House Call with Carol Hughes

New health accord must address Canada’s changing needs

Populations are forever changing and Canada is no exception with quite a lot of it over the last 50 years. In the 1960s, our population was youth oriented as baby-boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964) made up the biggest demographic. These boomers are still dominating the population; however they have either retired or are preparing for it. Canada is now entering into a period of being an aged society with more seniors than we have children, and as the shape of our population shifts, so do our societal needs. One of the most important considerations related to this is how our aging society is provided with health care.

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is well aware that these challenges are testing our health care system and they have warned the government that an infusion of cash is the only way to meet growing demand across the country. According to the CMA, it will take at least $1.6 billion a year more to meet the health needs of our seniors. Among the items that could be addressed with the extra money are better access to prescription drugs, home care, and long-term care.

These issues aren’t new and were raised repeatedly throughout last year’s election. But the election is firmly placed in our rear-view mirror and now is the time for the government to act. That is why New Democrats are asking the Liberals to make increases a big part of a new health accord that is currently being negotiated on federal health transfers.

New Democrats and the CMA have some well-informed company too. When the provincial and territorial ministers met in July they unanimously called for Ottawa to increase the Canada Health Transfer to cover 25 percent of all health care spending by the provinces and territories. These are the government’s that do the work of delivering health care on the front lines and must be listened to when they say this money is badly needed to keep up with the changing needs of Canadians.

For New Democrats, money isn’t the only answer to our changing health care needs. We are calling on the government to develop an aging strategy to go hand in hand with new funds that will assist how we can best care for our aging population. In fact, we want the prime minister’s commitment to negotiating a new long-term agreement on health care funding and modernizing the health care system to consider our aging population as a primary feature.

Most of all we have to recognize that the makeup and needs of a country are not static. Demographics are always changing and that fact had a  lot to do with the negative reaction the previous government received when they worked to weaken our census. We have to know who we are in order to understand what it is we need. Much has changed in the last half century and everything will change again in the next fifty years. The constant we can, and must, ensure we maintain through all of that is a system that delivers the health care we need in a timely manner and to the best of our abilities.