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Squandering Billions - Health Care in Canada

The Squandering Billions Initiative

"Squandering Billions" took on some of the characteristics of a brand with the publication of a book by that name in late 2005, but it is much more than that. It has been, in fact, the by-product of a life mission of Dr. Don Nixdorf of Vancouver, B.C., a chiropractor who has advocated the efficiencies possible if registered and legislated health professions would end their territorial pursuits, limit the obsession with dollars, put patient outcomes at the top of the priority list and work in multidisciplinary environments.

Health Care/Wealth CareWhat became the book had its origins at a 2002 Vancouver conference attended by prominent politicians, health economists, senior health administrators, compensation board executives, health insurers, medical doctors, chiropractors and a broad representation of other health professionals.

The Conference was titled Health Care/Wealth Care with a much-advertised subtitle, Is it all about Money? The focus was on the obsession of everybody in health care as well as politicians and the public who elect them on money: the absolutely absurd and indefensible notion that more spending means better health care. The competition is so fierce for money - salaries, facilities, research, technology, drugs - that patient care most often seems like an afterthought. Yet the epidemic of adverse events is usually caused by needless or incompetent surgery, and pharmaceutical issues: diagnostic mistakes and drug interactions. In these instances, less spending - in the billions - would save lives.

Too many MDs have become nothing more than order takers, sending patients off to specialists, lab tests, radiology, hospital services and - most problematic - just about always with a prescription for drugs. The bottom line is that the health system must find ways to bypass expensive gatekeepers who add no value to the health care process and frequently promote remedies that do more harm than good. Patients must more expeditiously be routed toward the most-effective, efficient, and economical solution for whatever ails them.

There is no lack of respect in this initiative for the marvels of medical science and the miracles performed each day by practitioners of all medical specialities, including those in family practice. Often forgotten among the medical superstars are the thousands of doctors and scientists working in public health pursuits who, collectively, have likely achieved more for humanity than all of the "reactive" cure-oriented health professionals combined.

Multidisciplinary approaches to care should be sought by all, and particularly clinical environments in which nurse practitioners, family physicians, specialists (either full-time or on call), chiropractors, optometrists, nutritionists, internal medicine and homeopathic doctors, physiotherapists, massage therapists, podiatrists and all related technical specialties can work together, ensuring that each expert's valuable time is invested in areas of their own expertise, and that accurate diagnosis of patients must be the key to all treatment regimens.

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Gary Bannerman, a communications consultant, journalist and author worked with the organizers of the 2002 conference and helped publish a report of the proceedings. This publication perpetuated the dialogue and controversy, and ultimately built demand for a comprehensive book on the topic.

Nixdorf and Bannerman co-authored the book, with illustrations by noted artist Kerry Waghorn. It was published by Hancock House of Surrey, B.C. in late 2005, in both hard cover and trade paperback editions.

About the authors

Dr. Don NixdorfDr. Don Nixdorf has been among Canada's most prominent health professionals for more than a generation, a member of national and provincial agencies and a participant in countless numbers of studies and Commissions. The Executive-Director of the British Columbia Chiropractic Association since 1985, he is also a veteran of countless encounters in all forms of media on behalf of his profession, including his own open-line radio health program. His work on behalf of the profession keeps him in frequent contact with health ministers, other professionals, media, insurance companies and community organizations. (www.bcchiro.com)

Gary BannermanGary Bannerman was a veteran journalist, publisher, public affairs broadcaster and the author of several books. He served on the board of directors of corporations of various sizes, and as a communications consultant to CEOs and senior management of many companies. He was published in countless numbers of magazines and newspapers and, for 16 years, he hosted Western Canada’s most successful news talk radio show. His work was honoured by numerous prestigious awards. (www.bannerline.net) He passed away on July 11, 2011.

The illustrator

Kerry WaghornKerry Waghorn is the most accomplished caricaturist in the world. His Faces in the News feature is a 35+ year journalistic legend. Represented by Universal Press Syndicate, his work has appeared in more than 400 publications in about 60 countries. Among the journals that have published his inimitable creations are the Miami Herald, Boston Globe, Chicago Sun-Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, New York Review of Books, New York Daily News, Atlanta Journal, Montreal Gazette, Vancouver Sun, Japan Times, Sydney Morning Herald, Hamilton Bermuda Business, Korea Times and New Zealand Herald. (www.kerrywaghorn.com)

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