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Policies that advocate for the medical profession and Canadians


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Rural and remote practice issues

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy211
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2000-05-09
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
  1 document  
Policy Type
Policy document
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2000-05-09
Replaces
Promoting medicine as a career for rural high school students (Resolution BD88-03-78)
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Text
CMA Policy : Rural and Remote Practice Issues The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) believes that all Canadians should have reasonable access to uniform, high quality medical care. The CMA is concerned, however, that the health care infrastructure and level of professional support in rural and remote areas are insufficient to provide quality care and retain and recruit physicians relative to community needs. The CMA has developed this policy to outline specific issues and recommendations that may help retain and recruit physicians to rural and remote areas of Canada and thereby improve the health status of rural and remote populations. The following 3 key issue areas are addressed in this policy: training, compensation and work/lifestyle support. Commitment and action by all stakeholders, including governments, medical schools, professional associations and others, are urgently required. Preamble Canadian physicians and other health care professionals are greatly frustrated by the impact that health care budget cuts and reorganization have had, and continue to have, on the timely provision of quality care to patients and general working conditions. For many physicians who practise in rural and remote communities, the impact is exacerbated by the breadth of their practice, as well as long working hours, geographic isolation, and lack of professional backup and access to specialist services. This policy has been prepared to help governments, policy-makers, communities and others involved in the retention and recruitment of physicians understand the various professional and personal factors that must be addressed to retain and recruit physicians to rural and remote areas of Canada. This policy applies to both general practitioners/family physicians as well as specialists. The CMA believes that this policy must be considered in the context of other relevant CMA policies, including but not limited to Physician Health and Wellbeing, Physician Compensation, Physician Resource Planning, Principles for a Re-entry System in Canadian Postgraduate Medical Education and Charter for Physicians. In addition, any strategies that are developed should not be coercive and must include community and physician input; they must also be comprehensive, flexible and varied to meet and respond to local needs and interests. Definitions Rural and remote There are no standard, broadly accepted terms or definitions for "rural" and "remote" since they cannot be sufficiently defined to reflect the unique and dynamic nature of the various regions and communities that could presumably be labelled as such. The terms "rural" or "remote" medicine may be applied to many things: the physicians themselves, the population they serve, the geography of the community or access to medical services. For each of these factors, there are a number of ways to define and measure rurality. For example, a 1999 CMA survey of rural physicians showed that the most frequently mentioned characteristics of a rural community were (1) high level of on-call responsibilities, (2) long distance to a secondary referral centre, (3) lack of specialist services and (4) insufficient family physicians. As another example, Statistics Canada defines rural and small town residents for some analyses as those living in communities outside Census Metropolitan Areas (population of at least 100 000) or Census Agglomerations (population between 10 000 and 99 999), and where less than 50% of the workforce commute to a larger urban centre. Medical school For the purposes of this policy, a medical school is understood to encompass the entire continuum of medical education, i.e., undergraduate, postgraduate, continuing medical education and maintenance of competence. Training Some Canadian studies have shown that medical trainees who were raised in rural communities have a greater tendency to return to these or similar communities to practise medicine. Some studies also show that individuals who do clerkships in rural or remote communities, or have some exposure to the rural practice environment during residency training, have a greater tendency to consider practising in rural or remote communities upon graduation. The CMA applauds those medical schools that promote careers in medicine to individuals from rural and remote areas and provide medical students and residents with exposure to rural practice during their training. Regular collaboration and communication among training directors for rural and remote programs, as well as rural medical educators and leaders from other health disciplines, are strongly encouraged so that rural training issues and possible linkages may be discussed. The benefits of rural training extend not only to those physicians who ultimately end up in rural practice; those who remain in urban areas also benefit by having an enhanced understanding of the challenges of rural and remote practice. As outlined in the CMA’s 1992 Report of the Advisory Panel on the Provision of Medical Services in Underserviced Regions, the CMA believes that partnerships among medical schools, the practising profession and communities need to be formalized, particularly since medical schools have a crucial role in helping to recruit and retain physicians for rural and remote communities. The medical school’s role in such a partnership takes the form of a social contract. This contract begins with the admission of students who demonstrate a prior interest in working in rural or remote communities and may come from these communities. It also includes the exposure of students to rural practice during their undergraduate and postgraduate training. It is followed by the provision of specialized training for the conditions in which they will work and ongoing educational support during their rural and remote practice. For these reasons, the CMA strongly encourages academic health science centres (AHSCs), provincial governments, professional associations and rural communities to work together to formally define the geographic regions for which each AHSC is responsible. The AHSCs are also encouraged to include within their mission a social contract to contribute to meeting the health needs of their rural or remote populations. Practising physicians are committed to lifelong learning. In order to preserve a high standard of quality care to their patients, they must be knowledgeable about new clinical and technological advances in medicine; they must also continually develop advanced or additional clinical skills in, for example, obstetrics, general surgery and anaesthesia, to better serve the patients in their communities, especially when specialist services are not readily available. There are many practical and financial barriers that physicians in rural and remote communities face in obtaining and maintaining additional skills training, including housing, practice and other costs (e.g., locum tenens replacement expenses) while they are away from work. The CMA strongly encourages governments to develop and maintain mechanisms, such as compensation or additional tax relief, to reduce the barriers associated with obtaining advanced or additional skills training. In light of these issues, the CMA recommends that 1. Universities, governments and others encourage and fund research into criteria that predispose students to select and succeed in rural practice. 2. All medical students, as early as possible at the undergraduate level, be exposed to appropriately funded and accredited rural practice environments. 3. Medical schools develop training programs that encourage and promote the selection of rural practice as a career. 4. Universities work with professional associations, governments and rural communities to determine the barriers that prevent rural students from entering the profession, and take appropriate action to eliminate or reduce these barriers. 5. A Web site based compendium of rural experiences and electives for medical students be developed, maintained and adequately funded. 6. Advanced skills acquisition and maintenance opportunities be provided to physicians practising in or going to rural and remote areas. 7. CMA divisions and provincial/territorial governments ensure that physicians who work in rural and remote areas receive full remuneration while obtaining advanced skills, including support for the locum tenens who will replace them. 8. Any individual formally enrolled in a Royal College of Physicians of Surgeons of Canada or College of Family Physicians of Canada program be covered by the collective agreement of their housestaff organization. 9. Providers, funders and accreditors of continuing medical education for rural physicians ensure that the continuing medical education is developed in close collaboration with rural physicians and is accessible, needs-based and reflective of rural physicians’ scope of practice. 10. Physicians who practise in rural or remote areas be given reasonable opportunities to re-enter training in a postgraduate program without any return-in-service obligations. 11. In order to promote mutual understanding, universities encourage teaching faculty to work in rural practices and that rural physicians be invited to teach in academic health science centres. 12. Medical schools develop training programs for both students and residents that encourage and promote the provision of skills appropriate to rural practice needs. 13. Medical schools support rural faculty development and provide full faculty status to these individuals. Compensation The CMA believes that compensation for physicians who practise in rural and remote areas must be flexible and reflect the full spectrum of professional and personal factors that are often inherent to practising and living in such a setting. These professional factors may include long working hours and the need for additional competencies to meet community needs, such as advanced obstetrics, anaesthesia and general surgery, as well as psychotherapy and chemotherapy. They may also include a high level of on-call responsibilities as well as a lack or total absence of backup from specialists, nurses and other complementary services that are usually available in an urban environment. Other challenges are professional isolation, limited opportunities for education or training, and high practice start-up costs. Also, if for a number of reasons a physician wishes to relocate to an urban setting, he or she may face billing restrictions as well as challenges in finding a replacement physician. Compensation for these factors is necessary to help retain physicians and recruit new ones. In addition, compensation should guarantee protected time off, paid continuing medical education or additional skills training, and locum tenens coverage. Any pool of locum tenens for rural and remote practice should be adequately funded and cross-jurisdictional licensure issues should be minimized. Living in a rural or remote community can be very satisfying for many physicians and their families; however, they must usually forgo — often for an extended period of time— a number of urban advantages and amenities. These include educational, cultural, recreational and social opportunities for their spouse or partner, their children and themselves. They may also face altered family dynamics due to a decrease or significant loss of family income if there are limited or no suitable employment opportunities for their spouse or partner. The CMA believes that all physicians should have a choice of payment options and service delivery models to reflect their needs as well as those of their patients. Physicians must receive fair and equitable remuneration and have a practice environment that allows for a reasonable quality of life. Although the CMA does not advocate one payment system for urban physicians and another for rural physicians, it believes that enhanced total compensation should be provided to physicians who work and live in rural and remote communities. In recognition of these issues, the CMA recommends that 14. Additional compensation to physicians working in rural and remote areas reflect the following areas: degree of isolation, level of responsibility, frequency of on-call, breadth of practice and additional skills. 15. In recognition of the differences among communities, payment modalities retain flexibility and reflect community needs and physician choice. 16. Financial incentives focus on retaining physicians currently practising in rural or remote areas and include a retention bonus based on duration of service. 17. Factors affecting the social and professional isolation of physicians and their families be considered in the development of compensation packages and working conditions. 18. Eligibility criteria for including physicians in a pool of locum tenens for rural or remote practice be developed in consultation with rural physicians. 19. Provincial/territorial licensing bodies establish portability of licensure for locum tenens and ensure that any fees or processes associated with licensure do not serve as barriers to interprovincial mobility. 20. Rural locum tenens programs be funded by provincial/territorial governments and include adequate compensation for accommodation, transportation and remuneration. As previously noted, some studies show that exposure to rural and remote areas during training influences students’ decision to practise in those communities upon graduation. The CMA is concerned, however, that travel and accommodation costs relating to these experiences place an undue financial burden on students. In addition, most physicians in rural and remote areas are already burdened with significant patient loads and find that they have limited time and resources to act as preceptors. The CMA believes that, to ensure the ongoing viability of student rural experiences, physician preceptors should be compensated for their participation and should not incur any additional expenses, such as student or resident accommodation costs. The CMA recommends that 21. Costs for accommodation and travel for student and resident rural training experiences in Canada not be borne by the trainees or the preceptors. 22. Training programs assume responsibility for adequately remunerating preceptors in rural or remote areas. Work and lifestyle support issues To retain and recruit physicians in rural and remote communities, there are issues beyond fair and adequate compensation that must be considered. It is crucial that the aforementioned working conditions, professional issues and array of personal and family-related issues be addressed. The ultimate goal should be to promote physician retention and implement measures that reduce the possibility of physician burnout. Like most people, physicians want to balance their professional and personal responsibilities to allow for a reasonable quality of life. Physicians in rural and remote areas practise in high stress environments that can negatively affect their health and well-being; as a consequence, the standard of care to their patients can suffer. The stress is intensified by excessive work hours, limited professional backup or support (including locum tenens), limited access to specialists, inadequate diagnostic and treatment resources, and limited or no opportunity for vacation or personal leave. At particular risk for burnout is the physician who practises in isolation. For these reasons many physicians, when considering practice opportunities, tend to seek working conditions that will not generate an excessive toll on their non-working lives. This reinforces the need for rural and remote practice environments that facilitate a balance between physicians’ professional and personal lives. In light of these issues, the CMA recommends that 23. Regardless of community size, there should always be at least 2 physicians available to serve the needs of the community. 24. Ideally, the on-call requirement for weekends never exceed 1 in 5 in any Canadian practice. (This is consistent with current CMA policy.) 25. Provincial/territorial governments have professional support and other mechanisms readily available to physicians who practise in rural and remote areas, such as sabbaticals and locum tenens. 26. Governments recognize the service of rural and remote physicians by ensuring that mechanisms exist to allow future access to practise in an urban area of their choice. The CMA believes that rural and remote physician retention and recruitment initiatives must address matters relating to professional isolation as well as social isolation for physicians and their families. This sense of isolation can increase when there are cultural, religious or other differences. For unattached physicians, zero tolerance and unreasonable restrictions with regard to relationships with potential patients can be disincentives to practise in rural or remote communities. Although the CMA believes that such policies and restrictions should be reviewed, the CMA encourages physicians to refer to the CMA policy on The Patient-Physician Relationship and the Sexual Abuse of Patients and the Code of Ethics of the Canadian Medical Association. Also, the CMA recommends that physicians abide by any provincial/territorial policies or legislation that may currently be in place. The medical services infrastructure in rural and remote areas is usually very different from that in urban settings. In addition to a lack of specialist services, physicians in these areas may often have to cope with a number of other factors such as limited or no appropriate diagnostic equipment or limited hospital beds. Physicians and their patients expect and deserve quality care. The diversity and needs of the populations, as well as the needs of the physicians who practise in rural and remote areas, must also be recognized and reflected in the infrastructure (e.g., demographic and geographical considerations). The CMA recommends that 27. A basic medical services infrastructure for rural and remote areas be defined, such as hospital beds, paramedical staff, diagnostic equipment, transportation, ready access to secondary and tertiary services, as well as information technology tools and support. 28. Provincial/territorial governments recognize that physicians who work in rural and remote areas need an environment that appropriately supports them in providing service to the local population.
