TORONTO - A majority of Canadians embrace Roy
Romanow's report on health care reform, but more than a third doubt
that his advice will be followed, according to a new poll.
The CBC-Toronto Star-La Presse survey was carried
out by Ekos Research Associates this week.
Results released Thursday show that 57 per cent of the people
polled think Romanow's commission did a good job reflecting the core
values of Canadians. The figure rises to 74 per cent when only those
who are clearly aware of his final report are considered.
"It seems that the Romanow report squarely captures the Canadian
centre, in terms of both values and the kinds of basic next steps
that need to be taken," said Frank Graves, president of Ekos.
On Nov. 28, Romanow suggested the federal government invest $15
billion more in the health-care system in the next three years. He
also called on the provinces to embrace national standards, and to
issue regular reports on how medicare dollars are spent.
Most Canadians feel health care services have declined, and
access to good treatment remains their immediate concern, according
to the survey. Other issues listed as less important included the
public cost, and campaigns to prevent disease and promote health.
When asked to list the two best ways to reform medicare, most
respondents picked better access and more funding. The top
- reduce waiting lists and increase access by improving
management practices (62 per cent);
- boost federal funding by $15 billion (57 per cent);
- increase the number of doctors (56 per cent);
- focus on preventative care (56 per cent);
- develop new national home and community care programs (49 per
- hire more nurses (47 per cent);
- expand drug coverage (46 per cent);
- invest more in new technology, such as MRIs (44 per
Although support for Romanow's conclusions is broadly based, it's
especially high among the affluent and well educated, according to
"This augers well for Mr. Romanow that a lot of the influential
and more active members of the public – in terms of opinion leaders,
and so forth – are the ones that feel more comfortable with his
recommendations," he said.
Canada Health Act
While the poll suggests most Canadians believe in maintaining a
strong universally accessible, publicly funded system, they appear
divided on whether to punish provinces that don't follow the federal
Canada Health Act (CHA).
Romanow, for instance, has recommended a ban on user fees at the
growing number of private clinics that offer sophisticated
diagnostic tests. But the survey found that only 38 per cent of
respondents would want Ottawa to reduce funding to a province that
violated the CHA. Almost the same amount, 35 per cent, disagreed.
Opposition to withholding money from provinces was even higher,
at 41 per cent, when no definition of the act was offered. It fell
six percentage points after people were told that the CHA
"stipulates that the necessary health care services must be
universally accessible and administered on a not-for-profit basis by
a public authority."
Skeptical about action
Only 19 per cent of people surveyed think there's a good chance
governments will act on Romanow's recommendations. Although 37 per
cent think it's "moderately likely," 39 per cent of respondents
believe it's unlikely.
The skepticism is partly based on whether enough money will be
found, but there is also a belief that Ottawa and the provinces
won't be able to reach an agreement, according to Graves. Many
people feel that "those territorial disputes will overwhelm the
clear public interest," he said.
Two-thirds of the people polled believe taxes and the cost of
medicare will rise in the next few years, while only 52 per cent
think the quality will improve. When asked about specific changes,
42 per cent of respondents said they think there will be more
"timely access" to services. The same number felt that "equal
access" to care will also be improved.
The CBC-Toronto Star-La Presse survey was based on
telephone interviews with 1,205 randomly chosen Canadians 18 years
and older. They were polled from Dec. 2 to Dec. 4. Ekos Research
Associates said the margin of error was 2.8 percentage points, 19
times out of 20.
Written by CBC News Online staff