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Canada's health-care system 'not all that it's cracked up to be': Health PEI CEO

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On Wednesday, leaders of Prince Edward Island’s health authority were questioned at a government committee meeting.

But they also laid out what’s plaguing health care, as well as what’s needed to improve the industry.

Dr. Michael Gardam, the chief executive officer of Health PEI, said at the meeting that 95 per cent of the problems related to health care on the island are related to staffing.

In an interview with CTV Atlantic, Gardam doubled down on his comments, noting part of the issue with recruiting and retention is “self-inflicted.”

“Our government system has been slow to evolve, to be really nimble, to be able to hire people as quickly as possible,” said Gardam.

A lot of the difficulty to adequately staff the health-care system comes to restrictions on workers like foreign-trained doctors, he said.

“Our system has been the way it is for the last 50, 60 years, and I think we’re finally reaching the point where people realize the Canadian system is not all that it’s cracked up to be and we need to make changes,” said Gardam.

But those fixes, Gardam warned, will be anything but quick. He said it will take years to reform the health-care system.

“Forty per cent of students at a school in Dublin are Canadians, but are considered foreign medical grads,” said Gardam. “The chances are the vast majority of those trainees are going to the U.S. Why do we let our system be that way? We can actually change those things.”

With the prime minister set to meet with Canadian premiers next week to discuss further federal funding for health care, Gardam believes it’s time to start having “frank and honest conversations” about what the Canadian system can and can’t deliver.

“We’ve always been told we have the best health-care system in the world and I think Canada has woken over the last few years to realize that we don’t,” said Gardam. “That’s something we’ve told ourselves, we’ve felt pretty smug about it. But we were always comparing ourselves to the United States.”

Gardam noted, when comparing Canada to other developed countries across the globe, it’s clear Canada has one of the most expensive health-care systems, as well as some of the worst outcomes, longest wait lists and the fewest number of hospital beds.

While he says he doesn’t advocate in either direction, Gardem believes it’s time to start considering how private services can help remedy a plagued health-care system.

He pointed out that roughly one-third of Canadian health care is private, adding every fee-for-service doctor is a private corporation, as well as pharmacies.

“We already have a lot of private health care in Canada, in fact, we have the same proportion that the United States does,” said Gardam. “What we need to figure out is if we’re going to allow more private corporations into Canadian health care.”

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