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CMA Code of Ethics and Professionalism

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy13937
Date
2018-12-08
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  3 documents  
Policy Type
Policy document
Date
2018-12-08
Replaces
Code of ethics of the Canadian Medical Association (Update 2004)
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
CMA CODE OF ETHICS AND PROFESSIONALISM Compassion A compassionate physician recognizes suffering and vulnerability, seeks to understand the unique circumstances of each patient and to alleviate the patient’s suffering, and accompanies the suffering and vulnerable patient. Honesty An honest physician is forthright, respects the truth, and does their best to seek, preserve, and communicate that truth sensitively and respectfully. Humility A humble physician acknowledges and is cautious not to overstep the limits of their knowledge and skills or the limits of medicine, seeks advice and support from colleagues in challenging circumstances, and recognizes the patient’s knowledge of their own circumstances. Integrity A physician who acts with integrity demonstrates consistency in their intentions and actions and acts in a truthful manner in accordance with professional expectations, even in the face of adversity. Prudence A prudent physician uses clinical and moral reasoning and judgement, considers all relevant knowledge and circumstances, and makes decisions carefully, in good conscience, and with due regard for principles of exemplary medical care. The CMA Code of Ethics and Professionalism articulates the ethical and professional commitments and responsibilities of the medical profession. The Code provides standards of ethical practice to guide physicians in fulfilling their obligation to provide the highest standard of care and to foster patient and public trust in physicians and the profession. The Code is founded on and affirms the core values and commitments of the profession and outlines responsibilities related to contemporary medical practice. In this Code, ethical practice is understood as a process of active inquiry, reflection, and decision-making concerning what a physician’s actions should be and the reasons for these actions. The Code informs ethical decision-making, especially in situations where existing guidelines are insufficient or where values and principles are in tension. The Code is not exhaustive; it is intended to provide standards of ethical practice that can be interpreted and applied in particular situations. The Code and other CMA policies constitute guidelines that provide a common ethical framework for physicians in Canada. In this Code, medical ethics concerns the virtues, values, and principles that should guide the medical profession, while professionalism is the embodiment or enactment of responsibilities arising from those norms through standards, competencies, and behaviours. Together, the virtues and commitments outlined in the Code are fundamental to the ethical practice of medicine. Physicians should aspire to uphold the virtues and commitments in the Code, and they are expected to enact the professional responsibilities outlined in it. Physicians should be aware of the legal and regulatory requirements that govern medical practice in their jurisdictions. Trust is the cornerstone of the patient–physician relationship and of medical professionalism. Trust is therefore central to providing the highest standard of care and to the ethical practice of medicine. Physicians enhance trustworthiness in the profession by striving to uphold the following interdependent virtues: A. VIRTUES EXEMPLIFIED BY THE ETHICAL PHYSICIAN 2 B. FUNDAMENTAL COMMITMENTS OF THE MEDICAL PROFESSION Consider first the well-being of the patient; always act to benefit the patient and promote the good of the patient. Provide appropriate care and management across the care continuum. Take all reasonable steps to prevent or minimize harm to the patient; disclose to the patient if there is a risk of harm or if harm has occurred. Recognize the balance of potential benefits and harms associated with any medical act; act to bring about a positive balance of benefits over harms. Commitment to the well-being of the patient Promote the well-being of communities and populations by striving to improve health outcomes and access to care, reduce health inequities and disparities in care, and promote social accountability. Commitment to justice Practise medicine competently, safely, and with integrity; avoid any influence that could undermine your professional integrity. Develop and advance your professional knowledge, skills, and competencies through lifelong learning. Commitment to professional integrity and competence Always treat the patient with dignity and respect the equal and intrinsic worth of all persons. Always respect the autonomy of the patient. Never exploit the patient for personal advantage. Never participate in or support practices that violate basic human rights. Commitment to respect for persons Contribute to the development and innovation in medicine through clinical practice, research, teaching, mentorship, leadership, quality improvement, administration, or advocacy on behalf of the profession or the public. Participate in establishing and maintaining professional standards and engage in processes that support the institutions involved in the regulation of the profession. Cultivate collaborative and respectful relationships with physicians and learners in all areas of medicine and with other colleagues and partners in health care. Commitment to professional excellence Value personal health and wellness and strive to model self-care; take steps to optimize meaningful co-existence of professional and personal life. Value and promote a training and practice culture that supports and responds effectively to colleagues in need and empowers them to seek help to improve their physical, mental, and social well-being. Recognize and act on the understanding that physician health and wellness needs to be addressed at individual and systemic levels, in a model of shared responsibility. Commitment to self-care and peer support Value and foster individual and collective inquiry and reflection to further medical science and to facilitate ethical decision-making. Foster curiosity and exploration to further your personal and professional development and insight; be open to new knowledge, technologies, ways of practising, and learning from others. Commitment to inquiry and reflection 3 C. PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITIES The patient–physician relationship is at the heart of the practice of medicine. It is a relationship of trust that recognizes the inherent vulnerability of the patient even as the patient is an active participant in their own care. The physician owes a duty of loyalty to protect and further the patient’s best interests and goals of care by using the physician’s expertise, knowledge, and prudent clinical judgment. In the context of the patient–physician relationship: 1. Accept the patient without discrimination (such as on the basis of age, disability, gender identity or expression, genetic characteristics, language, marital and family status, medical condition, national or ethnic origin, political affiliation, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status). This does not abrogate the right of the physician to refuse to accept a patient for legitimate reasons. 2. Having accepted professional responsibility for the patient, continue to provide services until these services are no longer required or wanted, or until another suitable physician has assumed responsibility for the patient, or until after the patient has been given reasonable notice that you intend to terminate the relationship. 3. Act according to your conscience and respect differences of conscience among your colleagues; however, meet your duty of non-abandonment to the patient by always acknowledging and responding to the patient’s medical concerns and requests whatever your moral commitments may be. 4. Inform the patient when your moral commitments may influence your recommendation concerning provision of, or practice of any medical procedure or intervention as it pertains to the patient’s needs or requests. 5. Communicate information accurately and honestly with the patient in a manner that the patient understands and can apply, and confirm the patient’s understanding. 6. Recommend evidence-informed treatment options; recognize that inappropriate use or overuse of treatments or resources can lead to ineffective, and at times harmful, patient care and seek to avoid or mitigate this. 7. Limit treatment of yourself, your immediate family, or anyone with whom you have a similarly close relationship to minor or emergency interventions and only when another physician is not readily available; there should be no fee for such treatment. 8. Provide whatever appropriate assistance you can to any person who needs emergency medical care. 9. Ensure that any research to which you contribute is evaluated both scientifically and ethically and is approved by a research ethics board that adheres to current standards of practice. When involved in research, obtain the informed consent of the research participant and advise prospective participants that they have the right to decline to participate or withdraw from the study at any time, without negatively affecting their ongoing care. 10. Never participate in or condone the practice of torture or any form of cruel, inhuman, or degrading procedure. Physicians and patients Patient-physician relationship 4 11. Empower the patient to make informed decisions regarding their health by communicating with and helping the patient (or, where appropriate, their substitute decision-maker) navigate reasonable therapeutic options to determine the best course of action consistent with their goals of care; communicate with and help the patient assess material risks and benefits before consenting to any treatment or intervention. 12. Respect the decisions of the competent patient to accept or reject any recommended assessment, treatment, or plan of care. 13. Recognize the need to balance the developing competency of minors and the role of families and caregivers in medical decision-making for minors, while respecting a mature minor’s right to consent to treatment and manage their personal health information. 14. Accommodate a patient with cognitive impairments to participate, as much as possible, in decisions that affect them; in such cases, acknowledge and support the positive roles of families and caregivers in medical decision-making and collaborate with them, where authorized by the patient’s substitute decision-maker, in discerning and making decisions about the patient’s goals of care and best interests. 15. Respect the values and intentions of a patient deemed incompetent as they were expressed previously through advance care planning discussions when competent, or via a substitute decision-maker. 16. When the specific intentions of an incompetent patient are unknown and in the absence of a formal mechanism for making treatment decisions, act consistently with the patient’s discernable values and goals of care or, if these are unknown, act in the patient’s best interests. 17. Respect the patient’s reasonable request for a second opinion from a recognized medical expert. Physicians and the practice of medicine Patient privacy and the duty of confidentiality 18. Fulfill your duty of confidentiality to the patient by keeping identifiable patient information confidential; collecting, using, and disclosing only as much health information as necessary to benefit the patient; and sharing information only to benefit the patient and within the patient’s circle of care. Exceptions include situations where the informed consent of the patient has been obtained for disclosure or as provided for by law. 19. Provide the patient or a third party with a copy of their medical record upon the patient’s request, unless there is a compelling reason to believe that information contained in the record will result in substantial harm to the patient or others. 20. Recognize and manage privacy requirements within training and practice environments and quality improvement initiatives, in the context of secondary uses of data for health system management, and when using new technologies in clinical settings. 