Why Healthcare is a Top Priority for The Manitoba Chambers of Commerce and one of the Key Strategic Directions for 2012-2015

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The Manitoba Chambers of Commerce understands and agrees that all Manitobans want and deserve the very best public services possible. This includes having the best healthcare services in Canada — provided that they are as affordable as they are effective.

For over a year, the President’s Advisory Committee on Healthcare in Manitoba focused on the complex, multi-faceted issue of healthcare in this province.  Using proven methodology of community engagement, surveys and direct consultations with stakeholders, the committee sought feedback from all facets of the community on healthcare from a variety of perspectives as well as directly from members of the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce.

Inspired by the work of the Ontario Citizens’ Reference Panel and focused specifically on Manitoba, three over-arching priorities rose to the top of the Committee’s list; which is as follows:

Economic Sustainability

First, Manitobans must understand our province’s economic challenges and directly address them. We must firmly establish a balanced fiscal position that can be sustained over the long term.

 Healthy Living

In this context, Healthy Living means making positive choices to enhance and enrich one’s personal physical, mental and spiritual health. For the Manitoba population, it also refers to the practices of groups that are consistent with supporting, improving, maintaining and/or enhancing health.

Patients as Partners

Manitobans need to take responsibility for the management of their own individual health. This is where the Manitoba healthcare system can help. Instead of viewing themselves solely as a client or customer, Manitoba patients must become partners in their healthcare relationships. Increased two-way communication and education will lead to true ownership and improved outcomes.

This Report addresses these priorities and offers a means to generate a dialogue among Manitobans, the provincial government, medical community, business and one other.

 Identified as one of the Manitoba Chambers’ key initiatives over the long term, healthcare has become a top organizational priority. A strong, sustainable healthcare system in Manitoba will benefit its citizens and the businesses that employ them while simultaneously helping to grow the provincial economy and both its urban and rural communities. A healthier population means a more productive workforce. In time, an improved Manitoba healthcare system will reduce costs to government. The money saved can, in turn, be allocated to other vital areas. Ultimately, this will positively affect the Manitoba economy.

For these reasons, the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce is taking a long term approach to healthcare. More than a document – this Report is designed to mark the start of an ongoing process and dialogue on healthcare that will prove both vital and beneficial to all Manitobans.

In addition, the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce supports a system of workplace wellness; including organizational policies that help facilitate employee health.   Over the past decade, workplace wellness has been expanded to encompass the overall creation of a “culture of health” at work. Across Canada in both large and small companies, wellness programs are being successfully implemented. To date, the results have positively impacted their respective bottom lines. Research indicates that it is cost-effective to invest in preventive health practices like screenings, immunizations, health risk appraisals, behavioral coaching, and health awareness/education. In fact, such measures have proven more effective than spending resources exclusively on the minority of employees/dependents who are responsible for high-cost health claims.

In 2011 Graham Starmer, President of the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce , became aware of the Ontario Citizens’ Reference Panel that was facilitated by PwC., which produced  an in-depth study of the state of that province’s healthcare services.

Since healthcare is a vital, complex issue that requires input from many stakeholders and since the Ontario project provided a natural, realistic frame of reference, Mr. Starmer announced the formation of the President’s Advisory Committee on Healthcare in Manitoba on October 26, 2011.

Based on the work of Ontario Citizens’ Reference Panel, the key areas of importance as defined by this Committee are Economic Sustainability, Healthy Living and Patients as Partners.