05/23/2013 02:09 EDT | Updated 07/23/2013 05:12 EDT

Federal government not up to speed on changing care needs: health council

SASKATOON - The Health Council of Canada says the federal government isn't doing enough to keep pace with changing health-care needs in the country.

The council released its 2013 progress report on health-care renewal in Saskatoon on Thursday.

Dr. Jack Kitts, health council chairman, said the waiting list for surgeries is one of the biggest issues.

Kitts said an aging and growing population has led to longer wait times in the last decade despite a plan introduced to shorten them.

Other problems outlined in the report include lack of 24/7 access to primary health care and little progress on lowering prescription drug prices.

It also points to the health gap between aboriginals and non-aboriginals.

Kitts said improvements have been made in national care, but a lot of work still needs to be done. He gave wait times as an example.

"The wait times strategy that was introduced back in 2004 showed that clear roles and direction from (the) federal government and aligned with provincial governments is a recipe for success," Kitts said. "Today we're falling a little bit behind."

A former premier of Saskatchewan, who headed a commission on the future of health care, said Ottawa and the provincial and territorial governments need to work together more.

Roy Romanow pointed out that health care is different in every jurisdiction and the federal government's attitude has been to just fork over money.

"It will eventually end in frustration and a great deal of confusion unless and until there is a fully co-operative federal government, which comes with reforms, best practices, not to repeat old mistakes (and) fosters co-operation. All of this is required," Romanow said.