This article originally appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of the Ontario Medical Review magazine.
As Canadians our health-care system defines us. It’s the largest social program in our country. Beyond being proud of having a publicly funded system, it’s the principles of fairness and equity extended to everyone, regardless of their means, that is our national distinction, and it reflects our values and who we want to be as a society.
Because it defines us culturally, we place a bigger spotlight on health care and hold it to a higher standard.
Anyone who has turned to the health-care system personally or has helped a loved one through an illness knows the expertise and dedication that doctors bring to the table every day.
But there are also gaps in our system, things we could improve upon, and the worst public health crisis of our generation has laid these elements bare.
If we don’t get health care right, we can’t get the economy right.
While there is no question that patients should be at the centre of health care, our system is nevertheless fractured. Despite the best of intentions, the health-care system is still not sufficiently organized to put a single integrated plan around each patient.
Technological advances can help with integration, but true transformation will also take political will, system change and resources.
Political parties of all stripes need to hear from doctors on what it will take to finally put patients at the centre of health care. We should never underestimate the trust patients place in their physicians. They know good things happen when government listens to doctors.
Throughout 2021, the Ontario Medical Association has consulted widely with its members, public, health-care partners, and the many others who play an incredibly important role in health. Now, we are putting the best ideas forward into a plan we believe lights a clear path toward truly patient-centred care.
We hope all political parties campaigning in Ontario to form the next provincial government will act on doctors’ recommendations for a better health-care system. We won’t emerge stronger from the pandemic if we can’t put partisanship aside and do what’s best for patients. We know this from SARS, another respiratory disease caused by a previously unknown type of coronavirus and spread through close contact. I was head of communications for the Ministry of Health in 2003 when the SARS outbreak hit, and from that experience it’s clear to me it would be irresponsible for any future government not to take lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, which sadly has claimed even more lives and created vast economic disruption.
Our future health, and our future economy depend on this because if we don’t get health care right, we can’t get the economy right. You only have to look at what the economy lost when the health-care system was staggered by the pandemic to understand the link between the two.
We will see more pandemics in our lifetime, which is all the more reason that whichever party forms the next government, it must be prepared to reduce the death, suffering and economic hardship we have endured with COVID-19. Doctors’ recommendations speak to these things and more.
Our lives and our livelihoods depend on it.