Death of the Health Council of Canada. (Wait, what’s that?)

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Roy Romanow, the former Saskatchewan premier, planted the seed for the formation of the Health Council of Canada (HCC) in 2004. The idea was to have a national body that will monitor and report on health dollars transfers from the federal government to the provinces. In a healthcare system fragmented into 14 pieces, the HCC was promoted as the duct tape that will hold the system together; the vehicle through which we can move towards a truly national healthcare, guiding health professionals, administrators, and patients alike.


Too bad most of us have never even heard of the HCC; never knew of its work or effects over the past 9 years; and will likely not miss it at all when it is to be disbanded next year.

The HCC’s explicit Vision & Mission Statements are as follows:

“Our vision: A leading voice that informs and strengthens Canada’s health system.
Our mission: To report on the renewal of Canada’s health system, focusing on best practices and innovation.”

In other words, the HCC was never meant to have any effector mechanisms at all; just the run-of-the-mill reporting body/task force that our government always seems so fond of. Sounds to me the HCC was set up to do one thing, but expected to do something much bigger in the minds of those who now condemn its impending death.

Operating on an annual budget of $6.5-million of taxpayers dollars, it is hard for the average citizen (or health professional for that matter) to see what the HCC actually accomplished. A quick glance through their website reveals a number of reports as promised by their mandate, although none of their conclusions or recommendations were exactly eye-opening or novel ideas. Still, most who read them would agree there are valuable information synthesized, and lessons worth learning.

But therein lies the problem. Who reads them? And more importantly, do those individuals have any clout in actually addressing any actionable items?

I am most certain that the majority of Canadians (including all of my friends and family) have never heard of the HCC until its pending demise hit the news last week. The HCC never came up during my 4 years in medical school, nor the 5 years of specialty training after. In fact, the HCC and their work never got a single mention throughout my Masters of Health Administration training. In all of the meetings I have ever attended, including hospital administration, interprofessionals, best-practices committees, etc….not once did the HCC or its reports ever make an appearance.

We should not act surprised then, that the HCC is going to get canned next year. I must agree spending $6.5-million a year on something without the teeth to act on its own recommendations seem misguided – I echo the call for either creating a true national body that’s going to guide our healthcare system seriously and effectively in a unified direction, or save the money and realize that our fragmented provincially-run system is here to stay.

Edmund Kwok

Edmund Kwok

Emergency Medicine. Quality Improvement. Patient Safety. Change Management. Healthcare Administration.

Frontdoor 2 Healthcare

Frontdoor2Healthcare, founded by Dr. Edmund Kwok in 2012, provides editorial and commentary on issues affecting Canadian healthcare from the emergency department’s “front door” perspective. Frontdoor posts allow for open sharing of the diverse opinions and perspectives of emergency physicians from across the country.

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