The Three Things that Matter to Canadian Physicians (And Patients) at the Ballot Box

It has been long said that Canadians like to talk about two things: the weather and healthcare. Why? Because both are universally experienced and yet, both issues seem to be beyond the control of the average Canadian. Patients can no sooner have an effect on sky-high healthcare administration costs, crumbling infrastructure in major cities, soaring drug costs and increasing wait times, than they do over hurricanes, tornados and flooding.

It’s safe to say, however, that the vitriol regarding healthcare issues ramps up significantly in the midst of an election campaign; much more so than the daily forecast. Why? Because it’s the one point in time in which patients feel like they might be able to grapple with the issues and bring about some sort of positive change.

Perhaps this is why, lately, we’ve seen an increase in the amount and depth of political discussion among Canadian physicians on The Rounds. (Did you miss our last post in which we explain why physicians trust us as the platform upon which to discuss these issues? It’s here.)

While politicians tout PR-laden platforms and campaign announcements and promises, Canadian physicians are the ones on the front lines who continue to define what should be important when it comes to improving our healthcare system.

There are three distinct and significant platform issues that physicians are watching that will impact the health care vote:

National Pharmacare Program

Canada may be held in high regard because of our universal health coverage, however, we are the only OECD country with universal health care to not have some sort of pharmacare program. Right now, patients fend for themselves when it comes to purchasing drugs; whether by way of workplace insurance programs, extra personal insurance or, in worst cases, by not buying the drugs they need.

Why does this matter to physicians?

Because first and foremost, follow-up care by way of medication is a crucial arm to maintaining health and wellness. But also because when patients can’t afford drugs, they often end up back in emergency rooms where they can get medication free of charge. In turn, this results in overcrowding in EDs and longer wait times for acute care patients.

Seniors Care

It’s no secret that our population is aging. As that happens, we are seeing higher instances of age-related illness like Alzheimer’s, dementia, Parkinson’s, osteoporosis, arthritis — the list goes on. Further to this, caring for aging parents is taxing young families who end up with bills for medication (see above) and long-term and palliative care.

Why does this matter to physicians?

The potential implications of additional funding for seniors issues are vast — from better research to more beds in long term care facilities. Once again, being able to move a senior, non-emergent, patient from a hospital bed and into a more comfortable, family-friendly, long term facility will increase hospital efficiencies. Further to that, giving family more freedom to support and care for aging loved ones will take some pressure off the health care system. Lastly, adding resources into research programs and the like has the potential for Canada to stand on the cutting edge of solving some of the most daunting health related challenges of this century.

Assisted Suicide

This issue was brought to the forefront when, earlier this year, the SCC ruled in favor of extending health care practitioners and families greater choice when it comes to compassionate care and physician-assisted suicide. Since then the concept has been in limbo — with no real legislative changes made, but each of the major political parties adding it to their platforms and promises in some fashion.

Why does this matter to physicians?

As scientists, it would be fair to say that physicians don’t feel comfortable with blurred lines or a lack of certainty. As it stands, the ‘blurry zone’ with respect to physician-assisted suicide is just too dense for the average physician to wade into. The best thing that could happen on this issue is clarity — whether it’s a new piece of legislation or another court challenge or appeal. Physicians need to have a clear understanding of where their duty of care begins and ends.

Here’s an added bonus issue that matters to most physicians, but right now, is a hot topic in Ontario (and on The Rounds) — Provincial Healthcare Transfers. Healthcare transfers represent the percentage of federal tax dollars that are ‘transferred’ to each province in kind in order to pay for healthcare related costs. Each province then decides how to spend those dollars — whether on infrastructure, new programs, etc. Right now in Ontario, the province is restructuring their fees and payouts, resulting in a heated battle between politicians and physicians- many of whom are threatening to leave Ontario to set up their practices elsewhere.

Are you a physician who would like to engage with other physicians? Form a solid network of trusted colleagues with whom to discuss any and all issues related to your practice? Head to The Rounds. It’s Canada’s physicians’ network. On your terms.

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