Canadians expected change, but Health Council of Canada says many hopes for health care renewal are not yet realized

    TORONTO, June 4 /CNW/ - Despite the nationwide commitment to build real
and lasting change and the infusion of billions of dollars brought about by
the 2003 Accord on Health Care Renewal, progress falls short of what could,
and should, have been achieved by this time, says the Health Council of
Canada's latest report to Canadians, Rekindling Reform: Health Care Renewal in
Canada, 2003 to 2008.
    "In 2003, governments promised change and a more collaborative approach
to health care, but the Health Council is concerned that five years later,
governments' commitment to the spirit of the agreement may be waning," said
Dr. Jeanne Besner, Chair of the Health Council of Canada. "As we reflect on
the speed and direction of health care renewal, we find the glass is at best
half full."
    With five years remaining under Canada's 10-Year Plan to Strengthen
Health Care, the follow-up federal/provincial/territorial agreement of 2004,
Dr. Besner says the Health Council is urging governments to strengthen the
capacity of the public system to deliver timely, high-quality care.

    Undoubtedly, the 2003 accord has been a catalyst for change in some areas:
    -   Major purchases of medical equipment and information technology have
        boosted the number of services delivered.
    -   Some jurisdictions have improved the way they manage waiting lists,
        and most provide wait time information for some procedures on public
    -   Most Canadians have better access to health information and advice
        through telephone help lines.
    -   Some Canadians have better access to publicly insured prescription
        drugs, to primary health care teams, and to a range of health care
        services at home or in their communities.

    But in other respects, progress on the accord is not cause for
celebration. The Health Council of Canada is particularly concerned about the
following areas, where action has been slower, less comprehensive and less
collaborative than the accord originally envisioned:

    -   Catastrophic drug coverage and safe, appropriate prescribing. The
        accord promised that all Canadians would, by the end of 2006, have
        reasonable access to protection from financial hardship from the cost
        of needed drugs. This has not happened. The National Pharmaceuticals
        Strategy, which was promised in 2004 to address this and other issues
        related to prescription medicines, is in limbo.

    -   Home care. The accord promised that all governments would provide
        short-term publicly funded home care. The result is two weeks of
        coverage, but this is not adequate for what many people need. Clear
        disparities continue in the availability and cost of home care across
        the country.

    -   Aboriginal health. Any progress to date has occurred on a much
        smaller scale than envisioned by the 2003 accord, and by the
        Blueprint on Aboriginal Health agreed to by First Ministers and
        national Aboriginal leaders in 2005. The scope of preventable health
        problems in many Aboriginal communities continues to be of
        substantial concern across the country.

    -   Primary health care. Some Canadians are well served by
        interprofessional teams delivering primary health care, but
        nationwide progress is uneven and, too often, care is not
        coordinated, comprehensive, or available when patients need it.

    -   Electronic health records and information technology. Governments
        agreed to place priority on implementing electronic health records,
        to strengthen the safety and quality of health care. We are not on
        track to meet the goal of 50% of Canadians having an electronic
        health record by 2010. Governments must find ways to accelerate the
        adoption of these essential tools for health care renewal. Public
        support for these investments is strong.

    "Canadians pay the price for these shortcomings every day. They pay
through missed opportunities to receive appropriate health care and missed
opportunities for better health or quality of life," said Dr. Don Juzwishin,
Chief Executive Officer of the Health Council of Canada.
    "The practical marriage between money and the desire for health care
renewal held considerable promise five years ago," added Dr. Besner.
"Governments promised to eliminate inequities and ensure all Canadians have
equal access to the same services, such as primary health care, home care and
prescription drugs, regardless of where they lived in the country. Governments
must renew their commitment to nationwide change."
    To read Rekindling Reform: Health Care Renewal in Canada, 2003 - 2008 and
background materials, visit


    The Health Council of Canada, created by the 2003 First Ministers' Accord
on Health Care Renewal is mandated to monitor and report on the progress of
health care renewal in Canada. Councillors were appointed by the participating
provinces, territories and the Government of Canada and have expertise and
broad experience in community care, Aboriginal health, nursing, health
education and administration, finance, medicine and pharmacy.

For further information:

For further information: or to arrange an interview, contact: Jaclyn
Clare, PR POST, (416) 777-0368,

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