Challenging increasing wait times for health care



Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Mr. Speaker, the minister’s assurance ring very hollow when we consider that the Conservatives eliminated the funding specifically targeted at reducing wait times. It has gone.

    The Wait Time Alliance report card reveals that Canadians are waiting far longer for emergency care than people in other comparable countries, and 4.4 million Canadians have no family doctor.

    Instead of working with the provinces to address these challenges, the government has abandoned them.

    Why will the minister not come to the table with the provinces and work with them to improve health care for Canadians?

    Hon. Rona Ambrose (Minister of Health, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I am happy to work every day with the provinces and territories on the delivery of health care, and it is, of course, their responsibility and they work very hard at it.

    I would just point out to the member that in fact the Canadian Institute of Health Information saw 2012 as the highest level of physicians per capita in Canada in the history of Canada, so there is a lot of progress being made there.

    As well, if we look at comparing ourselves to other countries, last year the OECD noted that Canada had the lowest medium wait times for cataract surgery and the second lowest medium wait times for hips and knee replacements compared to countries like Finland, Australia, New Zealand and the U.K., so we are making progress.

    Ms. Libby Davies (Vancouver East, NDP): Mr. Speaker, it is not only a jurisdictional question for the provinces and the territories, it is a federal issue as well.

    Commitments were made by the federal government. Most times, outcomes speak louder than words, and wait times in fact, according to this report card, are not improving. In fact, Canadians are now paying a very high emotional, physical and even financial cost for the long wait times.

    According to the report today, the cost to the economy of lengthy waits for just five procedures is $15 billion a year.

    Why will the government not honour the commitments that were made and become an active partner in reducing wait times for Canadians?

    Hon. Rona Ambrose (Minister of Health, CPC): Mr. Speaker, we are an active partner in reducing wait times, and the member knows we provided $1 billion for the provinces and territories to establish the wait times guarantees in their own priorities areas.

    Importantly, they were able to choose those areas that were priorities for them in their own health systems.

    We have seen concrete results with, as I said, priority procedures in provinces meeting nearly 80% of time targets, including radiation therapy and other procedures.

    We are working with the provinces and territories in many other ways to help them reduce wait times, whether it be things like electronic health records, and also working with them on a national strategy for health human resources to help reduce wait–

    The Speaker: Order, please. The hon. member for Toronto Centre.