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Canadians like Romanow report on medicare: poll
Last Updated Fri, 06 Dec 2002 8:30:52

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.

Frank Graves

"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.

Reform preferences

When asked to list the two best ways to reform medicare, most respondents picked better access and more funding. The top categories were:

  • 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 cent);
  • hire more nurses (47 per cent);
  • expand drug coverage (46 per cent);
  • invest more in new technology, such as MRIs (44 per cent).

Although support for Romanow's conclusions is broadly based, it's especially high among the affluent and well educated, according to Graves.

"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).

Roy Romanow

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

H e a d l i n e s : C a n a d a

VIDEO: Christina Lawand reports for CBC TV
(Runs 2:00)Captioned

AUDIO: Susan Lunn reports for CBC Radio
(Runs 1:42)


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The changing nature of health care
Read the full text of the Romanow report.
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Background on the Romanow report.
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A satirical look at release of the report Launch Flash Movie

Editorial cartoons on health care.
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Total Health Care Expenditures.
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