Thursday, October 22, 2015

Yellow Jackets and Health Care

It was plenty late arriving but Sunday’s first hard frost fell from the sky like George Bush’s shock and awe campaign in Iraq. It hit fast and hard and completed autumn’s Job One.

Job One in autumn is putting to sleep every yellow jacket in the county. Jack Frost got it done Sunday. He knocked all the wasps onto their backs, frostbitten stingers pointed skyward. Deader than the falling leaves.

So that’s it for another stinging insect season. The one just past was particularly nasty, starting early and lasting longer with wasps seriously aggressive in September and the first half of October.

Wasps are especially noticeable – and especially aggressive – in the fall because they are on vacation. Spring and summer they toil non-stop gathering food for their colony’s young. In late summer and early fall the queen wasps stop laying eggs and the workers are free to go about looking for carbohydrates and sweets, such as rotting fruit, to feed themselves.

More free time to roam usually means more encounters with humans. When they sting they don’t leave behind the stinger, therefore one wasp can sting multiple times.

I had two wasp encounters this fall. The second encounter, on Thanksgiving Weekend, landed me in a hospital emergency room. Two stings from a lone wasp left me looking like Pumpkinhead, my eyes swollen almost shut.

Three little bags of intravenous cocktails started to put me back in shape. No real damage done but it was a good reminder how dangerous these critters can be. And, another reminder of the contradictions in our health care system.

Allergic reactions to wasp stings can kill. Deaths from wasp stings are rare in Canada but anyone spending a lot of time outside, especially in the fall, is wise to carry a couple of antihistamine tablets. They will slow down an allergic reaction, if you happen to develop one.

Allergic reactions occur sometimes even if you have been stung before and have not reacted. Also, wasp stings can react with some medications, like blood pressure pills.

Going to hospital because of a wasp sting had a positive side. Once again I got to see the dedication and professionalism of medical staff who perform miracles in spite of the cancerous government bureaucracies that control their work.

The growth of health care bureaucracies is shocking and people need to rise up and demand a stop to it. Ontario has 14 Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) each with a CEO earning an average annual salary of close to $300,000. Then there are the COOs, CFOs, Chief Communications Officers and on and on.

Search the Internet for LHIN salaries and you’ll find eight screens of the names of LHIN employees earning the big bucks. Big buck acronyms sucking up dollars that should go into direct care for patients.

Ditto the 14 Community Care Access Centres (CCACs), which govern home care. 

Executive salaries in these questionable bureaucracies have been soaring. Meanwhile, the salaries of people who do the real work helping patients have fallen behind.

Bob Hepburn, a Toronto Star staffer, reported last year that only 40 to 50 cents of every tax dollar earmarked for home care actually reaches the health-care professionals who deliver services to patients. Guess where the rest goes? Executive salaries, administrative costs and corporate profits.

Meanwhile, back in the bush the frost has killed all the worker wasps but the queens have survived. They will hibernate below ground until spring when they will establish new colonies, build new nests and the cycle will begin again.

There is no such cycle in the health care system. The real workers survive the bureaucratic hard frosts and continue to help people with their afflictions.

Their big buck bureaucratic bosses, however, do not get to hibernate like the queen wasps. They continue to shuffle paper, improve their media relations and lobby politicians for more money and more power.

Wasp stings can be neutralized by drugs. Too bad there is not a drug to relieve taxpayers from the pain and swelling of health care bureaucracies.


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