IHE News

IHE / O'Brien Policy forum tackles fiscal sustainability of healthcare in Alberta

Albertans are paying more and getting less from their healthcare system than most other Canadians, according to information compiled for Alberta Health by third party auditors.

As a result, leading healthcare minds from Alberta, Canada and the U.S. will descend on Edmonton on February 8 as part of a policy forum being hosted by the O’Brien Institute for Public Health, from the Cumming School of Medicine, and in partnership with the Institute of Health Economics, aiming to inform decision-making at Alberta Health regarding the fiscal sustainability of the provincial healthcare system.

Forum panelists will discuss challenges, possible innovations in service delivery, remuneration, and system models that can make Alberta’s healthcare system – per capita the most expensive healthcare system in Canada – sustainable for decades and generations to come.

The forum, which will also be attended by Health Minister Sarah Hoffman as lunch keynote speaker, intends to mine ideas and dissect information to help Alberta’s healthcare system adjust to the new economic realities currently shaping the province. The event will focus on physicians’ role as stewards of the healthcare system, and the costs associated with that role.

“Our healthcare system is facing some serious challenges in the domain of sustainability. We simply cannot continue on the current trajectory that we are on,” says O’Brien Institute for Public Health Scientific Director Dr. William Ghali, a practising physician and general internist in Calgary’s Foothills Medical Centre.

“What we need is honest dialogue around these challenges, and potential pathways toward sustainability.”

Panelists at the forum, titled Physicians as Stewards of Public Resources: Roles, Responsibilities and Remuneration, will also include Dr. David Naylor, chair of Canada's federal Advisory Panel on Healthcare Innovation, The Globe and Mail health columnist and author Andre Picard, Dr. Carl Nohr, President of the Alberta Medical Association, and Dr. Peter Kaboli, Hospitalist and Chief of Medicine, Iowa City VA Healthcare System.

For more information about the forum, please visit the following webpage: Physicians as Stewards of Resources Policy Forum.

According to data compiled for Alberta Health, when compared with B.C., Saskatchewan, Ontario and Quebec, Alberta had the highest per capita health expenditure among those provinces in 2015 – $4,862, a 135 per cent increase from 2000. Saskatchewan was second at $4,621 and Ontario third with $3,752. Meanwhile, in 2015 Albertans also paid the highest per capita for physicians - $1,058, a 218 per cent increase from 2000. The second highest increase in that category among the compared provinces was Saskatchewan, which saw a distant 143 per cent increase during the same time period. Furthermore, Alberta ranks last or second last among comparator provinces in various measures of access to primary care.

And those figures are not explained by population need for care, adds Ghali. Alberta’s population has the lowest median age, the lowest prevalence of diabetes and high blood pressure, and the second lowest prevalence of chronic lung disease and mood disorders. “Based on those factors, one might expect lower healthcare spending here in Alberta, but that’s not the case,” says Ghali.

Among comparator provinces, Alberta is also middle of the pack, or at the bottom, in terms of wait times for benchmark indicators such as emergency room, hip and knee replacement, cataract surgery and radiation therapy wait times.

The O’Brien Institute’s intent in partnering with IHE, says Ghali, is to convene this working event as an impartial third party, using its position as an academic entity – and one that is fueled by physicians, as well as the full spectrum of health providers and researchers – to bring together all stakeholders and set the tone for fruitful and respectful discussion going forward. By doing so, the O’Brien Institute hopes to help make Alberta’s healthcare system more sustainable and more open to innovation.

“The Institute of Health Economics supports engaging public policy discourse and is pleased to serve as a neutral convener, in partnership with the O’Brien Institute, to discuss this important and timely issue,” said Dr. Anderson Chuck, Director of Economic Evaluation and Analytics at the Institute of Health Economics.

Watch the live stream below (if you experience any difficulties with this stream, refresh and click on the link again). To ask questions during the event, please email [email protected], or talk to us on twitter using the hashtag #stewardsofhealth


Please click the following link to watch video of the afternoon session: Event Video