Friday April 18, 2014

Health rules makes tough rural life tougher


Dealing with a child’s long-term illness would be trying enough for any parent.

But imagine dealing with this while also contending with the political bureaucracy and its rules and regulations that don’t always accommodate your health care reality.

Now, imagine trying to contend with all this in rural Saskatchewan, where a daily three-hour round trip to see your child in care is about the shortest journey you will have had to make this year. Now, imagine having to fight with government after your child passes on over ambulance bills or hospital stays it classifies as long-term care.

This has been the tough reality for Richard and Brenda Bowyer of Maple Creek — a farm family confronted with some of the worst that life can throw at you.

The Bowyer’s middle child of five, 28-year-old Roxanne, died in June after a life-long battle with epilepsy.

Diagnosed with her serious illnesses while just a baby, Roxanne was around “10 or 11 when she started to lose her functions,” Brenda Bowyer said.

As any parents would under such circumstances, the Bowyers’ dedicated their life to the proper care of their child. A new home was built on their beef and grain operation to accommodate Roxanne’s access needs. With whatever help they could get through the government the health system and care available in Maple Creek, the Bowyers did whatever they could to care for Roxanne for as long as they could.

However, during the first half of this year — the final six months of Roxanne’s life — things became exceedingly difficult.

In January, Roxanne’s worsening condition required longer term stays in Saskatoon, Swift Current and even Medicine Hat when there was no admitting physician available in Swift Current.

Each time Roxanne was relocated for her health care needs, the Bowyers were hit with more substantial personal travel, lodging and food costs. Even Roxanne’s stay in Swift Current meant substantial gas bills as they dared icy roads from Maple Creek for the daily three-hour community to be with her daughter.

Roxanne Bowyer’s final months included a tracheotomy tube to help her breathe. After stays in the Swift Current hospital, she would be admitted to the Palliser care home in Swift Current where her needs could be attended to by licensed practical nurses.

But in order to simply move her from the hospital to the nursing home in that city, the Bowyers incurred a $254 ambulance bill. An ambulance was required, Brenda Bowyer explained, because they could not have driven their special needs child themselves because of the tracheotomy tube and fear of more seizures.

And even though she had to be in hospital because of the tracheotomy tube, Brenda Bowyer said the Cypress Health Region had classified her as a long-term care patient. That resulted in another $588.50 bill for that final stay in Swift Current’s hospital.

The Bowyers are looking for coverage health through the province’s supplemental health coverage, but at this point they have been unsuccessful. It is frustration added to their grief.

This is a tough story of parents asked to endure more than their share.  But it’s also a story of bureaucratic inflexibility and little recognition that people in rural Saskatchewan might have a tougher situation than others.

Brenda Bowyer said its not as if they don’t appreciate their care or the help from government and their community of Maple Creek that is building a new hospital. However, a family that has already endured should get any small breaks our health system can offer.

After all, the Sask. Party government established an entire a sub-department of rural health with a minister in charge to presumably deal with such issues.

Yet it still seems that government or its health region get what rural families like the Bowyers have to go through.

Murray Mandryk has been covering provincial politics for over 22 years.



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