John G. Abbott, CEO, Health Council of Canada
Recently, many health care thought leaders have come forward to voice the need for an “adult conversation” on health care. With just over three years remaining in the 2004 10-Year Plan to Strengthen Health Care, these pre-emptive conversations are essential at all levels, but need to shift their focus to strengthening the current system.
Canadians have had many opportunities to review the health care system and determine what they want in such a system. These questions were answered in detail by the Kirby Report and the Romanow Commission. Health care experts need to be focused on building a stronger, comprehensive system, and the actions needed to move Canada forward.
Currently, Canada spends over $180 billion a year on health care costs (2009); an amount that will continue to rise unless we address the key issues. For example, the use of pharmaceutical drugs, especially by an aging population subject to multiple chronic diseases, is costing Canadians about $30 billion a year (2008). In the past 10 years, the number of prescriptions filled at community pharmacies has increased by almost 80%, and at the same time Canada’s relatively high generic drug prices are ensuring that filling this large number of prescriptions is expensive. The government has options to institute reforms and reduce costs, but we need a national pharmaceuticals strategy in order to do this. A national pharmaceutical strategy that governments have committed to since 2004.
As well, long-term care and home care are aspects that should be explored to improve the efficiency of the system. In 2009, $51 billion went to hospitals, and some of this was attributed to patients who would have been better served in long-term care facilities or under home care instead of occupying expensive hospital beds. Investing in long-term and home care has the potential to save the health care system a lot of money.
It is clearly important to have a dialogue on health care, but not to discuss and reiterate what we already know. The aforementioned reports have spoken: the majority of Canadians are committed to a publicly-funded health care service covered under Medicare. Now we need to discuss how we take this current system that Canadians value and move forward to make it better, stronger and more sustainable.
See The Globe and Mail’s “We need an ‘adult’ conversation on health and social transfers” by André Picard.
Key Words: Home and Community Care, Pharmaceuticals Management