March 28, 2014
Honourable senators, in the last few years, experts from across the country have been questioning the use of the word “system” to describe Canada’s health care sector, some calling it a “misnomer.” In 2011, then CMA president Dr. Jeffrey Turnbull put it this way: The health care system is fractured to such a degree that it is, in some ways, a system in name only.
Professional silos — as they are described by health experts — may be most visible in the transition between acute and community care. In 2007-08, outside of Quebec and Manitoba, more than 1.7 million hospital days were attributed to people waiting to be moved to more appropriate care settings. Often it is seniors who occupy these beds, no longer in need of acute care but unable to be discharged with no support.
One study included in a 2012 CIHI report found that more than one in four people over the age of 75 had been in this position and that 35 per cent of them were in need of home care.
Recently, the integration of care across sectors has become a mantra for health system reform. Yet, it is important to consider what this means in practice. How do we ensure quality services across a broad continuum of care?
Social workers are in a unique position to help. In a hospital setting, they address the psychosocial needs of both patients and families. This includes caregiver support, grief and loss counselling, and community resource information and referral. Social workers also provide discharge planning, a critical support during the transition from acute to community care.
Honourable senators, in practice, social workers bridge gaps between sectors and bring us closer to the meaning of a “health care system.”
As we shift focus away from the delivery of acute care in hospital settings and towards a holistic community approach, we must ensure that the points of transition between sectors are seamless. Social workers are essential to the success of this transition.
Please join me in recognizing March as National Social Work Month.