Ah yes, that nasty cookie!

Commentary by
Jeff Burgar

Do you remember Stephen Duckett?
He was the fellow, an expert hired by our provincial government of the day in 2009. Duckett was from Australia and was to ‘save’ Alberta’s health care system.
Duckett ran into a few problems trying to do so. Among the last straws; 18 months after his hiring he was walking down a street eating a cookie, while a TV newscaster was trying to interview him.
The incident became known in our little circles of this province as ‘CookieGate’.
Oh, the horror of it all!
All during his stay was the slight undercurrent of a condescending attitude towards females. As said, he hailed from Australia.
Like it or not, that is common-enough Down Under and it just happened to be some cultural baggage he was no doubt trying to drop. But it was still there.
Other than that, Duckett was brilliant enough in his own way. His grasp of the general, and the specific state of medical issues in Alberta, was instant and thorough.
I don’t know if it’s too bad we let him be run out of town as he was. Or if the powers that be decided he just wasn’t our kind of cowboy. Duckett was gone, end of that story.
Or is it? Generally speaking, we still have the same old, same old vision of the future we had before Duckett came along. You know, where a penny saved in McLennan or Smith must be worth $10 in Calgary, because – you know – that’s just the way we count our beans.
It should be truly troubling that most politicians still wring their hands, moan about the ever-increasing costs of health, and then wander down the street looking for something to distract voters who are squeaking too loud.
Most people will admit herding cats is much easier than getting farmers to agree on something. Put 10 farmers in a room to solve any ‘crisis’ coming their way, and you will get 18 opinions, 26 answers to questions you never asked, and at least eight or nine hoots and hollers to get out of the way, cut the red tape, bury the regulations, and just let farmers do the job.
And of course, no fewer than five ask for more money on the way in, and five more on the way out.
If there is any difference between a gang of farmers and a gang of doctors, experience tells us farmers are much better than doctors in managing their money.
So, bringing this around to health care in rural Alberta. The average doctor in the countryside takes home what – $200,000 per year? $300,000? $500,000? Well, it takes time to build a practice, just like it takes time to build any business.
But the opportunity is there to build a good life, raise a family, and be successful. Many doctors have done exactly that over the years.
Many more will. Yet, we are still troubled by shortages.
And in case anybody doesn’t remember, over 30 years ago a northern Alberta doctor named Dr. Phillip Rutter started talking about this issue.
Yet, talking about a cookie turned out to be more important than talking about options.

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