I have a clock in my house. I know most of us do, but as opposed to a digital clock I have quite deliberately purchased one of the old-fashioned kind, where the hands tick-tock out the minutes, sounding a bit like a heartbeat. I find it both soothing and sobering, as the clock is a reminder of the passage of time, and the precious nature of that time. Our time upon this earth is finite, and the tick-tocking of my clock reminds me of this fact every day. Recently the tick-tock has come to mean something else to me, too.Approximately ten days ago I sent an email to our Albertan Minster of Health, Sarah Hoffman. It was in regard to a post I had also written very recently, and touched on the ability of the provincial government to potentially save the life of a member of our community by agreeing to fund an experimental cancer treatment he can only secure in the United States.
To date my email has gone unanswered. On Friday I took to Twitter to ask why this email had gone unanswered and why this government was dragging its heels on making a decision that could save the life of Bo Cooper, a young man who, through his work as a firefighter, risks his life to save others.The Alberta NDP government was elected in this province on the winds and promise of change. I dearly wish the answers provided to me by the Minister of Health thus far were reflective of this change, but instead they are the same tired old answers we have received from the other politicians running this province for decades.
In response to my question regarding the time it was taking to reply to my email I received this:
Of course thousands of Albertans, including myself, receive dozens of emails daily – but we do not have an entire staff of communications professionals to respond to them. No, we are expected to respond ourselves in a timely manner, and this sort of tardy response cannot and should not be excused by the volume of correspondence one receives, particularly when one has staff dedicated to formulating the responses.
And then there was this:
And there it is. The standard government hand-off, the suggestion that Ministers don’t actually make decisions but instead leave those crucial, literally life-and-death decisions in the hands of committees. It is the ever so traditional and predictable “fobbing off” of responsibility, abdicating any sense of ownership of it despite the fact that the Ministers in our provincial government are, by virtue of their roles, among the most powerful individuals in our province. Incidentally we don’t elect committees of doctors – we elect individuals to represent us and make decisions such as this one; and to make the kinds of decisions we ourselves would make.
When a government claims to bring change one could expect this kind of change would include choosing to be bold leaders instead of passive followers. Alberta Health Services has shared that they will not fund Bo Cooper’s treatment because it is “experimental”. One should keep in mind, though, that most standard cancer therapies were at one point considered experimental. When one faces a choice of no treatment and a certain (and dire prognosis) versus an experimental treatment and a chance (particularly when the treatment has been showing strong results) it would seem prudent to choose the experimental treatment – as what is there to lose, really?
It would seem our government of “change” might not be as committed to this concept as one would hope. This is an opportunity for a Minister of Health to make a bold decision, one that may be criticized but that will also be widely praised, and that could save the life of a 26-year old man who would undoubtedly risk his own life to save hers should the situation be reversed. But the only risk the Minister of Health needs to take is a financial one – and by making it she has the chance to truly be the kind of agent of change one wishes to see in this world.
This past week I have been watching that clock in my house, but now the sound has taken on a darker tone. I am so very proud of my community for coming together to raise the funds necessary to ensure Bo Cooper has a chance at treatment, but I am dismayed they have to do this at all when we have a government that could embrace this as a chance to show the actual nature of change. Every day, every hour and every minute has the potential to change the future of one young man, his family and perhaps this entire community and province.
Tick-tock, Minister of Health. Have the courage to be a Minister of change, or simply fall to the side as others have done in the past, wringing your hands about how sad this all is and how you empathize with the family, never once acknowledging that you hold the power to change it. One day when this narrative is told it might well be one in which a community came together to save a young man while a government stood by, willing to let him die while they hid behind committees and a lack of conviction in their own ability to effect change. What a sad indictment of a government elected on a promise of change that would be.