New CMA president-elect looks to Scotland as model of improvement

Kingston’s Dr. Chris Simpson has been acclaimed president-elect of the Canadian Medical Association. His term as President begins August 2014.

Simpson is professor of medicine and chief of cardiology at Queen’s University as well as medical director of the Cardiac program at Kingston General Hospital and Hotel Dieu.

Simpson’s interest in health care policy is reflected in his BLOG which focusses on such issues as wait times, health human resources planning, and health care reform.

Critical over rising wait times towards the end of the 2004 Health Accord, Simpson is surprisingly frank: “The reasons are many but they essentially boil down to one indisputable truth: the money that was invested didn’t buy change. All we did was to make the numbers look a little better for a short time.”

In his BLOG he particularly looks at the achievements made in the Scottish Health System, suggesting our proximity to the United States makes it difficult to similarly modify our own system.

“By defining ourselves so negatively – as being whatever the United States isn’t – we have created a highly politicized environment that over-simplifies a complex problem, polarizes and dichotomizes an issue with multiple shades of grey, and marginalizes those who ask tough, sincere and intelligent questions,” he writes.

He notes the tools the Scots used were simple: “Collective will, benchmark setting, published results, and a little extra money in targeted areas (not much). There were no changes in governance or personnel.”

We should also point out that the Scots, as part of these reforms, also banned contracting out of so-called soft-services within their health services, such as food services and cleaning. The Scottish government is also fierce in the defense of its public system particularly in the wake of change south of the border in David Cameron’s England which facilitate more two-tier private health delivery.

“The dismantling of the NHS in England is very real indeed. Tory privatisation of the English health service is a dire situation for patients that will never be allowed to happen in Scotland while the SNP (Scottish National Party) are in office,” a government member of the Scottish Parliament told the media back in April.

The question is, will Simpson be willing to acknowledge improvements in Scotland’s health system also owe something to their willingness to support public health care delivery?

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