Call for review of N.L.’s health-care system renewed
Medical association says current situation is not sustainable
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 Participants are said to have described the current system as outdated and unsustainable.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.”