05/23/2013 01:16 EDT | Updated 07/22/2013 05:12 EDT

Wait time and primary care reforms stalled

Shortening wait times for hip and knee replacements, increasing electronic health records and starting a national pharmacare strategy are stalled, according to a new progress report.

The Health Council of Canada releases its report on health care renewal in Saskatoon on Thursday.

"Regardless of where you live in Canada, Canadians should be able to access a primary care provider when care is needed, they should have timely access to surgeries, and the cost of medications should not cause undue financial hardship," Dr. Jack Kitts, chair of the Health Council of Canada, said in a release.

"However, because of the variability across the country, this is not the case."

The report's authors findings include:

- Wait times — Progress has stalled in some priority areas such as a decrease of four per cent of hip and knee replacement surgeries within the pan-Canadian benchmark.

- Primary care and electronic health records — Canadians have not received 24/7 access to primary care despite government investments across the country, which the group said points to the need for sustainable, system-level changes. Governments must consider mandating use of electronic health records to speed up implementation.

- Pharmaceuticals — There is still no commitment to a National Pharmaceuticals strategy, despite jurisdictions collaborating on lowering prescription drug prices. Drug coverage and scope of practice of pharmacists varies across provinces.

- Disease prevention and health promotion — Governments lack targets or ways of consistently evaluating their healthy living strategies. There are a few examples of approaches expanding beyond health ministries to include departments like finance, transportation and community services.

- Aboriginal health — The gap between health outcomes of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Canadians remains wide. Some provinces and territories, such as British Columbia, are developing partnerships to close the gap that need ongoing commitments.

The council said besides the need for accountability and collaboration, it provides a database of more than 360 innovative practices across the country.

Last month, Health Canada said it is for the Health Council of Canada, the independent body responsible for monitoring the results of the federal-provincial health accord struck in 2004. The accord is set to expire in 2014.