Health care systems across Canada need to be ‘fundamentally different,’ says King
After a summer of emergency room closures and long waits for care in Prince Edward Island, Premier Dennis King says provincial governments must work together to address health worker shortages.
The Premier of Prince Edward Island met Monday in Moncton with his counterparts from Ontario, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to discuss the state of health care in the country – and problems with staffing shortages, including shorter hours in hospital emergency rooms, backlogs of surgeries, and desperate attempts to attract and retain doctors.
In the end, Premiers agreed that health care was at a critical point in Canada and said urgent action in collaboration with the federal government was needed.
They also discussed trying to speed up the licensing process for doctors from other countries so they can start practicing in Canada sooner. But there weren’t many concrete details about what other solutions could be tried.
Speaking to reporters after the first ministers’ meeting, King said the way forward is to consult with medical professionals to find out what needs to change.
“PEI is not unique in the entire federation,” he said.
« I think we’ve realized for a year and a half, basically, that we’re not able to maintain the delivery system that we have in the province.
« That’s why we’re bringing all the professionals together and basically saying, ‘This is the list of people we have. How can we best utilize these people in the system?' »
Provinces must innovate, says King
King said new approaches like the team-based model of care his government has pioneered are the way forward, not traditional approaches based on every patient seeing a family doctor for every medical issue.
« We can’t keep doing – and trying to pretend we can do – things that we can’t do, » he said.
« We need to be open to change, and like my colleagues here, I’m open to any good suggestions that may come from health professionals who work within the system…
“The delivery of health care on Prince Edward Island and across the country will be fundamentally different than it was, [and] I think it has to. »
Meet a « positive first step »: Gardam
Dr. Michael Gardam, CEO of Health PEI, said he was “encouraged” by what emerged from the meeting.
« I think the pandemic has really highlighted that the Canadian healthcare system is in trouble, » he told CBC News Network. « The fact that our politicians are talking about it now, I see that as a very positive first step. »
Gardam said Prince Edward Island enjoys the best health care systems of other provinces because the island depends on them for specialized care not available due to the province’s small population. This includes specialties such as advanced cardiac care and neurosurgery, for which island patients must be sent to the mainland.
He said increasing the pay of certain categories of medical personnel was not enough to solve the problem.
If we don’t fix the problems within our system, all we’re going to do is have slightly better paid, but still burnt-out health care workers.– Dr. Michael Gardam
« We have to pay [front-line workers] for the work they do for us. At the same time, though… what people really want is to feel, you know, seen, heard, respected in the workplace,” Gardam said.
« I’m worried about throwing money at healthcare workers. We can’t stop there because if we don’t fix the problems within our system, all we’re going to do is have Slightly better paid but still exhausted healthcare is a really short term solution.
« We have to do both. »
Distrust of privatization
Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government in Ontario recently unveiled a strategy to ease pressure on that province’s health care system, in part by funding more surgeries at private clinics.
At the summit, there was discussion about whether the Maritime provinces could consider making similar changes.
Gardam said he was hesitant to consider privatization before thinking of all the other possible solutions.
« We have to think carefully, if we’re going to get our money’s worth or if we’re just going to starve the public system in order to get better access for people in another setting, » he said.