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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Alberta Becomes a Member of the Health Council of Canada: Some Patients and Consumers Have Mixed Views on this Partnership

Katharina Kovacs Burns, MSc, MSHA, PhD
Albertan and Patient Advocate & Associate Director, Health Sciences Council & Director, Interdisciplinary Health Research Academy, University of Alberta

Recently I was told about Alberta’s intention to join the Health Council of Canada by the start of 2012, and was asked about my thoughts on how patients/consumers in Alberta might feel regarding the significance and hopes for this new partnership. I know how I feel about this, and although I often think I know how other patients and consumers might feel about our provincial government’s partnership arrangements, I was not certain in this case.
I informally canvassed a number of individuals who consider themselves patients and consumers of health care in Alberta. My initial thoughts were that most of these respondents would think as I do and would be unanimously supportive of this partnership, and believe that the benefits would be seen over the long term, such as strengthened ties between Alberta and other provinces in cross-country health care decisions including for primary care, catastrophic and other drug coverage, and a new Canada Health Accord. However, views of this small sample of 48 non-randomly selected patients/consumers and patient advocates varied. The 43% of respondents that knew of the Health Council of Canada (HCC) and its many health reports and ongoing discussions/debates, felt this move was necessary and positive for Alberta; while many more others who did not know of the HCC (52%), did not know or could not say how this move would benefit, or perhaps cost Alberta. There were very few (5%) who thought or said that this was a waste of time, energy or money on the part of Alberta.
The test for support is based on how well Albertans have been made aware of this partnership. From my perspective, there is no doubt that the benefits could go both ways. Albertans can provide the needed good or bad feedback on health and healthcare issues which our Minister of Health needs to hear and take forward to the HCC; and in turn, this is an opportunity for our Minister to engage Alberta’s patients and consumers for their perspectives on provincial and national health issues and priorities, especially as the time is approaching for discussions regarding a new Health Accord. 

Key Words: Alberta, Health Council of Canada, Health Accord

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