Canadian health care system fundamentally fractured

Canada’s public health system is fundamentally fractured and more needs to be done to provide people with the care they need when they need it, according to a “national dialogue” on health care involving the in-person and online input of thousands of Canadians.

The report, released Wednesday by Canada’s biggest doctors’ group, says the country’s cherished and “once proud” health system is eroding in the face of unacceptable wait times, crowded hospitals and a lack of doctors and other services.

“Without a doubt concerns about our health care system run deep,” says the Canadian Medical Association’s report: Voices Into Action.”We heard that there is a ‘moral imperative’ to fix the system, but that our biggest adversary is apathy.”

The report is the culmination of input received from nearly 1,500 Canadians who attended six public town halls, in Halifax, Toronto, Edmonton, Vancouver, La Prairie, Que. (the south shore of Montreal) and Ottawa, as well as more than 4,000 online comments.

Canadians spoke about the need for more timely access to care, the high cost of prescription drugs, hospital inefficiencies and inappropriate use of emergency departments.

No one spoke about the need for more money, said CMA president and Ottawa Hospital chief of staff Dr. Jeff Turnbull.

“Normally people just automatically say: ‘Just give us more money.’ That didn’t happen,” he said. “They said we need value for money, we need management, we need better delivery systems so that we’re accountable for health care.”

Turnbull said he was struck by just how strong and consistent support was for a publicly funded health system. “They recognized it was failing them, but universally everyone we spoke to said this health care system is important to us, we believe in it and we think that it can be fixed,” Turnbull told Postmedia News. “The huge support for a strong publicly funded health care system was very reassuring.”

Still, across the country, people spoke about “inordinate” waits in emergency departments, cancelled surgeries and not being able to access a primary care doctor. “We heard about people surprised they had to pay for long-term care, or who couldn’t get into long-term or home-based care,” Turnbull said.

“We heard passionate responses form patients saying, ‘My son has autism and I can’t pay for (treatment).’ People saying that ‘I can’t afford medications that would cure my illness.'”

Many said the Canada Health Act should be expanded in scope to include a national prescription drug plan and home care, as well as dental care, eye care, home care services, hospice care and alternative health care.

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