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CIHI/Commonwealth Fund study on health: the good, the bad and what's missing

TORONTO, ONTARIO -- (Marketwired) -- 02/16/17 -- Attn: Assignment Editor

In the Canadian Institute for Health Information's spin-off report from the annual Commonwealth Fund International Health Survey of 11 countries released today, Canada fared pretty well. Though the Canadian Institute for Health Information led its media messaging with wait times, it should be noted that the study ranks Canada at or above average in 24 measures and below average in 17 measures. The measures compare access to care and patient experiences.

In the past, pro-privatization groups in Canada have misused data from such international reports in an attempt to drive down public confidence in public health care and to push privatization. They will likely try to do the same with this report, but the evidence actually shows that where public resources have been levied (such as toward target surgeries) our rankings go up, and where services are covered by public health care our access to care rankings are higher than most of our peers. These findings support the case for more public health care, not more privatization.

The good:

--  Canada ranked high in cost and access to care. Patients can easily
    access doctors' care here without extra user fees here compared to other
    countries. Where we did poorly - in cost and access to drugs and dental
    care - the services are not publicly covered. This underlines the
    importance for our federal government to enforce the Canada Health Act
    and its protections for Canadian patients against extra user fees for
    needed care.

--  We rank high in terms of timely access to "professional help" for mental
    health care.

--  93 per cent of Canadians have a family doctor or a place of care - on
    par or above the rest of the countries - and we lead the pack in the
    quality of care patients say they receive and in information from
    doctors and medication reviews.

--  Canadian doctors ranked higher in discussing with their patients
    lifestyle choices such as healthy nutrition, exercise, smoking
    cessation, alchohol use and stress.

The bad:

--  Canada's ranking is low on access to same- or next-day appointments with
    family doctors. Note: CIHI did not measure whether a same- or next-day
    appointment was actually needed. It appears that no other primary care
    team members such as nurse practitioners and health care professionals
    were included in the study.

--  Canada has the longest emergency department waits. In the media
    commentary so far, there has been focus on e-health records relating to
    this, though large sums of public money have already been invested in e-
    records. In the actual study, CIHI focused on emergency department
    utilization by patients and rural access to primary care. What was not
    included anywhere is the fact that Canada's hospital beds have been cut
    and reduced beyond any country in the Commonwealth Fund study. This is,
    without any doubt, a major cause of emergency department waits,
    cancelled surgeries and waits for admission to hospitals.

--  Canada also has wait times for specialists and non-emergency surgeries
    that are highest among the 11 countries. For target surgeries, where
    governments have put in resources, Canada's rankings were good. Again,
    the cuts to public hospital capacity that have resulted in lengthening
    wait lists were not mentioned.

--  Several social determinants of health were highlighted. Working age
    Canadians worried about being able to pay for housing and nutritious
    meals. Rates are disturbingly high among those in their 20s and 30s,
    more so than peers in other countries.

--  Canadians with below-average incomes face more cost barriers for health
    care. Cost of transportation to medical appointments and taking time off
    work can be a barrier for low income Canadians (this impacts many

Ontario Health Coalition
Natalie Mehra
Executive director
(416) 230-6402 (cell)

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