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Lobbyists pitch plans to fix health care issues and ministers’ meeting in Charlottetown


Despite $330 billion in health-care spending last year, 6 million Canadians are without a family doctor. That’s the situation as health ministers from across the country come together in Charlottetown.

Health ministers from across the country are meeting on Prince Edward Island Wednesday and Thursday. They’re hearing from lobbyists representing health-care workers with solutions for what many are calling a crises in health care.

Despite the grim descriptor much of the talk is about efficiency, not spending, with those involved acutely aware of the price of health care.

According to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, across the country governments spent $330 billion for health care last year, that’s roughly $8,000 per Canadian.

Mark McLane, minister of Health and Wellness for P.E.I., said we need to change how we do things to solve problems in health-care delivery.

“I think investments are important, again, back to sheer numbers of population, there’s going to be additional spending, but I think the issue is to ensure that the access to care is in the appropriate places,” said McLane.

When asked about the possibility of private health care options, the minister said the province will comply with the Health Act.

One of the problems politicians are hearing about is in primary care, with 6 million people without a family doctor, which is about one in six. The Canadian Medical Association is calling for action plans from each province to fix it.

“So money is one part of the solution, having a look at how we’re spending those dollars,” said Kathleen Ross, president of the Canadian Medical Association. “Are we actually leveraging the skillset to the top of the scope of those trained health care providers across the board?”

She said many health-care systems don’t use doctors’ time very efficiently, burdening them with administrative tasks which could be handled by someone else.

Another is in nursing, with unions calling on provinces to improve working conditions for nurses as a way to fight widespread staffing shortages in the field. They say that will improve patient outcomes and reduce costs with shorter hospital stays, less overtime, and fewer nurses on sick leave.

“Let’s be honest, they’re already spending the money,” said Linda Silas, national president of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions. “They’re spending millions and billions in agency nurses, in the Maritimes we call them travel nurses.”

They want to see and end to the practice of using private agencies to fill nursing gaps and instead focus on hiring more permanent nursing staff.

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