Canada’s Health Accord

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Image source: http://www.abta.org/

BY ALLISON BROWN

I continue to be grateful for the opportunity to share my thoughts about healthcare with the many readers of the Toronto Caribbean Newspaper.  I recently became aware that one of my closest friends of almost thirty years, reads my articles as well as her mom.  I want to dedicate this article to Evelyn Stewart and her mom Mrs. T Ross.

Over the past few weeks provincial and territorial health ministers with their federal counterpart Health Minister Jane Philpott met to discuss the future of a new national health accord.  The health accord will include federal health payments to provinces and territories of three per cent down from six percent as well as conditions to guarantee those health payments cannot be used for for-profit care delivery.  There will be increased funding for home care.  The inaugural health accord was negotiated in 2004 by former Prime Minister Paul Martin.  It expired in 2014 and the then Prime Minister Harper did not negotiate a new deal.

There is an opportunity to incorporate a national pharmacare program into the accord.  I would go as far as saying that there should be some collaboration with the other federal governmental departments.  I see a tremendous opportunity for an eldercare strategy that has a focus on dementia. 

If all the ministers wove the theme of healthcare within their mandates, I believe we would have a holistic health accord.  One that encompasses an affordable housing strategy as well as one that looks at equitable health care in regards to Aboriginal health and the environment. 

Governments are bureaucratic and often function in silos.  Often the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing.  Governments need to be more transparent. One of the areas of contention of the new accord is the transfer payment amount of 6% to 3%.  Healthcare is extremely expensive.  In 2015, total health expenditure in Canada was $219.1 billion, or $6,105 per person. It is anticipated that, overall, health spending will represent 10.9% of Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP).

The government needs to think innovatively about the healthcare system.  We need to come up with creative solutions to address some of our health care issues.  If transfer payments are going to be reduced, the question must then be how can this nation get value and quality healthcare for our hard-earned tax dollars?

It may mean looking to other nations and borrowing some of their strategies, programs, and thinking around healthcare.  I am a big believer in working smart and leveraging what others are doing or have done in the past that has provided positive health outcomes.

I truly hope that the provincial and territorial ministers and Ms. Philpott seize an opportunity to disrupt and innovate our healthcare system.  I would have liked to have seen the Aboriginal leaders at the table so that their voices would have been heard equally.  Voices that are not at the table are absent voices, the very voices that could have the solution to the issues at hand.

Ms. Philpott came out over the past couple of weeks and stated that other countries in the world are getting much more value for healthcare dollars, and that allocated healthcare dollars must be earmarked for healthcare issues.

With the new accord, I am sure there will be much more accountabilities attached to healthcare dollars, and rightly so.  Our population is aging, mental illness is on the rise, the cost of medication is rising and egregious differences in Aboriginal health are serious issues that must be addressed now and in the long term.  How will this accord provide sustainable funding so that we can have a healthcare system that addresses the needs of those that have contributed and built this nation as well as the generations to come?  Questions that Ms. Philpott and the various ministers will need to address in the weeks to come.

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