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Canada’s Health Care System is No Longer Portable

On Monday, the Health Council of Canada (HCC) released a new report which rates Canada’s health care system by comparing it to nine other developed countries. The HCC sent out surveys to physicians throughout Canada and the nine other countries and asked primary care physicians to rate the system.

Canada doesn’t do very well in this survey and we’re shown to be below the average of these selected developed countries, in some cases by a far margin.

The differences between provinces include:

– In Ontario, 67 per cent of primary care physicians say that their patients can see a physician or nurse when their practice is closed, other than having to visit a hospital emergency department.Only 25 per cent of physicians can say the same in Manitoba.

– Twenty-six per cent of physicians in New Brunswick use electronic medical records compared to 74 per cent in Alberta.

– Seventy per cent of physicians in British Columbia say they make home visits, while only 38 per cent offer this service in Saskatchewan.

– Sixty-two per cent of physicians in British Columbia say most or almost all of their patients can get a same-day or next day appointment. Only 22 per cent of physicians in Quebec can say the same. Perhaps this is a result of Quebec’s doctors working simultaneously in the public and private health care systems (my suggestion, this is not written in the report).

– Fifty-one per cent of Physicians in New Brunswick say their patients often experience difficulty paying for medications or other out-of-pocket costs. Only 17 per cent of physicians in Quebec have the same concern for their patients. Perhaps this is a result of Quebec’s mandatory pharmacare program . **Again, this is my suggestion. This is not written in the report**.

– Sixty-two per cent of  Quebec’s primary care physicians say their patients often experience difficulty getting specialized diagnostic tests. Only 19 per cent say the same in Ontario.

There’s more, but I’ll leave you to read the report for yourself. You can find the report here.

What I take away from the HCC’s findings is that health care in Canada is no longer universal. The Canadian Health Care systems are built on criteria that are suppose to ensure portability. But it’s clear to physicians that you cannot travel from one Canadian province to another and be guaranteed the same quality of care.

There are solutions to this, but it involves the participation and, dare I say, leadership of the federal government. We have an opportunity with the upcoming 2014 Health Accord to recommit to our value that every Canadian be able to access the same high quality of care regardless of where they live in Canada or the money that’s in their wallet. But we are losing the systems upon which those values were built. This report reflects that reality. We once again need to fight to save medicare. 2014 is less than a year away.