A new report on Canadian health care validates many of the problems we see when it comes to staffing and access to primary care.
The report published by the Canadian Institute for Health Information on Wednesday shows improvements in the country’s health care system but also some areas of concern. The report is the first of its kind, called “Taking the pulse: A snapshot of Canadian health care, 2023.”
Narrowing in on some of the localized statistics, Manitoba performed 18% fewer surgeries during the COVID-19 pandemic, which was among the worst in Canada. There were about 743,000 fewer surgeries done in Canada during the first two and a half years of the global health crisis, which was a 13% drop.
However, Canadian provinces have seen between a one per cent and nine per cent increase in surgeries between March 2021 and June 2022 to try and clear the surgical backlog.
The report also highlights a problem well known to many and that is the critical understaffing of the country’s health-care system. During the first waves of the pandemic, health care staff at public hospitals worked 18 million overtime hours, which is the equivalent of more than 9,000 full-time jobs.
CIHI says that the workload contributed to burnout and illness, causing some workers to change jobs and even careers. A survey of Prairie Mountain Health doctors by Doctors Manitoba last summer found that 66% experienced excessive workload and 60% work more than 40 hours per week. Just over half (52%) reported being on-call an additional 60 hours per month with 40% saying they are “extremely impacted” by excessive on-call hours.
Interestingly, 88% of Canadians over the age of 12 reported having a regular health-care provider. This appears to go against the popular sentiment that there aren’t enough doctors. However, while many people do have a regular health-care provider, it remains to be seen how timely that care is.
In Manitoba, 86% of people say they have a regular health care provider. That number plummets in the North as just 24% of people in Nunavut have regular access to primary care but over in Yukon, that number is 83%.
The caveat here is that young people aged 18-34 are least likely to have a family doctor. Almost all Canadian seniors have a family doctor, which makes sense as many doctors now are not taking in new patients — as reported by Atlantic Canadians — and younger people may struggle to get into a doctor.
If you’ve had a family doctor for years, it’s easier to keep one than it is to get a new one, it seems.
“It would be useful to collect information on how access to primary care varies according to where people live, sex, income level, language and race to understand if there are differences in access and, if so, how to address them,” an excerpt from the report reads.
In 2022, less than 40% of Canadians view their health information online and people want better access to their electronic information. In Manitoba, just 18% of people view their health information online. It’s time to get with the times.
“More than 80% of Canadians who have gone online to see their health information felt more informed and better able to manage their health,” the CIHI report reads.
“And some patients even say they were able to avoid a visit with their regular health care provider or to an emergency department because they could see their health information online.”
That also goes for doctors sharing information with each other, which happens at quite a low rate in Canada. Just two-in-five doctors exchanged patient reports with each other in 2022. There may be some confidentiality surrounding this, or an over-reliance on paper systems but CIHI says that not sharing information puts patients at risk.
There may be some simple solutions to fix Canada’s health care and one of them can be to step into the 21st century.
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