TORONTO, Jan. 19, 2012 /CNW/ - Members of the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) say this week's move by the federal government to avoid debate over the country's health-care system is shortsighted and irresponsible.
"Talks about the future of health care aren't just about how much money is in the funding envelope," says David McNeil, RNAO president. "The federal government has an obligation to look at the needs of Canadians. What areas in our system need attention? What can we do better? This, and protecting the principles and spirit of Medicare by enforcing the Canada Health Act is the role of the federal government," adds McNeil.
Rather than join negotiations about how best to fund health-care expenditures when provincial premiers and territorial leaders met in Victoria this week, the Harper government opted to impose a deal, which it announced last month just before the holidays.
Under Ottawa's plan, federal transfers for health care will continue to grow six per cent each year until 2017. After that, transfers to provinces would be pegged to increases in gross domestic product. McNeil says, "lowering increases in health transfers will have the dangerous effect of encouraging experiments with for-profit medicine by provincial governments."
RNAO says federal leadership must ensure the provinces are delivering health care according to the principles of the Canada Health Act. "Handing over money without strings attached is irresponsible and will undoubtedly lead to an expansion of for-profit delivery," adds McNeil. "Why would you go down that road when the research consistently shows that not-for profit delivers more care at a lower cost," he emphasizes.
Despite its disappointment with the stand taken by the federal government, RNAO applauds the premiers' decision to form a committee that focuses attention on three areas: scope of practice for health-care providers; management of health resource costs; and clinical practice guidelines. "This move is the direction the country needs right now and the association is eager and ready to contribute to that effort," says Doris Grinspun, RNAO's executive director.
RNAO is Canada's leader in developing and supporting implementation of clinical best practice guidelines for nurses. Since the program began12 years ago, the association has produced more than 45 guidelines and these have been adopted across Ontario, nationally and internationally. Grinspun says these evidence-based clinical best practices should become the gold standard for nurses everywhere in Canada. "This is the way to improve patient care and save dollars," adds Grinspun, who launched the program in 1999 with the help of provincial funding.
Grinspun says the rest of the country should also borrow a page from Ontario's health-care transformation and allow nurse practitioners to lead primary care clinics. She says other jurisdictions here at home and abroad also enable registered nurses to prescribe medications within their scope. "When every nurse in Canada is working to their full scope of practice, Canadians will get better value for their health-care dollar," Grinspun adds.
"The federal government should also dedicate funding to speed up the availability of interprofessional primary care so every person has access and we help people to prevent and better manage chronic care conditions," stresses Grinspun adding that "access to primary care and home care are especially important as Canada confronts an ever-growing elder population."
The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario is the professional association representing registered nurses in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses' contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve. For more information about RNAO, visit our website at www.rnao.org. You can also check out our Facebook page at www.rnao.org/facebook and follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/rnao.
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