21. Avoid health care discussions, including in personal, public, or virtual conversations, that could reasonably be seen as revealing confidential or identifying information or as being disrespectful to patients, their families, or caregivers. Medical decision-making is ideally a deliberative process that engages the patient in shared decision-making and is informed by the patient’s experience and values and the physician’s clinical judgment. This deliberation involves discussion with the patient and, with consent, others central to the patient’s care (families, caregivers, other health professionals) to support patient-centred care. In the process of shared decision-making: Decision-making 5 22. Recognize that conflicts of interest may arise as a result of competing roles (such as financial, clinical, research, organizational, administrative, or leadership). 23. Enter into associations, contracts, and agreements that maintain your professional integrity, consistent with evidenceinformed decision-making, and safeguard the interests of the patient or public. 24. Avoid, minimize, or manage and always disclose conflicts of interest that arise, or are perceived to arise, as a result of any professional relationships or transactions in practice, education, and research; avoid using your role as a physician to promote services (except your own) or products to the patient or public for commercial gain outside of your treatment role. 25. Take reasonable steps to ensure that the patient understands the nature and extent of your responsibility to a third party when acting on behalf of a third party. 26. Discuss professional fees for non-insured services with the patient and consider their ability to pay in determining fees. 27. When conducting research, inform potential research participants about anything that may give rise to a conflict of interest, especially the source of funding and any compensation or benefits. 28. Be aware of and promote health and wellness services, and other resources, available to you and colleagues in need. 29. Seek help from colleagues and appropriate medical care from qualified professionals for personal and professional problems that might adversely affect your health and your services to patients. 30. Cultivate training and practice environments that provide physical and psychological safety and encourage help-seeking behaviours. 31. Treat your colleagues with dignity and as persons worthy of respect. Colleagues include all learners, health care partners, and members of the health care team. 32. Engage in respectful communications in all media. 33. Take responsibility for promoting civility, and confronting incivility, within and beyond the profession. Avoid impugning the reputation of colleagues for personal motives; however, report to the appropriate authority any unprofessional conduct by colleagues. 34. Assume responsibility for your personal actions and behaviours and espouse behaviours that contribute to a positive training and practice culture. 35. Promote and enable formal and informal mentorship and leadership opportunities across all levels of training, practice, and health system delivery. 36. Support interdisciplinary team-based practices; foster team collaboration and a shared accountability for patient care. Physicians and self Physicians and colleagues Managing and minimizing conflicts of interest 6 38. Recognize that social determinants of health, the environment, and other fundamental considerations that extend beyond medical practice and health systems are important factors that affect the health of the patient and of populations. 39. Support the profession’s responsibility to act in matters relating to public and population health, health education, environmental determinants of health, legislation affecting public and population health, and judicial testimony. 40. Support the profession’s responsibility to promote equitable access to health care resources and to promote resource stewardship. 41. Provide opinions consistent with the current and widely accepted views of the profession when interpreting scientific knowledge to the public; clearly indicate when you present an opinion that is contrary to the accepted views of the profession. 42. Contribute, where appropriate, to the development of a more cohesive and integrated health system through interprofessional collaboration and, when possible, collaborative models of care. 43. Commit to collaborative and respectful relationships with Indigenous patients and communities through efforts to understand and implement the recommendations relevant to health care made in the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. 44. Contribute, individually and in collaboration with others, to improving health care services and delivery to address systemic issues that affect the health of the patient and of populations, with particular attention to disadvantaged, vulnerable, or underserved communities. Approved by the CMA Board of Directors Dec 2018 37. Commit to ensuring the quality of medical services offered to patients and society through the establishment and maintenance of professional standards. Physicians and society
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Maintaining Ontario’s leadership on prohibiting the use of sick notes for short medical leaves

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy13934
Date
2018-11-15
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Health systems, system funding and performance
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2018-11-15
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) submits this brief to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs for consideration as part of its study on Bill 47, Making Ontario Open for Business Act, 2018. The CMA unites physicians on national, pan-Canadian health and medical matters. As the national advocacy organization representing physicians and the medical profession, the CMA engages with provincial/territorial governments on pan-Canadian health and health care priorities. As outlined in this submission, the CMA supports the position of the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) in recommending that Schedule 1 of Bill 47 be amended to strike down the proposed new Section 50(6) of the Employment Standards Act, 2000. This section proposes to reinstate an employer’s ability to require an employee to provide a sick note for short leaves of absence because of personal illness, injury or medical emergency. Ontario is currently a national leader on sick notes In 2018, Ontario became the first jurisdiction in Canada to withdraw the ability of employers to require employees to provide sick notes for short medical leaves because of illnesses such as a cold or flu. This legislative change aligned with the CMA’s policy position1 and was strongly supported by the medical and health policy community. An emerging pan-Canadian concern about the use of sick notes As health systems across Canada continue to grapple with the need to be more efficient, the use of sick notes for short leaves as a human resources tool to manage employee absenteeism has drawn increasing criticism in recent years. In addition to Ontario’s leadership, here are a few recent cases that demonstrate the emerging concern about the use of sick notes for short leaves:
In 2016, proposed legislation to end the practice was tabled in the Manitoba legislature.2
The Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association and Doctors Nova Scotia have been vocal opponents of sick notes for short leaves, characterizing them as a strain on the health care system.3,4
The University of Alberta and Queen’s University have both formally adopted “no sick note” policies for exams.5,6
The report of Ontario’s Changing Workplaces Review summarized stakeholder comments about sick notes, describing them as “costly, very often result from a telephone consultation and repeat what the physician is told by the patient, and which are of very little value to the employer.”7 Ontario’s action in 2018 to remove the ability of employers to require sick notes, in response to the real challenges posed by this practice, was meaningful and demonstrated leadership in the national context. The requirement to obtain sick notes negatively affects patients and the public By walking back this advancement, Ontario risks reintroducing a needless inefficiency and strain on the health system, health care providers, their patients and families. For patients, having to produce a sick note for an 4 employer following a short illness-related leave could represent an unfair economic impact. Individuals who do not receive paid sick days may face the added burden of covering the cost of obtaining a sick note as well as related transportation fees in addition to losing their daily wage. This scenario illustrates an unfair socioeconomic impact of the proposal to reinstate employers’ ability to require sick notes. In representing the voice of Canada’s doctors, the CMA would be remiss not to mention the need for individuals who are ill to stay home, rest and recover. In addition to adding a physical strain on patients who are ill, the requirement for employees who are ill to get a sick note, may also contribute to the spread of viruses and infection. Allowing employers to require sick notes may also contribute to the spread of illness as employees may choose to forego the personal financial impact, and difficulty to secure an appointment, and simply go to work sick. Reinstating sick notes contradicts the government’s commitment to end hallway medicine It is important to consider these potential negative consequences in the context of the government’s commitment to “end hallway medicine.” If the proposal to reintroduce the ability of employers to require sick notes for short medical leaves is adopted, the government will be introducing an impediment to meeting its core health care commitment. Reinstating sick notes would increase the administrative burden on physicians Finally, as the national organization representing the medical profession in Canada, the CMA is concerned about how this proposal, if implemented, may negatively affect physician health and wellness. The CMA recently released a new baseline survey, CMA National Physician Health Survey: A National Snapshot, that reveals physician health is a growing concern.8 While the survey found that 82% of physicians and residents reported high resilience, a concerning one in four respondents reported experiencing high levels of burnout. How are these findings relevant to the proposed new Section 50(6) of the Employment Standards Act, 2000? Paperwork and administrative burden are routinely found to rank as a key contributor to physician burnout.9 While a certain level of paperwork and administrative responsibility is to be expected, health system and policy decision-makers must avoid introducing an unnecessary burden in our health care system. Conclusion: Remove Section 50(6) from Schedule 1 of Bill 47 The CMA appreciates the opportunity to provide this submission for consideration by the committee in its study of Bill 47. The committee has an important opportunity to respond to the real challenges associated with sick notes for short medical leaves by ensuring that Section 50(6) in Schedule 1 is not implemented as part of Bill 47. 5 1 Canadian Medical Association (CMA). Third-Party Forms (Update 2017). Ottawa: The Association; 2017. Available: http://policybase.cma.ca/dbtw-wpd/Policypdf/PD17-02.pdf (accessed 2019 Nov 13). 2 Bill 202. The Employment Standards Code Amendment Act (Sick Notes). Winnipeg: Queen’s Printer for the Province of Manitoba; 2016. Available: https://web2.gov.mb.ca/bills/40-5/pdf/b202.pdf (accessed 2019 Nov 13). 3 CBC News. Sick notes required by employers a strain on system, says NLMA. 2018 May 30. Available: www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/employer-required-sick-notes-unnecessary-says-nlma-1.4682899 4 CBC News. No more sick notes from workers, pleads Doctors Nova Scotia. 2014 Jan 10. Available: www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/no-more-sick-notes-from-workers-pleads-doctors-nova-scotia-1.2491526 (accessed 2019 Nov 13). 5 University of Alberta University Health Centre. Exam deferrals. Edmonton: University of Alberta; 2018. Available: www.ualberta.ca/services/health-centre/exam-deferrals (accessed 2019 Nov 13). 6 Queen’s University Student Wellness Services. Sick notes. Kingston: Queen’s University; 2018. Available: www.queensu.ca/studentwellness/health-services/services-offered/sick-notes (accessed 2019 Nov 13). 7 Ministry of Labour. The Changing Workplaces Review: An Agenda for Workplace Rights. Final Report. Toronto: Ministry of Labour; 2017 May. Available: https://files.ontario.ca/books/mol_changing_workplace_report_eng_2_0.pdf (accessed 2019 Nov 13). 8 Canadian Medical Association (CMA). One in four Canadian physicians report burnout [media release]. Ottawa: The Association; 2018 Oct 10. Available: www.cma.ca/En/Pages/One-in-four-Canadian-physicians-report-burnout-.aspx (accessed 2019 Nov 13). 9 Leslie C. The burden of paperwork. Med Post 2018 Apr.
