The Canadian health system and Medicare program are known for accessibility to citizens, which highlights them among other countries that have severe difficulties in obtaining care. However, researchers, health officials, and citizens see increasing shortcomings, especially in the face of new challenges such as the nation’s aging and the spread of chronic conditions. Although the system was developed several decades ago and includes essential values, it no longer meets modern realities.
One of the most significant problems is waiting for a doctor’s appointment. Problems requiring urgent attention, such as a heart attack, are solved quite effectively. However, not severe conditions, for instance, shoulder or ankle surgery, receive little attention since people are forced to wait a long time, sometimes several months, to visit a doctor. Notably, in 1998, long waiting was a problem for only 4% of the population compared to 43% in 2018. At the same time, 56% of Canadians reported that the expectation of a specialist could last longer than four weeks. This waiting time is usually much longer than recommended for various diseases, especially for older adults.
Moreover, the cost of health care increases for each person, and more people requiring medical care create an additional financial burden. Since the 1970s, the growth of health spending has been faster than the development of the country’s economy. The cost of health for each citizen is about 6,000 Canadian dollars, which is much more than in many countries. However, Medicare still does not cover the weighty costs of citizens for dental and psychological services. Thus, the current health system does not justify its high price.
The aging of the nation and high prevalence among the older generation of chronic conditions demonstrate the unpreparedness of the Canadian system for new realities. Places in hospitals are limited, and insurance does not cover a sufficient number of services. Moreover, although accessibility is an essential principle for Canadian healthcare, access to services issue is compounded by the gap between rural and urban areas. At the same time, social determinants of health (housing, nutrition, and other elements), which could strengthen prevention and reduce the burden on hospitals, receive little attention. The system is not ready for increased load, but, at the same time, insufficient effort is taken to prevent it.
Thus, the Canadian Health System is designed for the citizens’ well-being, which is reflected in its fundamental principles as accessibility. However, the system created several decades ago is not ready for modern realities, which led to problems. The primary discontent of citizens is caused by the waiting time for a doctor’s appointment, which often exceeds the recommended for specific conditions. Access problems are particularly relevant in rural areas compared to urban ones. Moreover, the system does not cover the costs of dentistry or mental health, but, at the same time, is relatively expensive, and expenses increase regularly.