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More Canadian seniors considering postponing retirement due to health costs

Dr. Gigi Osler, president of the Canadian Medical Association, chats with CMA membership manager Jeff Gibson while in P.E.I. Wednesday. The Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers Responsible for Seniors Forum was just held in P.E.I., and Osler was advocating for more federal investment to help solve issues related to rising seniors health-care costs.
Dr. Gigi Osler, president of the Canadian Medical Association, chats with CMA membership manager Jeff Gibson while in P.E.I. Wednesday. The Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers Responsible for Seniors Forum was just held in P.E.I., and Osler was advocating for more federal investment to help solve issues related to rising seniors health-care costs. - Mitch MacDonald

A lack of long-term care beds, reduced physiotherapy services and other seniors health issues are causing a ripple effect on P.E.I.’s care system, say the heads of federal and provincial medical associations.

Canadian Medical Association (CMA) president Dr. Gigi Osler and Medical Society of P.E.I. president Dr. Kris Saunders, who served in the role until Thursday, both commented on an Ipsos survey released Wednesday showing that most Canadians believe they’ll delay their retirement so they’ll be able to afford health care.

The survey also showed 88 per cent of Canadians are worried about the growing number of seniors requiring greater care, while 70 per cent are worried that without immediate action Canadians will have to pay out of pocket for future services.

“I think this has to serve as a bit of a wake-up call for the federal government to make some real commitments,” said Osler.


The numbers

  • 88 per cent of Canadians say they are worried about the growing number of seniors requiring greater care.
  • 58 per cent of Canadians believe many will delay their retirement so they can afford health care. Regionally, residents of Atlantic Canada are most likely to believe this (65 per cent) while Ontario residents are the least (56 per cent).
  • 70 per cent of Canadians worry that, without immediate action on health care, Canadians are going to have to pay out of pocket for services in the future.
  • 69 per cent of Canadians believe that the health system requires new federal funding to help provinces cover the rising costs of health care in the context of an aging population.
  • A federal pharmacare program is the top policy Canadians feel would be most likely to improve the system at 38 per cent. 35 per cent of Canadians said they would be much more likely to vote for a federal political party with the policy.
  • 34 per cent believe that increased funding from the federal government to help provinces cover the rising costs of seniors health care would very much improve the health system, while 31 per cent said they would be much more likely to vote for a federal party with the policy.

Source: Ipsos poll conducted between Feb. 25 to March 4, 2019. A sample of 3,352 Canadians aged 18 and older were interviewed. The poll is accurate to within +1.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.


With an older population on average than much of Canada, Atlantic Canadians have already been affected by the aging demographics in health care.

Saunders said it is having a ripple effect. For example, a lack of long-term care beds in P.E.I. has resulted in many seniors staying in hospital while awaiting placement. That leaves other patients unable to access resources, while those seniors are still under-serviced.

“To be in a hospital and not be acutely ill when what you need is a nursing home, which has all kinds of social activities… it’s better to get them to an appropriate living place,” said Saunders, who was president prior to Dr. Dave Bannon stepping into the role during the group’s annual general meeting Thursday at the Grand Victorian.

Saunders said some seniors who get admitted for a medical illness will, instead of returning home, have to enter community care upon leaving the hospital.

“Because there is not enough physiotherapy resources to get them up and moving,” said Saunders. “There’s 100 little areas where each of them could be improved to make things better for seniors and keep them healthy and living in their own homes longer.”

The issue also places a strain on all age groups in P.E.I., with Saunders noting that about 13,000 Islanders do not have a family doctor.

“And a lot of people who have a doctor have to wait three weeks to get in because a lot of doctors are overloaded,” he said. “And everybody is trying to work on that.”

Osler said the national society is working with the provincial counterparts to advocate for more family physicians, which she said is a national issue.

She said while younger Canadians are the least concerned about health-care costs, it’s a domino effect. Improving seniors care would also address many access and wait time issues.

“We’re trying to tell (younger Canadians), ‘don’t think it doesn’t affect you because seniors care affects us all’.”

P.E.I.’s Social Development and Housing Minister Ernie Hudson chats with federal Seniors Minister Filomena Tassi at the Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers Responsible for Seniors Forum being held at the Delta Prince Edward Wednesday. The forum was held the same day as the release of an Ipsos poll showing that most Canadians are concerned about the growing number of seniors requiring greater health care. - Mitch MacDonald
P.E.I.’s Social Development and Housing Minister Ernie Hudson chats with federal Seniors Minister Filomena Tassi at the Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers Responsible for Seniors Forum being held at the Delta Prince Edward Wednesday. The forum was held the same day as the release of an Ipsos poll showing that most Canadians are concerned about the growing number of seniors requiring greater health care. - Mitch MacDonald

While Osler was in the province this week, the Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers Responsible for Seniors Forum also met on P.E.I. Wednesday to discuss issues affecting older Canadians. The CMA was on-site to share its views.

When asked by a reporter, federal Seniors Minister Filomena Tassi said she had not seen the survey but stated health-care access was an important issue and government has invested in home care and palliative care, enhanced caregiver benefits and made a commitment to provide a dementia strategy.

“We’re making significant investments in terms of health care, I know that it’s important to Canadians,” said Tassi, who stated the importance of federal and provincial collaboration.

Both Saunders and Osler were hopeful collaboration could improve the system. The CMA has advocated for new federal investments in seniors care, urging the federal government to top up the Canada Health Transfer and create a new seniors’ care benefit.

“At the Medical Society we’re really hopeful to work with government towards solving the problem… and I think we have a lot of solutions. We could help them if they would allow it,” said Saunders, specifically pointing to virtual care now being done at Alberton’s Western Hospital as one aspect to the solution. “It’s kind of a national phenomenon. Everyone is turning their eye to P.E.I. to see how this is working out.”

Twitter.com/Mitch_PEI


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