Countrywide health-care agreement needed in Canada

Nanaimo-Cowichan MP Jean Crowder talks about Canada's health care system

Protecting Canada’s health-care system has always been an NDP priority.

We believe in a single-payer system that works for Canadians to keep them healthy and to provide care when they are sick or injured.

That’s why we supported the 2004 10-year health accord with the provinces and territories.

The protection of stable, long-term funding allowed the provinces and territories to plan much-needed changes to their systems.

That 10-year health accord is part of the reason Canada has a health-care advantage, provision of health-care services at a lower rate to more people than our neighbour to the south.

But it is clear that more change is still needed. Canadians still wait in long line-ups at emergency care or wait too long for necessary diagnostic tests.

The Canada Health Act has five principles: a publicly administered system that is universal, accessible, portable and comprehensive.

We express those principles in a few different ways.

We have a choice of doctors and treatments. No bureaucrat decides who treats you or how – that’s between each Canadian and their doctor.

We can take our health care with us. Because our health care doesn’t rely on private insurers, Canadians aren’t afraid of losing care when they get sick or change jobs.

We can move from province to province with an assurance that our health care moves with us.

But without the guarantee of stable, long-term funding, those principles are all at risk.

That’s why it was important that the Health Minister promised to negotiate a single new health-care agreement, with all of the provinces and territories when she gave a speech last month in St. John’s.

Many activists had been worried that the Conservatives would continue with their agenda of devolution to the provinces by negotiating one-off agreements with each province and territory. That would put new programs, like a national pharmaceutical plan at risk. The bargaining power of the provinces and territories together with the federal government (the fifth-largest provider of health care services in the country) would be greatly reduced if each system tried to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies itself.

Our health critic, Libby Davies, while concurring that a new agreement to provide stable, long-term funding is important, questioned what accountability measures the government will include to ensure that provinces and territories are living up to the principles of the Canada Health Act and to transforming the system.

Here on the Island, the need to move towards a health system that is focused on chronic care rather than acute care is becoming clear.

Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) serves a population of almost 20 percent seniors. A robust home care system will be vital to serve this population as it ages, and as it increases from the large number of baby boomers approaching retirement.

In the recent election one of the NDP platform commitments was to initiate a new designated federal long-term care transfer to begin addressing the shortage of quality care spaces across the country.

We need to see that kind of innovation here on the Island to have a health system that is responding to our needs.

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