I pity the communications people around Newfoundland and Labrador premier Danny Williams. He’s a blowhard at the best of times, but how do you handle his decision to have relatively simple heart surgery in the United States.
Choosing to pay for a U.S. hospital over a ‘free’ Canadian one is akin to poking a finger in an open wound.It says loudly that one of our country’s most prominent leaders has more faith in U.S. hospitals than our own. Simultaneously, it has dragged a taboo topic into the spotlight: those who can afford it, go to the U.S. for serious health issues. There’s no other way to put it.
His message is clear: Canada’s health care system is second rate and pity the poor suckers who have to stay at home to wait (and wait and wait) to use it.
It would have been a stroke of genius if he had intended to drive home those points in a very public manner, but Williams continues to strike the oft-repeated chord of Canadian politicians:
“I have the utmost confidence in our health-care system, I certainly do,”Â the 60-year-old said (in the Globe and Mail), perched on a leather chair in his condominium in Sarasota, Fla. “It’s a bum rap for someone to turn around and say, ‘Oh, Williams does not have confidence in his own health-care system because he has to leave the province.’ ”
A bum rap, eh? No, the only one who got the bum rap was the PR person who has to try to keep lipstick on this pig.
Williams’ “ass”-inine actions follow on the heels of popular mixed martial arts fighterÂ Brock Lesnar’s condemnationÂ of a Manitoba hospital last month. Lesnar went to a Brandon hospital in the middle of a diverticulitis attack. Unsatisfied with how he was being treated, his wife drove him to North Dakota for treatment instead.
Credibility is the most valuable commodity in public communications. These public dismissals of our hospitals only reinforce the general public’s too frequently miserable experiences with health care in Canada. Whether you’re in Brandon, Manitoba or St. John’s, Newfoundland… or Ottawa … it’s must now be a lot harder to pitch a positive story about our hospitals.