Putting People First: Critical Reforms for Canada's Health Care System.
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For over 70 years, since the Dominion Provincial Conferences at the end of the Second World War, Canadians have viewed health care as a right of citizenship. The Canada Health Act (CHA, 1984) formally entrenched the five principles that guide our current publicly operated, single payer, provincially managed system: public administration, comprehensiveness, universality, portability and accessibility. The health care system that has sprung up around the CHA has become increasingly complex, costly and strained. Our gradual descent through the rankings of major health care suggests that we are reaching the limits of what the current health care system can provide. Unfortunately, constructive political debate around this issue is often choked by intense ideological positioning. System reform is urgently needed to address the rapidly changing biological and demographic drivers of health. We do not feel that diverting ever larger flows of money into the status quo is a sustainable solution. Our nation's health and the means to advance it must be seen as assets rather than costs. We believe it is possible to meet increasing demands by expanding the supply and acknowledging the wealth of resources (scientific, human, managerial and educational) that we currently possess. In this paper we propose a cultural shift from an institution-centered system bent on cost control, to a patient-centered system that fosters a true health economy. We identify a series of interventions (some bold and others less so) to achieve a clear and evaluable goal: maximizing the well-being and debility-free life expectancy of each individual. To achieve a patient-centred system-we discuss strategies to address costs and utilization, the setting of real performance standards, the elimination of conflicts of interest and the provision of truly accessible care for all Canadians. To create a health economy, we discuss the importance of innovation, the need for a reinvigorated public health system and steps to overhaul the health care human resources environment. The goal of health care reform in Canada should be a system that is dynamic, evidence based, wealth creating and a global leader. We believe that, with leadership and vision, this goal is eminently achievable.
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