TORONTO - A national debate is needed on what health services should be provided in the future and how they will be paid for, the president of the Canadian Medical Association said Wednesday.
And a new definition may be needed of what is necessary to ensure a healthy life for Canadians, Dr. Anne Doig told a business audience during a luncheon speech.
"The Canada Health Act narrowly defines insured health services as medically necessary hospital, physician, and surgical-dental services provided to insured persons," said Doig.
"We must agree on the definitions of medical necessity and we must agree on the appropriate levels of societal responsibility for medically necessary services."
Aging baby-boomers will demand more and better health-care services in the years to come, she noted, adding if that costs more, the public will have to decide if they are willing to fund them and if so, how.
"We have failed to recognize the first-dollar coverage in a system funded solely by taxation demands an increase in taxation revenues if the system is to continue to meet the needs of our citizens," she said.
"If we are unwilling or unable to increase the burden of taxation, we must debate alternative sources of funding. We must decide how broadly and how deeply to extend our publicly funded insurance."
In the meantime, the national doctors' association is developing what is calls a "Patient Quality Charter."
The charter is a "clear vision for quality care" that will lay out what is needed to provide the better health care aging boomers will demand, said Doig, who also slammed federal politicians for a failure to lead the health-care debate.
"Canada's federal politicians have completely abdicated their duty to fulfill the legacy of our once-proud health-care system. Instead they prefer to wrap themselves in the Canadian flag, dismissing any criticism of our health care system as unpatriotic," she said.
"Political posturing is not leadership."
She told the Economic Club of Canada it's not doctors, nurses and other health-care professionals that are failing Canadians but health-care insurance.
She says in the 1984 when the Canada Health Act was passed, physician and hospital services made up 57 per cent of total health spending but that has dropped to 41 per cent.
At the same time Doig noted current efforts on what she called "our shocking waiting times" have focused on the length of time between booking a surgical procedure and actually getting it.
"Up to now, we have failed to address the often even longer waits for patients to obtain a diagnostic service such as MRI, or to be seen in consultation by a specialist for a non-emergency condition."
The federal-provincial health care accord is up for renewal in 2014.