Health Accord goals only half met

OTTAWA — It’s been seven years and billions of dollars, but Canada’s health-care system has only made incremental progress toward goals its own leaders set out for it with much fanfare in 2004.

OTTAWA — It’s been seven years and billions of dollars, but Canada’s health-care system has only made incremental progress toward goals its own leaders set out for it with much fanfare in 2004.

That’s the thinking of the Health Council of Canada, charged with evaluating progress on the 10-year, $41.3-billion health accord enacted in 2004.

At the time, the accord was called a “fix for a generation.”

It was meant to restore federal funding to a sufficient level and allow provincial and federal governments to cut back on wait times. It was also to provide round-the-clock access to health-care providers, create electronic records for everyone and improve drug coverage and home care.

But a new report to be released this week will show that even as decision-makers start putting together a new national plan for health care, their goals for the previous decade have been only half met.

“Our health-care system has come a long way since 2004, but there is still a lot of work to do to achieve the first ministers’ vision — indeed, the vision of all Canadians: A more accessible, higher quality and sustainable health-care system,” council chairman Jack Kitts told a senate committee just before the federal election campaign.

His testimony foreshadows the main conclusions expected to be released in a formal report on Tuesday, council officials say.

There has been some progress on wait times, Kitts said.

Governments have made wait times for certain procedures a priority, and have largely met the goals first ministers set out years ago, he said.

But the focus on certain procedures has had a troubling side-effect. Wait times in emergency departments seem to be growing, with no solution in sight, the council says in a report to the committee.

“To tackle emergency room waits, we need concerted action by governments and health authorities to improve access to care in the community,” the report says, calling for smoother transitions to long-term care and home care, especially for seniors.

The council warns that there is a “serious shortage” of health professionals that persists, even though governments have increased training and professional accreditation of foreign-educated professionals.

The problem is, there is little nationwide co-ordination or planning, so it’s hard to know who should be trained to do what.

Progress on providing home care is hampered by similar problems — a hodgepodge of publicly funded projects that has led to rapid growth of private agencies to fill in the gaps. That’s despite all governments’ commitments in 2004 to support home care.

The council sees some progress in primary health-care reform, but warns that Canada still lags behind other countries and has seen only a recent embrace of a team-based approach to providing primary health care to Canadians around the clock.

As for the promised goal of creating a national system of electronic health records, the council finds there has been recent progress, but not enough to make for an efficient countrywide network that would allow for e-prescribing.

“In the absence of continued federal funding, further progress will be in jeopardy,” the council warns. “And, until we have close to 100 per cent of clinicians using electronic medical records, the full benefit will not be realized.”

The council is more upbeat about a recent expansion of telehealth — telephone lines set up to offer advice and information.

But when it comes to evaluating progress on a national pharmaceutical strategy, the council sees very little to praise.

Some provinces have acted independently to address high costs of generic drugs, or copied each others’ initiatives. But co-operation needs to be national in order to have any oomph, the council says.

While the provinces say they are trying to work out a joint bulk-buying scheme that would bring down drug prices, the federal government has been largely non-committal.

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said last summer she was interested in the idea, but her spokesman Tim Vail would not answer any questions last week on the topic.

Indeed, the Conservatives have said very little about how they plan to handle health care in the future.

During the election campaign, Prime Minister Stephen Harper promised to maintain the six per cent annual increases in health transfers for at least two years after the 2014 funding arrangement expires. But he has not yet explained whether there will be any strings attached, or what will happen after the two years.

Aglukkaq’s spokesman confirms, however, that there will be a renewal of the health accord at some point.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says she has not received an official request from any other school board for a similar move to online learning. (Advocate file photo)
’Operational pressures:’ Calgary schools shift to at-home learning for grades 7 to 12

School boards can ask to move online for a number of reasons

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits the Coordination Center of the Russian Government in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. The centre was set up as a line of communication with the whole of Russia for analysing and collecting information, promptly using big data and solving arising problems. (Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Months after hack, US poised to announce sanctions on Russia

First retaliatory action against the Kremlin for last year’s hack

FILE - NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman speaks during the “Topping Off” ceremony of the New York Islanders new home, the UBS Arena at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y., Friday, Oct. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Mary Altaffer
Islanders close to selling out inaugural season at UBS Arena

Arena capacity of about 17,000 for hockey

An Uber Eats delivery person carries items near the Japan National Stadium, where opening ceremony and other events are planned for postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympics, with engravings in honor of 1964 Tokyo Olympics seen on the side of the stadium wall behind the fence Tuesday, April 6, 2021, in Tokyo. Two top officials of Japan’s ruling LDP party on Thursday, April 15, 2021, said radical changes could be coming to the Tokyo Olympics. One went as far to suggest they still could be canceled, and the other that even if they proceed, it might be without any fans.(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Officials say Olympic cancellation, no fans still an option

COVID-19 cases have been rising across Japan

FILE - In this Jan. 24, 2020 file photo, co-directors Jim LeBrecht, left, and Nicole Newnham, center, from the documentary “Crip Camp” pose with film subject Judith Heumann during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The disabled have a moment in the Oscar spotlight that they hope becomes a movement. LeBrecht, who has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair, says a golden age for disabled films could come if Hollywood lets them tell their own stories. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP, File)
The disabled hope their Oscar moment can become a movement

Traditionally the disabled appear only when an actor seeking an Oscar-worthy role plays one on screen

FILE - Diane Warren poses for a portrait at the 90th Academy Awards Nominees Luncheon on Feb. 5, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif. Warren is nominated for an Oscar for best original song for her work in “The Life Ahead” starring Sophia Loren. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)
12-time Oscar nominee Diane Warren hopes for ‘awesome’ win

Third movie adaptation of the 1975 Romain Gary novel ‘The Life Before Us’

opinion
Opinion: Waiting 4 months between vaccine doses too long

“It’s not just a matter of potency, it’s a matter of the… Continue reading

Richie Laryea of Toronto FC, left, and Jean Meneses of Mexico's Leon battle for the ball during a CONCACAF Champions League soccer match in Leon, Mexico, in Leon, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. Toronto FC hosts Club Leon in the second leg of their Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League round-of-16 tie holding a valuable away goal after a 1-1 draw last week in Mexico. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mario Armas
Injury-riddled Toronto FC dispatches Club Leon in CONCACAF Champions League play

Injury-riddled Toronto FC dispatches Club Leon in CONCACAF Champions League play

Winnipeg Jets' Dylan DeMelo (2) skates the puck around Ottawa Senators' Thomas Chabot (72) as he holds off Winnipeg Jets' Mason Appleton (22) during first-period NHL action in Ottawa on Wednesday, April 14, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Winnipeg Jets score two third-period goals to secure 3-2 victory over Ottawa Senators

Winnipeg Jets score two third-period goals to secure 3-2 victory over Ottawa Senators

Toronto Raptors forward Chris Boucher (25) shoots over San Antonio Spurs forward Keldon Johnson (3) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Anunoby, Siakam rally Raptors past Spurs 117-112

Anunoby, Siakam rally Raptors past Spurs 117-112

Most Read