By Bradley Bouzane
November 30, 2011
The former Saskatchewan premier and chair of the 2002 Commission on the Future of Health Care said Canada's public health-care system maintains clear advantages over a privatized system, but insists more work is needed to provide more complete care.
"We must lay the groundwork now for including catastrophic drug costs, at least, and bring aspects of home care, long-term care and access to advanced diagnostic services — the areas of fastest rising costs — under the umbrella of public funding," Romanow told the symposium, which was organized by the Canadian Health Coalition.
"Otherwise, costs will continue to escalate — without restraint and with relentless abandonment of those in need."
He said that Canada's spending on prescription medication "now outpaces that of most other (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries."
In his speech Wednesday, Romanow also addressed the issue of lengthy wait times in Canada, saying that a strategy is needed to cut the delays.
This month, the OECD released a health report to gauge the efficiency of health systems around the world. It noted that Canada ranked among the worst of all OECD countries in terms of wait times.
Romanow's appearance at the symposium comes a week after the federal government and officials from the provinces and territories began talks on changes to the 2004 Health Accord, which is set to expire in 2014.
He said there are "two fundamentally competing visions" for how the future of health care in Canada will look. He said one view — that of a private system — sees health care as a "commodity," while insisting the public system is "grounded on the Canadian values of fairness, equity, compassion and collective action."
National expansion of community health centres — with the assistance of new money from the federal government — would be one method to improve upon the current Canadian system, Romanow said.
A national home-care strategy would also help alleviate some of the burden placed on hospitals, he said, by allowing more Canadians to receive treatment in their own homes instead of inside a hospital, when that level of monitoring is not always necessary.
Romanow also stressed the need for better integration of health-care providers at various levels in order to improve health-care delivery in Canada.
"We need to break down traditional barriers among health-care providers and reform the local delivery of health care through more efficient and effective integration."
He said maintaining the status quo for Canadian health care just won't cut it and said the system must evolve to deal with its current burdens.
"After all, we are not fighting to preserve a 1960s health-care system," he said. "We are fighting to build a modern and sustainable health-care system that meets today's needs."