Monday, May 12, 2008

Rethinking Medicare

Dr. Brian Day, president of the Canadian Medical Association, is calling for massive changes to our current health care system. High on his priority list is a patient-first system where hospitals get pay based on how much care they're providing as an incentive to lower wait times. Of course, Canada doesn't have enough doctors, because, as Lorne Gunter has pointed out, our politicians chose to lower the training spaces and ration services.

With an estimated one million patients waiting for medical treatment, patients and ultimately Canadian taxpayers are already paying the price.

Data from a study done for the CMA by the Centre for Spatial Economics estimate excess patient wait times in just four areas -- joint replacement, cataract surgery, cardiac bypass surgery and MRI scans -- cost the Canadian economy $14.8 billion last year. In Saskatchewan the economic cost was $358 million.

"We can't achieve a patient-focused health system in Canada, however, if we don't have enough doctors,'' Day said.

Canada needs to train more doctors and encourage the 1,500 Canadian medical students currently studying abroad and those Canadian-trained doctors working outside the country to return and practise here, he said.

To ensure the system is sustainable there needs to be a public debate over what medically necessary services should be covered under Canada's universal health care plan, Day added.

New advances in medicine, technology and drug-therapy improves care and in some cases prolongs life but isn't necessarily cheaper and with an aging population the demand for services is growing.

"We can't cover everything and so we as a society are going to have to start making choices,'' he said.

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