Tags: canada | health | plan

Canada Health Plan May Deny 6,000 Surgeries

Wednesday, 19 Aug 2009 06:56 PM

By Dave Eberhart

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Vancouver, Canada’s health authority is mulling skipping over more than 6,000 surgeries in an effort to close a $200 million budget shortfall, according to a report in the Vancouver Sun.

The excised procedures would include a host of neurosurgeries, treatment for vascular diseases and other medically necessary procedures -- leaving patients waiting long periods of time for their backordered operations, said Canadian health critic Adrian Dix.

Dix pointed to a Vancouver Coastal Health Authority document he said outlined the cuts.

“This hasn’t been announced by the health authority … but these cuts are coming,” Dix said, citing figures he gleaned from an unpublished executive summary of “proposed VCH surgical reductions.”

The health authority confirmed the document is genuine, but said it represents ideas only. It is a planning document. It has not been approved or implemented,” said spokeswoman Anna Marie D’Angelo.

Canada's national health insurance program, often referred to as "Medicare,” is theoretically designed to ensure that all residents have reasonable access to medically necessary hospital and physician services -- on a prepaid basis.

Instead of having a single national plan, Canada has a national program that is composed of 13 interlocking provincial and territorial health insurance plans, all framed by the Canada Health Act (CHA).

Roles and responsibilities for Canada's health care system are shared between the federal and provincial-territorial governments. Under CHA, criteria and conditions are specified that must be satisfied by the provincial and territorial health care insurance plans in order for them to qualify for their full share of the federal cash contribution.

Recently, the new president of the Canadian Medical Association said Canada’s health-care system is sick and doctors need to develop a plan to cure it.

Dr. Anne Doig argued that patients are getting less than optimal care.

"We all agree that the system is imploding, we all agree that things are more precarious than perhaps Canadians realize," she told The Canadian Press.

On the Vancouver front, Dr. Brian Brodie, president of the BC Medical Association, called the proposed surgical cuts “a nightmare,” according to the Vancouver Sun. “Why would you begin your cost-cutting measures on medically necessary surgery? I just can’t think of a worse place,” he said.

According to the leaked document, Vancouver Coastal wants to close nearly a quarter of its operating rooms starting in September and to cut 6,250 surgeries. As many of 112 full-time jobs — including 13 anesthesiologist positions — would be affected by the reductions, the document indicates.

“Clearly this will impact the capacity of the health-care system to provide care, not just now but in the future,” Dix said.

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