Renowned doctor says health care at crossroads in Canada

Jim Day
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Dr. Ross Baker, an expert on patient safety and continuous quality improvement issues, says the health-care system in Canada has "been not very effective to take advantage of new knowledge, new technology and new ways of working.''

Dr. Ross Baker has for years witnessed a health care system resistant to change.

Today, however, there is little choice but to move in a different direction, says Baker, who led the landmark Canadian Adverse Events study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in 2004.

Baker, the keynote speaker at last night’s Health P.E.I. annual general meeting, says the country is facing a perfect storm in health care highlighted by an aging population and growing fiscal restraints.

Status quo, says the expert on patient safety and continuous quality improvement issues, simply is not an option.

The way Baker sees it, Canada has two choices with only one being truly acceptable.

“We can sit and watch what we have disappear or we can figure out how to create a safe, innovative agenda to move us into the 21st Century,’’ he said in an interview with The Guardian.

“And there’s lots of good ideas. There’s good ideas in this province (P.E.I.) There’s good ideas across the country.’’

Baker says Canada has great health facilities, like topnotch clinics and hospitals. He would also put the country’s doctors and nurses up against any in the world.

What is lacking, though, is a clear sense of how to best use those resources, he stresses.

“The classic case in point: we all know that lots of things were done in the hospital 20 years ago that are still in the hospital when they could be done more effectively elsewhere,’’ he said, citing as an example outpatient surgeries that can be done in clinics.

Baker says coordination of services in health care continues to be lacking in Canada.

Today, Canadians have a whole suite of people providing them with health care. Coordination of those services, unfortunately, usually fall on the shoulders of the patient or the patient’s family member.

“So you talk to parents of young kids who have complex medical issues and their lives revolve around organizing services for their kids,’’ said Baker, who is a professor at the Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation at the University of Toronto.

While Baker welcomes the trend towards home care becoming far more comprehensive today, coordination is an issue here as well. Different health care providers offer different services at different times, often relying on minimal technology to share information about the person they are providing care towards.

“Sometimes there’s no common record about what has happened to the patient in their home,’’ he said.

Baker says P.E.I. has the advantage of scale in working towards a more efficient, effective, coordinated approach to the delivery of health care.

The key, he says, is figuring out how to find the people willing to change, support them and let other people see what they are doing.

“It’s very hard in the health care professions to step outside of the pack, to be the innovator,’’ he said.

“And now we have to encourage those people and support them in doing that.’’

Board member Donna Murnaghan says Health P.E.I. has a real commitment to providing quality care and patient safety.

Murnaghan, an associate professor in the School of Nursing at UPEI, says Health P.E.I. is working towards better coordination of services with great success in some areas to date like diagnostic imaging.

She adds that health care comes under continual scrutiny in the province to help ensure that people are receiving the most appropriate services and that those services are being delivered by the right people and in a timely manner.

Organizations: Health P.E.I., Canadian Medical Association Journal, Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation University of Toronto.While Baker School of Nursing

Geographic location: Canada

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Recent comments

  • Sylvia
    November 15, 2012 - 11:01

    Health P.E.I. board is a total waste of money. P.E.I. is top heavy with administration which also includes I.R.A.C,. W.C.B., and provincial government. We have too many M.L.A.s for such a small province and we don't need 4 M.P.s. Majority of appointments are through patronage with both previous and present governments. I think this present government has taken patronage to a higher level than any previous government, both Liberal and P.C.

  • Chucker
    November 15, 2012 - 07:53

    This is the ' things are tough all over' distraction from three truths in the administration of PEI health care. The Health PEI top dog has bolted from his position. The health minister is here and there suggested as a pretender to the throne post-Ghiz ( coming soon) and that is his main preoccupation. The health system has drifted so far from its purpose that most of cannot even remember what patient care means any more.

  • Resident
    November 15, 2012 - 06:56

    Why HealthPEI, why not the Ministry? Why are we outsourcing decision making that impacts 60% of provincial budget?

    • NDP Now
      November 15, 2012 - 09:54

      Because we condoned the whole Health PEI facade when we elected the Liberals last fall. I would very much appreciate a clear answer on why the Health PEI CEO left his position please. And thank you.

  • John W. A Curtis
    November 15, 2012 - 03:42

    Nova Scotia justawarded a contract to IBM. I believe the province shouldr own the hospitals but contract out different services. The province shouldn't allow Island companies to bid on contract services only allow businesses from outside P.E.I.