Documents
Less detail

Needs of retired physicians

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy135
Last Reviewed
2017-03-04
Date
2003-08-20
Topics
Health human resources
Resolution
GC03-37
That Canadian Medical Association, in collaboration with the divisions, address specific needs of retired physicians in the Canadian Medical Association's physician health and well-being program.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2017-03-04
Date
2003-08-20
Topics
Health human resources
Resolution
GC03-37
That Canadian Medical Association, in collaboration with the divisions, address specific needs of retired physicians in the Canadian Medical Association's physician health and well-being program.
Text
That Canadian Medical Association, in collaboration with the divisions, address specific needs of retired physicians in the Canadian Medical Association's physician health and well-being program.
Less detail

The physician appointment and reappointment process 2016

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy13564
Date
2016-12-03
Topics
Health human resources
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
://policybase.cma.ca/dbtw-wpd/Policypdf/PD15-07.pdf (accessed 2016 May 02). 9 Cochrane DD. Investigation into medical
  1 document  
Policy Type
Policy document
Date
2016-12-03
Topics
Health human resources
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Text
Beginning in the 1990s most jurisdictions established regional health authorities (RHAs) with consolidated medical staff structures and there has been a trend toward requiring all physicians practising in a region to hold an appointment with the RHA in order to access health resources such as diagnostic imaging and laboratory services, irrespective of whether they hold hospital privileges or not. Subsequent to the consolidation of medical staff governance there have been several developments over the past decade that have implications for where and how physicians can practise, and for their ability to advocate freely on behalf of their patients. These include: * the establishment of formal physician resource plans that link the appointment process to the ability to participate in the provincial/territorial medical insurance plan; * a greater focus on clinical governance that includes detailed attention on scope of practice and privileges; * a growing concern about the ability of physicians to advocate on behalf of their patients and the communities they serve; and * an increase in the number of physicians entering into employment or contractual arrangements. The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) puts forward the following recommendations for governments, regulatory authorities, RHAs and medical staff structures within RHAs and hospitals. Recommendations Where physician appointments are to be approved in relation to Physician Resource Plans, the CMA recommends that such plans must: * take into consideration both population need and projected physician supply; * include transparency in the provision of information about available practice opportunities and on the criteria and processes through which applications for appointments are approved; * be based on a documented methodology with results in the public domain; and * be based on a medium-term projection range, using the most current and reliable data available, and be regularly reviewed and updated. The CMA recommends that the application of standardized credential templates must take into consideration the quality of care being provided by the physician and local circumstances such as the complement of medical and hospital resources available locally and the timeliness of proximity to secondary and tertiary care. The CMA strongly supports the implementation of policy to safeguard physicians from fear of reprisal and retaliation when speaking out as advocates for their patients and communities, and the right and duty of medical officers of health to speak publicly to the citizens they serve. The CMA supports provincial/territorial amendments to public health legislation to protect the right and duty of medical officers of health to speak publicly to the citizens they serve without political interference or risk of adverse employment consequences. The CMA believes that medical staff bylaws should expressly extend to physicians under contract entitlement to the procedural protections set out in the hospital or health authority bylaws. The CMA recommends that the processes of granting appointments, reappointments and privileges and allocating resources respect the following principles: 1. All processes should be fair, equitable, documented and transparent and should protect confidentiality. 2. Criteria for reappointment should be clearly specified in medical staff bylaws and should be no more onerous than necessary to verify the ongoing provision of quality care by the medical staff. 3. A regular evaluation of appointed physicians should be conducted by the appropriate clinical chief. 4. The quality of a physician's care is the most important criterion to be considered at the time of appointment, reappointment and the granting of privileges. 5. The information required for the granting of appointments, reappointments or privileges or for the allocation of medical resources must be accurate, valid and appropriate. 6. The processes of granting appointments, reappointments and privileges and allocating resources should recognize and accommodate the changes in practice patterns that may occur over the medical career cycle. 7. Physicians with established community practices have a significant investment in their practice and the community; this investment should be considered at the time of reappointment or change in privileges. 8. A recommendation, without just cause, to withdraw an appointment, to restrict privileges or to significantly reduce resources available to a physician must include appropriate compensation based on individual circumstances. 9. The reporting of legal actions or disciplinary actions as part of the reappointment or reappointment process should be restricted to those matters in which a final determination has been rendered and in which there has been an adverse finding to the physician. Objective This policy outlines the principles that should be considered for the granting of physician appointments, reappointments, privileges and access to resources at the health care facility, district or RHA level. Key definitions Appointment: The process by which a physician joins the medical staff of a health region or health facility in order to access resources to care for patients. Credentialing: An approach to obtaining, verifying and assessing the qualifications of a health professional against consistent criteria for the purposes of licensing and/or granting privileges.1 Privileges: Permission from an authorized body to a health care provider to conduct a specific scope and content of patient care. Privileges are granted based upon an evaluation of the provider's training, experience and competence related to the service, and are specific to a defined practice setting.1 Clinical peer review: The process by which physician peers assess each other's performance. A peer is a physician with relevant clinical experience in similar health care environments who also has the competence to contribute to the review of other physicians' performance.2 Background Historically the formal appointment process applied to physicians wishing to practise in hospitals. Beginning in the 1990s most jurisdictions established RHAs with consolidated medical staff structures and there has been a trend toward requiring all physicians practising in a region to hold an appointment with the RHA in order to access health resources such as diagnostic imaging and laboratory services, irrespective of whether they hold hospital privileges or not. Since the CMA first adopted principles for the physician appointment and reappointment process in 1997 there have been several developments that are reviewed below: * the establishment of formal physician resource plans that link the appointment process to the ability to participate in the provincial/territorial medical insurance plan; * a greater focus on clinical governance that includes detailed attention on scope of practice and privileges; * a growing concern about the ability of physicians to advocate on behalf of their patients and the communities they serve; and * an increase in the number of physicians entering into employment or contractual arrangements. Physician Resource Plans (PRPs): New Brunswick was the first province to require physicians to have privileges with an RHA in order to obtain a billing number.3 More recently jurisdictions such as Nova Scotia (N.S.) have introduced medium to longer range PRPs that are to be used when approving new appointments. In 2012 N.S. released a PRP for 2012-2021, which has since been updated to 2013-2022.4 Under the terms of the Nova Scotia Health Authority Medical Staff Bylaws, the RHA CEO or their designate will assess applications for new appointments in relation to need and availability of resources. The assessment is to be completed within 60 days and there is no right of review or appeal of the CEO's decision.5 Manitoba's medical staff bylaws make a similar provision.6 While Ontario has not regionalized to the same extent as other jurisdictions, legislation has been introduced that proposes to make the 14 Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) responsible for primary care planning and performance management.7 Moreover the Bill will amend the Health Insurance Act to authorize the health minister to delegate non-fee-for-service physician compensation to the LHIN. Recommendation Where physician appointments are to be approved in relation to PRPs, the CMA recommends that such plans must: * take into consideration both population need and projected physician supply; * include transparency in the provision of information about available practice opportunities and on the criteria and processes through which applications for appointments are approved; * be based on a documented methodology with results in the public domain; and * be based on a medium-term projection range, using the most current and reliable data available, and be regularly reviewed and updated. Other physician resource planning considerations are set out in the CMA's comprehensive policy on PRPs.8 Clinical governance: Since the late 1990s there has been a great deal of attention paid to the concept of clinical governance, which may be defined as the structures, processes and culture needed to ensure that health care organizations and all individuals within them can assure the quality of the care they provide and are continuously seeking to improve it. During the past decade several provinces have carried out inquiries related to problems with pathology and radiology. In British Columbia (B.C.) the Chair of the BC Patient Safety & Quality Council conducted a review of the medical imaging credentialing and quality assurance that reported in 2011. In his final report, Dr. Douglas Cochrane set out 35 recommendations that called for much more rigorous and uniform oversight of medical practice in B.C.9 The recommendations included a call for: * the creation of a single medical staff administration to serve all health authorities and affiliated organizations; * the development of standardized processes for medical staff appointment, and credentialing and privileging, including common definitions; and * the development of performance assessment and review process for all physicians.9 The Cochrane report has resulted in the British Columbia Medical Quality Initiative (BC MQI). BC MQI is implementing an online Provincial Practitioner Credentialing and Privileging System (CACTUS Software) that will be used by all of B.C.'s RHAs to manage these processes for physicians, midwives, dentists and nurse practitioners.10 BC MQI has developed 62 privileging dictionaries for medical directors and department heads to use with their colleagues during initial and renewal privileging processes. The dictionaries recommend the required current experience to perform a certain activity in the form of numbers where applicable and also recommend the requirements for renewal of privileges and the requirements for return to practice. These recommendations are meant to take into account the individual's own experience and the context of the local site in which they work. They are meant to begin a conversation as needed with the department head, colleagues and others. The Society of Rural Physicians of Canada (SRPC) has raised concerns about the potential impact of volume-based credentialing on rural medical practice. For example, the dictionary for Family Practice with Enhanced Surgical Skills recommends that for operative delivery, a volume of at least five caesarean section deliveries be performed per year averaged over 24 months.11The SRPC has put forward recommendations that emphasize the need for appropriate peer review and consideration of geographic diversity and the range of medical practice, and that credential revalidation should be based on the actual quality of care provided by the physician, the continuing medical education completed by the physician and should also consider the impact of changes in delivery on the health outcomes in the community.12 It seems likely that other jurisdictions will be watching the CACTUS program with interest. Recommendation The CMA recommends that the application of standardized credential templates must take into consideration the quality of care being provided by the physician and local circumstances such as the complement of medical and hospital resources available locally and the timeliness of proximity to secondary and tertiary care. Advocacy: Advocacy has been identified as one of seven core roles of every physician by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada13 and the College of Family Physicians of Canada.14 This role entails physicians using their expertise and influence in the interests of their individual patients and the communities and populations they serve. Over the past decade there have been several instances where physicians have either expressed concern about their ability to advocate or have had disciplinary action taken against them, likely as a result of their advocacy activities. As a result of an inquiry carried out by the Health Quality Council of Alberta, the Alberta Medical Association, Alberta Health Services and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta have adopted a joint policy statement that sets out guidelines for physician advocacy.15 Eastern Health in Newfoundland and Labrador has a privacy/confidentiality oath or affirmation for physicians that acknowledges that they may have professional standards for disclosure and advocacy regarding patient safety, but stipulates the expectation that such concerns be first addressed through Eastern Health as an initial step.16 The CMA's policy on the evolving professional relationship between physicians and the health care system sets out nine factors for physicians to consider before undertaking advocacy.17 As predominantly employees of some level of government, and with a responsibility to sound an alert on population health risks, public health physicians are at greater risk of being disciplined for advocacy. There have been two high profile cases of public health physicians who have been dismissed for advocacy-related activities since 2000. Thus far only B.C. has enacted public health legislation to protect medical officers of health from political interference and adverse employment consequences. B.C.'s Public Health Act stipulates that the provincial health officer (PHO) has a duty to advise on provincial public health issues, which includes public reporting where the PHO believes it will best serve the public interest. Similarly sub-provincial medical health officers must advise on local public health issues and publicly report on them