Thursday, December 22, 2011

Prime opportunity to map out Canada's health-care future is now

OTTAWA, December 21, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - The Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) is calling upon Canada's premiers and health ministers to define a vision for a health-care system that will meet the real needs of Canadians. With federal finance minister Jim Flaherty's announcement this week that health transfers will continue to increase at 6 per cent a year until 2016-2017, Canada's provinces and territories must now put the money to work and shape health-care reform.

"Canada's health-care system has a sound foundation, but it is clear changes within that frame are needed to improve access, efficiency and quality," said CNA president Judith Shamian. "Canada's nurses are looking to provinces and territories for leadership and a focused direction, which are needed now to transform the health-care system into one that fosters the healthiest population possible."

CNA, together with the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), developed a set of principles to guide Canada's premiers and health ministers as they map out health-care system transformation. Adopting these principles will strengthen and further develop a publicly funded, not-for-profit system that is sustainable and adequately resourced, and provide universal access to quality, patient-centred care in a timely and cost-effective manner. These guiding principles should be instrumental to Canada's premiers during their Council of the Federation meeting in January 2012, and in subsequent federal and provincial/territorial collaborations.

"Canadians deserve a better return on health-care investments," said Shamian. "The premiers need to refocus their approach to health care and base it on improving health outcomes and the performance of the system. The stage is set for federal and provincial leaders to work together to determine the targets and objectives that health system funding should help us achieve."

Despite an ongoing increase in spending, Canada's health-care system is lagging. In 1982, Canada was ranked 10th among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in infant mortality rates — the overall best indicator of a society's health. By 2008, Canada slipped to 27 out of 34 OECD nations.

To build the best health-care system for Canada and stand out as one of the best globally, the principles set out by CNA and CMA recommend the government develop a pan-Canadian agreement that contains national health indicators linked to expected outcomes, realistic accountability measures for the transfer of funds, and more emphasis on primary care and chronic disease management. CNA urges the federal and provincial/territorial governments to work together, set targets and present solutions that will lead to better health for Canada's population — the true measure of accountability.

CNA is the national professional voice of registered nurses in Canada. A federation of 11 provincial and territorial nursing associations and colleges representing 143,843 registered nurses, CNA advances the practice and profession of nursing to improve health outcomes and strengthen Canada's publicly funded, not-for-profit health system.