With overwhelmed hospitals, can Canada overhaul long-term health care?

As hospitals bear the brunt of record numbers of COVID-19 patients, two former health ministers warn there is no quick fix that can reform the healthcare system and protect it for the long haul. term.

“People always want to have a single, quick solution to a complex problem,” former federal health minister Jane Philpott said in an interview with the CBC show. The House, aired Saturday. “There is no single thing that will solve the whole problem.”

“Spending more money to do a lot of things the way we’ve always done them” won’t solve structural problems of resource allocation and manpower, added Fred Horne, former minister of health. Alberta Health.

The stress of hospitalizations related to COVID-19, caused by the current wave of infections, is being cruelly felt across the country, including in Quebec.

19:29How can this country fix a strained healthcare system?

A Montreal ER nurse shares some of the stress on the front lines of hospitals, and former health ministers Jane Philpott and Fred Horne talk about how to reform Canada’s health care system. 19:29

In Montreal, ER nurse Marie-Pier says she fears the morale crater could lead to a collapse of the hospital system. CBC News only uses her first name because she fears disciplinary action for speaking out.

“My biggest worry is that I’m mostly scared that we’re collapsing and that nurses will literally stop working, people will stop working or completely change professions because it’s too much,” she told host Chris Hall.

She said healthcare workers are exhausted and while many try to keep working and persevering, sometimes they just burn out from stress and fatigue after multiple waves of the pandemic.

“Out of nowhere, we just fall.”

Marie-Pier said measures such as raising wages, reducing forced overtime and creating better overall conditions would help bring workers back into the health care system.

“It’s a beautiful job. I like taking care of people just to help people feel better and to be able to see them get up and leave the hospital afterwards,” she said.

Hospitals under pressure across the country

Similar strains on manpower and resources are being felt across the country, once again raising questions about how the health system, which experts say can be overwhelmed during a normal flu season, can be strengthened and reformed in the long term.

“Most Canadians would agree that even before COVID-19, our capacity was often overstretched,” federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said earlier this month.

A key question in the debate over a potential solution is the role of the federal government. Over the past two years, the provinces have consistently called on Ottawa to increase its transfer to the provinces for health care — up to 35% of costs from the current 22%.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, and Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos. Trudeau said he was open to discussing federal health transfers once the pandemic is over. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said he is ready to renegotiate the transfer system once the pandemic is over.

“I think now is a good time for the federal government to exercise more forcefully in health care, and we need more investment,” said Philpott, who served as federal health minister. from 2015 to 2017.

But she warned there was also a need for other reforms, because “you can’t keep spending more money to do things the same way we always have.

“People know how much care is needed in hospitals, but we also need to spend in places like home care, mental health and primary care,” she added.

Former federal health minister Jane Philpott says greater federal involvement in health care is only part of the long-term solution. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Changes to support the workforce, such as allowing easier movement of workers across provinces and more efficient assignments of doctors versus nurses or GPs, would also help, Philpott said. .

“There are very few provinces that have a very good workforce plan, and there is no national health workforce plan. So that would be an area I would pay a lot of attention to if I were a federal minister.

Horne, who served as Alberta’s provincial health minister from 2011 to 2014, said transformational change of the kind needed “takes a lot longer than a policy cycle or a budget cycle.”

Privatization debate is a ‘red herring’, says Philpott

Both former ministers expressed skepticism about the usefulness of the private health care debate.

“I think the whole issue of public-private [care] is very misunderstood and can often be used as a red herring,” Philpott said. There are a lot of private deliveries already built into the system, she said, and the concern should be to ensure that private fee-based systems don’t disrupt everyone’s access to care.

Former Alberta health minister Fred Horne says it’s hard for ministers to accomplish systemic reform in a single election cycle. (Radio Canada)

Horne said that during his tenure, the private delivery of publicly insured services had not been a “major issue” in his conversations.

“In reality, [people] expected us to make the best use of public funds – and that includes, you know, partnerships with the private sector and industry where appropriate,” he said.

Philpott said “we’re actually starting to see some good things happening behind the scenes,” like a national data health plan, but moving forward requires strong collaboration across levels of government.

Horne said his advice to health ministers now is to focus on getting things done that will survive their tenure at the helm of the system.

“It’s a difficult task,” he said.

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