Meeting Dr. Ewan Affleck, and working for health care comparability

(Une rencontre avec le Dr Ewan Affleck, et l’importance de soins de santé comparables à l’échelle du pays)

I was fortunate during my trip to Yellowknife last month to have the opportunity to meet with a real leader in the Canadian medical community who is working to improve the health care system for all Canadians.

Dr. Ewan Affleck is medical director of the Yellowknife Health and Social Services Authority Great Slave Community Health Clinic. Beyond his local practice, he is pursuing a specific matter of national concern: how to significantly improve the quality, provision, and access to health care for Canadians across the country by eliminating “unwarranted variations.”

What are unwarranted variations? The term refers to the measurable difference of care and treatment outcomes delivered to patients across regions, which can lead to differing odds and rates of success as a result of where one lives. This can be attributed to a number of factors, including when health professionals and practitioners fail to coordinate with one another about emerging trends, successful treatment options, or other variables that can affect proper diagnoses or treatments.

Dr. Affleck and I discussed to what extent this lack of regional coordination reflects an absence of national leadership in health care policy.

I believe a federally-led coordinating body such as the Health Council of Canada, as I have proposed in my Roadmap to One Canada for All Canadians, should be engaged to help bring provinces and the health care community together to gather and disseminate information more quickly and effectively across our vast country. Also, the federal government should take the lead in ensuring sufficient investment in healthcare infrastructure to reduce unwarranted variation in care across Canada.

For example, we must ensure that the same tests and procedures proven to help save lives in Toronto, are being adequately performed and monitored in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, and that children with autism have access to comparable services across the country. Because where we live should not mean a greater or lower chance of being correctly diagnosed and treated.

Canada has the capacity to be a world-class leader in health care provision. I am very thankful we have innovative health care leaders such as Dr. Affleck; now we need the national political will to ensure that their efforts are supported and expanded.