I’ve written about why public relations matters for atopic and allergic people. This post will deal with why allergic and atopic people need to get involved with government relations, specifically health care policy. While this post is about the future of health care policy in Canada, I think some of the core messages certainly apply elsewhere. That said, Canada clearly has a lot to learn from many other Western nations who handle health care a lot better than we do.
A few weeks ago, I attended a political convention in Toronto. I will “out” myself as a member of the Liberal party at this point. Now that it’s out there, you can put whatever spin you wish to on anything I write here, but I am writing this with my unbiased hat on. Liberals have certainly not done anything to advance health care recently and are not in a position to do so at present.
At the Liberal Convention, I had a great opportunity to hear talks by the Honorable Dr. Hedy Fry, M.P. for Vancouver Centre and Liberal Health Critic, and Senator Art Eggleton from Toronto and Deputy Chair of the Committee of Social Affairs, Science and Technology. The latter committee just released an extensive report on the 2004 Health Accord which expires in 2014 – “Time for Transformative Change: A Review of the 2004 Health Accord”. If you’re not familiar with the jurisdiction involved, very basically health care is administered by provinces, but the money is transferred from the federal government to each province. Some of the exceptions are health care for Inuit, First Nations and Aboriginal peoples as well as veterans and military personnel. Health care for those groups are administered and funded by the federal government.
Recently, I also attended a talk by Globe and Mail columnist and reporter, André Picard entitled “The Path to Health Care Reform: Policy and Politics” organized by the Conference Board of Canada. This was another amazing talk about the future of health care in Canada.
Both Fry and Picard pointed out that the current system of Medicare was created in a different time (the 1950s) and designed to fulfil a much different purpose than it does currently. Medicare was for acute cases and hospitals were for “birth, surgery and death” according to Picard.
The medical system is much broader now. There are numerous chronic conditions like asthma, eczema and allergies that require life-long monitoring, treatment and medications. However, the system we currently have was never meant to deal with these kinds of issues. On the most basic level, diagnosis and treatment is still very fragmented. I currently see an immunologist and family doctor. In the past I have seen a dermatologist, pulmonologist and psychiatrist. In the future, chances are good that I will need an ophthalmologist. All of these conditions are related to atopic and allergic conditions, but they’re all dealt with in a vacuum. This isn’t the same in all countries. In other countries, there are hospital departments which deal with most of these conditions in a much more holistic way, but I have never experienced the same thing in Canada. What makes it even more difficult for people with multiple chronic conditions is the lack of e-records, something discussed by both Fry and Picard. I keep a spreadsheet with the basics of my medical information (treatments, medications, etc.) and print it out when needed, but this needs to be done on a national scale so it can be easily accessed by all relevant doctors and contain thorough data.
What really struck me about Picard’s talk is that he addressed the ideological barriers that exist in Canada surrounding Medicare. To critique health care is to risk a politician’s career because the concept of universal health care is so entrenched in Canadian pride and identity. We think it distinguishes us, makes us better than everyone else, when really there are a lot of countries who administer universal health care better than we do. Picard called our view of health care “myth”-based, when it should be fact-based. It should be a rational discussion of how to improve a half-century old institution.
I won’t go much further into his discussion, because I think it’s worth hearing from him. I will include the Globe and Mail article and the audio to his actual talk below.
Regarding Dr. Fry’s talk, she outlined four areas that need to be addressed:
1. Pharmaceutical strategy
2. Health Human resources
4. Delivery of care
Every point in there is important for those of us with atopic and allergic conditions. The amount of medications I use in a year adds up to a staggering financial amount. I feel I am an otherwise healthy person, but the fact is that I need medications to maintain my health. An important part of Medicare should be financial assistance for medications, yet it’s not something we have unless one is hospitalized or meets very narrow criteria.
There is also a shortage of certain specialists and too many dermatologists and family physicians who spend more time selling cosmetic procedures instead of dealing with their medical patients in a timely fashion. Something in there has to change. There should be no reason to wait six to eight months for an appointment. There are immunologists and dermatologists who have figured out the perfect balance and that needs to be looked at.
E-health is a simple concept, but is proving difficult to implement for many reasons, some valid and some not. However, for people who will deal with lifelong conditions, it’s necessary. Canada is also the second largest country in the world in terms of land. It is not feasible for every population in Canada to have access to each kind of specialist they need; however, telehealth (something being done very well by organizations like the Ontario Telemedicine Network) is cost-efficient and practical. Technology and services like this need to be rolled out across the country so that every remote community has access to the best care possible.
Delivery of care deals with multidisciplinary, holistic teams and more of a focus on home care. This is something that is pretty difficult to disagree with. However, it’s not happening on the scale it needs to. Considering the fact that seniors form a larger proportion of Canadians than ever before, it’s past time to act.
So, what does all of this mean? It means that the health care system we are all proud of needs fundamental restructuring. It means that as people with chronic conditions or as the parents of those with chronic conditions, we need to start pushing our M.P.s and provincial representatives to change now. Health care is something that deserves and requires federal leadership and whatever your political leanings, that’s the exact opposite of what the current government wants.
I am always amazed at the amount of backlash when some meaningless person out there makes a disparaging or intolerant remark about kids with peanut allergies. Clearly we have power, but we don’t always use it in the most productive way. Regular, motivated parents are responsible for ground-breaking legislation like Sabrina’s Law. This is the next step to that kind of legislation. It’s about making sure plans are in place to help people with atopic and allergic conditions throughout the rest of their lives.
At some point, your allergic child with asthma or eczema is going to be my age. They’re going to be dealing with the health care system all by themselves and wouldn’t it be amazing if they didn’t have to spend a lot of their income on medications just so they could live a regular life? Wouldn’t it be amazing if they didn’t spend hours of their time on visits to doctors? Wouldn’t you feel better if they had an anaphylactic or asthmatic reaction and the hospital had access to all of their medications and medical history? Shouldn’t it be a Canadian right to live in any province and have access to the same level and type of health care services?
That’s what this is all about. So, let’s get this started.
Links You Should Read:
The Path to Health Care Reform: Policy and Politics (VIDEO)- André Picard (CPAC)
The Path to Health Care Reform: Policy and Politics (AUDIO)- André Picard (Conference Board of Canada)
Dragging medicare into the 21st century – André Picard (Globe and Mail)
Time for Transformative Change in Health Care – Senate Report (Committee of Social Affairs, Science and Technology)
Federal-provincial health accord expires in 2014, experts say it’s time feds talk about their plans – Bea Vongdouangchanh (The Hill Times Online)
Read more at AtopicGirls Guide to Living