Urge Canada’s premiers to keep the momentum on a new health accord
Premiers from the provinces and territories will meet in Whitehorse from July 20 to 22. The agenda will include bulk purchasing of pharmaceuticals, a national pharmacare program, and a new health accord. The health accord determines the size and conditions of the cash transfers from the federal government to provinces and territories. In return, the provinces and territories agree to adhere to the principles of the Canada Health Act and to other conditions agreed upon. The last health accord was negotiated in 2004 and expired in 2014. In contrast to the approach of its predecessor, this government has committed to negotiating a new health accord, and we must seize this opportunity to fill the gaps in Canada’s Medicare system.
RNAO’s 2015 federal election platform outlines key health system asks for the federal government:
- Enforce the principles and spirit of the Canada Health Act that protect universal access to health care (for example, some Ontario hospitals experimented with inbound medical tourism and other provinces are allowing for-profit health services to facilitate queue jumping by well-to-do Canadians). Reject privatization and commercialization of health-care delivery, and reject user fees.
- Negotiate a new health accord with increased federal transfers to provinces and territories.
- Expand Medicare to cover universal pharmacare and home care. Neither is currently covered under the Canada Health Act, and that hurts access, health and the economy.
- Reinstate the Health Council of Canada, which was an independent body that helped provide transparency and accountability through reporting on the quality and effectiveness of health-care services.
- Resurrect a commitment made by First Ministers in 2003 to achieve 24/7 access to primary care delivered by interprofessional teams working to full scope.
These steps would greatly enhance the health of Canadians by making health services more universally accessible and effective. They would also enable nurses to maximize their contributions to Canadians’ health.
Adequate and predictable health sector funding is needed to meet current and future obligations. It is also important the size of the transfers be sufficient to enforce the principles of the Canada Health Act and to ensure that all covered services are delivered. The agreement must also provide sufficient oversight to ensure the health system is publicly administered, universally accessible (without extra charges or discrimination), comprehensively covered, and portable across Canada.
It is particularly important to get Medicare expansions right, from the start. For example, the federal Liberals campaigned on a promise to improve access to necessary prescription drugs and join with the provinces and territories to buy drugs in bulk. However, there is concern the federal government may confine itself to bulk drug purchases, and provide only catastrophic drug coverage, defined as the provision of a general level of coverage that protects "individuals from drug expenses that threaten their financial security or cause “undue financial hardship.” This would still leave Canadians with out-of-pocket expenses, which can deter the proper use of drugs. We know that co-ordinated buying will save billions of dollars in reduced expenditures. But a proper pharmacare program is much more than that: it would deliver universal access through full coverage without co-payments for all necessary prescription drugs; and it would provide a national formulary to enhance safe and effective prescribing.
A top priority must be to address the unconscionable mental, physical, social and economic inequities experienced by First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities, caused by a history of discriminatory policies. The task is complex, however, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission has charted a path forward through its calls to action and continued failure is no longer an option. Full partnership with First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities in health accord discussions is an essential first step. In May, RNAO was pleased to sign a Letter of Intent with the Chiefs of Ontario to begin a journey together to take action on suicide, mental health and addictions; social and environmental determinants of health and enhancing health services to improve the lives of First Nations people. In June, Prime Minister Trudeau committed to working “with Indigenous Leaders in the context of the Health Accord to develop a long-term plan to address ... important health issues.”
Here is how you can help:
Sign the editable action alert below addressed to Hon. Kathleen Wynne, Ontario Premier.
Copies will be sent to:
- Patrick Brown, Leader, Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario
- Andrea Horwath, Leader, New Democratic Party of Ontario
- Hon. Eric Hoskins, Ontario's Minister of Health
- Jeff Yurek, Health Critic, Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario
- France Gélinas, Health Critic, New Democratic Party of Ontario
- Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
- Hon. Jane Philpott, Federal Minister of Health
- Hon. Rona Ambrose, Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada
- Hon. Tom Mulcair, Leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada
- Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada
- Rhéal Fortin, Acting Leader of Bloc Québécois
- Hon. Dr. Kellie Leitch, Health Critic of the Conservative Party of Canada
- Don Davies, Health Critic of the New Democratic Party of Canada