Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 15, 2003
Romanow's health report gathers dust
Health care appears to be one of Martin's priorities
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
It cost $15 million to prepare but after one year, not one of the almost 50 recommendations of the report of the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care has been implemented.
"It's very disappointing to see how little has been accomplished," said Dr. Richard Haughian, president of the Catholic Health Association of Canada. "The report was an extremely significant national initiative with wide involvement of Canadians from across Canada," he said in a CCN interview Dec. 1.
Among the recommendations of the commission, headed by former Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow was a call to the federal government to spend an additional $15 billion over three years. It also said the privatization of health care services was unworkable.
Its release Nov. 28, 2002 was greeted with widespread public support. Many health organizations and individuals across the country had high expectations.
The social affairs commission of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops noted in February that the commission's first recommendation was an idea proposed by the ecumenical health network of the Canadian Council of Churches, of which the CCCB is a member, to set up a "Health Care Covenant."
In opposing further expansion of for-profit health care delivery, the CCCB commission said health should be seen as "holistic, including physical, emotional, spiritual and social well-being - and as a public good."
The Assembly of First Nations was pleased that the report agreed with its assessment that much more needed to be done to improve the health status of First Nations people.
As well, Prime Minister Jean Chretien praised the Romanow report. However, he added that the government was not prepared at the time to commit large sums of money for health care. Still, he pledged to implement some of the recommendations this year.
The majority of Canadians also favoured the values-oriented approach taken by the commission. An EIKOS poll released on the anniversary of the report found that 84 per cent of Canadians familiar with its broad recommendations supported its overall directions and only 12 per cent opposed it.
"One year later, Canadians are still wondering what happened," says the Council of Canadians, headed by Maude Barlow. "What many considered to be a model exercise in democratic participation, not one of the demands they made to their governments through the Romanow report has been implemented."
Even the report's author has grown frustrated with the lack of progress. "There is a ton of major work to do and there is a time for action right now and it's overdue," Romanow told delegates to a recent nursing conference, the Canadian Press reported.
"I'm simply saying as a danger signal, a warning signal, for the governments: act now, please, because if you don't, this will be re-ignited and it will be a body blow to health care."
Particularly disappointing to the CHAC is the recommendation for a national health council, described by the CHAC's Haughian as one of the commission's most important proposals.
"It is disappointing that the levels of government have not found a way to get together to really push that forward in a really significant way, in a way that reflects his recommendations," he said.
The EIKOS survey indicated that 83 per cent of Canadians support the principle of a health council. It would monitor and report to Canadians on how the $112 billion being spent on health care each year is being directed.
However, Haughian is encouraged that incoming Prime Minister Paul Martin appears to be making health care a priority for his administration and that he has "addressed the question of a health council," in his informal meeting with premiers in Regina in early November.
Another meeting between Martin and the premiers will likely be held early in the New Year. Haughian said, "it will be very important - just to see if there's a different climate, a different tone . . . on the importance of health care reform."