Five mantras on healthcare reform

On Thursday, André Picard, The Globe and Mail’s health reporter, won the Hy Solomon Award for public policy. Here is an excerpt from his acceptance speech:

Mantras are short phrases designed to focus the mind. Here are five of my mantras for health-care reform:

Medicine is the easy part of health care.

It’s just plumbing with more expensive tools. We need to invest in things that will make the population healthy – education, housing, the environment, meaningful work. And when people are sick or wounded or demented, we need to get our priorities straight: Hold their hands, listen, comfort them, help them navigate the care journey.

The law is an ass.

We have to stop hiding behind the Constitution. Health is not a provincial power or a federal power, it’s a universal desire and a fundamental right.

“If you don’t count it, it doesn’t count.” (John Kenneth Galbraith).

We need concrete health goals, to be guided by evidence, to measure results, and to reward success. Let’s invest in technology and a culture of safety, and make patient-centred care a mission, not a public relations catchphrase.

You can’t deliver 21st-century care with a 1950s system.

Our health system was designed for the delivery of episodic acute care by physicians, principally in hospitals. Most patients have multiple chronic conditions and can be treated in the community. We need to reshape the system to reflect their needs.

Stop whining. Start doing.

The poet Shelley said of his mother-in-law: “She has lost the power of communication but, sadly, not the power of speech.” That describes well my feelings about our elected officials, business titans and community leaders and their seeming inability to articulate a vision for health care. Rhetorical hand grenades like “unsustainable” and “out-of-control spending” are counter-productive. Leadership is about finding solutions – and that begins with defining what medicare should cover in the 21st century.



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