Leadership on health care
Jack Layton's speech to the Nova Scotia NDP Convention
Fri 4 Jun 2010Friends, I can tell you this: New Democrats are putting health care front and centre for the next election.
Not because it’s fundamentally broken. In many ways, medicare’s working well. Well enough to inspire the top achievement of the Obama presidency. Well enough to have made a big difference in my life this year.
Medicare is how I discovered my own health challenges, and medicare is why I’m now well on the road to recovery. And all I ever needed was my heath card — my credit card stayed in my pocket.
That was Tommy’s vision: equal access to physician and hospital care, no matter where you live, or how much money you make.
Without leadership, we risk falling back to a more primitive era. When people were on their own. When folks sold their farms or suffered because they couldn’t afford care.
Because Medicare’s under constant threat from those who see sickness as an opportunity for profit. And as privatization creeps forward, it poisons public health care by sapping its resources.
Ottawa needs to stop privatization and start enforcing the Canada Health Act. But we can’t win a purely defensive battle. We need positive leadership to modernize the system.
Because there’s a growing mismatch between what medicare covers and what people need. And if we don’t fill that gap now, the privateers will rush in and claim it.
New Democrats are ready to modernize medicare for the 21st century. With ideas straight from the Romanow Report — they’re as fresh today as they were eight years ago.
One burning priority is to adapt to Canada’s aging population.
By 2026, the number of Canadian seniors will double to 8 million. Darrell tells me one in four Nova Scotians will be 65-plus by then.
These are folks who worked hard, paid their dues, and deserve dignity in their elder years.So we need to start building capacity in homecare and long term care — now.
We’re already falling behind. Some hospitals now devote a quarter of their acute beds to seniors waiting for better options.
Expanding quality, affordable long-term care will ease that pressure on hospitals, cut waitlists, and give seniors their dignity.
Investing in home care will do the same — and not only for seniors. It’ll reduce hospitalization, help people heal, and save the system money.
Home care today is a loose patchwork of programs resting on a foundation of unpaid care by overstretched loved ones.
Nova Scotia is making strides help seniors stay in their own homes & communities — but you shouldn’t have to go it alone.
Roy Romanow called home care the “next essential service.” We’re ready to make home care the first major expansion of public medicare in 40 years.
Our next priority is to tackle runaway prescription drug costs.
Drugs are increasingly central to treatment. We spend more on drugs than on doctors. And drugs are the fastest growing part of health spending, far outpacing inflation.
That puts a punishing strain on employers and provincial health plans—and individuals.
Nearly 4 million Canadians have no drug insurance at all. They’re spending 4 billion out of pocket for drugs their doctors prescribe. And many are back to choosing between financial hardship and needless suffering.
Roy Romanow was right: It’s time for a national prescription drug strategy.
It starts with catastrophic drug coverage for every Canadian — not a hit-and-miss patchwork of coverage across provinces.
That strategy should include national bulk-buying to ease costs. Australia’s drug spending growth is half what it is for our provinces, thanks to bulk-buying.
And we need drug patent reform. Ottawa needs to listen to families and provinces — not just Merck and Pfizer — and get cheaper generic drugs onto shelves faster.
Since 2004, the provinces have been calling on Ottawa to show leadership on pharmacare — there’s no excuse not to deliver.
Third, Canada urgently needs a health human resources strategy.
Prevention starts with early intervention. But five million Canadians don’t have a family doctor — for them, at best, primary care means an emergency ward.
And alongside doctors: nurses, nurse practitioners and other providers that make up primary care teams.
Finally, let’s plan a big launch party for what Tommy called Phase 2 of medicare — prevention through healthy living.
I know what it’s like to rush an asthmatic child to hospital when the air is thick with smog. Air pollution’s killing 20,000 of us each year — let’s ramp up our efforts to change that.
Rampant childhood obesity is a wake-up call. Inactivity now is literally killing us. We need national leadership to ensure physical activity programs are stable and well resourced.
We also need leadership in areas like nutrition. Olivia is spearheading a great project called the Children’s Health and Nutrition Initiative — to get put nutritious food into schools across Canada.
What Canada needs is a national strategy that recognizes all the social determinants of health. That includes poverty, decent housing, the environment, education, and freedom from violence.
You know that’s something that’ll be led by New Democrats, and no one else.