To provide a look at how Canadian health care systems and services for seniors stack up against 10 other comparator countries, the C.D. Howe Institute has published a report citing research from the Commonwealth Fund, a U.S. based foundation dedicated to improving healthcare systems.

Among the 11 countries surveyed by the Commonwealth Fund, Canada’s seniors’ care ranked eighth. “At the provincial level, some provinces compare favourably to international jurisdictions while others, particularly Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec, sit at the bottom of the ranking. PEI, Ontario, Alberta, and Manitoba rank above the Commonwealth Fund international ranking overall, but no provinces achieve the international average on equity, based on race, for example, or access to care, based on affordability and timeliness,” they write. 

The report on health policy, entitled Shortcomings in Seniors’ Care: How Canada Compares to its Peers and the Paths to Improvement, says benchmarking Canada’s healthcare systems to those in comparable wealthy nations can provide insights into its relative performance and inform priorities for improvement. 

“Top-performing countries overall are Germany, Australia and Switzerland. Canada’s seniors’ care performs poorly compared to its peer countries,” they write. “Among 10 provinces and one territory with survey results, Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec are the major drags on performance, ranking below most comparator jurisdictions.”

All provinces rank above the international average on chronic illness care and end-of-life care planning. “If Canadian provinces were able to achieve the highest international standard by improving access and timeliness to medical appointments or by reducing barriers to pharmaceutical, dental and home care, it would rank above the international average,” they write. 
According to the report, top performing countries provide universal coverage and remove cost barriers so seniors can get care when they need it. They also invest in home care and encourage seniors to live independently for as long as possible. 

“International comparisons allow the public, policymakers and healthcare leaders to benchmark Canadian and provincial performance against international peers and inform alternative approaches to delivering senior care. The current Canadian health system requires a fundamental change to ensure that policies, care pathways, incentive mechanisms and funding align with the preferences and care needs of Canadian seniors,” they state.