Universal health care is something many Canadians cherish and want to fiercely protect, but a new study finds it lags far behind the standard of care that is commonplace in Western Europe.
The study, called Euro-Canada Health [Consumer] Index, looked at health care in Canada from the consumers’ perspective at the provincial level and compared it with that of 29 European countries.
Austria was declared the winner, scoring 806 points out of a possible 1,000 points. The study said Austria has “a generous health care system that provides good access for patients and very good medical results.” Austria was followed closely by the Netherlands, France, Switzerland and Germany.
Canada placed 23rd out of 30 countries with a score of 550. In its scoring synopsis, the report said Canada’s very high level of health care spending means that when adjusted for bang for the buck, it ranks last.
The study, released Tuesday by Winnipeg-based think-tank Frontier Centre for Public Policy, examined several health-care quality indicators such as wait times, patient rights and information, primary care and access to own medical records.
A summary of the report said Canadians rely upon a “sclerotic, inefficient and remarkably stingy” system when it comes to providing excellent and timely care to patients.
When it comes to patients rights and information, Canada tied with Poland, ahead of only Latvia.
Canada shared last place with Ireland and Sweden for wait times, which the report called the “weak spot in Canadian health care.” The study said Canadians can be subjected to up to four lengthy waits.
The first wait is to see their family doctor or find a general practitioner if they don’t have a regular doctor. The second wait involves seeing a specialist. The third is for diagnostic procedures to determine a course of treatment, and the fourth is for the treatment itself. The report says it is not unusual for these waits to cumulatively exceed a year.
But on the bright side, the study does say that with respect to clinical outcomes, Canada compares well with the best performing health care systems.
Among the provinces, Ontario ranked at the top of the list “by a clear margin,” followed by B.C. and Nova Scotia. Worst-performers were Manitoba, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Newfoundland.
The Frontier Centre for Public Policy said the first province-to-province index, which compares the health care systems of all 10 provinces, will be released later in 2008.
It said assessing the strengths and weaknesses of provincial health care regimes will shed further light on Canada’s best and worst health policy practices.
— FCPP Note: The province-to-province index, Canada Health Consumer Index, is currently available. To view, please click here.