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Health champions pushing Ottawa to move on health accord

National groups representing patients, doctors, nurses and health care professionals have staked out the next six months as the critical period for Canada to develop a new national health accord and improving care for seniors continues to be the rallying cry.

“I can tell you that our health care system, as it currently functions, is not doing the job it should,” Canadian Medical Association (CMA) Past President Dr. Chris Simpson recently told health advocates and policymakers gathered to discuss the next health accord in Ottawa. “By failing to transform the system to better care for seniors, we are not only not serving them well, but we’re jeopardizing the sustainability of our health care system as a whole.”

The CMA is advancing three main areas for action in the lead-up to the discussions on the new health accord:

  • a new demographic top-up to the Canada Health Transfer. This would not change the current transfer formula but would instead deliver new funding to provinces and territories to specifically address the increased costs associated with population aging.
  • federal funding for catastrophic pharmaceutical coverage. This would help ensure that Canadians have comparable access to medically necessary prescription drugs.
  • increased access to continuing care, including delivering on the federal government’s commitment to home care and palliative care with a new home care innovation fund. This fund would also support infrastructure investment for long-term care and provide much-needed support for the backbone of home and community care: the millions of family caregivers across the country.

Expectations are running high for the next health accord, which the federal government has pledged to negotiate with the provinces and territories by early 2017. According to the ministerial mandate letters released last November, federal Health Minister Jane Philpott will be in charge of negotiating a new “multi-year Health Accord” with the provinces and territories that “should include a long-term funding agreement”.

“Our government has embarked on a negotiation toward a new health accord; a health accord that identifies home care, including palliative care, as a shared priority,” Kamal Khera Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, told conference attendees. “I can assure you that the health needs of all Canadians, including seniors, are being considered as we develop new policies as well.”

As discussions progress on the substance of the accord, the CMA has pledged to bring the perspective of frontline physicians and their patients to the process.

“Jurisdictions across the country share many of the same problems and challenges but our health care system currently lacks a national or pan-Canadian approach to advancing solutions,” said Dr. Simpson. “Canadians are experiencing critical shortages, unacceptable waiting times and in too many cases are left on their own grappling with a non-integrated system. By increasing access to quality seniors care services, our whole health care system will benefit.

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