You are here:

Canada needs a seniors’ healthcare strategy



February 1, 2015

Toronto, ON: It’s unanimous – Canada needs a seniors’ healthcare strategy – so where is it? Let’s start with getting people out of hospitals and into community care

CARP is calling for specific reform of the healthcare system to better serve the aging population – something that CIHI says we are doing very poorly. Now that the Council of the Federation has added its voice to policy experts, editorial boards and healthcare professionals calling for a seniors’ strategy, it is time for the government to tell us what they propose to do – starting with getting people out of hospitals and into community-based care and taking the funding with them.

In its Communiqué Friday, the Council of the Federation committed itself to addressing the challenges of the aging population and gave a few examples such as cooperating to reduce the cost of generic drugs. While welcome, that is not the kind of fundamental change that Canadians are demanding now.

In a recent CARP Poll, seventy-five percent (75%) of CARP members call for transformative change in the health care system they say is not meeting their needs, is too difficult to navigate and is not patient-centred despite jargon to the contrary. They also see direct medical care as only one of five pillars of health care that would more fully provide for the health and well-being of Canadians.

To better serve Canadians, CARP is calling for a full system re-design of the healthcare system to provide a comprehensive 360 degrees of care and that treats Canadians as “healthcare citizens” – with the right to expect timely and appropriate care and equal treatment regardless of age, income and postal code. The recent CIHI report makes it clear that this Social Contract for Healthcare is clearly broken.

Much has been made of seniors being stuck in hospital beds when they should be convalescing in a nursing home or at home. There has even been a price tag set – $1,000 a day in hospital, $130 a day in a nursing home and $55 a day for care at home. The problem has been that not enough funding has been allocated to these alternatives and the resources to help people transition to them. Seniors don’t want to be in those hospital beds any more than the hospital and doctors do; but there have to be alternatives. One way is to have that public funding follow the patient.

“It’s unanimous: Canada needs to do a much better job of addressing the healthcare needs of an aging population. It’s well past time for more talk. People are running from pillar to post to find care for themselves or their loved ones. They are blamed for hospital gridlock and rising costs while not getting the care they need. Now that CIHI has confirmed what CARP members have been experiencing, it’s about time we see some reality to promises of “patient-centred” care. The Council of the Federation is right to make seniors’ care a national priority. Certainly CARP members see it as a ballot issue”, said Susan Eng, VP Advocacy for CARP

“Healthcare is a priority for all Canadians and resonates particularly with older Canadians. CARP members are saying that the system is failing them badly and call for disruptive change to remove the silos that make the system difficult to navigate, to wrest control over priorities and budgets away from the service providers and re-focus on those they are meant to serve. They don’t want to be treated as just “patients” or “consumers” but as “citizens” entitled to the values set out in the Canada Health Act.

“We can expect push-back from those who have monopolized health care policy making to date and those engaged in jurisdictional squabbles but they’d be pushing back against a virtually unanimous group of the most politically engaged voters for whom this is unequivocal priority”, added Eng.

CARP’s submission to the Advisory Panel on Health Innovation calls on the government to prioritize the needs of the Healthcare Citizen rather than the needs of the service provider – placing Canadians at the centre of the system not outside its silos.

Currently, the system is designed around the priorities of the service providers rather than the people it is supposed to serve, creating a fragmented and inefficient agglomeration of silos within silos. Canadians do not want more pilot projects that add more elements, complexity and costs to the current $215 billion healthcare spending with limited sustained impact. As taxpaying Healthcare Citizens, Canadians want a system that wraps fully around their needs, enabling them to maintain their health and well-being.

A comprehensive health and wellness system would comprise and provide for:

  • social determinants of health,
  • prevention of illness,
  • medical treatment and care,
  • caregiver support, and
  • end of life care.

CIHI’s “How Canada Compares: Results From the Commonwealth Fund 2014 International Health Policy Survey of Older Adults” demonstrates the need to improve care for older Canadians.

Access to Care:

  • waits for primary and specialist care in Canada have not improved since they were first reported on in 2007
  • more than half wait more than 2 days for a doctor/nurse; 30% wait 6 days or more
  • Older Canadians also have the longest reported wait times to see a specialist, with 25% waiting 2 months or more

Quality of Care:

    • Quality of care from their doctor is on par with or better than the international average
    • Older Canadians are more likely to get their medications reviewed by a health professional (80%) than older people in other countries.
    • 25% of older Canadians said their regular doctor did not seem up to date about their specialist visit.


      • 1 in 5 older Canadians is an informal caregiver—similar to the international average—but a higher proportion of Canadian caregivers (47%) spend 10 hours or more per week looking after a loved one.

End-of-Life Care:

      • Older Canadians were also more likely than older people in other countries to have discussions about end-of-life care or to make written plans BUT it varies across the country

Post-acute home care was identified as an essential medical service that should be protected and funded under the Canada Health Act in the 2004 Health Accord. While part of the $41 Billion allocated pursuant to the Accord improved access to home care, it is by no means generally available when needed. That 15% of hospital beds today are occupied by people who should have access to post acute home care or nursing home care is evidence of this failure.

CARP is a national, non-partisan, non-profit organization committed to advocating for a New Vision of Aging for Canada, social change that will bring financial security, equitable access to health care and freedom from discrimination. CARP seeks to ensure that the marketplace serves the needs and expectations of our generation and provides value-added benefits, products and services to our members. Through our network of chapters across Canada, CARP is dedicated to building a sense of community and shared values among our members in support of CARP’s mission.

For further information, please contact:

Sarah Park 416.607.2471
Director, Communications
[email protected]

Michael Nicin 416.607.2479
Director of Policy
[email protected]

Anna Sotnykova 416.607.2475
Media & Communications Coordinator
[email protected]

for Susan Eng
Vice President, Advocacy
[email protected]