Provinces, territories may expand home care to deal with aging population

TORONTO – Provinces and territories will likely have to expand home care as a way to deal with the demographic deluge of aging Canadians, two premiers said Friday during a gathering of provincial health ministers.

An aging population was at the top of the working group’s agenda as a major concern because it’s consuming more and more health-care dollars, said P.E.I. Premier Robert Ghiz.

“It is an issue that, to me, is going to be one of our largest challenges over the next five to 20 years,” he said.

There aren’t enough nursing home beds to accommodate the surge of seniors needing care, so home care may be the solution, said Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall.

“I think all of us understand the importance of a greater emphasis and focus on home care, just because of the rate of institutionalization that we have in Canada,” which is higher than most other countries, he said.

“Home care, in many instances, would be preferred by both the individual — the senior — and their family members.”

Provinces and territories are probably on the “low end” of spending on home care, Ghiz said. If they find a way to let more seniors stay in their homes, it will improve care and provide better value for money.

The working group, which Ghiz and Wall both lead, is also making progress on lowering the cost of prescription drugs, they said.

“We’re looking at the model of one province buying for all of the provinces and territories,” Wall said. “So it’s bulk pricing more than bulk buying.”

Several provinces and territories reached a deal in January to team up when purchasing six widely used generic drugs, which will collectively save them about $100 million a year, Wall said.

They’re also looking at brand-name drugs and will have more to say in July at the Council of the Federation meeting in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., they said.

The provinces have agreements for seven brand-name drugs and they’re negotiating prices for 13 others, said Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews.

“The result is that we can pay lower prices, and it means for some provinces, that they can add these new, very expensive drugs to their formulary,” she said.

“They wouldn’t have been able to do that at the prices they would have been able to negotiate before.”

The working group also talked about “appropriateness of care” — ways to make the health-care system more efficient and cut down on soaring costs.

“The radiologists in this country have said 10 to 20 per cent of diagnostic imaging is probably not required,” Wall said.

“That’s a good example of appropriateness of care. There might be other suggestions from providers, in terms of cataracts and technological advancement for that particular procedure.”