The Edmonton Journal published my opinion editorial about health care funding on Friday, January 6. The print version uses the title: Front-line suggestions can reform health care, while the online version uses the title: Number-crunching overshadows health-care efficiency. Together, the two titles sum up the essence of the article.
In an October meeting of federal and provincial/territorial health ministers to update the Health Accord, which expired in 2014, health ministers rejected the federal government’s proposal to reduce health transfer payments and provide new investment in home care. At its December meeting, the federal government offered provincial/territorial governments a 3.5 percent increase in transfer payments along with funds designated for home care and mental health services. Apparently, some ministers didn’t appreciate having “strings attached” to the federal funds and rejected the offer. Others returned to negotiate on behalf of their own provinces.
I respectfully wonder if the ministers reviewed submissions by medical, nursing and other health groups, or the Senate Committee report, Time for Transformative Change prior to their meetings. The documents reinforce the need for better integration of health care services, consistency of home care, end-of-life care and continuing care services across the country, better access to mental health services, improvements in aboriginal health and above all , sustainability of the system. The Senate report recommends that any further funding changes promote change and transformation of the system rather than maintaining the status quo.
It calls for new models of remuneration that allow health professionals to work together on primary care teams. The Canadian Nurses Association reports that programs led by nurses are making health care more accessible, supporting persons at greatest risk for poor health, providing continuity of care and enabling persons with chronic health conditions live in the community, and thereby, decreasing visits to emergency departments and admissions to hospitals.
Transformation of health care in Canada requires greater accountability for health care spending and more efficient use of financial and professional resources. It also requires a willingness of politicians and stakeholders to work together to ensure that health care is meeting the needs of all Canadians.