after consultation with the PHO. B.C.'s legislation also provides health officers with immunity from legal proceedings for actions done in good faith in the performance of their duties and for reports they are required to make. In addition the legislation protects health officers from "adverse actions", defined as an action that would either affect or threaten "the personal, financial or other interests of a person, or a relative, dependent, friend or business or other close association of that person" as a result of performing their duties in good faith.18 Recommendations The CMA strongly supports the implementation of policy to safeguard physicians from fear of reprisal and retaliation when speaking out as advocates for their patients and communities, and the right and duty of medical officers of health to speak publicly to the citizens they serve. The CMA supports provincial/territorial amendments to public health legislation to protect the right and duty of medical officers of health to speak publicly to the citizens they serve without political interference or risk of adverse employment consequences. Growing employment/contractual relationships: The move to RHAs, consolidation in the hospital sector and changing delivery models have had significant implications for the relationships between physicians and hospitals. The Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA) has identified several areas of concern, including patient advocacy, reporting of physicians, responding to adverse events, collection and use of physician information, practice arrangements and liability provision.19 One issue that the CMPA has highlighted in particular is the increasing trend in some jurisdictions for physicians to be engaged on a contracted employee basis rather than as independent contractors appointed with privileges.20 This is seen among facility-based physicians such as hospitalists, clinical and surgical assistants and laboratory physicians. The CMPA has cautioned that physicians engaged on a contractual basis may not have the same procedural rights on termination of contracts as those engaged under the privileging model and it has issued guidance on issues to consider with individual contracts, including CMPA assistance, indemnification clauses, liability provisions, confidentiality, termination of contract, dispute resolution and governing law.21 Recommendation The CMA believes that medical staff bylaws should expressly extend to physicians under contract entitlement to the procedural protections set out in the hospital or health authority bylaws. Principles Physicians must take a leadership role and be active participants in the development of appointment, reappointment and related processes; medical communities must therefore be aware of the basic principles that should be reflected in these processes. Once a physician has obtained a licence to practice, the process of appointment approval is the next step in obtaining permission to practise medicine in a health care facility, district or region. The next step is the granting of privileges. This bestows the right to perform specific medical acts within the health care facility, district or region. The final step is the provision of the necessary resources so that the physician is able to provide appropriate medical services for patient care. A medical committee with a clear structure and mandate to deal with appointments, reappointments and privileges must be maintained in all health care facilities, districts and regions so that physician input may be given during the appointment, reappointment and related processes. Clinical peer review must be foundational to these processes. Time, training and resources must be sufficient to support consistent peer review processes. The principles proposed below apply to all of the following processes: the appointment and reappointment processes, the granting of privileges and the allocation of health care facility, district or regional resources. Principles for the processes of granting appointments, reappointments and privileges and allocating resources 1. All processes should be fair, equitable, documented and transparent and should protect confidentiality. They should be completed in a timely manner and follow the rules of natural justice. At a minimum, the rules of natural justice give the physician the right to notice and the right to be heard before, and provided with reasons by, an impartial adjudicator. Given the nature of the physician's interests in the appointment, reappointment and other related processes, the following principles should also be included: * the right to be heard, either in person and (or) by representation; * the right to full disclosure of the information being considered by the committee that makes recommendations on appointments, reappointments and privileges; * the right to present evidence; * the right to a hearing free from bias, either real or perceived; * the right to a record of the proceedings; * a decision within a reasonable period; * the right to receive written reasons for the decision; and * the right to an appeal process by an independent and impartial body other than the board of the health care facility, district or region. It is important that all processes, including any review processes, follow the principles of natural justice. These processes should be part of the medical staff bylaws that guide the operation of the health care facility, district or region and should be known to all appointed physicians. 2. Criteria for reappointment should be clearly specified in medical staff bylaws and should be no more onerous than necessary to verify the ongoing provision of quality care by the medical staff. Medical staff appointments are typically for a one-year term. Criteria for reappointment vary across Canada, ranging from the provision of evidence of renewed licensure and liability coverage with a discretionary in-depth performance evaluation to the foregoing plus a mandated in-depth performance evaluation and reporting on continuing professional development activity. 3. A regular evaluation of appointed physicians should be conducted by the appropriate clinical chief. It should consist of a fair, documented process with explicit, agreed-upon criteria for the review of the physician's qualifications and credentials and the quality of care provided. If there is demonstrated inappropriate behaviour or a quality-of-care issue, a program for remediation should be established with regular follow-up over a period deemed appropriate by the physician's peers. As in other jobs, the objective of regular performance evaluations for a physician is to improve the physician's performance and the focus should be on opportunities for learning and improvement. The appraisal should entail a standardized peer evaluation process, in addition to self-assessment. The self-assessment process should include the recognition of satisfactory existing skills and the identification of new skills to be learned. In some situations remediation may be justified, for example when there is a need to upgrade skills, when interpersonal and communication skills are unacceptable, and when there is alcohol or drug abuse. Physician evaluations conducted by RHAs should take into account requirements already asked of the physician by their certifying and/or licensing body or other speciality organization in order to avoid duplication of effort. Looking ahead, with the increasing focus on team-based collaborative care, performance of team function and its impact on overall performance to meet health service requirements and quality of care is expected to become increasingly relevant. Conflict resolution mechanisms, scopes of practice and shared roles and responsibilities will need to be considered in order to assess individual and team performance. 4. The quality of a physician's care is the most important criterion to be considered at the time of appointment, reappointment and the granting of privileges. Quality care may be defined as the provision of service that satisfies the needs of the patient and meets the standards set out by recognized bodies of the profession, such as licensing bodies, national clinical societies and others. The essential components of quality include competence, accessibility, acceptability, effectiveness, appropriateness, efficiency, affordability and safety. The cost of a physician's care should not be the primary criterion considered during appointment, reappointment and related processes. Practice patterns, resulting in differences in cost of care, will differ for numerous reasons, including severity of illness, patient mix and patient choices. If there is a local, regional or district physician resource plan, then the need for a particular physician skill base as identified in the plan is an important criterion for appointment or reappointment to institutions within the plan. Physicians must be involved in the development of such a plan, and the plan must be supported by physicians at the local, district or regional level. If a practice and remuneration plan is introduced for a facility, hospital or academic health sciences centre, then participation in such a plan should not be a criterion for reappointment. 5. The information required for the granting of appointments, reappointments or privileges or for the allocation of medical resources must be accurate, valid and appropriate. The information required for these purposes should generally be limited to that which is reasonably necessary to determine the physician's ability to provide safe care. Physician's privacy should only be violated if it is determined that a medical condition or other disability poses an unacceptable risk to patients. The physician's credentials, skills, expertise and quality of care, as judged by peer assessment, should be considered during the appointment or reappointment process. Utilization data and associated indicators are being used more frequently as criteria for appointment and reappointment. Therefore, physicians must be involved in the development of such indicators, and there must be agreement by all parties on the type and quality of data or indicators to be used. In addition, before appointment or reappointment, physicians must be made aware of the data or indicators that will be used to evaluate them and the criteria by which these indicators will be applied. 6. The processes of granting appointments, reappointments and privileges and allocating resources should recognize and accommodate the changes in practice patterns that may occur over the medical career cycle. These processes should be flexible and reasonable concerning other issues such as on-call responsibilities or time needed to fulfil research and teaching commitments. It is important to recognize that a physician's practice pattern may change during his or her medical career. These changes may reflect the desire to no longer take call, the narrowing of the physician's practice to achieve a higher level of expertise in a specific area or the desire to pursue academic interests or responsibilities. Pregnancy, parental leave and the wish to practice part-time must also be considered. The quality of a physician's personal life and other special needs should be viewed as important and should be considered by those making decisions in these areas. 7. Physicians with established community practices have a significant investment in their practice and the community; this investment should be considered at the time of reappointment or change in privileges. An established physician may face financial loss if he or she is not reappointed or if there is a recommendation to substantially change his or her privileges. This possibility should be considered at the time of reappointment or change in privileges. 8. A recommendation, without just cause, to withdraw an appointment, to restrict privileges or to significantly reduce resources available to a physician must include appropriate compensation based on individual circumstances. Appropriate compensation includes financial restitution, retraining, relocation assistance and counselling assistance as required. Sufficient notice and other elements of due process should also be components of this recommendation. Generally, physicians are not employees of a health care facility, district or regional authority. Nonetheless, there are often extensive restrictions on physician mobility and limited opportunities to practice both inside and outside a province or territory. Age may also be a factor in the ability to find placement elsewhere, particularly if the physician is nearing retirement age. For these reasons, an interruption or cessation of a physician's career caused by withdrawal of an appointment, restriction of privileges or reduction in the resources available to the physician justifies appropriate compensation and due notice; this is in keeping with good human resource practices. Appropriate notice should be provided to physicians so that there is minimal impact on patient care. What constitutes timely and appropriate notice may in some cases be several months and will differ depending on the impact of the decision. Examples of decisions that could have a significant impact on physicians include: * temporary or permanent closure of operating rooms or other facilities; * strategic redirection of the hospital that may adversely affect a particular medical service or department, such as regionalization of laboratory testing or provincial centralization of a specialized service; and * implementation of a retirement policy. 9. The reporting of legal actions or disciplinary actions as part of the reappointment or reappointment process should be restricted to those matters in which a final determination has been rendered and in which there has been an adverse finding to the physician. References 1 Accreditation Canada. Qmentum Standards. Governance. Ottawa: Accreditation Canada; 2016. 2 Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Healthcare. Review by peers: a guide for professional, clinical and administrative processes. Sydney: Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care; July 2010. Available: http://www.safetyandquality.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/37358-Review-by-Peers.pdf (accessed 2016 May 02). 3 New Brunswick Department of Health. Registration requirements. Fredericton: New Brunswick Department of Health; 2016. Available: http://www.gnb.ca/0394/prw/RegistrationRequirements-e.asp (accessed 2016 May 02). 4 Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness. Shaping our Physician Workforce. Updates. Halifax: Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness; 2016. Available: http://novascotia.ca/dhw/shapingPhysicianWorkforce/updates.asp (accessed 2016 May 02). 5 Province of Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia Health Authority Medical Staff Bylaws. Halifax: Province of Nova Scotia; April 2015. Available: https://www.novascotia.ca/just/regulations/regs/hamedstaff.htm (accessed 2016 May 02). 6 Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. WRHA Board By-Law No.3 Medical Staff. Winnipeg: Winnipeg Regional Health Authority; March 2014. Available: http://www.wrha.mb.ca/extranet/medicalstaff/files/MedByLaw.pdf (accessed 2016 May 02). 7 Bill 41. An Act to amend various Acts in the interests of patient-centred care. 2nd Sess, 41st Leg, Ontario; 2016. Available: http://www.ontla.on.ca/bills/bills-files/41_Parliament/Session2/b041.pdf (accessed 2016 Nov 07). 8 Canadian Medical Association. Physician resource planning. Updated 2015. Ottawa: The Association; 2015. Available: http://policybase.cma.ca/dbtw-wpd/Policypdf/PD15-07.pdf (accessed 2016 May 02). 9 Cochrane DD. Investigation into medical imaging, credentialing and quality assurance. Phase 2 report. Vancouver: BC Patient Safety & Quality Council; Aug 2011. Available: http://www.health.gov.bc.ca/library/publications/year/2011/cochrane-phase2-report.pdf (accessed 2016 May 02). 