DrainCanada’s Declining Health Care System and the Brain Drain
Canada’s government-funded health care system in under attack. Despite the mandate of the Canada health act, which was meant to assure universality, comprehensiveness, equitable access, public administration and portability of our health care system, (Braithwaite 17), Canadians today make the issue of health care their most important political concern. One of the biggest crises the Canadian health care system faces is for strange reasons not in the spotlight when debating the issues, that is the brain drain-Canada losing highly skilled physicians and health care workers to other countries like the U.S. It is time to look at solutions to reverse this popular trend among doctors. A privately funded health care system can rejuvenate health related research in Canada and virtually eliminate the brain drain. By addressing today health care problems, examining what lures our workers to other countries, and applying economic models, a theory to today’s problems can be answered.
Canada’s health care concerns are primarily the result of federal and provincial cutbacks in an effort to eliminate the deficit (Gordon 1). Under the restructuring, governments have provided less money to the system resulting in hospital closures, lack of hospital beds, and operating rooms, cancellation or reduction of programs and restriction on the availability of new medical technologies (Gordon 3). All these have resulted in limiting the service provided by physicians to their patients. A similar situation exists with respect to physicians in the research community. Talented, world-class Canadian scientists have been faced shrinking government funding for basic and clinical research. Among the G-7 nations, Canada ranks last in per capita spending for health research. Japan, France, the U.S. and the U.K. all spend between 1.5 and 3.5 times more than Canada does (Bannister 77). It is clear to see that many issues must be addressed to keep our doctors north of the border.
Evidence of the physician brain drain in Canada is plentiful. Data from the Canadian Institute for health information (CIHI) shows that there has been a 130per cent increase, which is more than double, the net loss of doctors that went to work abroad from 1991-1996, mostly going to the states. In 1996 alone, 513 Canadian physicians (net) that left Canada represent the annual output of approximately five Canadian medical schools (Buske 158). The loss of each single physician represents a loss of a major Canadian investment in a highly educated, skilled practitioner who otherwise could have contributed to the overall health and well being of Canadians in their respective communities, and whose future research could have proved to serve the country as a whole. But with much higher salaries and larger funding for research, it is hardly the doctors’ fault.
The brain drain is not confined to physicians. Doctors represent only one quarter of health workers who made the move to the states in 1996, with nurses making up the majority (Buske 158).
It is clear that Canada’s health care needs more funding at all levels, and the only way to accomplish this goal is to open new money streams into the system to counter the impact of diminishing funding. One answer to the problem is to have a privately funded health care system, which would let Canada keep doctor salaries competitive and provide additional resources to the system, including selling our services to U.S. patients.
Although privatization of health care scares many citizens, especially those with little to no income, a publicly funded system with a private tier could alleviate their worries and benefit all Canadians.
With an added source of revenue, the economics behind this model is simple: as the price of salaries goes up, the population of doctors and nurses in Canada rises as well. If the demand for doctors in Canada rises, which seems to be the case, then the government must do something to increase the supply as well, in order for the market to stay in equilibrium. The closer to equilibrium means fewer waiting lists for medical attention and better health care overall, which are aspects that we just cannot afford to overlook or relax at the expense of other Canadian health and social issues. Increased revenue through some form of privatization would provide more opportunity for Canadian research-new, cost-efficient ways to administer care could be discovered to curb private costs in the long run. New technologies and medicines can also be discovered and sold to other countries.
Today’s health care system in Canada needs serious attention from our government and as well as our citizens. To say that these problems will go away by themselves under our current system is ridiculous. Alternative solutions must be considered and addressed to Canadians so we don’t find ourselves in serious trouble down the road. Health care will continue to be debated in parliament in the upcoming weeks and months, but one thing that is beyond debate is Canada’s obligation to make our country a place where our children will want to stay and an attractive environment for investment and innovation. We must keep our best here in order stay ahead of pressing health issues and to attract talent from around the world. Exploring the option of a privately funded system ensures these Canadian morals and improves the quality of life for all Canadians.