Manitobans need to drive health reform

Op-ed in The Free Press by Tara Kiran, Alan Katz, Amanda Condon

Hardly a day goes by in Manitoba without health care being in the news — and much of the coverage is negative. While there are reports of good, even excellent, individual patient experiences, it is clear that urgent change is needed.

Our health-care system in this province is indisputably struggling. And there is one problem at the heart of our myriad health system challenges: too many Manitobans are struggling to access primary care.

Primary care is the front door to the health-care system. It’s typically delivered by family doctors and nurse practitioners, sometimes with other health professionals.

Family doctors should be the first point of contact when you have a new health issue. Family doctors also manage chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, help keep you well with immunizations and cancer screening tests, and co-ordinate care from other parts of the health system.

When people don’t have access to primary care, when they don’t have a family doctor and when the front door is closed, nothing works as it should; emergency departments become crowded, unnecessary medications may be prescribed, there are more missed or delayed diagnoses, and patients suffer the consequences.

We need to do better. But how?

For too long, our health-care system reforms have been mainly informed by “experts” — health professionals, people in government, researchers and administrators. We need bold reform to address the crisis at hand, and that reform needs to be driven by the public’s voice.

With this in mind, a team of researchers and clinicians launched OurCare, a national initiative to engage the public about the future of primary care.

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