• Health Council of Canada report on decade of health reform finds governments’ status quo approach is failing Canadians
Sep 24, 2013

Toronto, ON (September 19, 2013) Today, the Health Council of Canada releases Better health, better care, better value for all, showing that a decade of health care reform in Canada has produced disappointing results for taxpayers and patients alike. While the 2003 and 2004 health accords were heralded with much promise by governments, as the decade progressed a lack of focus on transforming the system leaves us where we are today. The report provides some lessons learned and outlines a way forward so as not to repeat the past record.

The report finds that, with some exceptions, changes to our health care system have not kept pace with the evolving needs of Canadians. Progress on wait times for key procedures has stalled. Primary health care services lag behind other countries. Home care services do not adequately meet seniors’ needs. Prescription drug costs remain beyond the means of many Canadians, leading to one in ten unfilled prescriptions and to skipped doses. Canadians’ slight increase in life expectancy has been overpowered by a wave of conditions like diabetes, and the number of Canadians with two or more chronic conditions rose to 31 per cent by 2010.

“While the health accords set out to tackle some specific problems in our health care system, a lack of targets and measureable results have not stimulated the improvements achieved by many other high income countries,” says Dr. Jack Kitts, Chair of the Health Council of Canada. “Canada is one of the top spenders internationally when it comes to health care, spending an estimated $200 billion or more in 2012. Yet Canadians are in the middle of the pack when it comes to the state of their health, and near the bottom when quality of care is compared to other high income countries.

“As Canadians, we often accept the status quo in health care,” says John G. Abbott, Health Council CEO. “Seventy-six percent of Canadians rate the quality of medical care received from their primary care doctor as excellent or very good, but dig a little deeper and you find that only 48% of people with multiple chronic diseases (typically, regular users of the health system) describe the care they receive as excellent or very good. Mediocrity, when it comes to our health care, is unacceptable, especially when we have the resources and skills to do much better.”

Although improving access to health care was a key focus of the health accords, getting the health care you need still differs depending on which province or territory you live in, and even within them. So where you live does matter. Canadians know from experience, for example, that wait times and access to prescription medications vary across the country, as do many other health services. Other inequities around income and education, as well as cultural factors also impact access to care. For example, variable drug coverage leaves many low income Canadians unable to acquire the drugs they need.

Understanding Canada’s current position enables the Health Council to present a way forward, based on an approach called the “Triple Aim,” that was first introduced by the US–based Institute for Healthcare Improvement.  The Health Council outlines an approach for setting balanced goals and actively supporting key enablers to achieve them, something the 2003 and 2004 health accords did not do. For Canada this would mean that governments would agree to not only pursue “better health, better care and better value,” but they would place the Canadian value of “equity” at the core of all future actions taken on health care. Governments would insist that all other players in Canada’s health system adopt these same goals.

Key to implementing this approach and getting better results for Canadians will be strong leadership. Here the report says the federal government must actively participate in ensuring a level of equity across Canada, along with provincial and territorial leaders. “Currently, each government is tackling the same issues in different ways,” says Abbott. “For their part, the provinces and territories also need to act as co-owners of a national system and accept responsibility to ensure each delivers comparable results.”

“A higher performing health system is possible in this country,” adds Abbott. “Getting strong leadership, pan-Canadian collaboration and other factors in place, as described in the report, will enable us to achieve the results we desire, justify the pride Canadians have in their health care system, and be a model for the world.”

To download the full report or read blogs from health industry leaders, visit: healthcouncilcanada.ca/refocusinghealthcare.

About the Health Council of Canada

Created by the 2003 First Ministers’ Accord on Health Care Renewal, the Health Council of Canada is an independent national agency that reports on the progress of health care renewal. The Council provides a system-wide perspective on health care reform in Canada, and disseminates information on innovative practices across the country. The Councillors are appointed by the participating provincial and territorial governments and the Government of Canada. In April 2013 the federal government announced that it will be winding-up funding for the Council such that the Council will conclude its operations by March 31, 2014.

See more at: http://www.healthcouncilcanada.ca/cnt_nws.php?id=1394&typ=news#sthash.bgaJYzyn.dpuf