MDs want 'patient-centred' system

Source: Ottawa Citizen

Canadian doctors and their patients are counting on federal and provincial political leaders to provide the "leadership" needed to finally reform the health-care system and ensure it has national standards, says the country's top physician.

Dr. John Haggie, president of the Canadian Medical Association, made the comment Thursday. His group, which represents the nation's doctors, has been at the forefront in gauging public sentiment on how medicare needs improvement.

Now, with medicare re-emerging as a hot political issue, the CMA is urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the premiers to lead a thorough review of the health-care system as a 2004 accord comes up for renewal.

What's needed now from the federal and provincial politicians is clear, said Haggie.

"Leadership and collaboration. And a will to look at the system so it's changed, it's transformed. Not tinkered with around the edges. So at the end of the day, it delivers what Canadians need."

He said that medicare is actually composed of 14 systems - one delivered by each of the provinces, territories and federal government.

"One of the things Canadians told us was that equity was a big deal for them," said Haggie.

He said Canadians understand that in a country as large as Canada, it's hard to achieve similar standards.

"But in broadly similar communities with broadly similar problems, you should get pretty well the same standard of care - whether you're in Victoria, B.C. or in a comparable city, say, in Newfoundland or Nova Scotia. And that doesn't necessarily seem to be the case."

Premiers are holding a key meeting in Victoria Jan. 16-17 where they will discuss the health-care system and the federal government's financial contributions.

In December, the Harper government surprised the provinces by unveiling a non-negotiable long-term funding plan that falls short of what some provinces had hoped for.

Federal health-care transfers will continue to increase by six per cent until 2016-17. After that, increases will only be tied to economic growth including inflation - currently roughly four per cent - and never fall below three per cent.

Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq has told her provincial counterparts she is prepared to "re-engage" in 2012 - including working on a common plan to measure how well the health system is performing.

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