Doctors and medicare

TheStar.com – Opinion/Editorial
Published On Fri Aug 27 2010.

Change is in the air at the Canadian Medical Association. And it is a breath of fresh air.

After so many years of CMA presidents uttering unhelpful shibboleths about the panaceas of privatization, it’s refreshing to hear the incoming head of Canada’s doctors’ association offering a constructive diagnosis of what ails the system — and prescribing proven remedies.

In his inaugural speech this week, Dr. Jeff Turnbull reminded his fellow physicians of the enormous challenges facing Canada’s health-care system even as medicare has receded from the political agenda. It’s not just the added burden of a rapidly aging population, but the inequities and inefficiencies that still plague a system that is not as good as it can be.

Canadians love the idea of medicare, but they know it falls short of its ideals. The quick fixes that have been proposed in the past — big cuts, massive funding increases or widespread privatization — won’t work magic. Changing the way the system works is the way to go.

“It’s not a lack of resources,” Turnbull argued. “It’s a glaring failure of execution.”

Doctors have traditionally been reluctant to give up authority and to share leadership with other health-care workers, such as nurse practitioners. By putting the accent on innovation and cooperation, Turnbull has signalled Canada’s doctors are open to new ways of restoring medicare to good health.

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