European Health Care Bests Canada: Expert

Media Appearances, Healthcare & Welfare, Frontier Centre


Long waiting lists, a lack of patient rights and slow development of new medicines.
Those are among the more problematic areas that make Canada’s health-care system inferior to European systems, says health-care expert Johan Hjertqvist.
Hjertqvist is president of Health Consumer Powerhouse, a Swedish-based company that compares health-care systems from around the world. He was at the Hotel Saskatchewan Monday afternoon to speak about Canada’s health-care system in comparison with European systems.
Health Consumer Powerhouse and Frontier Centre for Public Policy recently released a report outlining how Canada’s health-care system matches up to European systems.
Overall, Canada finished 25th out of 34 countries, the report showed.
"This sends a signal that that this is a very old and sloppy system — and that should not be the case," Hjertqvist said.
According to the study, Canada spends over $3,500 per person on health care, one of the highest rates among the countries studied. Despite that, Hjertqvist said Canada has very long waiting lists in comparison with European systems.
"You (Canadians) think it is reasonable that people should wait over one year or two years for treatment," he said. "Nowadays, you expect that you should be able to access a new mobile phone or whatever — and no one says it will take 18 months to get a new television. I think it is much more important to have a new hip than a new television — you should not have to wait 18 months for a hip replacement."
France, Belgium and the Netherlands had some of the best health-care systems in Europe and have diagnostic and orthopedic surgery waiting lists of around a week, whereas in Canada, waiting lists can swell to years.
Hjertqvist said that having little access to health care, as in the case of waiting lists, has an enormous effect on Canadian budgets, because it’s expensive to have someone not working and getting paid for sick leave. He believes the Canadian health-care system needs more contracted private health-care providers in order to improve patient access to treatment.
According to the study, Canada is behind several European health-care systems in terms of patient rights and information. Hjertqvist said we need a legislative guarantee of patients’ rights and an easier method for attempting to seek a second opinion.
The development of new medicines has been a weak spot for Canada, although according to the study, Canada has shown some improvement over the past few years.
One area in which Canada excelled is patient outcome. Although Hjertqvist agreed that patient outcome is important, it is not enough to have a well-balanced health-care system.
"By isolating the outcomes quality, you degrade a lot of other important functions," he said.
According to Hjertqvist, Canada has a "beverage model" health-care system, where a single organization handles the financing and provisions of the system. The Netherlands has the best overall health-care system in the study and uses what Hjertqvist refers to as the "Bismarck model." This model consists of several insurance organizations that exist independently of the health-care providers in the country.