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Report shows Canadian health-care experiences vary across provinces


January 20, 2014
By Mari-Len De

Jan. 20, 2014 — A new report released by the Health Council of Canada reveals while Canadians feel generally optimistic about the health-care system, views about health-care access and experiences vary significantly across the different provinces, leading researchers to conclude that where one lives matters when it comes to their health.

Results from the 2013 Commonwealth Fund International Health Policy
Survey of the General Public is contained in a report titled, Where You
Live Matters: Canadian views on health care quality
. It is the eighth
and final bulletin in the Canadian Health Care Matters series.

The
report focuses on differences across the 10 Canadian provinces,
comparisons among the 11 OECD countries that participated in the survey,
and changes in Canada’s performance over the past decade. These results
show that where a person lives does matter, according to the Health
Council of Canada. Canada shows largely disappointing performance
compared to other high-income countries, some of which have made
impressive progress.

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Survey results show that Canadians’ views
about the health-care system have grown more positive in the last
decade, and more than half (61 per cent) rate their health status as
very good or excellent, putting Canada among the top three of the 11
countries surveyed. However, there remain large and concerning
variations in patients’ experiences in terms of access to care,
coordination and integration of care, patient safety and preventive
care.

“While this report indicates that Canadians’ views on
health care and their own health status appears optimistic, it raises
important questions on the wide variations we see among provinces in a
number of areas such as access to after-hours care, emergency department
wait times, affordability of care, coordination among care providers,
and the uptake of screening programs,” said Dr. Mark Dobrow, director,
analysis and reporting, Health Council of Canada.

Among the major
areas of concern for Canadians are cost and access to care. About
one-quarter of Canadians are concerned they would not be able to afford
needed care if they became seriously ill. In addition, between three per
cent and 15 per cent of Canadians do not have a regular doctor or
clinic where they go for care. Accessing medical care after hours
(without going to the emergency department) is difficult for 62 per cent
of Canadians (up to 73 per cent in Newfoundland and Labrador).

The
report also found that wait times remain a concern for Canadians, as
only 31 to 46 per cent of Canadians, depending on the province, could
get a same-day or next-day appointment when needed (excluding emergency
department visits). Canada is in last place among all countries surveyed
in this regard, with no improvement since 2004.

In addition,
screening activities vary across provinces. Between 12 to 34 per cent of
women aged 40 to 74 state they have never been screened for breast
cancer. Also 23 to 49 per cent of Canadians aged 50 or older state they
have never had a test to screen for bowel or colon cancer.

“These
provincial variations and complexities surrounding screening are the
focus of an upcoming report on screening from the Health Council to be
released in February,” explained Dr. Dobrow.

Preventive care
appears to remain a low priority, as up to 73 per cent of Canadians did
not get a seasonal preventive flu shot last year. Also, about half of
Canadians surveyed said they have not had a doctor or other clinic staff
talk with them about healthy eating or exercise in the past two years,
and 76 per cent have not talked about alcohol use.
   
According
to Dr. Dobrow, “our provinces and territories will need to dig deeper
into the survey data and other sources to understand the reasons for
their differences and consider what can be done to reduce inequities in
health and health care for all Canadians.”

To read the full report, visit the Health Council of Canada site.