Fail­ing our most vul­ner­a­ble

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - EDI­TO­RIAL - BY DR. GRANGER AV­ERY GUEST OPIN­ION Dr. Granger Av­ery is pres­i­dent, Cana­dian Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion

An open let­ter to the Prime Min­is­ter and Canada’s Premiers:

2017 is a year like no other. As we cel­e­brate our coun­try’s anniversary, and think about our his­tory and achieve­ments over the past 150 years, we can’t help but be filled with pride. We also ac­knowl­edge some of our fail­ings, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to our re­la­tion­ship with, and ser­vice to, In­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties.

Our health care sys­tem is a defin­ing part of the Cana­dian story. But as our sys­tem faces un­prece­dented pres­sures - the ag­ing of our pop­u­la­tion, for ex­am­ple – it is es­sen­tial that we take the op­por­tu­nity of our sesqui­cen­ten­nial to dis­cuss po­ten­tial so­lu­tions for the fu­ture.

Since the last meet­ing of the Coun­cil of the Fed­er­a­tion, much of the dis­cus­sion on health and health care has been fo­cused on dol­lars and per­cent­ages. Un­der­stand­ably, prov­inces and ter­ri­to­ries are strug­gling to keep up with the ris­ing costs of the cur­rent sys­tem, and the fed­eral govern­ment can­not be an un­lim­ited source of fund­ing.

The end prod­uct of these dis­cus­sions was a patch­work of bi­lat­eral health fi­nanc­ing deals, with one prov­ince hold­ing out, and no na­tional plan. Since then, there’s been lim­ited ac­tion - no sig­na­tures on the dot­ted line and no sig­nif­i­cant de­bate on the fu­ture state of our health care sys­tem.

The state of our sys­tem is wor­ri­some, even fright­en­ing. Ev­ery day, we hear sto­ries on how we’ve failed our most vul­ner­a­ble, in­clud­ing our se­niors, In­dige­nous peo­ple, those with ad­dic­tion dis­or­ders. With our ag­ing pop­u­la­tion, we need to plan now to pro­vide our se­niors with the care they need. This means, for ex­am­ple, in­vest­ing in res­i­den­tial care in­fra­struc­ture and rec­og­niz­ing the role of care­givers, es­sen­tial and parts of our sup­port sys­tem. Each day, our hos­pi­tals are filled to the brim with pa­tients - many in hall­ways and wait­ing rooms - who de­serve bet­ter and more re­spect­ful treat­ment. Each day, we - physi­cians, nurses and all those work­ing on the front line - do our best to ful­fill our duty and of­fer the best care we can de­spite the fail­ings of our sys­tem.

And so if the fo­cus is to re­main on money and per­cent­ages, then let’s talk about how we should be spend­ing our health care dol­lars dif­fer­ently. Why is some­one wait­ing in a hos­pi­tal bed at a cost of $842 per day when we could be pro­vid­ing long-term care beds for $126 per day or home care for $42 per day?

We all know and rec­og­nize that our sys­tem is not sus­tain­able and that much has to change. We need the lead­ers of our great coun­try to guide the way - to unite with the pro­fes­sion­als, the uni­ver­si­ties, the health care man­agers and the peo­ple to work to­gether to de­sign and man­age a na­tional vi­sion for our health care sys­tem. A na­tional strat­egy on se­niors care could very well be the first step in that right di­rec­tion for trans­form­ing our most cher­ished so­cial pro­gram. Canada’s physi­cians are ready to play our part.

(Prime Min­is­ter Trudeau is ex­pected to meet with the premiers on Tues­day, July 18. The Al­berta meetings take place July 17-19. Part of the agenda will be dis­cus­sions on Canada’s health care sys­tem.)

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