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Getting the Diagnosis Right… Toward a Sustainable Future for Canadian Health Care Policy (Part One of a two-part brief to the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada)

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1970
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2001-10-31
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
  2 documents  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2001-10-31
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) welcomes this opportunity to provide a perspective to the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada on behalf of our 50,000 physician members, provincial/territorial divisions and affiliated medical organizations. Canada’s doctors are literally at the coal face of the health care system. Collectively each year our physicians, including licensed physicians, post graduate trainees and medical students have at least one, and often several face-to-face interactions with at least 80% of Canadians. Moreover, on a daily basis we interact with a wide range of other health professionals and agencies. The striking of the Commission has come at a cross-roads in the evolution of our national health care program. We face a faltering health care system, characterized by no long-term vision or systematic plan. There is a lack of common purpose among the stakeholders, waning public confidence and extremely low provider morale. If we do not act immediately to address these key areas, we will very soon lose the underpinnings of social support for the publicly funded health care system. This brief is the first of two parts. In medicine it has long been accepted that the key to a successful treatment is to first get the diagnosis right. In Part One we will focus on the “signs and symptoms” leading to a diagnosis and also outline some of the broad pathways to stabilizing our traumatized health care system. In Part Two, which will be completed in the spring of 2002, we will put forward recommended treatments. The overall theme is that we cannot manage our way out via increased efficiency gains alone. SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF A “TRAUMATIZED PATIENT” As a result of the relentless cost-cutting of the 1990s, we are now in the midst of a crisis of sustainability that has at least five dimensions: Crisis of Access – For those of us who spend increasing amounts of time each day trying to secure diagnostic and treatment resources for our patients, it is clear that we are in a deepening crisis of access to people, to technology, and to the surrounding infrastructure. What were once routine and timely referrals and treatments are now unacceptably long waits for all but the most urgent care. Crisis of Provider Morale – The morale of physicians, nurses and other providers in the system is at an all-time low. Physicians are working harder than ever, with fatigue and burnout becoming more commonplace. We are increasingly frustrated by the growing effort and time required to secure resources for our patients. Moreover, physicians have been largely marginalized in decision making at a system level as a result of the reforms of the 1990s. Crisis of Public Confidence – While Canadians continue to report high satisfaction with the health care they receive, they have lost confidence that the system will be there for them in the future. At the same time, they are being barraged through multiple media about the promise of revolutionary technology that is fueling their expectations about what we as physicians and the health care system are able to provide for them. Crisis of Health System Financing – While the federal government had been paring back its contributions to Medicare since the late 1970s, this was greatly intensified in the mid-1990s and only recently has begun to reverse itself. Health care spending is projected to exceed 40% of provincial/territorial government revenues in the not too distant future. Demographics and technology will continue to put upward pressure on costs. We believe that the top-down supply side management approach to cost containment has been a resounding failure. Crisis of Accountability – There is a growing problem of accountability at several levels. There continues to be bickering between the federal and provincial/territorial governments – is the federal share of Medicare 11% or 34%? At the provincial/territorial level, accountability has been pushed down to regional health authorities while authority continues to be held by the central health ministry. Proposals for reform have targeted providers for increased accountability but have ignored consumers as patients. We believe that the health care system and those of us who work in it have been seriously traumatized. We believe that these five signs and symptoms will only grow worse in the years ahead unless there is concentrated and timely action. PATHWAYS TO STABILIZING THE TRAUMATIZED PATIENT While we are not ready to put forward specific recommended treatments at this time, we would suggest that there are five “pathways” that will help guide the Commission’s work on the stabilization and recovery of this trauma. Focus on the “Hows”, not just the “Whats” – The health reform discussions of the 1990s in Canada have been dominated by the “whats” rather than the “hows”. When the “how” was considered at all, governments generally approached reform with a “big bang” approach. International experts have recognized that this is very unlikely to be successful when there are many stakeholders in a plurality of settings—which is certainly an apt depiction of the Canadian health care landscape. There is a