It’s the last meeting of the provincial Premiers before the 10-year 2004 health accord expires. With the expiry of that accord, so too goes any concerted effort to implement a national strategy to fix health care.
July 24-25 the Premiers will get together at Niagara-on-the-Lake. We’ll be there too alongside community and labour representatives from across Canada gathered to send a united message that a public health strategy is essential to address the changing needs of our nation.
In fact, with no accord past 2014, there won’t be national targets for such issues as wait times, emergency room access, or coverage for catastrophic drug costs. Nor will the Health Council of Canada be in existence to monitor those targets. The Harper government has already said the Health Council will be dismantled with the end of the accord.
Details re Toronto Region 5 bus to the rally at right.
While the Federal government is the fifth largest direct provider of public health care in Canada, they oddly don’t think they have a place at the table when it comes to deciding how to best support the health needs of everyone in this country.
Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty has told the provinces they will continue to get six per cent increases in federal health transfers until after the next election. Then the funding will slide up and down with the economy – essentially reducing funding at precisely the moments when it is most needed.
Our Medicare system is basically the same one that came into being in 1966. It’s heavily focused on acute care delivery – the definition of essential health care mostly confined to doctors and hospitals.
The reality is our population is aging and health care needs are changing. So are the places from which health care is delivered. We have great need for better chronic and long-term care. We need to move beyond the patchwork systems of home care, something former Royal Commissioner Roy Romanow called the next essential service. This spring the movement for universal public drug coverage has been gathering steam as the analysis shows that Pharmacare could save billions of dollars in health care costs. Last year a national mental health strategy was unveiled — it will take considerable political will to get it implemented.
The Council of Canadians is asking you to share your experiences with the Medicare system by making a video and uploading it to their YouTube channel.
It doesn’t have to be polished – just sincere.
The Council is not just looking for stories where the system has failed, but also where our public system has succeeded. For many Canadians our public system continues to save lives and improve quality of life.
The goal is to make the system work for all Canadians and to protect and improve the quality of care.
The video stories are being collected in the run up to this summer’s meeting of the Council of the Federation – the last get together of the provincial Premiers before the 10-year 2004 health accord with the federal government expires. (See activist’s calendar at right).
This month the government announced 900 new nursing positions to come from their 2007 commitment to 9,000 new nurses for the health system. Among them are 144 nurses who will go into the schools to support early identification and intervention of students with potential mental health and/or addictions issues. The nurses will assess and develop plans of care, provide direct service for mild cases, and offer support and referral for more complex issues. What’s particularly interesting about this initiative is these nurses will be working directly for the Community Care Access Centres, the first new hires to provide direct care since Bob Rae was in the Premier’s seat. When Mike Harris changed the NDP’s multi-service agencies into the CCACs, he insisted that a strict purchaser-provider split exist, hoping to divest all direct care workers to private agencies. He never entirely succeeded – OPSEU still represents CCAC home care therapists that were supposed to be divested by 1998. The fact that the government has placed these nurses into the employ of the CCAC is a hopeful sign that the terrible Harris-era competitive bidding process may quietly be coming to an end. While Deb Matthews publicly said competitive bidding would return, OPSEU members are telling us the agency contracts are all being extended again.
Merging surgical departments in Windsor
A zero base budget for hospitals is forcing many administrators to look at novel ways to make ends meet. In Windsor much has been made about Finance Minister Dwight Duncan’s proposal for a very expensive mega-hospital, however, the two hospitals are looking at integration options that might save money in the meantime. Windsor Hotel Dieu is pushing for greater coordination of surgical departments with the Windsor Regional Hospital. Facing a $700,000 operating room budget deficit, Dieu is hoping costs could be saved by having the two hospitals move into even greater specialization than currently exists. Dieu presently specializes in trauma and neurosurgery while WRH does most of the pediatric surgeries. WRH CEO David Musyj told the Windsor Star he was cautious — concerned that Hotel Dieu’s financial problems could put more pressure on his 11 operating rooms.
Harper attacks Council of Canadians
Our friends at the Council of Canadians are under attack by the Harper government for encouraging Canadians to overturn elections of seven Tories elected in ridings involved in the so-called robocall scandal. According to the Ottawa Citizen, the Federal Tories hope to overturn lawsuits that seek new elections in the ridings. The Tories are basing their bid to throw out the lawsuits on an obscure and ancient legal prohibition against “champerty and maintenance,” which the Citizen describes as “meddling in another party’s lawsuit to share in the proceeds.” While the Council of Canadians would not stand to gain anything monetarily from the actions, the Tories highlight a Council fundraising campaign that notes the challenge among its work. Of course the Tories have no problems with right-wing organizations, many with American funding, helping to litigate against such left-wing institutions as Medicare. That includes the Canadian Constitution Foundation, an extreme right-wing group based in Alberta that supported Lindsay McCreith and Shona Holmes in their 2007 case intended to open up Ontario to two-tier private health insurance. While the CCF doesn’t say where their money comes from, they do specifically note on their website that they have charitable status with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. Like the Council of Canadians, the CCF lists its McCreith/Holmes case as among the worthy activities it undertakes to solicit donations.