Official Atlantica Party Response

Dear Candidate:

Over 202,000 Canadians are diagnosed with cancer every year, including an estimated 6,000 new cases diagnosed in Nova Scotia, with approximately 2,700 dying of cancer. Clearly, this life-threatening illness affects entire communities, especially families, friends and co-workers.

The Canadian Cancer Survivor Network (CCSN) is a national network of patients, families, survivors, friends, families, community partners and sponsors. Its mission is to work together by taking action to promote the very best standard of care, support, follow up and quality of life for patients and survivors. It aims to educate the public and policy makers about cancer survivorship and encourage research on ways to alleviate barriers to optimal cancer care in Canada.

The government of Nova Scotia has an important role to play in making sure that everyone diagnosed with cancer has timely access to cancer care and essential medical services as well as access to emergency rooms and the treatment and medications they need. There are 106,000 people in Nova Scotia without a family doctor, and the shortage is going to worsen as a growing number of physicians near retirement, recruitment levels are dwindling and health needs are becoming more and more complex (http://thechronicleherald.ca/novascotia/1463162-doctorsns-says-we-need-100-new-doctors-a-year-for-10-years).

We invite you to respond to the following questions related to cancer care and healthcare in Nova Scotia. Your responses will be circulated to cancer patients and survivors in Nova Scotia and posted on our website, www.survivornet.ca and on our social media.

Question 1:

The Canadian Medical Association Journal published research in 2014 that showed one in twelve Canadians report they skip doses or decide not to fill prescriptions because of cost.
If elected to government, what will your party do to make prescription medications more affordable?

Question 2:

Healthcare is the number four issue (behind education, labour relations and balanced books) on the minds of NS voters.
If elected:

a) How will your government improve the delivery of cancer care and other healthcare services in NS?
b) Will your government restructure healthcare delivery, and if so, how?
c) How will your government ensure that cancer patients receive the services they need, including home care, financial assistance during recovery and for long-term side effects of cancer and/or treatment?

Question 3:

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. As of January 31, 2015 Nova Scotia drug plans covered 23.5% of the 464 new drugs approved by Health Canada from 2004-2013 and the average number days to list the new drug covered under each public drug plan was 681(Coverage for new medicines in Canada’s public drug plans, 2015, Mark Rovere and Dr. Brett J. Skinner).

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?

Question 4:

Numbers released by Statistics Canada indicate that 11.3 per cent of the population, or just over 100,000 people, did not have access to a health-care provider.

If elected, how will your government ensure that all Nova Scotians have access to a health-care provider?

We thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Response: 

Thank you for your questions.

As I read through your questions a theme arises, issues, symptoms really, with dealing with Canada’s public health care system. Our party is a grass roots response to the failure of the status-quo to look for new solutions for Nova Scotia (and Canada really) in the 21st century. An example of this is the current health care system in Canada. It is failing and unsustainable; more money or a few new programs here or there will not do. The theme of your questions is the system is failing us.

The party’s response is fundamental restructuring of the Canada Health Care Act is needed, not a patchwork of promises to fund this or expand that within the existing structure.

Here are our thoughts on ‘taking action to promote the very best standard of care, support, follow up and quality of life for patients and survivors.’

In 2014, The Commonwealth Fund, compared the health care systems of 11 major industrialized nations looking at health outcomes such as Quality Care, Access, Efficiency, Equity, and Healthy Lives. Canada came second last close to last place US! Interesting the US and Canada both represent the worst outcomes!

Health care as we have it is not sustainable. It is already showing stress, we all have stories. We cannot continue the model we currently.

Nova Scotia already is spending the highest proportion of its budget on Health Care. More money is not the answer.

But the status-quo does not want a discussion on this so it stifles debate by shouting down ideas and blindly promising even more money to try and paper over what are fundamental problems.

The Atlantica Party’s Solution? Imitate the systems that work best!

The number one ranked system in the world, that of the United Kingdom allows private, for-profit hospitals alongside its public system. Switzerland, Sweden, and Australia, the number two, three, and four ranked systems respectively, all have private and public hospitals, private and public clinics, and all charge patients some form of user fee for access, even in their public systems. In none of these systems do the poor go untreated, and in fact, when it comes to equitable and fast access to care, they all vastly outperform our own.

At the same time, the United Kingdom’s per capita spending on health care, at $3,405 per annum, is only 75 per cent that of our own. And they beat us easily in every outcome.!

This is what they do:

1. Allow both public and private operators in all spheres of health care, as long as it is within a universal system financed by government, as is the case in Europe.

· In Germany for example, private hospitals treat patients who are older on average and who have more serious health conditions than those in public hospitals. The data also show that private for-profit hospitals are better equipped to treat difficult cases and more complex pathologies. Moreover, a larger proportion of beds in these hospitals are reserved for emergency room and intensive care patients.

· In France, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, and many other countries, private hospitals and clinics have long been integrated into the public system. Wait times are shorter in some cases 2 to three times shorter.

· The revenues of privately run medical facilities depend on the number of patients they treat. In order to attract clients, they have to maintain their reputations. In a competitive environment where the money follows the patient, hospitals that cut on service quality drive away their clients and simply cannot make a profit.

· More choice for patients means they can choose which facilities will treat them, and where public funding follows the patient. This promotes accessibility for example for mental health.

2. Charge a small upfront fee say 5% for procedures

· Stifles demand since it reinforces the notion that health care is not ‘free’.

· The fee rises in conjunction with the cost of the service usually up to a limit or threshold. This is similar to how most private insurance plans operate with respect to drug purchases. Up to a ceiling and exemptions in special cases of chronic illness like cancer or low income.

3. Reduce high salaried non-front line administration

4. Note the Atlantica Budget makes no cuts to front line health care spending

5. Allow private billing for health care provision.

· This will also ease supply shortages.

6. Encourage private health insurance

7. Health care is directed by Ottawa. AP would advocate reforming the Health Care Act. If that failed we would be willing to go it alone.

Conclusion

A health care system can remain public and universal all while allowing entrepreneurs to compete to provide services, attract clients, lower costs and provide more choice instead of leaving patients trapped in a public monopoly that fails to respond adequately to the demand for treatment. This will benefit ALL aspects of health care for Nova Scotians.

Cheers,
jd

Jonathan Geoffrey Dean
Leader
Atlantica Party