Our health-care system can do better
THE SPECTATOR’S VIEW
As proud as most Canadians are of their public healthcare system many of us realize it could, with some effort, be even better.
Alarmingly, a comprehensive new report from south of the border indicates the room for improvement and the need for it to happen are both enormous. After a study of 11 wealthy countries, Canada was awarded the dismal ranking of ninth place by the Commonwealth Fund, an American research foundation.
Only France and, perhaps predictably, the United States finished lower than us. And when it came to people’s access to health care, Canada was judged the second worst in the developed world because of its lengthy waits for everything from primary care to emergency treatment, elective surgery and long-term care.
Absorb those words: Second worst in the developed world. Maybe we have less to be proud of than our politicians tell us.
The Commonwealth Fund report wasn’t dashed off on the back of an envelope after a morning meeting. It is an exhaustive compilation of information that comes from Commonwealth Fund surveys and groups such as the World Health Organization and Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. The 11 countries were graded according to 72 measurements that were grouped into five categories: care process, access, administrative efficiency, equity and health-care outcomes.
When it came to care process and administrative efficiency, Canada finished in sixth place or the middle of the pack. And there is comfort in knowing Canadians receive very good medical care — once they can finally get it. But in the category of health-care outcomes, we were ninth. Canada’s infant-mortality rate was 4.8 deaths for every 1,000 live births, the worst showing next to the U.S. Meanwhile, 16 per cent of Canadian adults reported having two of five common chronic conditions. Once again, only America was ranked lower.
This study leaves many tough questions to be answered. One of the hardest is: Why don’t we get a bigger bang for our health-care bucks?
While Canada spent the equivalent of 10 per cent of its gross domestic product on health care in 2014, it was dramatically outperformed by Britain, Australia, Norway and New Zealand, which all spent less. These countries were respectively ranked first, second and tied for fourth. How do they do it?
For too long, Canadians have been content to favourably compare themselves with the Americans who grapple with an ultraexpensive, but problem-plagued, health-care system.
It’s time to look at and learn from other countries such as Britain and Australia. It’s not necessarily how much you spend or how people pay that matters, it’s how you deliver that counts. Canada has a long way to go in what it delivers — a deficiency our federal and provincial leaders must fix.