Call for re­view of N.L.’s health-care sys­tem re­newed

Med­i­cal as­so­ci­a­tion says cur­rent sit­u­a­tion is not sus­tain­able

The Labradorian - - FRONT PAGE - BY LOUIS POWER

Chang­ing de­mo­graph­ics, un­sus­tain­able spend­ing and in­creased rates of chronic dis­ease are among the fac­tors be­hind a re­newed push for a re­view of the prov­ince’s health-care sys­tem, says the Newfoundland and Labrador Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion (NLMA).

The group orig­i­nally asked the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment to con­sider an ex­ten­sive re­view in the spring. A fo­rum was held in Oc­to­ber to ad­vance the con­ver­sa­tion, with com­mu­nity groups, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and aca­demics among the par­tic­i­pants. The find­ings, re­leased last Tues­day, strength­ened the NLMA’s re­solve to see a re­view that would hope­fully lead to some ma­jor changes in the way the prov­ince han­dles health care.

Some of the key is­sues that arose in­clude con­cerns about an ag­ing pop­u­la­tion, fis­cal woes and the preva­lence of chronic dis­ease. Par­tic­i­pants are said to have de­scribed the cur­rent sys­tem as out­dated and un­sus­tain­able.

“I think it’s im­por­tant to see the big pic­ture in that our health- care sys­tem is op­er­ated on a model that was re­ally com­prised 30 years ago, and a lot of things have changed in 30 years,” NLMA pres­i­dent Dr. Christo­pher Cox said.

“Dis­eases haven’t changed that much, but the dis­tri­bu­tion of the dis­eases has changed. We know from our de­mo­graphic stud­ies of the prov­ince that pop­u­la­tions are shift­ing in many dif­fer­ent places, but still, the in­fra­struc­ture is in place for these hos­pi­tals in the re­gions all across the (is­land) and in Labrador to con­tinue on pro­vid­ing the ser­vices that they were de­signed to pro­vide back then. That doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily fit, and we have to ask the ques­tion, how do we make our sys­tem now meet the needs of peo­ple and their health con­cerns?”

Cox said not ev­ery­one at the Oc­to­ber fo­rum agreed with each of the find­ings.

“There was, how­ever, strong agree­ment that our cur­rent sit­u­a­tion is not sus­tain­able, and the time has come for a shift from an acute-based model of health-care de­liv­ery to a model that is grounded in com­mu­ni­ty­based care,” he told me­dia.

The NLMA hopes for a one-year re­view of the health-care sys­tem’s fa­cil­i­ties and ser­vices, led by an in­de­pen­dent of­fice, keep­ing par­ti­san pol­i­tics out of the process to keep it trans­par­ent and fair.

Ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Robert Thompson said it’s im­por­tant that rec­om­men­da­tions can be made “with­out be­ing fil­tered through any po­lit­i­cal lens or any pref­er­en­tial lens.”

“It just pro­duces rec­om­men­da­tions based on the ev­i­dence. Of course, the gov­ern­ment of the day has to make its own choices about what rec­om­men­da­tions will be im­ple­mented, but what you get from it is trans­par­ent and ob­jec­tive.”

The NLMA planned to de­liver the find­ings and rec­om­men­da­tion to Health and Com­mu­nity Ser­vices Min­is­ter Dr. John Hag­gie. Cox said he was en­cour­aged by the gov­ern­ment’s in­ter­est in the Oc­to­ber fo­rum.

NDP health critic Lor­raine Michael, who also at­tended the fo­rum, was quick to of­fer com­ment fol­low­ing the call for a re­view. Michael has been ad­vo­cat­ing for such a re­view for the bet­ter part of a decade, and sup­ports the NLMA’s re­quest.

“I’m urg­ing gov­ern­ment to take a long-term view, and not a short-term one that’s sort of be­ing dic­tated to by their fear of deficit,” Michael said last week. “They can’t have that vi­sion with re­gard to our health care. We need to be look­ing at how do we make the money that we’re spend­ing work for peo­ple.”

She said the PC and Lib­eral gov­ern­ments have “tin­kered around the edges of is­sues,” mak­ing cuts to health care with­out a long-term vi­sion.

“Gov­ern­ment, when it comes to our health care, cer­tainly needs to take its eyes off the deficit, and say­ing we’ve got to take care of the deficit and get rid of it in so many years for health care. Look at peo­ple. How are we tak­ing care of peo­ple? How is our sys­tem work­ing? And how can we bet­ter use the re­sources that we have? And I re­ally be­lieve there are a lot of places in which, when you do that, all kinds of good things will hap­pen,” she said.

Michael said the gov­ern­ment can keep pol­i­tics out of the is­sue, but “it’s go­ing to be up to them.”

“This has never been a po­lit­i­cal is­sue for me, even if some- body tried to make it that to me. We’re re­ally talk­ing about the health of the peo­ple of this prov­ince. And healthy peo­ple is an eco­nomic is­sue as well. Healthy peo­ple work, and work well. (It’s) good for the econ­omy if our peo­ple are healthy, and that should be gov­ern­ment’s goal.”

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