10 British Columbia Medical Quality Initiative. Briefing note: BC MQI - Provincial Practitioner Credentialing and Privileging System (CACTUS Software) Implementation. Vancouver: British Columbia Medical Quality Initiative; January 2016. Available: http://bcmqi.ca/wp-content/uploads/Briefing-Note_ProvincialPractitionerCPSystemImplementation.pdf (accessed 2016 May 02). 11 British Columbia Medical Quality Initiative. Family Practice with Enhanced Surgical Skills Clinical Privileges. Vancouver: British Columbia Medical Quality Initiative; March 2015. Available: http://www.srpc.ca/ess2016/summit/FamilyPracticeEnhancedSurgicalSkills.pdf (accessed 2016 Nov 06). 12 Soles H, Larsen Soles T. SRPC position statement on minimum-volume credentialing. Can J Rural Med. 2016;21(4):107-11. 13 Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. CanMEDS 2015. Physician competency framework. Ottawa: Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada; 2015. Available: http://canmeds.royalcollege.ca/uploads/en/framework/CanMEDS%202015%20Framework_EN_Reduced.pdf (accessed 2016 May 02). 14 College of Family Physicians of Canada. CanMEDS-Family Medicine. Working Group on Curriculum Review. Mississauga: College of Family Physicians of Canada; October 2009. Available: http://www.cfpc.ca/uploadedFiles/Education/CanMeds%20FM%20Eng.pdf (accessed 2016 May 02). 15 Alberta Medical Association, Alberta Health Services, College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta. Advocacy Policy Statement. Edmonton: Alberta Medical Association; 2015. Available: https://www.albertadoctors.org/Advocacy/Policy_Statement.pdf (accessed 2016 May 02). 16 Eastern Health. Privacy and confidentiality. ADM-030. St. John's, NL: Eastern Health; 2015. Available: http://www.easternhealth.ca/OurServices.aspx?d=2&id=743&p=740 (accessed 2016 Jun 23). 17 Canadian Medical Association. The evolving professional relationship between Canadian physicians and our evolving health care system: where do we stand? Ottawa: The Association; 2012. Available: https://www.cma.ca/Assets/assets-library/document/en/advocacy/policy-research/CMA_Policy_The_evolving_professional_relationship_between_Canadian_physicians_and_our_health_care_system_PD12-04-e.pdf (accessed 2016 May 02). 18 Public Health Act. SBC 2008, Chapter 28. Available: http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/08028_01 (accessed 2016 Nov 07). 19 Canadian Medical Protective Association. Changing physician-hospital relationships: Managing the medico-legal implications of change. Ottawa: The Association; 2011. Available: https://www.cmpa-acpm.ca/-/changing-physician-hospital-relationships (accessed 2016 Nov 07). 20 Canadian Medical Protective Association. The changing practice of medicine: employment contracts and medical liability. Ottawa: The Association; 2012. Available: https://www.cmpa-acpm.ca/-/the-changing-practice-of-medicine-employment-contracts-and-medical-liability (accessed 2016 Nov 07). 21 Canadian Medical Protective Association. Medical-legal issues to consider with individual contracts. Ottawa: The Association; 2016. Available: https://www.cmpa-acpm.ca/-/medico-legal-issues-to-consider-with-individual-contracts (accessed 2016 Nov 07).
Documents
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Joint Canadian Medical Association & Canadian Psychiatric Association Policy - Access to mental health care

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy11890
Date
2016-05-20
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Policy document
Date
2016-05-20
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
One in five Canadians suffer from a mental health problem or illness in any given year. Mental illness costs Canada over $50 billion annually in health care costs, lost productivity and reductions in health-related quality of life. The social costs of poor mental health are high; a person with serious mental illness is at high risk of experiencing poverty, homelessness and unemployment. Despite the widespread prevalence of mental health disorders, it is estimated that fewer than one-third of people affected by them will seek treatment. This is due in large part to the stigma society attaches to mental illness, which can lead to discriminatory treatment in the workplace or the health care system. In recent years, awareness of mental health issues has risen considerably in Canada. However, much still needs to be done to ensure that Canadians who require mental health care have timely access to the treatment and support they need. The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and Canadian Psychiatric Association (CPA) recommend that all stakeholders, and governments at all levels, work together toward developing a mental health care system that incorporates the following elements:
Comprehensive, patient-centred care and evidence-based treatment for mental health disorders. This includes enhancing collaboration and teamwork among health professionals, patients and their families; providing education and resources for health professionals; and supporting ongoing research to identify and disseminate best clinical practices.
Timely access to mental health services. The health care system should ensure an appropriate supply, distribution and mix of accredited mental health professionals, ensure equitable coverage of essential mental health care and treatment, and provide appropriate services for populations with unique needs, such as children and older Canadians.
Adequate supports in the community, for example in schools and workplaces, to promote mental health, identify mental health issues in a timely manner and support people with mental illness as they seek to function optimally.
Reduction of stigma and discrimination faced by Canadians with mental health disorders, in the health care system and in society. Summary of recommendations Comprehensive, patient-centred care and evidence-based treatment Governments and health care systems 1. Develop and support a continuum of evidence-based, patient-centred services for the promotion of mental health and treatment of mental illness, in the community and in hospitals, with smooth transitions and linkages between each level. 2. Develop and implement models of collaborative mental health care in the community, with input from key stakeholders including the public, patients and their families, evaluate their effectiveness and encourage the adoption of those that demonstrate success. 3. Develop and implement a national caregiver strategy and expand the financial and emotional support programs currently offered to informal caregivers. 4. Continue to develop, implement and monitor mental health indicators that reflect both health system performance and population health, regularly report the results to the public and use them to improve the delivery of mental health services in Canada. 5. Increase funding for mental health research so that it is proportionate to the burden of mental illness on Canada’s health care system. Medical faculties, professional associations and the health care systems 6. Continue to develop evidence-based guidelines and professional development programs on mental health treatment and management, for all health care providers. 7. Continue to conduct research into best practices in mental health care and treatment and communicate the results of this research promptly to health care providers and the public. Appropriate provision and funding of mental health services Governments and health care systems Address current gaps in access to mental health services in the following ways: 8. Ensure that mental health services are appropriately funded to effectively meet the needs of Canadians. 9. Make mental health a priority with all levels of government and ensure stable and appropriate funding. 10. Establish standards for access to mental health services, including appropriate maximum wait times, and measure and report them on an ongoing basis. 11. Fund and support primary health care delivery models that include mental health promotion and mental illness treatment among the services they provide and identify and address the barriers to their implementation. 12. Increase funding for access to evidence-based psychotherapies and counselling services for mental disorders. 13. Establish a program of comprehensive prescription drug coverage to ensure that all Canadians have access to medically necessary drug therapies. 14. Continue to develop linkages between remote communities and larger health centres, including telehealth and e-health services, to ensure adequate access to mental health services by people in smaller communities. Health professional associations 15. Work with governments and other stakeholders to develop a mental health human resources plan that optimizes the scope of practice of every health professional, is culturally appropriate and takes into account Canada’s diverse geography. 16. Undertake a national study of ways to optimize the supply, mix and distribution of psychiatrists in Canada and present its findings/recommendations to governments. Adequate community supports outside the health sector Governments 17. Ensure the availability of school-based mental health promotion and mental illness prevention programs, and programs that address school-related problems, such as bullying, that are associated with mental distress. 18. Work with employers and other stakeholders to support mental health programs for workplaces. 19. Provide programs and services to improve the interface between people with mental illnesses and the criminal justice system. 20. Expand programs that provide housing for people with mental illness. Reduction of stigma and discrimination Governments and the health care system 21. Incorporate identification and elimination of stigma as a quality of care indicator in the ongoing monitoring of health system performance at all levels. 22. Implement and evaluate national public awareness and education strategies to counteract the stigma associated with mental illness. 23. Enforce legislation and regulations to guard against discrimination against people with mental illness. Professional education 24. Incorporate effective anti-stigma education into the entire medical education continuum (medical school, residency and continuing professional development) for all physicians and other health professionals. 25. Incorporate effective anti-stigma education into professional development programs at hospitals and other health care facilities. Introduction Mental health disorders impose a heavy burden on Canadians and their health care system. In any given year, one in five Canadians will suffer from a mental health problem or illness. It is estimated that 10% to 20% of Canadian youth are affected by a mental health disorder. By age 40, 50% of Canadians will have had a mental illness. Mental illness can shorten life expectancy; for example, people with schizophrenia die as much as 20 years earlier than the population average. This is due both to higher rates of suicide and substance abuse and to a poorer prognosis for conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Suicide is the second leading cause of death (after injuries) for Canadians aged 15 to 34. For people with mental health disorders, the effect on their lives goes beyond their interaction with the health care system; a person with serious mental illness is at high risk of experiencing poverty, homelessness and unemployment. Mental health disorders are costly to Canada’s health care system and to its economy. A third of hospital stays in Canada and 25% of emergency department visits are due to mental health disorders. It is estimated that mental illness costs Canada over $50 billion per year, including health care costs, lost productivity and reductions in health-related quality of life. Despite the widespread prevalence of mental health disorders, it is estimated that only one- quarter to one-third of people affected by them will seek treatment. This could be due in part to the stigma society attaches to mental illness, which deters many people from seeking needed treatment because they fear ostracism by their friends or discriminatory treatment in the workplace or the health care system. Those who do seek treatment may have a difficult time finding it. According to Statistics Canada, in 2012 almost a third of Canadians who sought mental health care reported that their needs were not met or only partially met. Lack of access to family physicians, psychiatrists and other health care providers contributes to this deficit. Though mental illnesses constitute more than 15% of the disease burden in Canada, the country spends only about seven cents of every public health care dollar on mental illness (7%), below the 10% to 11% of spending devoted to mental illness in countries such as New Zealand and the United Kingdom.4 Since 2000, however, Canadians’ awareness of mental health issues has risen considerably. The seminal 2006 report entitled Out of the Shadows at Last by the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, chaired by Senator Michael Kirby, made a number of recommendations aimed at increasing awareness, improving access to mental health services and reducing the stigma of mental illness. As a result of this report, in 2007 the federal government established the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) to be a catalyst for improving the mental health system and changing the attitudes and behaviours of Canadians around mental health issues. In 2012, the MHCC released Canada’s first mental health strategy, “Changing Directions, Changing Lives.” As part of her mandate from the prime minister following the 2015 federal election, Canada’s health minister has been asked to “engage provinces and territories in the development of a new multi-year Health Accord [that will] make high quality mental health services more available to Canadians who need them.” Nearly all provincial governments have also developed mental health strategies for their own jurisdictions. Much still needs to be done to translate heightened awareness into improvements in service provision to give Canadians who require mental health care timely access to the evidence-based, patient-centred treatment and support they need. The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and Canadian Psychiatric Association (CPA) agree it is time to make mental health a high priority in Canada. The CMA and CPA recommend that all stakeholders, and governments at all levels, work together toward developing a mental health care system that is driven by needs-based plans with clear performance measures and that receives an appropriate share of health care funding. This position statement discusses and makes recommendations on issues relating to access to mental health care, with a focus on:
comprehensive, patient-centred care and evidence-based treatment for mental health disorders;
appropriately funded primary, specialty and community mental health treatment and support services;
adequate community supports for people with mental health disorders; and
reduction of the stigma and discrimination faced by Canadians with mental health disorders. Comprehensive, patient-centred care and evidence-based treatment The goal of mental health care in Canada should be to allow patients’ needs to be met in the most appropriate, timely and cost-effective manner possible. Current best practice suggests that care for patients with mental health disorders should be provided using models that incorporate the following principles. Patient-centred care One of the fundamental principles of health care is that it be patient centred. CMA defines patient-centred care as “seamless access to the continuum of care in a timely manner … that takes into consideration the individual needs and preferences of the patient and his/her family and treats the patient with respect and dignity.” For treatment of mental health disorders, it is essential that patients be core members of the health care team, working with health care providers to address their individual needs, preferences and aspirations and to seek their personal paths to well-being. Physicians and other health professionals can help patients make choices about their treatment and can provide information and support to patients and their families as they seek to cope with the effects of their illnesses and live functional lives. A continuum of mental health services Mental health disorders can be complex and can vary in severity. A patient may have short-term coping difficulties that can be resolved with counselling or a severe psychotic illness that requires frequent hospital care and intensive, lifelong support. This range of needs requires that the health care system provide different levels of care, including:
