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Keep Canadians in the loop

Canada
The Regina Leader-Post
25/08/2010
Megan Fitzpatrick

Governments need to do a better job of telling Canadians how their health dollars are being spent and start making long-term projections to prepare for the aging population, auditor general Sheila Fraser said Tuesday.

"We don't know if we're getting good value for money," Fraser told a news conference following an address at the Canadian Medical Association's annual meeting.

Fraser said it's not within her mandate to audit whether the billions of dollars spent on health care every year are wisely spent -- that's the purview of the federal, provincial and territorial governments.

"That is really up to governments to show Canada's populations how effectively their tax dollars are being used, through good performance reporting," said Fraser, who was given a warm welcome by delegates at the conference and a standing ovation at the end of her speech.

Fraser said any large public program, such as health care, should be evaluated based on its cost and its performance. But there is no comprehensive picture being painted for Canadians, said Fraser, and as a result, it's difficult for them to engage in the debate on how to transform the health system the way CMA is demanding.

She said some provinces report on some aspects of health spending and performance indicators, but those provinces don't all report the same way.

"I think the governments should get together and decide how best to do this for Canadians and do it on a comprehensive level -- not simply province by province," said Fraser.

The federal and provincial governments had earlier agreed to produce reports every two years on a series of health indicators in an effort to measure the system's performance, but the provinces stopped issuing the reports in 2004. The federal government released one in 2008. Fraser said those reports were a good starting point and urged the provinces to return to them, but also said they should include more analysis and explanations for Canadians.

"Raw data in and of itself can lead to a lot of false conclusions," she said.

Fraser also called Tuesday for the federal government to undertake long-term fiscal projections to determine the challenges that lie ahead in funding the health-care system as the population ages. She also noted that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government should be projecting the long-term costs of climate change on the population.

Currently, the federal government only looks ahead about three to five years, said Fraser, and it should be looking down the road at least 25 years.

Giving Canadians a broad picture of what lies ahead will spur them to get involved in a national discussion about health care, Fraser said.

"I think the public has to become more engaged, and giving them that kind of long-term projection will certainly stimulate that debate," said Fraser.

Dr. Anne Doig, the outgoing CMA president, later echoed Fraser's comments by saying Canadians have "virtually no information about how well or how poorly" their health system is working.

"Public reporting on the performance of the health-care system in Canada is piecemeal at best and non-existent at worst," she said at a news conference.

When the federal and provincial governments sit down to talk about new funding agreements -- the current agreements expire in 2014 -- improved reporting should be a strong component of the new accords, said Doig.

Also at the CMA meeting Tuesday, doctors voted in favour of a motion calling for the recognition of a sixth principle -- sustainability -- to be added to the Canada Health Act. The Canada Health Act lays out the conditions that are supposed to be met by the provinces in order to receive funding from Ottawa.

Doig said making sustainability another facet of the Canada Health Act does not necessarily mean reopening the legislation, but a debate about how to define sustainability is the first step that needs to be taken.

El contenido de las noticias que se presentan en esta sección es responsabilidad directa de las agencias emisoras de noticias y no necesariamente reflejan la posición del Gobierno de México en este u otros temas relacionados.

    

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