clear need for a collaborative approach to “change management” that is based on early, ongoing and meaningful involvement of all key stakeholders. Adopt a Values-Based Approach to Change – We believe that Canadian Medicare has been largely well-served by its values-based approach, as expressed in the five program criteria of the Canada Health Act. We believe that a modernized Medicare program must continue to be underpinned by basic values such as universality and expressed through national principles. In particular, as physicians, we believe it is fundamental that we must continue to be agents of our patients and moreover that we must continue to uphold the principles of choice between patients and physicians. Striking a Better Balance Between Everything and Everyone – As we contemplate what a vision of Medicare for tomorrow might include we must be mindful that no country in the world has been able to pay for first dollar coverage for timely access to all health services. In light of the rapidly transforming delivery system with a shift from institutional to community-based care, a re-examination of the Medicare “basket” is overdue. Generate New Thinking – The new millennium requires new thinking. We have become complacent about Medicare. We are unlikely to find durable answers as long as discussions are bound by the current scope of application and interpretation of the five principles of the Canada Health Act. We need to reflect on the discussions among provincial/territorial premiers over the past few years and on international experience in order to gain an appreciation of the new consensus that may be emerging. Canada can and must learn from the experience of other countries that have already been forced to deal with, for example, the demographic shifts that Canada is about to encounter. We also need new thinking about the evolving context of the delivery of care in the age of the Internet and the new generation of both consumers and providers. Recognize That Better Management (while necessary) Will Not Be Sufficient – We do not believe that we can simply manage our way out of this crisis. Physicians have supported, indeed led, many innovations such as the implementation of clinical practice guidelines and have participated in primary care reform demonstration projects. Improved efficiency alone, however, cannot meet the demands we expect to see in the future. The system must be properly resourced on a predictable basis. NEXT STEPS… There is no “magic bullet” or quick fix that will put our national health program on a sustainable footing and restore Canadians’ confidence in it. Working harder to make the current system work better will not be sufficient. While there are still gains to be made from efficiencies and integration, we cannot simply manage our way out of this problem. It is time for fundamental change. We should not be discouraged from pressing on with this daunting challenge; it is imperative that we begin to act immediately. This brief sets out the variety of pressures that render the current health system unsustainable. It also sets out a value-based policy framework that can help guide future deliberations and point us to policies that can help address the rising concerns among both providers and Canadian health consumers. The brief is not intended to be all-encompassing. Various other medical organizations will be making representations to the Commission. The CMA encourages the Commission to seriously consider the complementary briefs submitted by our sister organizations. The CMA intends to submit its final recommendations, building on this framework, in the spring of 2002. This second brief will again be the product of our extensive set of discussions with the profession. INTRODUCTION The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) welcomes this opportunity to provide a perspective to the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada on behalf of our 50,000 physician members, provincial/territorial divisions and affiliated medical organizations. Canada’s doctors are literally at the coal face of the health care system. Collectively each year our physicians, including licensed physicians, post graduate trainees and medical students have at least one, and often several face-to-face interactions with at least 80% of Canadians. Moreover, on a daily basis we interact with a wide range of other health professionals and agencies. The striking of the Commission has come at a cross-roads in the evolution of our national health care program. We face a faltering health care system, characterized by no long-term vision or systematic plan. There is a lack of common purpose among the stakeholders, waning public confidence and extremely low provider morale. If we do not act immediately to address these key areas, we will very soon lose the underpinnings of social support for the publicly funded health care system. This brief is the first of two parts. In medicine it has long been accepted that the key to a successful treatment is to first get the diagnosis right. In Part One we will focus on the “signs and symptoms” leading to a diagnosis and also outline some of the broad pathways to stabilizing our traumatized health care system. In Part Two, which will be completed in the Spring of 2002, we will put forward recommended treatments. The development of this brief has been guided by the policy debates within the CMA over the past few years , including those at General Council in 1994 to 1998 and 2001, and by current deliberations with our Divisions and Affiliates. It has also been informed by the results of a series of Public Dialogue Sessions that were held across Canada in May/June 2001 and