‘Fractured’ health care system is failing Canadians, report finds

TheGlobeandMail.com – life/health/new-health/health-news
Published Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011.   Gloria Galloway – Ottawa

The majority of participants in a year-long public consultation on the health system said Canadians are not getting good value for their money and patients are still waiting too long for the care that they need.

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) released its study, Voices Into Action, on Wednesday morning. It contains the findings of the national dialogue which the association initiated last August via a website that solicited opinions about health care and public forums in six different cities.

A large number of Canadians told the CMA they believe health care is “in distress.”

Canadians want good value for their health care dollars, says the report. The participants defined “value” as timely access to appropriate and needed medical services as well as a system that is transparent and accountable.

But “the health care system is fractured to such a degree that it is, in some ways, a system in name only,” says the report. “ From the perspective of the patient as a consumer of health care, it does a poor job of transitioning patients from one level of care to another. It does not provide patient-centred care — the care people need when they need it.”

The current system, says the report, is failing Canadians, especially vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly, aboriginal people and those who live in rural parts of the country.

CMA President Dr. Jeff Turnbull noted that Canadians cherish medicare and support a strong, publicly funded health-care system.

“The debate seems to be less about public versus private funding than about how the public sector could work effectively with the private sector to create a better, more efficient health care system,” says the report.

There was a general agreement that the principles of the Canada Health act need to be preserved and protected but many participants said it should be expanded to include such things as pharmacare, dental care, eye care, long-term care, home care, alternative medicine and hospice care.

Many of the more than 4,000 people who commented online and those who turned out to the forums said they wanted to see money reallocated from administration to front-line providers.

Some said they would do away with a fee-for-service system of paying family doctors in favour of salaried positions and more comprehensive family health teams.

A few of the participants complained about the high cost of prescription drugs and some wanted more electronic health records that could be accessed by both patients and doctors.

Some argued that there should be a “healthy people policy” and said physicians are not taking the time to educate their patients.

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