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Government & policy

B.C. has top performing provincial health system

OTTAWA – British Columbia and Alberta have the top performing healthcare systems in Canada overall, but all 10 provinces have room for improvement, according to a Conference Board report released in February.

Healthy Provinces, Healthy Canadians: A Provincial Benchmarking Report is the first report to compare and evaluate the performance of provincial healthcare systems in Canada based on comparable health indicators released by the provinces in 2004.

“This benchmarking analysis outlines where provinces are strong and where they need to make improvements,” said Glen Roberts, director of Health Programs for the Conference Board. “No province performs well in all areas of their healthcare system.”

For example, British Columbia was the top performer in both overall health of the population and health outcomes of policies and programs, but posted the second-lowest score in patient satisfaction.

“The results also indicate that spending larger sums of money does not translate into high performance. It is how the money is spent, rather than how much, that makes the difference in the effectiveness of healthcare systems,” said Roberts.

As an example, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador tied for eighth among the 10 provinces in the benchmarking. Newfoundland and Labrador had the highest government health expenditures per capita among the provinces, while Nova Scotia spent the least amount per capita.

The report assesses the provinces based on 70 health indicators in three broad categories: health status indicators that measure the overall health of a population; healthcare outcome indicators, which track the effects of policies and programs on quality of life; and, healthcare utilization and performance indicators that measure the public’s perception of the system in their province.

The overall provincial rankings are as follows:

• British Columbia
• Alberta
• Saskatchewan
• Ontario
• Quebec
• New Brunswick
• Prince Edward Island
• Newfoundland and Labrador/Nova Scotia
• Manitoba

Data were not available for the federal government, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, and a number of indicators from Quebec were not available.

The report also updates Canada’s health performance compared to 23 leading Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. As in previous benchmarking analyses, Canada is a middle-of-the-pack performer with a ranking of 11th, tied with Iceland, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

The Conference Board regards this report as the second step in a four-step process. The first was the collection of data, which the provinces have done. The Conference Board has assembled and analyzed the data as the second step. The third step is examining the “why” behind the results, and the fourth step is making the needed improvements, which is in the hands of the federal and provincial governments.

The report is publicly available from the Conference Board’s web site at