David McConkey - Columnist, Consultant, Citizen
Columnist. Consultant. Citizen.

Two More Health-Care Ideas

Brandon Sun, March 7, 2022 – David McConkey

Before I get into more ideas for healthcare in Manitoba, I have to make an aside. This is certainly a dark time, eh?

Take this year – please! We are in the third year of a pandemic. Protests and threats of violence are directed at (of all people!) doctors, nurses and other health-care workers. U.S. style division and conspiracy theories rage in Canada. The calamity of climate change rolls on. And now war in Ukraine. To riff off an expression, are we seeing the slow cancellation of a rosy future?

In the face of today’s realities, I am trying to strengthen my commitment to feel gratitude for anything that is going well; to remember, in the words of Monty Python, to “always look on the bright side of life.” Like, look at the wonderful vaccines!

I would like to continue from last month’s health-care column, in particular the lengthening waiting lists for surgeries and diagnostic tests. I start with my own experience getting cataract eye surgery in 2020. I waited about a year to get in to see a specialist in a private clinic. After another, shorter, wait, the surgery was performed at the Brandon Regional Health Centre.

I am grateful for both the private and public facilities in Brandon and for the excellent care I received. I am also grateful I could afford the cost of upgrades and aspects of the process that weren't covered by the government. And I am grateful that I got in for surgery in the midst of a pandemic.

I enjoy my better vision. But I was taken aback when I read this recent news item in the Brandon Sun: “Eye Surgery Backlog Near 5,000 Province-wide.” I found it disconcerting to read that there are folks with conditions far worse than mine who are still waiting for surgery.

When I was phoned about an opening for my surgery, I said: great, thank you, I will be there. But what if those like me being phoned about a surgery opening were challenged to also help improve the system? I would like to introduce two principles for consideration. I present these to add some positive energy and to spark some debate.

I call these two concepts the “grocery line principle” and the “Wikipedia principle.”


Recall waiting in a grocery store line. Sometimes we may notice another person – perhaps more infirm than we or carrying a heavier load of groceries or juggling their purchases with a child. At that point, we gladly volunteer to step back and allow that other person to go in front of us.


I regard Wikipedia as a wonder of our age. Experts and ordinary folks alike contribute to this internet resource, which is then provided free for all to use. The financial costs of running Wikipedia are covered by donations from some of those who use it.

Here is something else great about Wikipedia. Those donating to Wikipedia are happy not just to help fund a resource that they themselves use. They are also happy to donate so that others can use Wikipedia free of charge.


I see those receiving a spot for surgery as being like those in a grocery line or those who use Wikipedia. We identify with others who are in our situation. So, I propose harnessing the human impulse of identity and generosity to help alleviate our health-care waiting list predicament. Here’s how: those getting a phone call about a surgery opening would also be asked two questions.

The first question uses the grocery line principle. Would you like to step aside for, say, three or six months, in favour of someone else who might need the surgery more than you?

The second question is the Wikipedia principle. Would you like to donate money to help improve the health-care system? This would be a chance to help an infrastructure that benefits both you and other people and is largely free of charge for those needing it.

I would make some further specific recommendations. Privacy would be guaranteed – no one would know whether you stepped aside or donated money. All donors would receive an income tax credit receipt. And this new revenue source from donations would not be an excuse for the government to cut back its funding. On the contrary, the government would commit to match the new donations, thus doubling the impact.

These ideas could be discomforting for some. But the health-care reality is that we – both government and ordinary citizens – need to up our game. I offer these ideas in the spirit of imagining positive change, looking on the bright side and expressing gratitude.

* * * *
See also: 

Health Care: Gratitude, Reality and Just Doing It 

Reflecting on Big Questions

Drug Policies Require More Humility, Less Virtue Signaling

Try a Little Kindness in 2220

Book Explores Gratitude for the World in a Cup of Coffee

Enlightenment Values Are Needed Now More Than Ever



David McConkey,
Brandon, Manitoba
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