Canada’s Healthcare System

Canadians say that proper funding and management of our health care system should be our number one priority. And elections in Canada are won or lost on what the politicians say about our health care system.

According to the Health Canada website, the Canada Health Act contains nine requirements that the provinces and territories must meet in order to qualify for the full federal cash contributions. Out of these nine criteria, five are program criteria about which we hear a lot. These five criteria require that our health care:
-should be publicly administered on a non-profit basis
-should be comprehensive and must insure all insured health services
-should be universal, all insured residents of a province or territory must be entitled to the insured health services
-should be portable, residents moving from one province or territory to another must continue to be covered for insured health care services
-should be accessible, so that the residents have reasonable access to insured services

How much does it cost to run this huge enterprise?

Total health expenditures in 2000-2001 amounted to $3,174 per capita. Currently, I believe, it costs $120 billion a year to run this big enterprise.

For $120 billion a year we should have a perfect system. But we don’t. It is one of the best in the world but it is not perfect. Is it ever going to be perfect? Definitely not. Nothing is perfect.

So, what ails our health care system? Why it cannot be perfect?

Waiting times are too long – but what does it mean? Nobody has defined this issue yet! Drugs are too expensive – but is there a reasonable plan to curtail the cost? Emergency departments are too crowded. So, how can we fix this? Do we need more ER doctors or nurses or more ER departments? Nobody has figured it out yet.

There is shortage of doctors and nurses and other health care providers but no plans to immediately provide a remedy. There are 4000 international medical graduates who are looking for work. They are allowed to come into this country but there are no plans to absorb them into our system. We cannot use their skills and education. They serve this country by delivering pizzas and driving taxis – not to mention doing other non-medical jobs.

There are inadequate Home Care services. There is shortage of medical equipment. There is shortage of acute and long term care beds.

When Paul Martin became Prime Minister, he promised to fix the health care system for a generation. He called the First Ministers conference and offered them some money – $41.3 billion in new federal funding over 10 years.

Is this going to fix the problems for a generation?

Of course not. Nothing is ever fixed permanently. You have to keep working at it. Our health care system is like a big jigsaw puzzle – you have to have all the pieces in place for the system to work properly. Unfortunately, some pieces are bigger than others so all the pieces will never be in place at the same time.

What do the Canadians think? They are torn between reality and perception. “They say the system is crumbling but are largely happy with their experiences when they use it,” says an editorial in the Medical Post.

Finally, the health care system will never be a perfect system as long as the provinces and the federal government play politics with it.

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