Dec. 6, 2002. 05:36 AM
Patients line up on hospital beds outside a crowded emergency room at Montreal's Sacre Coeur hospital. Canadians surveyed in a new Toronto Star/CBC/La Presse poll chose reducing waiting lists and increasing access through better managemant as the best way to improve the health-care system. It was the first extensive survey of the country's views of Roy Romanow's medicare report.
Final report (.pdf, 2.4 MB)  
Speak Out: Romanow's prescription  
Voices: Reaction to Romanow report  
Poll results  
Romanow's solution (Nov. 29)  
'We will move quickly': Chretien (Nov. 29)  
Walkom says plan can work (Nov. 29)  
Frustrating waits (Nov. 29)  
Eves, Klein against proposals (Nov. 29)  
Just what doctors ordered (Nov. 29)  
MRIs needed (Nov. 28)  
Walkom: Closer to a cure (Oct. 26)  
Travers: Medicare's future is simple (Oct. 19)  
Voices: Prescriptions for health care  
Alberta health care report (PDF file)  
Romanow report Flash graphic  
Romanow Report section  
Romanow remedies find wide support
Survey for Star, CBC, La Presse first since report


OTTAWA—Roy Romanow's prescription for health-care renewal has been given widespread support by Canadians — but they have little faith their elected representatives will translate his plan into action.

A Toronto Star/CBC/La Presse poll done by EKOS Research, the first extensive sounding of the country's view of the landmark study, found 57 per cent of Canadians believe the report by the former Saskatchewan premier reflects "core" values of citizens in this country.

That number jumps to 74 per cent when EKOS asked those most familiar with the report, released eight days ago.

Yet when asked whether they felt the federal, provincial and territorial governments will "act decisively" on the report on the future of medicare, 39 per cent told EKOS they believed it was unlikely.

Only 19 per cent felt it was likely the governments would move quickly on the recommendations. The remainder found it "somewhat likely" or didn't know.

The poll comes as federal Health Minister Anne McLellan meets her provincial and territorial counterparts today in Toronto. Premiers have already complained Romanow is not recommending enough money or is calling for an unwarranted intrusion into provincial jurisdiction by demanding funding come with strings attached.

"Romanow has scored a solid, if unspectacular, hit with this report," said EKOS President Frank Graves.

"But there is some considerable skepticism from a public which has seen a lot of foot-dragging on health care and has not seen governments respond on a level commensurate with their expectations."

EKOS interviewed 1,205 randomly selected Canadians of voting age from Monday through Wednesday this week. It says its results are accurate to within 2.8 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Romanow called for $15 billion in new health-care spending over three years, including $8.5 billion in targeted spending for programs such as home care, improved primary care, improvements in access to health care in rural and remote communities, help for Canadians who spend large amounts of money on prescription drugs and moves to cut waiting times for diagnostic services such as MRIs and CT scanners.

The percentage of Canadians who feel the health system is improving has hit an all-time low, Graves found, with only 5 per cent of respondents saying they thought things were better than two years ago. Sixty per cent say it has deteriorated over the past 24 months.

The EKOS poll asked respondents to choose the best way to improve the health-care system. Reducing waiting lists and increasing access through better management scored highest at 62 per cent. At the other end of the list, only 25 per cent said they believed a parallel private system, allowing Canadians to pay extra for quicker service, was the best option.

Canadians are also apparently split on the question of Ottawa cutting funding to provinces that breach the principles of the Canada Health Act.

Thirty-eight per cent felt it was appropriate to punish provinces that break the act by withholding transfer payments, but 35 per cent disagreed. That, Graves said, may be a product of the fear of respondents that if funding is cut, it will hurt delivery of health care in the province in which they live — and potentially have an impact on them.

In the House of Commons yesterday, McLellan said she has "every confidence" she and her provincial and territorial colleagues will be able to move quickly on Romanow's report.

"Canadians expect their federal government to uphold the principles of equity and fairness in medicare and to ensure their tax dollars deliver back to them timely access to quality care," McLellan said.

"The government of Canada is anxious to get back to the task of setting health care on the course to sustainability."

On the eve of today's meeting, McLellan said the time had come for "collaboration" from all levels of government and said Ottawa and the provinces proved just over two years ago they could find common ground on health care. Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and the provinces agreed in September, 2000, on a five-year, $23.5-billion funding plan for health care.

Canadian Alliance MP Rob Merrifield (Yellowhead) said it is "irresponsible" to earmark new dollars in ways that force provinces to expand into new services. He urged McLellan to allow the provinces the flexibility they deserve as the frontline health-care providers.

EKOS found unusually high recognition of Romanow's report among Canadians. With that comes high expectations, something all governments must bear in mind, Graves said.

The 62 per cent of respondents who told EKOS they were familiar with the report is higher than recognition numbers associated with a federal budget or the Kyoto Protocol, and is six to seven times higher than the awareness of a federal throne speech, Graves said.

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