January 16, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Urge federal leadership on health care, say doctors
Victoria, BC – As First Ministers meet in Victoria, Canadian Doctors for Medicare urges them to demand leadership on health care from the federal government.
“Federal leadership matters,” said Dr. Vanessa Brcic, board member of Canadian Doctors for Medicare. “Health care is about more than just dollars and cents. We are missing the opportunity to create a better, smarter health care system.”
The federal government recently announced that it would be switching to a per capita model of funding for provinces, and suggested that it would not be participating in a 2014 Health Accord. An Accord would provide national leadership on transforming health care across the country.
Their announcement also compromises the Canada Health Act, which was established to provide consistent access to care based on need, not ability to pay, from coast to coast to coast. But the federal government’s recent announcement moves Canada backwards from these principles by allowing care to differ province by province.
“If the federal government is not going to stand up for the Canada Health Act, they should tell us now, instead of hiding behind a chequebook,” said Dr. Brcic. “Our First Ministers should demand better of the federal government.”
Don’t Walk Away: Why Federal Leadership on Health Care Matters
With its recent announcement on health transfers, the federal government has declared that it plans to cut a cheque, and then just walk away from its responsibilities for health care in Canada.
Canadians expect better from our federal government. We want to know that our health care system will be there for us, providing access to quality care based on need and not ability to pay, from coast to coast to coast. We cherish our health care system, but we also know that it needs real change. Abandoning leadership is not the way to make our health care system better, and it contradicts the values of Canadians.
Missed Opportunity for ChangeThe 2004 accord took on the wait times problem and looked forward to a national pharmacare plan. The 2014 Health Accord was an opportunity to build on those ideas, and look for new ways to improve our health care system. But not if the federal government suspends the process, and walks away from the table with a funding commitment but no plans for reform.
Health care is about more than dollars and cents. And our country is more than a collection of provinces. There is a federal role in health care. It helps to ensure that Canadians can count on quality care wherever they live, and wherever they travel. Federal leadership can help identify smart innovations in Canada, and scale them up across the country so that our best practices are not limited to isolated interventions in a single hospital or clinic.
Without a federal partner we will be even farther from meeting the goals of the 2004 Health Accord, establishing badly needed national public pharmacare and home care programs that would save money and provide better care for Canadians. And we won’t get the 2014 Health Accord that supports the continued to transformation our health care system.
The Canada Health Act
Federal leadership in health care was critical to resolving the crises that almost destroyed out health care system. When provinces began levying user fees on health care, the right of every Canadian to access care, across the country, based on need, not ability to pay, was threatened.
The Canada Health Act was established to uphold the principles of universality, accessibility, comprehensiveness, public administration and portability, and it wasunanimously agreed upon by all members of Parliament in 1984. There’s a reason Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney, Ed Broadbent, Bob Rae and Joe Clark all voted the same way on the Canada Health Act. Because they all knew that Canada needs federal leadership in health care. The current government should heed their advice.
And if the federal government is not going to stand up for the Canada Health Act, they should tell us now, instead of hiding behind a chequebook.
The CHA also brought an end to user fees and extra billing, and it’s the federal government’s role to ensure that these practices are stopped. Without the federal government enforcing the Canada Health Act, there is nothing to stop provincial governments from choosing to increase privatization, and create the two-tier systems that Canadians have rejected, time and time again.
Private, for-profit clinics are flourishing across the country, and with the federal government walking away from its responsibilities, we can only expect it to get worse.
We know that for-profit delivery means that doctors see fewer patients, and most of those patients are healthier and wealthier than those receiving publicly-delivered care.And for-profits don’t go where they can’t make money. They’re not likely to serve rural and remote areas, Aboriginal communities, marginalized urban populations, or the sickest folks, who need chronic or emergency care. That’s a lot of Canadians left out of the picture.
The evidence also shows that for-profits have worse patient outcomes, and that they order more unnecessary tests and procedures, at the taxpayer’s expense.
The federal government is moving us backwards by stepping away from the 2014 Accord. Without national leadership, the quality and levels of service of your health care is going to depend on who’s in charge of your province, not on the universal health care system we expect to be there for us across Canada.
The switch to per capita funding will also dramatically increase inequality between the provinces. Originally, cash transfers were distributed on a formula that ensured that all provinces could meet national standards without the burden being more onerous on some than on others. A straight per capita tax transfer was seen as unfair because provinces with fewer resources would carry a heavier burden than more wealthy provinces. The same would hold true today.
Read the BC Health Coalition's press release "Public health care advocates to premiers: Now is the time for leadership to renew and strengthen Medicare"
For more information:
Alissa Von Bargen, Project Manager