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Friday, September 20, 2013

Don’t Stand Idly By

Michael McBane is the National Coordinator of the Canadian Health Coalition.
The latest Health Council report on the state of health care in Canada is an important assessment of what worked in the 2004 Health Accord, what didn’t and where to go from here. In the report’s call for action, the Council outlines the irreplaceable role for the federal government: “the federal government should play a central role in providing funding to ensure a level of equity across Canada and continue to represent the fundamental ‘Canadian’ perspective through active participation in health system planning and policy development.”

On the eve of the expiry of the 2004 Health Accord, our health care system is at a critical juncture. The Harper government made it clear that there will be no new accord (or even a discussion). Instead of committing to appropriate levels of funding to meet the needs of a growing and aging population, the Harper government unilaterally announced a $60 billion cut to health transfers and equalization payments.

In keeping with its ‘cut and run’ approach to health care, the Harper government also cut the Health Council itself. When Harper doesn’t like the message, he kills the messenger.

The Harper plan will fragment the health care system into 14 separate systems. His goal is to eliminate national standards in health services and, as a consequence, access to care will depend largely on where you live. The only obstacle that stands in the way of Harper’s plan is the people of Canada.

During the annual premiers meeting in July, the CHC released a Nanos poll. Eight in ten Canadians said they want Prime Minister Harper to call a First Ministers’ Meeting to secure a plan for the future of health care in Canada. Four in ten Canadians stated they are likely to vote for another federal party if the one they currently support does not present a plan for the future of health care.

Federal funding of health care in Canada started out at 50% and will drop below 20% under Harper. The general consensus is that federal funding needs to be roughly 25% of health care expenditures in order to fulfill its essential role as guardian of national standards under the Canada Health Act, and in order to facilitate the transition to a more comprehensive system that meets the needs of an aging population.

Federal leadership is also essential to controlling costs (e.g. prescription drugs). Short term strategic federal investments are required in order to save billions down the road. The evidence shows that countries with higher public spending have better value for money and better health outcomes. The transformative change the Health Council is calling for won’t happen in the current federal leadership vacuum.

Federal government leadership is the glue that keeps national Medicare together.  Canadians must not stand idly by as Harper systematically dismantles it.

1 comment:

  1. Great post and I could not agree more! Healthcare is a federal and provincial matter and the 2 should work together.
    The 'greying' of Canadian society will lead to more users of the healthcare system with limited support below-fewer younger generations to pay into the system.
    The provincial and federal governments need to be proactive and put a plan in place to expand and create solutions to the current issues with healthcare; waitlists for routine surgeries, limited access to physicians and specialists, cost of medications, and limited clinic access. Citizens and residents of Canada should not go to the ER for a check-up, prescriptions or to be seen for routine procedures that can be addressed in a clinic or GP office.