(June 13, 2002, Gazette)
It has been said that three lies permeate todays
society: Your cheque is in the mail, I love you as much
today as when we first met, and I am from the government;
I am here to help you. But in truth, the candidate before you belies
this last declaration, for she is from the government but she has helped.
Hospitals began in monasteries, providing shelter, food and spiritual
salvation. During the Renaissance, a new ideology of health recognized
the need to attend to the physical ailments of those seeking spiritual
asylum. In the 1500s the hospital Santa Maria Nuova in Florence ministered
to labourers and pilgrims bound for Rome. It was staffed by the sisters
of the order and by a permanent cadre of physicians, barber-surgeons and
apothecaries, who from a distillate of misery generated a new, educational
role for hospitals that now cared for the spirit, the body and the mind.
Over the next 400 years, institutions were created with their own ideologies,
traditions and methods of management, but today they must be aligned to
achieve efficiency. Twentieth century hospitals were often fiercely independent,
in fact competitive an expensive luxury. Todays financial
exigencies require their consolidation and harmonization, inevitably resulting
in alterations in the pattern of care; while their organization and finances
are controlled by governments with decreasing budgets, searching for some
feat of management to rationalize (if not to ration) the services offered.
Such pressures do not easily respect that humanitarianism traditional
in hospital care, addressing also the emotional and spiritual aspects
of illness. It is fortunate that when a dynamic high-school teacher from
Fox Harbour showed her empathy, efficiency and vision in administering
our own St. Clares hospital, she was appointed as the first CEO
of the St. Johns Health Care Corporation. The burden of her mandate
to implement the governments urgent need to rationalize a disjointed,
sometimes archaic system may have been made easier by her archaeological
It is ironic that one dedicated to an order known for its unquestioning
provision of service was charged with the responsibility of determining
which services might have to be withdrawn. A few things were in theory,
easy to recognize that the existence of two fully-staffed emergency
departments a minute away from each other was indefensible, and that the
medical management of disease is bound by non-denominational rules. But
reorganization had to take place in the face of entrenched differences
in religious affiliation, tradition and corporate culture. Aware that
those that plan the fight will not fight the plan, Sister Elizabeth consulted
and listened. Like Catherine Macauley, the founder of her order, she radiated
a personal imperative in her case that the changes were morally
just steps on the path to achieving the most efficient and effective system.
In your words, Mr. Chancellor, Short term pain for long term gain.
It was her personal credibility that allowed her to accomplish the esemplastic
task of melding disparate moieties into a desperate unity. She introduced
a cogent program system based upon the needs of patients rather than of
planners, its leaders appointed for their managerial rather than their
medical skills. Job losses were mainly through attrition, reduplication
was minimized or abolished, and physicians were freed, not always without
protest, from their administrative roles (at which they are usually rather
ordinary) in order to concentrate upon the diagnosis and treatment of
patients (at which they are usually rather good). Yet in this reorganizational
kaleidoscope she never omitted the statements of mission, value and vision
defining the goal and the road to its attainment.
When the lawyer asked; Who is my neighbour? Jesus told of
the Samaritan who recognized the personal worth of the traveller beaten
and robbed on the Jericho road, for he rescued and transported him and
provided for his further care at the inn; and all for two pence
a sum covering triage, ambulance services, admission procedures, diagnosis,
treatment, housing and extended care, but one no longer appropriate today,
even after adjustment for inflation. The lawyer rightly identified his
neighbor as he that had shown compassion.
Mr. Chancellor, global military spending has been estimated at one million
dollars per minute. Five million dollars have been spent on preparation
for war since I took my place here; how much for reparation for disease?
However much, it is in comparison too little. The moneys allocated for
health care must be wisely spent so that more people may have more of
their needs supplied more adequately. I present to you the chief architect
of our new health-care system, who has shown the willingness to consult,
the courage to listen, the insights to discern the right course and the
faith to follow it with compassion; to receive at your hand the degree
of doctor of laws, (honoris causa), our neighbour Elizabeth Mary
Davis, Sister of Mercy.
Dr. William Pryse-Phillips