Health care should top election headlines
Some say we’re headed for a spring Provincial election in Ontario. While that may be true, I have to wonder why the state of health care in Ontario isn’t making more headlines. Canadians have little faith our system is prepared to handle the needs of aging boomers. Six in 10 Canadians surveyed by Ipsos Reid in late 2013 said they lack confidence in the health system’s ability to care for Canada’s rapidly greying population. The most concern expressed was among women and by Canadians aged 34 to 54, and by those already caring for an elderly person. These groups are highly skeptical that our hospitals and long-term care facilities can handle the demands of a population that is living longer than ever before. When released, the poll was accompanied by this quote from the outgoing President of the Canadian Medical Association: “The anxiety Canadians have about health care in their so-called golden years is both real and well-founded,” While she went on to say that all levels of government “need to act to address the demographic tsunami that is heading toward the health care system,” I for one don’t see our government racing to attend to these concerns. A vast majority of Canadians — 93 per cent — support a national, seniors’ health strategy for home care and long-term care. Three in five Canadians surveyed said they will have to rely on the public system for home care and long-term care if they will need it later in life. That sounds to me like our publically funded health care system is only going to be further challenged! Those already caring for an older adult are among the most worried that similar services will be there for them should they ever need home or long-term care in their own old age. There are many credible, objective voices trying to be heard in this health care debate. One of these had highlighted that it costs nearly $1,000 a day to keep a senior in a hospital bed, $126 a day for a bed in a long-term care facility and between $35 to $50 a day to keep them in their home with supportive home care and assisted living. The author of that report said that we could be saving the system an enormous amount of money by providing far more support to seniors in the home environment. While the average life expectancy of Canadians has increased by more than 30 years since the early 1900s, to 78 for men and 83 for women in 2011, the number of years lived in good health is sliding. Have you ever considered how many elders these days seem to be having hip replacements? The majority of today’s seniors have at least one chronic condition; as many as one in four has two or more. It is high time our leaders in government, all of us really, attend to this growing and universally common, health care challenge. An election would be a great time to have transparency brought to the issues. With nearly five million people aged 65 and older in Canada and with more and more of them approaching their potentially chronic years, we deserve a health care discussion on how to restore dignity and support to this very broad group of our population more than we need give voice to the problem ridden and distracting euthanasia debate some would prefer to focus upon. To do anything less for the sea of people having contributed so much to the past building up of our society would be uncivilized.