Opinion

Managing health care costs relate to managing our own health

B.C. is proud of the work it has done to improve innovation and make our health care system more efficient—to ensure that more taxpayer dollars are focused on patient care.

While I feel we’ve accomplished a lot on this front, there will always, always be room for improvement and ideas.

Our priority remains the same—patient care. But all organizations require management to function.

With more than $16 billion spent every year on health care services, there will always be a need to innovate and improve.

The better question to ask is if B.C.’s health care management is the best it can be?

For the last number of years we’ve implemented innovations in the system such as Lean methodology design and patient-focused funding; administrative efficiencies, such as reducing the number of health organizations from 52 to six health authorities; the consolidation of certain services among the Lower Mainland health authorities (laboratory, pharmacy, etc.); and the creation of Health Shared Services B.C., projected to save our health authorities over $200 million by combining purchasing power and consolidating purchasing departments.

Impartial observers have noted the hard work of our medical professionals and administrators to ensure most resources go towards patient care —and the results.

The independent Canadian Institute for Health Information, the most-respected data research group in this country, has recently reported that B.C. health authorities have some of the nation’s lowest administrative spending.

According to the CIHI’s data, B.C. spends $58.80 per capita on administration—less than Alberta ($69.39 per capita) and Ontario ($60.47 per capita).

The CIHI lists British Columbia’s spending on administration for 2011 at $111.3 million, the lowest spending on administration in B.C. since 1989.

Much of this progress has been made in the last three years as spending on administration has dropped from $190.2 million in 2008 to a projected $111.3 million in 2011.

The men and women behind B.C.’s health authorities have also worked to keep these costs down.

For example, Interior Health’s recent announcement to co-locate a number of its multiple services into one convenient location for patients will not only improve patient care, but will offer important fiscal benefits.

These accomplishments are all the more remarkable considering services have increased.

Since 2001, B.C. hospitals have performed 137 per cent more knee replacements, 67 per cent more hip replacements, 60 per cent more cataract surgeries, and 64 per cent more angioplasties.

Wait times are also down—25 per cent for hips, 29 per cent for knees, and 65 per cent for cardiac surgeries compared to 2001.

As well, since 2001 MRI exams have increased about 191 per cent and CT scans by 108 per cent. The list doesn’t end there, either.

This is something our health authorities should be commended for. B.C. does not want to have the most expensive health care system. We want to have the best one.

Our work to reduce spending on administration and improve efficiencies continues to pay off for patients.

A number of organizations have praised B.C. for having the best health care outcomes in Canada.

For example, last year  the B.C. Progress Board also showed B.C. as the best in Canada when it comes to health outcomes, including life expectancy, cancer mortality and the lowest proportion of overweight adults in Canada.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society’s 2011 Canadian Cancer Statistics report, B.C. men and women have the lowest overall mortality rate and incidence rate for all cancers in Canada.

According to the Cancer Advocacy Council, B.C. has the best-funded and most timely access to cancer drugs in Canada.

The Wait Times Alliance and the Canadian Institute for Health Information also highlighted B.C. as a national leader in wait times and health outcomes.

As I mentioned earlier, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement or new ideas.

If you have suggestions, please don’t be shy —find me on Facebook, Twitter, or via my offices in Kelowna or Victoria, and I’d be glad to hear them.

Norm Letnick is the Liberal MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country and chair of the Select Standing Committee on Health.

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