Canada’s Health Care System: Facing an Aging Nation

Far too many Canadians believe that “Canada has the best health care system in the world.” The Commonwealth Institute in Washington D.C., a health care think-tank, conducted a survey in 2014 ranking the health care systems of 11 advanced countries.

The top health care system was that of the UK, while Canada ranked 10th; the United States ranked 11th. The UK and all the other countries that ranked above Canada and the USA – Switzerland, Sweden, Australia, Germany, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, France; have integrated private and public health care systems.

Our reluctance to review and reform our system of “one payer” (government) is not sustainable. The tail end of the Baby Boom generation turns 50 in 2015. The number of employed workers is declining, while the number of retirees (and users) is increasing.

Some weaknesses to address in our current system include:

  • Lack of timely access to diagnosis: emergency room backlogs, limits on the number of ailments to be discussed by doctors in any one patient appointment, etc.
  • Slow delivery of appropriate care: long wait times for those requiring joint replacement etc.
  • Inadequate planning for the coming bulge of seniors needing long term care beds; continued focus on acute care
  • Creation of large and unwieldy hospital complexes: excessive administration costs; likelihood of infection spreads
  • Lack of choice in the system: people can receive and pay for cosmetic surgery in Canada, but not major surgeries or joint replacements.  Medical tourism results.
  • Poor transparency and accountability on many fronts: Infection rates in hospitals, competency of various specialist surgeons, comparisons of cost of administration etc.
  • Lax regulations/laws, compliance and enforcement of rules covering patient care, disease and infection prevention and public safety
  • Insurance programs which cannot guarantee access to diagnosis or care:  programs which are of questionable value to policyholders
  • Mistrust of the whole idea of “private” health care. Yet the top nine countries have successful systems, which DO include private facilities, often paid for through insurance.
  • Pressure on governments to reduce ALL spending – including health

So the question up for further discussion is – can system changes start small and succeed?


Marie Howes

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