Nfld. & Labrador

Hammer out new federal health accord, say MDs

Canadian doctors are calling on the federal government to start negotiating a new health accord to improve the country's health system.
The Canadian Medical Association's annual general meeting in St. John's in August 2011. (CBC)

Canadian doctors are calling on the federal government to start negotiating a new health accord to improve the country's health system.

The 2004 deal was supposed to be a remedy for a broken health care agreement by the provinces and Ottawa on universal goals, including reducing wait times, improved access, home care, better drug benefits and more electronic records.

It took four years to hammer out the deal and it will expire in just three years.

A recently released Canadian Medical Association survey found 97 percent of people who were asked said they want Ottawa to start working on a new health accord.

"We would really like to see now, meaningful, thoughtful action as we head to that accord. We want the first ministers to get together very soon and start to set the groundwork for a transformed health care system as we head into the health accord," said CMA president Dr. Jeffrey Turnbull in St. John's at the group's annual general meeting.

MP Leonna Aglukkaq was at the meeting in Newfoundland and Labrador to speak with Canada's doctors for the first time since she was re-appointed health minister.

"I've always said that we're committed to the Canada Health Act and the principals of the Canada Health Act," she told physicians Monday.

Aglukkaq said Ottawa will continue to pay the provinces and territories for health care beyond 2014 … but wouldn't say what should be in any new deal.

"We want to be able to ensure that the dollars we are investing in health care are actually going in areas most needed," she said.

Critics said Canada is failing to meet the objectives set by the last agreement, and Ottawa has yet to offer any leadership.

"Well, I was very disappointed," said New Democratic Party health critic Libby Davies in St. John's.

"She barely gave a passing reference to the 2014 health accord and it was the elephant in the room. We all want to know. Things like a national pharmaceutical program, long-term care, home care, what Tommy Douglas called the second phase of Medicare. Every report that I've read, every organization that I've tallked to, including the CMA, have raised this as the priority."

According to the CMA survey, 70 per cent of Canadians give the health care system a grade of A or B … that's a drop from last year when 75 per cent gave the system top marks.

Ipsos Reid conducted the survey for the CMA 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.