Choi Chung, RPh, BScPharm, Ahmad Chehade, PharmD Candidate & Aaron Chy, BSc General, PharmD Candidate
Practitioners in Canada
Imagine working an eight, nine or even a ten-hour day with no breaks, where you’re in a position responsible for the health and well-being of hundreds of patients a day. All of this while striving to build authentic, quality relationships with the patients under your care.
These are the everyday responsibilities of your healthcare professionals, including pharmacists, nurses, physicians, dietitians, and many more. These individuals are constantly working towards the best possible health outcomes for all their patients, from those with simpler needs to those who are extremely complex.
The truth is that the public, government, and patients themselves see only a fraction of what these everyday superheroes do for us. They work tirelessly to provide the highest standard of care with the limited resources at their disposal. Unfortunately, year after year these resources are becoming ever-more scarce. Not only does this affect the job security, work environment, and demands placed on these clinicians, but also the quality of care that they can deliver to their patients.
Why is the healthcare system reducing its budget?
In essence, the goal of any government is to minimize costs and spending. When any country faces budget deficits, it must recoup their funds from somewhere else. This may occur through increased income taxes, reshaping infrastructure, or more commonly than we’d like: cutting back on healthcare spending.
On top of this, the government may also reduce healthcare funding for the reason of maximizing efficiency and productivity.1 Unfortunately, there comes the point when performance can no longer be improved, and any further attempts to do so may begin to have negative effects on patient care.
How does this affect patients?
It’s no secret that patients may often feel their care is rushed, or that they’re not getting the time they deserve when discussing health concerns. In many ways, the cutbacks continually faced by the healthcare system are responsible for these issues.
To adjust for cuts in funding, healthcare employers are forced to compensate by reducing staff and prioritizing time and raw efficiency. In addition, whenever one branch of healthcare loses support, more responsibilities are inevitably shifted onto other professions, increasing workload and the risk of practitioner burnout. Overall, this creates a domino effect that ultimately affects the quality of care every patient receives.
Though this is not the intention of any clinician, it’s unfortunately become a reality. No nurse wants to have a rushed conversation with a concerned hospital patient. No pharmacist wants to give out leaflets rather than discuss medications directly, and no physician wants to have hurried five-minute appointments with their patients. However, the reality is that when resources are stripped away from clinicians, patients are ultimately the ones who suffer.
What was the impact of previous healthcare cutbacks in Canada?
Cuts to funding are nothing new to the Canadian healthcare system. In 2015, Quebec experienced drastic cuts that resulted in the loss of over a hundred public health positions, drastically reducing the number of nurses and nutritionists in practice.1
Since 2015, cutbacks in Ontario have also affected physicians by forcing them to reduce their open hours, cancel clinics, lay-off support staff (e.g. receptionists), and sometimes close their practices completely.2 One can only imagine the impact this has had, as thousands of patients have been forced to seek out alternative care, new family physicians, or endure longer wait times.2
Quite apparently, cutbacks to Canadian healthcare have historically reduced the accessibility of care for patients. One can conclude that as society ages and develops more complex needs, reductions in funding can affect countless Canadians – especially those who are most in need.
Won’t society save more money this way?
Yes, in some ways there is a financial gain for taxpayers, whether it be reduced drug costs, or more funds left over to support infrastructure, housing and other pursuits. But as the quality of care suffers, we may also see an increase in hospital visits, ambulance use and sick days in return. Therefore, is this really the best approach by the government?
Ultimately, we’re not politicians, and in the end, we have only a surface level understanding of what goes on in the government. However, we do believe the Canadian government wishes to deliver the best possible care for Canadians, but to do so, they must acknowledge that funding cutbacks will not achieve this goal.
The most important thing we can do is to be heard. We encourage each and every reader of this article to share it with others and to fill out the survey below to help raise awareness. In addition, reach out to your local MLA by letter, email or phone to voice your concerns about these issues.
Don’t hesitate to speak out – reach us on Facebook, Instagram or email us at email@example.com with your thoughts.
- Public health systems under attack in Canada: Evidence on public health system performance challenges arbitrary reform – http://journal.cpha.ca/index.php/cjph/article/view/5273/3451