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Federal health panel needs more time to report on improvements and innovation

OTTAWA - The much anticipated report of a federal panel that is to recommend ways to improve health care across Canada will be released in the coming weeks.The Advisory Panel on Health Care Innovation was struck last June by Health Minister Rona Ambrose to make recommendations on reducing health spending and improving the quality and accessibility of care.Its job was to seek out the five most promising areas of innovation in Canada and internationally, and recommend five ways for the federal government to support that innovation.The recent federal budget said the panel's recommendations and final report were due by the end of May, but a spokeswoman for the panel said Sunday its final report has been drafted and is currently being reviewed and edited. Spokeswoman Leslie Meerburg says the report will be released in the coming weeks. The director of public issues for the Canadian Cancer Society, Gabriel Miller, says anything that delays the report's release will not bode well for placing health care on the public agenda for the expected Oct. 19 federal election."There's a growing concern that the report's findings — whatever they end up being — will not receive the attention or debate they desperately require," said Miller.Miller called on the government to immediately make public its plan for publicizing the report so that all Canadians can see it."We have a very competitive election campaign shaping up. There has been a risk in the past of these kinds of commissions and panels doing work that is then buried," said Miller."We need to be reassured that is not going to be the case in this situation."The timeline surrounding the release of the report has been uncertain.A statement released by the panel on April 1 said it was embarking on the process of "collating and analyzing" the 10 months data it had collect from 500 individuals, groups or organizations "with the final report to be published in June."Three weeks later, the federal budget declared that panel's "recommendations and the final report are expected no later than the end of May 2015."Ambrose said Sunday she's looking forward to receiving the panel's report, but she didn't say when.Miller said the panel's work was one of the federal government's only serious attempts in the past several years to play a role in helping to address health care needs in Canada, which include a rapidly aging population.The need for such a debate is becoming more necessary because of research released this past week that predicted a 40 per cent increase in cancer cases in the next 15 years, Miller added.The panel is chaired by Dr. David Naylor, a physician and researcher and past president of the University of Toronto. It also includes Alberta economist Jack Mintz and Neil Fraser, a health executive how is a founding member and co-chair of the Centre for the Advancement of Health Innovations at the Conference Board of Canada.Its April statement said it had concluded successful consultations with world experts in health care from the United Kingdom, the United States, Denmark, Australia, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, and officials from several provinces and territories.The panel was also struck by a tragedy of its own, with the untimely death in March of one its members, the respected Alberta health care and health research expert Dr. Cyril Frank.

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