Health ombudsman wanted by Canadians, CMA says

Canada needs a health-care ombudsman to address complaints about poor medical treatment, a new poll suggests.
The majority of Canadians polled said a health-care agreement should take a national approach rather than focusing on the individual health needs of each province or territory. (Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press)

Canada needs a health-care ombudsman to address complaints about poor medical treatment, a new poll suggests.

The poll was part of the Canadian Medical Association annual report card on health care, released Monday at the group's conference in St. John's.

"Patients are too often lost in the shuffle in health care," said CMA president Dr. Jeff Turnbull.

The report card looked at attitudes on topics such as adopting a Canadian patient health charter  to ensure accountability, a complaint mechanism, funding models for health care and the next federal-provincial health agreement.

Respondents felt strongly that a patient health charter should include recourse for those who receive poor health service, with 87 per cent saying they support a mechanism for citizens to complain about poor health service.

About 86 per cent supported including an independent ombudsman for complaints about poor health service in the patient health charter.

Clinical trial strategy

At the meeting on Monday, Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced a research strategy to set priorities and improve funding for clinical trials across Canada.

"Today, a new Patient-Oriented Research Strategy is being launched that is designed to help provinces and territories meet the challenge of delivering high quality, cost-effective health care by ensuring that the right patient receives the right treatment at the right time," Aglukkaq said in prepared text of her speech to the CMA.

The close to 300 delegates at the meeting are discussing ways to turn public calls for better health care into an action plan.

The survey also suggested:

  • 82 per cent of Canadians agreed that a patient health charter that outlined patients' rights and responsibilities would make the system more efficient.
  • 80 per cent agreed that the number of complaints against a jurisdiction should be reported so people can compare jurisdictions to one another.
  • 97 per cent agreed federal, provincial and territorial governments need to start working together on a new health accord to replace the current $41-billion agreement that expires in 2014.
  • 93 per cent agreed that governments should meet every year to discuss the state of health care in the country.

Those surveyed were more divided about whether the federal-provincial health-care agreement should take a national or jurisdictional approach, with 52 per cent preferring one national in scope with all provinces agreeing on how the system will be funded, delivered and made accountable.

Similarly, 49 per cent chose a model where provinces and territories receive a certain amount of funding for health care to spend as they see fit. The other 46 per cent felt a portion of each provinces and territories' funding should be held back until performance targets are met. Five per cent did not answer.

Ipsos Reid conducted the poll between July 5 and July 8, using an online survey of 1,026 Canadian adults and a telephone survey of 1,000 Canadian adults on July 6 and 7.

The results of the telephone survey are considered accurate to within plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

With files from The Canadian Press