community-based programs to promote and maintain mental health and to facilitate early identification of problems requiring intervention;
community-based primary health care, including collaborative care teams, which focus on providing mental health maintenance programs and on treating high-prevalence conditions such as anxiety disorders, mood disorders and addictions;
specialized services in the community for patients with greater needs, which can be delivered through a variety of means, including community-based psychiatrists, interdisciplinary family health teams that incorporate psychiatric services and specialized interdisciplinary teams such as assertive community treatment (ACT) teams ;
acute-care mental health services including community crisis teams and beds, psychiatric emergency services and inpatient beds in community hospitals, and specialized psychiatric hospitals;
a continuum of residential care services including long-term care facilities;
seamless, integrated transitions from one level of care to another, and across age groups (e.g., from youth to adult to senior mental health services);
appropriate services for special populations, including children and adolescents, and adults with dementia;
specialized psychiatric services for patients with complex mental illnesses such as eating disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder and personality disorders; and
community-based programs that provide housing, vocational support and other services to optimize community integration of people with mental illness. Mental health care should ideally be provided in the context of caring for the patient’s overall health, taking into account any physical conditions for which the patient is receiving or may receive treatment. Collaborative and team-based mental health care Within this continuum, a variety of health care professionals with different skills and education provide mental health services in Canada. They include:
primary care physicians (family physicians and general practitioners);
psychiatrists (hospital and community based);
other specialist physicians (including emergency physicians, paediatricians, geriatricians);
other health professionals (psychologists, nurses, pharmacists, occupational therapists, social workers); and
case managers, peer support workers and system navigators. Collaborative models enable a variety of mental health care providers to work with patients and their families to provide effective, coordinated care according to a mutually agreed plan. Collaborative partnerships in mental health care have demonstrated benefits including symptom and functional improvement, reduced disability days and improved adherence to medication. Elements of a successful collaborative partnership include:
effective linkages among psychiatrists, primary care providers and other mental health professionals, including a seamless process for consultation and referral;
effective communication and information flow;
use of technology, such as electronic health records and telemedicine, to facilitate collaboration among providers in all health care settings;
coordination of care plans and clinical activities to ensure the most effective care and efficient use of resources; and
integration of mental health and primary care providers within a single service or team (in some cases, providers may work in the same practice setting).13 Education and resources for health professionals Since mental health disorders are pervasive and are often associated with other chronic conditions such as heart disease, health care providers of all disciplines and specialties often encounter them while caring for their patients. The Mental Health Core Competencies for Physicians report, prepared collaboratively by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, the MHCC, the College of Family Physicians of Canada, CMA and CPA, proposes goals, principles and core mental health competencies to provide guidance to physicians of all specialties. The intent is to improve access to mental health services; improve the experience of care, including reducing stigma; recognize and address the interaction between physical and mental health; and provide practice support for physicians. To support physicians and other health care providers in treating mental health disorders, clinical and practice resources should be available to them, including:
early education in medical school and residency on mental health promotion, diagnosis and treatment of mental health conditions, and liaison with other community resources, for all specialties;
clinical practice tools including practice guidelines, clinical pathways and online decision support including prescribing guidelines for the appropriate use of psychiatric drugs;
online continuing professional development (CPD) programs ;
enhanced interprofessional education for all providers (psychiatrists, family physicians, nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, peer support workers, patients, their family members and others as relevant) ; and
evidence-based, user-friendly education and support tools for patients, which physicians can recommend to help them manage their conditions. Support for informal caregivers Often the burden of caring for a person with mental illness falls heavily on family or friends, and the role of the informal caregiver can be demanding financially, physically and/or emotionally. Though governments have instituted tax credits and other forms of support for caregivers, more help is required. A national caregiver strategy, developed by governments and other key stakeholders, could define a national standard of support for informal caregivers and expand the financial and emotional support programs that are currently offered. Research and evaluation Thanks to ongoing research, our knowledge of how to treat and manage mental health disorders is constantly growing and developing. However, there are still gaps in this knowledge, and research needs in the area remain substantial. CMA and CPA encourage a continued commitment to research into best practices in early identification, care and treatment of mental health disorders and to funding this research so that it is proportionate to the burden of mental illness on Canada’s health care system. Results of this research should be communicated to health professionals and the public as quickly and widely as possible, so that it can be rapidly incorporated into clinical practice. Mental health care interventions should also be routinely evaluated for their effectiveness in improving patient care, enhancing the sustainability of the health care system and increasing the overall health and well-being of Canadians. The MHCC has developed a set of 63 mental health indicators that focus on 13 specific areas, including access and treatment, the economy and workplace, and special populations such as seniors, children and youth. Other projects are underway to develop indicators to monitor and report more specifically on mental health system performance, such as use of emergency departments for mental health care, and physician follow-up after hospital treatment. Such indicators should be used on an ongoing basis to monitor the performance of the mental health care system and provide mental health professionals, planners and governments with reliable information that they can use to better meet the needs of Canadians. Recommendations Governments and health care systems 1. Develop and support a continuum of evidence-based, patient-centred services for the promotion of mental health and treatment of mental illness, in the community and in hospitals, with smooth transitions and linkages between each level. 2. Develop and implement models of collaborative mental health care in the community, with input from key stakeholders including the public, patients and their families, evaluate their effectiveness and encourage the adoption of those that demonstrate success. 3. Develop and implement a national caregiver strategy and expand the financial and emotional support programs currently offered to informal caregivers. 4. Continue to develop, implement and monitor mental health indicators that reflect both health system performance and population health, regularly report the results to the public and use them to improve the delivery of mental health services in Canada. 5. Increase funding for mental health research so that it is proportionate to the burden of mental illness on Canada’s health care system. Medical faculties, professional associations and health care systems 6. Continue to develop evidence-based guidelines and professional development programs on mental health treatment and management, for all health care providers. 7. Continue to conduct research into best practices in mental health care and treatment and communicate the results of this research promptly to health care providers and the public. Appropriate provision and funding of mental health services Appropriate provision of mental health services requires that people be able to access the right care in the right place at the right time, in both hospital and community settings. Unfortunately, because of the underfunding of the mental health care system, limited resources are available to accommodate all of those who need such services. The exact extent of lack of access to hospital and community mental health services is not well documented; for instance, provinces do not report wait times for psychiatric services. According to the 2015 Wait Time Alliance Report Card, no jurisdiction is measuring what proportion of patients is being seen within the benchmark time periods. In December 2015 the CPA expressed disappointment that “no visible progress has been made in measuring how well the health system meets the psychiatric needs of Canadians.” In the absence of community-based services, patients may have their discharge from hospital delayed. Once they are back in the community, they may be unable to find appropriate assistance, or assistance may be available but beyond their financial means. They may abandon treatment or rely on emergency departments for episodic crisis care.4 Canada should work to remedy the current deficiencies in access to mental health services so that people with mental health disorders have timely access to seamless, comprehensive care in the most appropriate setting. This includes ensuring an appropriate supply, distribution and mix of accredited mental health professionals, ensuring equitable coverage of essential health services and making appropriate services and supports available to populations with unique needs. Access to physician services Primary care For the majority of patients who seek treatment for a mental health problem, the first (often the only) point of contact is their primary care physician. As part of the comprehensive care they provide to patients, family physicians and general practitioners can provide mental health promotion and wellness counselling, detect and treat mental health disorders in their early stages and monitor the patient’s progress in the context of his or her overall health and well-being, referring to psychiatrists and other mental health professionals as needed.13 CMA has long recommended that every Canadian have an established professional relationship with a family physician who is familiar with his or her condition, needs and preferences. However, some Canadians may have difficulty finding primary medical care, since the proportion of family physicians and general practitioners to the population is not consistent across Canada. All stakeholders should continue working to ensure that every Canadian has access to comprehensive first-point-of-contact medical care. Psychiatric services Psychiatrists are physicians who complete five to seven years of specialty and subspecialty training to diagnose, treat and provide ongoing care for mental illnesses, particularly to people with complex illnesses that cannot be managed within a primary care setting alone. In addition to providing specialty treatment, psychiatrists are also active in the areas of education, research and advocacy about the importance of mental health promotion and mental illness prevention. They provide care across the lifespan, in both hospital and community settings. Patient access to psychiatrists is often limited by long wait times. It has been suggested that this is due to a shortage of psychiatrists, which is more severe in some parts of Canada than others. Recent surveys report that a number of specialists, including psychiatrists, are in the latter half of their careers, and there are concerns that the number of psychiatrists per Canadian population is declining. Though the Royal College notes that the number of psychiatric residency positions has increased in recent years, it is unclear if this is sufficient to meet current and future population needs. The CPA recommends the development of strategies to attract, train and retain practitioners in clinical psychiatry. Access to services not funded by provincial and territorial health systems Though Canada’s public health care system covers many mental health services and treatments, including physician consultations and hospital care, it does not cover all aspects of optimal treatment and care, and access to some therapies may be limited by the patient’s ability to pay. Psychiatric drugs, especially those that must be taken over many years, can pose a heavy financial burden for patients who do not have drug coverage through employer-provided benefit programs or provincial or territorial drug plans. Psychotherapies delivered by non-physician health care practitioners are generally not covered by government health plans and must, therefore, in most cases be paid for out of pocket or through private insurance plans, to which many Canadians do not have access. Federal, provincial and territorial governments should work to increase access to accredited psychological and counselling services that are evidence based and to provide comprehensive coverage of medically necessary prescription drugs for all Canadians. Some primary health care practices, such as family health teams in Ontario, have funding envelopes that they can use to contract with skilled mental health professionals to provide psychotherapy, stress management programs and other services that are not ordinarily funded through provincial health budgets. Models such as these help to make publicly funded mental health care available to patients who might otherwise have been unable to afford it. Access to mental health services for special populations For some populations, access to mental health services may be particularly problematic. For example, stakeholders should consider the needs of the following populations:
Children and youth: As up to 70% of mental health conditions first appear in adolescence or young adulthood, it is important that young people have access to mental health promotion and to appropriate assessment and treatment of mental health disorders. At present only one out of four children who need mental health services receives them.1,3 CMA and CPA particularly recommend increased supports for children in high-risk situations, such as those in foster care. The transition from the youth to the adult mental health service sectors should be smooth and well organized.
