Filling an important gap in our health care system

A Town Crier Community Column

Feb. 15, 2011 will be remembered as the day that patients finally found their voice in the health care system in Canada.

I was very proud to be there at the Toronto Reference Library to participate in the birth of Sholom Glouberman’s dream: The Patients’ Association of Canada — a patient-led, patient-governed organization that would fill an important gap in our goal of a health care system in Canada that was truly patient-centred.

Sholom was concerned that up until now the patient perspective has been presented by “disease-based organizations, health care professionals, researchers or policy makers, who have their own points of view that should not be confused with those of patients”.

The mission is to promote, develop and enhance the role and influence of the patient and the patient perspective in health care. Their vision is to become the leader in the promotion of the patient’s voice in health care in the next five years.

Sholom Glouberman has been one of my health care heroes. His frank criticism of the weaknesses and stalwart support of the strengths has provided a refreshing voice to health care reform. His own personal experience with the health care system, documented in “My Operation — A Health Care Insider Becomes a Patient”, touched a nerve and has precipitated him to found this new association, which is already the guiding energy in this all-important movement to give patients a chance to improve and shape the health care system so that it lives up to the ever-quoted mantra of “patient-centred care”.

Even the conference to launch the association was self-organizing, bottom-up. The participants were all asked what sessions they’d like to lead or participate in, and then magically sessions for four time slots and six spaces were filled up.

I loved the sessions on changing the incentives in the system to becoming more patient-centred, developing more meaningful mechanisms for feedback for health care providers and improving/teaching empathy in the training programs.

The last session I attended, which addressed ways in which the PAC could affect change in the health care system at the highest possible level, was inspiring.

Imagine if a strong voice for patients was at the table for discussions about privacy or in designing the accreditation processes for health care institutions. We were all excited and inspired by the knowledge and lived experience in the room and the concrete suggestions that came forward. Their website asks you to tell your story and shows you how to get involved. We all have stories, good and bad, and we all need to play our part in making sure our health care system is as good as it can possibly be.

We will bring people together at 2 p.m. on March 6 at the Parish Hall at Christ Church Deer Park (at Yonge and Heath Streets) to discuss the challenges that we are all facing in caring for sick and aging loved ones at home.

The Liberal Party of Canada has put forward some ideas at We believe that with simple changes in EI and family tax credits we can begin to help those families that are struggling. We need your suggestions too, and your ideas with respect to the negotiations for the 2014 Accord.

About this article:

By: Carolyn Bennett
Posted: Mar 1 2011 5:59 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto