Transforming Canadian Health Care Takes More Than Words
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA), representing the interests of more than 72,000 members nationally, released its latest policy document titled “Health Care Transformation in Canada: Change that Works. Care that Lasts.” Many of the recommendations contained in the document are not new. For almost a decade the CMA has been advocating for the development of a national patient charter.
Does Canada need a national patient charter? These charters are usually non-binding policy documents containing general statements about rights, responsibilities and standards of care already considered to be a requirement of good medical practice.
The CMA document makes reference to the existence of charters in the UK and Australia. Both of these countries created patient charters in the 1990s with the goal of improving the quality of their health care systems. Despite having developed new national charters in 2008, both countries are continually undergoing sweeping reforms to address issues concerning access, safety, quality of care and accountability within their public health care systems.
Many patient groups in Canada and around the world have already developed their own patient charters which tend to outline their expectations regarding the standards of care for their respective medical needs. Canada’s recent attempts at developing Patient Wait Times Guarantees serve as a reminder of the gaps that exist between health care policy promises and the realities experienced by patients.
What do Canadian patients really need when it comes to transforming the Canadian health care system?
More than words.