Remote areas: People in the North and other remote parts of Canada may have to travel many miles to access mental health and other health care services. This gap should be remedied by using technologies such as telehealth and e-mental health services and by strengthening communication and coordination between small communities and the larger health centres to which their residents travel for care.
Immigrants and refugees: New arrivals to Canada may have problems understanding our language and culture and may also face mental health problems as a result of traumatic experiences in their countries of origin or the stress of relocation.
Indigenous Peoples. Rates of mental health disorders, addictions and suicide are high among Canada’s First Nations, Inuit and Métis. Much of this is linked to past experience of forcible separation from their traditional languages and culture. Health service providers should work with Indigenous communities to address their distinct mental health needs appropriately.
Seniors: An estimated 10% to 15% of seniors report depression, and the rate is higher among those with concomitant physical illness and those living in long-term care facilities. Depression among older people may be under-recognized and under-treated or dismissed as a normal consequence of aging. Poor mental health is often associated with social isolation, a common problem among seniors. The majority of older adults in long-term care settings have dementia or another mental health condition. Recommendations Governments and health care systems Address current gaps in access to mental health services in the following ways: 8. Ensure that mental health services are appropriately funded to effectively meet the needs of Canadians. 9. Make mental health a priority with all levels of government and ensure stable and appropriate funding. 10. Establish standards for access to mental health services, including appropriate maximum wait times, and measure and report them on an ongoing basis. 11. Fund and support primary health care delivery models that include mental health promotion and mental illness treatment among the services they provide and identify and address the barriers to their implementation. 12. Increase funding for access to evidence-based psychotherapies and counselling services for mental disorders. 13. Establish a program of comprehensive prescription drug coverage to ensure that all Canadians have access to medically necessary drug therapies. 14. Continue to develop linkages between remote communities and larger health centres, including telehealth and e-health services, to ensure adequate access to mental health services by people in smaller communities. Health professional associations 15. Work with governments and other stakeholders to develop a mental health human resources plan that optimizes the scope of practice of every health professional, is culturally appropriate and takes into account Canada’s diverse geography. 16. Undertake a national study of ways to optimize the supply, mix and distribution of psychiatrists in Canada and present its findings/recommendations to governments. Adequate community supports outside the health sector People with mental health disorders often require not only treatment and care from the health sector but also support from the community at large to function optimally. Ideally, the community should provide an environment that supports patients as they work toward recovery and well-being. In addition, schools, workplaces and other community agencies can play an important role in promoting mental health and identifying problems that require attention. Schools Education and information should be made available to parents, teachers and health professionals to help them identify signs of mental illness or distress in children and adolescents, so they can intervene early and appropriately. School health education programs should include the promotion of mental health and incorporate self-management techniques such as mindfulness training to help young people develop resilience. Schools should also ensure that they minimize possible threats to children’s mental health, such as bullying, that may occur on their premises. Workplaces Unlike many other chronic conditions, mental illness frequently affects younger people and those in their most productive years, so the burden it imposes on Canada’s economy is high. Mental health disorders account for 30% of short-term workplace disability claims,1 and the Conference Board of Canada has estimated that six common mental health disorders cost the country’s economy more than $21 billion a year and predicts that this cost will increase to $30 billion by 2030. However, often employees do not disclose mental health problems to their employers for fear of losing their jobs, being ostracized by colleagues, or other negative consequences. Workplaces can support the mental health of their employees by:
offering mental health promotion assistance through stress management seminars, employee assistance and other programs;
training managers to identify potential mental health issues in their staff and to intervene early and appropriately;
eliminating stigma and discrimination and providing an environment in which employees feel safe disclosing their mental health issues; and
offering adequate benefits, including supplementary health insurance and supportive leave-of-absence programs. The MHCC’s Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, released in 2013, provides guidance to employers on how to promote the mental health of their staff and intervene in cases of mental distress. Correctional services People with mental illnesses are overrepresented in the criminal justice system. Estimates suggest that rates of serious mental illness among federal offenders upon admission have increased by 60% to 70% cent since 1997.4 This places a heavy burden on corrections and law enforcement staff, who are often inadequately trained to deal with mental illness. Programs and services are needed to ensure that people with mental health disorders who run afoul of the law are identified early, given appropriate treatment throughout their incarceration and followed up on release. These could include:
training for police and other frontline criminal justice and corrections workers in how to interact with people with mental illnesses;
diversion programs, such as mental health courts, to redirect people with mental illnesses who are about to enter the criminal justice system;
comprehensive psychiatric screening, assessment and treatment for incarcerated patients with mental illnesses and common co-occurring conditions such as addiction; and
Careful handover of clinical care at the point of release from custody with engagement by mental health services in the community. Housing Mental illness increases a patient’s risk for poverty and homelessness. It is estimated that two- thirds of Canada’s homeless population have a serious mental illness. Homelessness and poverty can exacerbate existing mental health and addiction problems, hinder access to treatment and reduce life expectancy. Programs such as the MHCC’s Housing First research demonstration project can improve the social and economic circumstances of people with mental illness. The MHCC project provided no-strings-attached supportive housing for people with chronic mental health problems, giving them a secure base from which they could pursue their treatment and recovery goals. Evaluation showed that this approach reduced the rate of homelessness, improved access to treatment and support services and led to cost savings, particularly for the program participants who had the highest service-use costs. Recommendations Governments 17. Ensure the availability of school-based mental health promotion and mental illness prevention programs, and programs that address school-related problems, such as bullying, that are associated with mental distress. 18. Work with employers and other stakeholders to support mental health programs for workplaces. 19. Provide programs and services to improve the interface between people with mental illnesses and the criminal justice system. 20. Expand programs that provide housing for people with mental illness. Reduction of stigma and discrimination Many believe that the primary reason for the underfunding of the mental health care system and for the reluctance of people with mental health disorders to seek treatment is the stigma attached to their conditions. Mental illness is the most stigmatized disease state in Canada, and discriminatory behaviour toward people with mental health disorders is widespread. This can include ostracism and lack of support from peers, discrimination in the workplace and distorted public perceptions, such as the tendency to equate mental illness with violent behaviour. Discriminatory behaviour can also occur in the health care system. Experts acknowledge that stigma affects health care providers’ attitude toward patients with mental health problems.29 Though many health care providers are unaware that their language or actions can be harmful, their attitude may have negative effects on the treatment their patients receive. For example, if a patient who has been treated for a psychiatric condition reports physical symptoms, these symptoms might be attributed to the mental illness rather than to a physical condition, and as a result the patient may not receive necessary treatment. This is known as diagnostic overshadowing. , CMA and CPA recommend comprehensive efforts to change the culture of stigmatization of mental illness, in the health care system and in society. A number of interventions are underway to help reduce stigma and discrimination related to mental illness. These include public awareness programs such as the Bell Let’s Talk campaign, Mental Illness Awareness Week, sponsored by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health, and the Opening Minds program of the MHCC, which focuses on specific populations including youth and health care providers. The current consensus among experts is that the most effective interventions are those that:
are aimed at changing behaviour rather than modifying attitudes;
are ongoing rather than time limited;
are targeted to specific groups rather than to the general population; and
involve direct contact with people with mental illness. Within the health care system, professional education is a potentially important means of addressing stigma and discrimination. It has been recommended that anti-stigma education be incorporated into the medical education continuum at all levels (including residency and CPD) and for all specialties and that this education incorporate direct contact with people with mental illness, to share their stories of recovery.27 All health professionals and their associations should be encouraged to address the elimination of stigma in their educational programs. CMA and CPA have worked with partners to provide education to physicians, through workshops, online materials and other means. Recommendations Governments and the health care system 21. Incorporate identification and elimination of stigma as a quality of care indicator in the ongoing monitoring of health system performance at all levels. 22. Implement and evaluate national public awareness and education strategies to counteract the stigma associated with mental illness. 23. Enforce legislation and regulations to guard against discrimination against people with mental illness. Professional education 24. Incorporate effective anti-stigma education into the entire medical education continuum (medical school, residency and CPD) for all physicians and other health professionals. 25. Incorporate effective anti-stigma education into professional development programs at hospitals and other health care facilities. Conclusion Despite increased public awareness about mental illness, ensuring access to effective mental health services and supports remains a challenge in Canada, and the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness remain high. CMA and CPA believe that change is possible. 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