The Canadian Medical Association Journal published research in 2012 that showed one in ten Canadians report they skip doses or decide not to fill prescriptions because of cost, with the second highest incidence of cost nonadherence happening in the Atlantic provinces. If elected to government, what will your party do to make prescription medications more affordable?
In the 2009 election campaign, the NDP committed to the creation of a Drug Management Policy Unit. As a result of the work of that group, the Fair Drug Pricing Act was introduced and passed in the Legislature, and went into effect on July 1, 2011. Seniors and other Nova Scotians enrolled in the province’s Pharmacare programs now pay less for each prescription of most generic drugs at the pharmacy counter. Prices went down on July 1, 2011 and again on January 1, 2012, and again on July 1, 2012. Through the Fair Drug Pricing Act, the NDP is making sure that Nova Scotians covered by Pharmacare are getting better prices for generic drugs – prices in line with those paid in other parts of Canada. The Data in the 2012 CMAJ article you cite would not capture the advances the NDP government has made on drug prices during this mandate. And, using overall data for the Atlantic provinces may mask the effects as well. That being said, there is more to do, and the NDP will continue to take action in government to drive down the cost of drugs.
If elected to government, will your party change MSI regulations to cover the cost of treatment and pressure garments necessary to treat lymphedema?
As you may be aware, the NDP recently announced a new program to cover some of the costs of hearing aids for seniors in Nova Scotia. In reviewing options, the Ontario program provided some very useful insights. The Ontario Assistive Devices Program provides coverage for compression garments and is a potential model for Nova Scotia, should funding become available in the health spending envelope.
A key element of ensuring timely treatment for a Canadian cancer patient is ensuring they have access to the medications they need at the time they need them. Unfortunately, this is not always the case in Nova Scotia. If elected to government, will you commit to ensuring that all cancer patients in Nova Scotia receive timely access to medications at the time they need it?
The Cancer Systemic Therapy Policy Committee provides the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness with advice on what cancer drugs should qualify for public funding. The Committee is made up of 23 people, including cancer specialists, a cancer survivor, a pharmacist, ethicist, other health care providers and Department representatives. The Committee reviews cancer drugs using a values and evidence based on a decision making framework. The framework is used to guide discussions around the economics, ethics, and evidence to make recommendations to the Deputy Minister of Health about additions, changes and deletions to the cancer drug formulary. Decisions about specific drugs should not be made by political parties – they are medical decisions and the NDP relies on the advice and experience of the people on the Committee to that end.
If elected to government, how will your party ensure that all hospital emergency rooms remain open 24 hours a day, seven days a week?
When elected, the NDP government hired Dr. John Ross to help develop a new approach to pervasive ER closures across the province. As a result, CECs – now regarded as a model across the country – were developed. In communities with a CEC, ER closures have decreased by as much as 93%. But there is still work to do. The NDP will open more CECs in consultation with communities and working with DHAs to meet local health needs. In addition, during this campaign, the NDP committed to a network of nurse managed clinics – Better Care Clinics – to provide better care to those suffering with chronic diseases or conditions. Cancer survivors will get better care with these clinics too, since nurses are often able to spend more time with their patients and can take a more holistic approach to their care plans.
Is your party in favour of maintaining the same number of health districts in the province? If not, please explain how you would modify the number of health districts and what is the rationale for this policy?
Dr. John Ross hit the nail on the head when he said that the push to amalgamate the DHAs in to centralized superboards will waste money on “administrative busywork.” Under the NDP government, health administration spending was reduced by 23.3%, the best record in Canada over the same time period. Mary Jane Hampton, a well-respected health consultant said, “To suggest that the solution to saving health care is to yank millions of dollars out of administration and put those dollars into patient care is a dangerously simplistic argument.” Losing local control in decision making is simply wrong. The NDP has committed to reducing administrative spending in health further, but without throwing the system into chaos.