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Move toward better health-care model sooner than later

Despite having to be flown mostly to Winnipeg for many treatments and procedures, Kivalliqmiut, on the whole, enjoy pretty darn decent medical care and that's especially true when one compares it to the rest of the country.

As far as people looking after their own personal health, however, not so much.

It's rather puzzling how Canada manages to spend so much on so little when it comes to this country having some of the lowest numbers of doctors, hospital beds, and medical technologies.

And that's despite spending more than most other developed countries with universal health care.

One more bit of information just to rub some salt into a gaping health-care-and-its-cost wound, if you are lucky enough to get in and see a specialist for your medical problems, you will quickly find out that Canada has the longest wait times on the planet, bar none.

A new study recently released by the Fraser Institute, an independent, non-partisan Canadian public policy think-tank, compares 28 universal health-care systems in developed countries, spotlighting several key areas including cost, availability and use of resources, access to care, clinical performance and quality, and the health of Canadians.

The study reveals that despite spending money like a large group of submariners on shore leave in Halifax, the health-care system in this nation trails most developed countries when it comes to its lack of critical resources and leads the way when it comes to long wait times for treatment.

Not a winning combination by any stretch of the imagination.

The next time you're waiting for an hour or so to see a nurse or doctor at the Kivalliq Regional Health Centre in Rankin Inlet — or any of the smaller local health centres in the other six Kivalliq communities — consider that the national average of wait time to see any type of specialist for medically-necessary treatments is almost 21 weeks.

And that number rises substantially when you hit the Maritimes, where Nova Scotia has a waiting period of 33 weeks, New Brunswick 39 weeks and the tiny province of Prince Edward Island clocks in at an astounding 39 weeks.

Throw in the fact these numbers are all pre-Covid pandemic and disbelievers be darned — Covid is putting an incredible strain on our health-care system with Alberta looking to employ field hospitals in an attempt to lessen the pressure.

In view of all this, the announcement of Covid-19 rapid-testing capabilities coming soon to a hub hotel near you seems to be no less than a gift from God.

In 2018, Canada’s health-care spending topped out at a staggering 11.3 per cent of our gross domestic product, which (after adjusting for population age) ranked it only behind Switzerland among the 28 developed countries looked at in the study

In fact, Canada ranks at or near the bottom of the list in almost every category analyzed.

We come in at No. 26 for number of doctors (2.8 per 1,000 people), No. 25 out of 26 countries for total number of hospital beds available (2.1 per 1,000 people), and 24th overall for the number of psychiatric beds (0.4 per 1,000 people).

To put most of this into perspective, despite our relatively quick access to nurses, nurse practitioners and doctors, Nunavut ranked dead last in terms of the overall health of its population in Canada, according to a study and health report issued by the Conference Board of Canada a few years back.

So what's the answer to getting more bang for the buck when it comes to health-care spending in this country?

The answer is not a popular one in the nation because a large number of people can't get past the words private, payer or socialist.

But as the Fraser Institute report's co-author Bacchus Barua points out, there is an imbalance between the value Canadians receive and the relatively high amount of money they spend on their health-care system. A big one!

But we would be well served to move our model closer to the system employed by the Brits. The United Kingdom is ranked sixth overall with its universal health-care coverage and a single-payer system.

If we're splitting hairs, the United Kingdom's system can be classified as socialized medicine because the British government owns most of the hospitals and employs the medical providers.

However, moving forward, we can continue to stubbornly dig our heels in and balk at the thought of private partnerships and socialized elements and continue to throw piles of good money after bad.

Or, we can begin to revamp our model, using the best elements of systems we know are superior to vastly improve our health-care system over the next 20 years, and have a model equal to what we pour into it.

After all, health care and politics make no better bedfellows than politics and religion in the big picture.