Media Release – Canadian Health Consumer Index Rates Each Province’s Healthcare System

Media Release, Healthcare & Welfare, Frontier Centre

Ontario came in first in the Frontier Centre for Public Policy’s first annual Canada Health Consumer Index which was released today. The Index – published by the Frontier Centre for Public Policy together with its European partner the Health Consumer Powerhouse (HCP) in Brussels – examines healthcare from the perspective of the consumer at the provincial level.

The Index was written by Rebecca Walberg, the Frontier Centre’s Director of Health Policy, and HCP’s Arne Bjornberg. Earlier this year, the Frontier Centre and HCP released the first Euro-Canada Health Consumer Index, which compared the health care systems in Canada and 29 European countries. Canada placed 23rd.

Walberg said that while there are some clear winners and losers in the overall comparison, all provinces have areas that need improvement.

“We still have a lot of hard work ahead of us to achieve the level of excellence you find in much of Europe,” she said. “Fortunately, almost every province reflects good health policy in some facets, but a good deal remains to be done if we are going to make our healthcare equitable and effective.”

Ontario, she said, finished first in the overall comparison by a clear margin. “Waiting times are still a problem; the province is about average nationwide. However, it leads the pack in patient rights, primary care, generosity and outcomes.”

British Columbia came in second, with excellent scores for patients’ rights and outcomes. Nova Scotia rounded up the top three, Walberg said, on the strength of its first-place positions in waiting times and outcomes.

At the other end of the spectrum are Manitoba, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland although only 21 out of a possible 1,000 points separate them. “Each of these provinces is facing some serious issues when it comes to providing healthcare,” Walberg said.

Another lesson gleaned from the Index, she added, was the fact that the best healthcare systems are not necessarily the most expensive. “Alberta falls squarely in the middle of the pack in overall score but spends the largest amount of money on healthcare per capita, while Ontario and BC get good value for money spent, spending less per capita to place first and second than many provinces that fare worse.”

Among the Index’ findings:

  • Access to healthcare varies widely from province to province, whether in terms of availability of family doctors and midwives, the affordability and timely approval of new drugs or the waiting time to see a specialist.
  • Even the best-performing provinces do not provide the standard of care that is commonplace in Western Europe.
  • Canada lacks a culture of accountability and transparency in healthcare, and it still puts providers and bureaucrats ahead of consumers.
  • “All of the problems we are having with our healthcare system,” Walberg said, “stem from the fundamental philosophy that the system is in place to serve providers and bureaucrats. We would take a big step in improving the system if we turned that around and placed the healthcare consumer first.”

    To download a copy of the 2008 Canada Health Consumer Index, click here.

    For more information or to arrange an interview with Rebecca Walberg, or David Seymour, Saskatchewan Policy Analyst, or Mark Milke, Alberta Senior Fellow, or Johan Hjertqvist, Health Consumer Powerhouse, contact:

    Gary Slywchuk
    (403) 835-8192