Canada’s universal health care system was once a source of national pride, but emergency room closures, doctor shortages, and surgery delays over the past months, if not years, is shaking public faith.
A new study by the Angus Reid Institute shows that Canadians are even having a hard time accessing health care.
“Sixty per cent of Canadians report some level of difficulty. That is the adult equivalent of 18-million adults in this country. It’s a significant number,” said Shachi Kurl, president of the Angus Reid Institute.
As a result, confidence in Canada’s health care system is low. The poll shows less than half of Canadians, 37 per cent, are confident that in an emergency they’d be able to get care.
Compared to the United States, a system of private, user-pay health care, Americans were twice as likely as Canadians to report comfortable access to health care.
Faced with the possibility of needing emergency care, 70 per cent of Americans felt confident they would get it in a timely fashion compared to just 37 per cent of Canadians.
There were also far fewer U.S. respondents (13 per cent) who said they have chronic difficulty seeking medical care.
The BC Nurses Union (BCNU) isn’t surprised.
“This has been a concern for quite some time. We’re very concerned and our members are very concerned. Our health care system in any given day is in crisis,” said Adriane Gear, vice-president of the BCNU.
Gear says the lack of access Canadians are experiencing is the result of a lack of staff and overall health care strategy.
“Three years ago there were nearly 4,300 vacant nursing positions just in B.C. according to Health Canada, not including internal vacancies for things like maternity leaves,” said Gear.
Since 2019, nurses say the problem has only gotten worse.
“What is the plan? What is the plan?” said Gear. “We’ve been calling on the B.C. government, current and past for a human resource strategy. It is not new…The problem has gotten to a point where it is no longer manageable.”
It’s a far fall for a system that once was a point of pride for the nation. To resurrect it, Gear says an all-level government strategy is needed.
Premier John Horgan says he’s working on a solution.
“I’ve been tasked by my colleagues to make the case to Ottawa that they need to sit down with us to reimagine healthcare,” said Horgan.
In August, the B.C. government and Doctors of B.C. announced an $118-million fund to help stabilize family physician practices and clinics in the province.
In the meantime, both groups are working to address stagnant wages and the fee model doctors say results in patient backlogs and unsustainable business costs.