A vision for high-quality health care

Posted on December 2, 2011 in Health Delivery System

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TheGlobeandMail.com – partners/sif – A Special Information Feature Brought To You By The Canadian Medical Association (CMA)
Published Thursday, Nov. 24, 2011. Last updated Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011

Poll results show public support for principles to inform new health accord

With a goal of ensuring Canadians will have the best health and the best health care in the world by 2025, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) are spearheading a drive to transform health care for the better when the current health accord expires in 2014.

Armed with the results of a new Canada-wide public opinion poll that shows overwhelming support for the key aspects of a set of jointly agreed principles as the basis for a new health accord, the two organizations are calling for a high-quality health care system that is universal, equitable, sustainable and truly centred on the needs of patients.

CMA president John Haggie says while the 2004 Health Accord resolved the issue of stable and predictable funding; the system now needs a major overhaul.

“Anything you do now without a systematic transformational approach will just be tinkering,” says Dr. Haggie. “The system evolved from a different era with a different paradigm of health care focused mainly on acute care. But now 80 per cent of the disease burden in Canada is chronic disease management and the system of acute care management, does not fit any longer.”

CNA president Judith Shamian agrees.

“The 2004 health accord made some progress on some of the issues, but we are nowhere near achieving the transformation of health care in Canada that we need to make sure that Canadians are healthier tomorrow than they are today,” says Dr. Shamian.

Right now, she says, Canada is heading in the wrong direction; health care outcomes are worse in 2011 than they were 20 years ago compared to some other countries. For example, Dr. Shamian points out that Canada ranked 10th among OECD countries for infant mortality in 1982. In 2008, the country was ranked 27th out of 34 OECD member states.

Former Quebec Minister of Health and Social Services Philippe Couillard says Canada needs to create an environment that better supports people and organizations operating in the health care sector to provide better service, safety, quality, access and patient experience.

Dr. Haggie believes that how Canada’s health care dollars are spent is more important than the size of the budget. He points out that Canada spends close to $200 billion a year on health care, which puts the country’s health care spending fifth among OECD countries as a percentage of GDP. However, Canada ranks only 27th in the OECD when it comes to the efficient use of its health care budget.

“That’s a huge gap, so it may not be a question of spending more, but just not letting costs rise by gaining efficiencies and doing things better, getting better value by spending health care money closer to the patient and focusing on patient-centred care,” he says.

The CMA-CNA principles call for an equitable and accountable patient-centred health care system focused on quality and incorporating health promotion and illness prevention.

For Dr. Shamian, that means a system that measures outcomes rather than outputs and one that brings teams of practitioners together to meet the needs of patients. It also means looking beyond just the health care system to ensure a healthy population.

“We need to see health care as part of a larger system,” she says. “We can have the best health care in the world, but if we don’t deal with the challenges that lead to health issues such as homelessness and poverty, we will not achieve the outcomes we are looking for.”

Dr. Haggie says the latest poll results underscore support for health care transformation.

“For example, more than three-quarters of respondents said improving the health care system should be the federal government’s top priority. Nothing scored higher. And 85 per cent said our six principles should be adopted as part of the discussions on a new health accord between the federal government and the provinces,” says Dr. Haggie.

The “acid test,” he adds, is how policy-makers will respond to calls for health care transformation.

“The broadly endorsed principles on health care transformation are the standards that Canadians can use to determine if our elected officials have developed a new health accord that will create a patient-centred health care system,” says Dr. Haggie. “Canadians have told us clearly that is what they want. It is now up to our politicians to respond.”


The CMA is the national voice of Canadian physicians. Founded in 1867, the CMA’s mission is to serve and unite the physicians of Canada and be the national advocate, in partnership with the people of Canada, for the highest standards of health and health care. On behalf of its more than 75,000 members and the Canadian public, the CMA performs a wide variety of functions. Key functions include advocating for health promotion and disease/injury prevention policies and strategies, advocating for access to quality health care, facilitating change within the medical profession, and providing leadership and guidance to physicians to help them influence, manage and adapt to changes in health care delivery.

*Statistics are drawn from a recent, nationally representative telephone survey commissioned by the Canadian Medical Association and Canadian Nurses Association that asked 1,001 Canadians, 18 years of age and older their views on health and health care.


A recent, nationally representative telephone survey commissioned by the Canadian Medical Association and Canadian Nurses Association that asked 1,001 Canadians, 18 years of age and older their views on health and health care. Here are the highlights:

Health care is seen as the most important priority for the Government of Canada.

of Canadians feel it is important that the CMA/CNA principles be adopted as part of the 2014 Health Accord discussions.

support a national strategy to address the needs of our aging population (e.g., through increased home care and long-term care), even if this increases our taxes or increases our debt/deficit levels.

of Canadians feel quality of the health care services remains the most important aspect of the system.

of Canadians feel the quality of the health care system has deteriorated over the past two years.

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