Pain treatment low priority for Interior Health
To the editor:
Regarding lack of proper care and treatment for chronic pain patients.
I am a patient of Dr. Karl Muendel’s, and am deeply distressed by his leaving. My appointment next week will be my last with him, and I will likely not be seen again until, or if, another pain specialist arrives!
I am not a senior, but a 44-year-old women who is supposed to be in the prime of my life, who has been unable to work in my job as a RN for the last year and a half because of chronic back pain and the large doses of narcotics that I must take. Instead of being a contributing tax payer and above average income earner, I am now a drain on the system as I am in receipt of CPP disability benefits, which now puts my income below the poverty line.
I had waited over three years for an appointment at the pain clinic. It wasn’t until I was off work because of the chronic pain and the side effects of large doses of narcotics, that the company that oversees my benefits got involved. They were able to expedite an initial consultation with Dr. Muendel, as he was working in a private clinic and paid him to see me for that consultation. If it wasn’t for that, I would likely still be waiting for an initial consultation appointment at the pain clinic. Money does talk—loud and clear.
Pain specialists have a specialized body of knowledge that makes them vital members of the health care team for any patient who experiences chronic pain. Pain specialists are not accessible in this valley because this Interior Health Authority has not made the treatment of chronic pain a priority.
The basis of universal health care is accessibility to all—I give this health authority a failing grade for accessibility to chronic pain care. If you are lucky and do get in to see a doctor at this pain clinic, it will be impossible to book a timely follow up which is necessary for most treatments and interventions that are currently offered. Interior Health lacks insight.
Over the course of the last few weeks, there have been multiple letters to the editor published in the daily newspaper in relation to the lack of accessibility to chronic pain care and treatment in Kelowna, and one of the specialists is leaving. Prior to the arrival of Dr. Karl Muendel, access to a specialist at the pain clinic was limited, but with his departure, I can imagine that the accessibility will be nonexistent. Dr. Muendel was only in Kelowna for a short time, but has chosen to leave because the administration of Kelowna General Hospital lacks commitment and support for full fledge pain clinic at Kelowna General. As you can well imagine, this leaves possibly thousands of chronic pain patients in the lurch and the remaining pain specialists must now try to pick up these patients.
I am one of those patients who will be at a loss after this dedicated and caring physician leaves. Why does Kelowna General Hospital not have a better functioning pain clinic with sufficient number of specialists to staff it? KGH is a tertiary referral hospital and has the Southern Interior Cancer Clinic right beside it. Shouldn’t it have proper care and treatment for chronic pain patients?