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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Time is of the essence (or, don’t put off today what you can’t do tomorrow)

A recent CBC article discusses the meeting of Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq and provincial health ministers on November 24 - 25, and the potential for preliminary discourse on a new health accord for 2014. More than once the article mentions that there is still time for these discussions in advance of the 2004 accord expiry in 2014.  However, given that the article further mentions the need to review the Canadian Health Transfer funding model, fundamental reforms to current health care delivery, and the “crisis-fuelled negotiation…conducted earlier this decade” to devise the 2003 and 2004 health accords, “more than two years” doesn’t seem like nearly enough time.

Added to this are the arguments presented by André Picard in his article on the upcoming meeting of health ministers, wherein he discusses the need for revamped health financing.

These arguments are all valid in the context of a new or renewed health accord for 2014.  But time is of the essence.  Although simple enough to suggest how to reform health care in Canada, it is much more difficult to come up with reforms that are evidence-based and have buy-in from all stakeholders (that is, provinces, territories, the federal government, health care providers and the public). 

The National Healthcare Service (NHS) in England began consultations in 2007 for national reforms that culminated in the NHS Outcomes Framework that was first implemented in 2011.

In Australia, the Council of Australian Governments agreed to a reform agenda in 2007 that included reforms to health care.  The National Healthcare Agreement established in 2008 (revised in 2011) outlines specific goals for healthcare, and requires yearly performance reports on progress towards achieving these goals.

Given these two examples and the timelines for developing health care reform agendas, is two years enough time to fully hash out health care reform in Canada?  Serious discussions need to start now at all levels of government with expert and public consultation in order to develop well-planned strategies for health care reform in 2014.

Susan Brien, Policy Lead, Health Council of Canada

Key Words: Health Accord

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