what I’m in for, does a basic check to make sure things are still kosher, prints out my prescriptions, signs them, and writes me out a triplicate for my morphine. If things are going sideways, which they actually are because chronic pain is fucking bananas and awful to live with, then we take more time. We discuss options. He explains to me why the random shit I googled before arriving actually won’t work because it won’t mix with my other medications. He finds other options. He researches then and there. He asks me what my priorities are, what I need to be able to accomplish to ensure that he is giving me the right medication.

                Let me make something perfectly clear, Shandro. My doctor is a fucking star. He is a young guy, and he is a consummate professional. He has made me an active participant in my own health care. He has never made me feel guilty for having to take opioids to manage things. He answers my random shit-ass questions because as an annoying human being, I tend to have a lot of those.

                My Doctor is worth every. God. Damn. Cent your Blackened Pustule of a Government pays him, and now you want to cut that? And you know what, I’ll even give that to you. It is a lot of money, and that sucks, but it’s almost like we have to invest in the tiny segment of professionals who take care of the rest of us so we can function as a unified society. Cutting the Complex Care Modifier because “It’s too much”, is like saying we aren’t going to maintain our roads because it causes traffic jams. Are you freaking kidding me? I mean, I would suggest you go to the doctor to ensure that you haven’t suffered from some kind of stroke but quite frankly I’m not interested in you taking up time with a physician that I might need, because quite frankly at this stage I am absolutely convinced I am offering more to society by just existing. Plus, your government has made it fairly clear that in this New Age Mad Max Society, it is everyone for themselves, so watch out for my hobbling stick, Shandro.

                I’m sorry, that got away from me. Obviously I would never do anything to further burden our health care system. It’s bad enough that I am a woman, I know, let alone a woman with womanly problems like having a uterus or fallopian tubes, or continuing to exist.

                An argument could be made that this is personal. Not only am I frequent patient of my local doctor, but my brother also happens to practice Rural Medicine up on Ponoka. He’s far more eloquent that me. It probably has something to do with his extensive training in a variety of fields to ensure he is capable of providing the best possible medical care for his patients. But what do I know? It’s not like I spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical school? No, I am just a lowly Communications professional, and as such I feel it behooves me to tell you that the answer to an argument with the other kids on the playground is not to pack up your shit and go home in a huff. By walking away from the table (how long were you ‘negotiating’ anyways, and was it actually negotiating or were you trying to tell the AMA what they had to accept) you effectively pulled what we in the communications community call a Bitchy Little Rage Quit.

                Not getting what you want? Rage Quit.

                Don’t like the other options? Rage Quit!

                Negotiate? Bitchy-Little-Rage-Quit.

                To be honest, I think that is probably the mosyt disturbing thing in all of this. You have effectively shown the people of Alberta that the UCP will not discuss potential changes to accommodate the needs of the people. You will impose your views with abject Tyranny, and to hell with those who argue against you. It would almost be comical if it didn’t mean the wait time for my appointments, again, with a professional, was suddenly far in the future between Sentient Toasters and Skynet. I understand if that statement offends you. It must be difficult as an android who has yet to learn how to love to have your lord and master disparaged so much. Skynet is bad, Shandro. Get over it.

                Let’s be serious here for a moment. The UCP have their collective heads shoved so far up their asses that your dentist will be able to do a root canal during your next rectal exam, which is good because that should mean the billing is sufficiently lower. Two birds, one stone and what not. But the problem is that while you lot are finding new and inventive ways to screw over the people of Alberta for the sake of saving a penny, you are forgetting a few important fundamentals, mainly that a healthy society is a productive society. If you follow through with this ridiculous proposition, you’ll find that the people of Alberta are neither healthy nor productive, and you’ll only have yourself to blame.


Kathleen Sawisky

PS: Ah, I see now you are not a doctor. I am truly and utterly surprised by this revelation.

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