a National Report Card Survey that was conducted in late June 2001. The overall message of this initial submission is that working harder to make the current system work better, while necessary, is not sufficient. While there are still gains to be made from efficiencies and integration, we cannot simply manage our way out of this problem. It is time for fundamental change. Changes must focus, first and foremost, on restoring public confidence and provider morale. They should focus on care and speak to individuals and their needs, rather than being dispassionate at a systems level analysis. As a society, Canadians need a new consensus on the fundamentals of our health and health care system. SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF A “TRAUMATIZED PATIENT” 1. CRISIS OF ACCESS—ACCESSIBILITY MEANS NOTHING WITHOUT AVAILABILITY Access is a critical dimension of quality care. We are facing a growing crisis of access to timely health care with human, technological and physical infrastructure dimensions. As a result, the ability to provide quality care is suffering. The Health Workforce While we believe that the health workforce in general is facing a major sustainability challenge, we will focus our discussion on the physician workforce, with which we are most familiar. For most of the past decade, governments have acted on advice that Canada has too many physicians. Ministers of Health met in Banff in January 1992 to discuss the 1991 Barer-Stoddart report Toward Integrated Medical Resource Policies for Canada. 1 Out of the comprehensive set of 53 recommendations in this report, the Ministers clearly “cherry-picked” the one recommendation with a number attached to it – namely the 10% cut in enrolment that was implemented in the Fall of 1993. A year later governments began proposing/introducing a range of punitive measures to promote distribution objectives. Probably the most extreme of these was a proposal by the Ontario government in April of 1993 to discount by 75% the fees of what would have been the majority of new family physicians, paediatricians and psychiatrists. 2 Undergraduate medical school enrolment was already on the decline when the 10% cut was implemented, so the overall reduction translated into 16% fewer positions by 1997/98 than in 1983/84. Opportunities for young Canadians to enter medical school (relative to the population) decreased at an even greater rate. First year enrolment peaked in 1980 with 1 student per 13,000 citizens but by 1998 this had fallen to 1 per 20,000 (compared to 1 per 12,000 in the UK for example). While there was no decrease in the number of postgraduate new entry positions, re-entry opportunities were less plentiful and fell from 663 positions in 1992 to 152 by 1998. 3 Against this backdrop one should scarcely wonder why the number of physicians leaving Canada doubled between 1989 and 1994 (384 to 777). Since 1994, the outflow has abated somewhat to just over 400 in 1999. During 1998 and 1999 the number of physicians returning from abroad increased, thus the net loss was reduced to just under 250 physicians in each of those 2 years. In 2000, owing to a significant drop in the number of physicians leaving, the net loss dropped to 164. Nonetheless this is still equivalent to more than 1.5 graduating medical classes. 4 Over the 12 year period from 1989 – 2000, the net loss of physicians to emigration was almost 4,000. While long term planning is a key element of other large public enterprises in Canada, the same cannot be said for the health workforce. One of the ten core principles of the United Kingdom National Health Services reads “the NHS will support and value its staff”. An application of this principle may be seen in a recent UK strategy document for the scientists, engineers and technologists working in healthcare science. This 3-point strategy covers pay and career opportunities, working conditions and recruitment. 5 We would suggest that such a consideration has been largely absent from Canadian health policy over the past decade, certainly at a national level and most probably at the provincial/territorial level. The health workforce received scant attention by the National Forum on Health. The Provincial/Territorial Health Ministers’ 1997 Renewed Vision for Canada’s Health System makes only incidental mention of the health workforce. 6 These examples suggest that the health workforce has largely been taken for granted. By comparison, during the past decade, no fewer than three task forces have been struck to address the renewal of the federal public service. (Public Service 2000, La Relève and the 2001 Task Force on Modernizing Human Resources Management in the Public Service ). 7 We are now paying the price for this neglect. If we are to continue to maintain health care as a public enterprise in Canada, we believe that there needs to be a high level policy acknowledgement of the value of and commitment to the enhancement and renewal of the health workforce. A recent national consultation on research priorities for health services and policy issues reported that “health human resources was seen as the dominant issue for the next two to five years by policy makers, managers, and clinical organizations. The concerns of policy makers included regulatory frameworks, mechanisms for avoiding cycles of surplus/shortage, and the leadership vacuum within management and policy-making organizations.” 8 There are some signs that governments have belatedly begun to acknowledge that we are in a shortage situation. In November 1999, the Canadian Medical Forum presented the report of its Task Force on Physician Supply (Task Force One) at a meeting hosted by the co-chairs of the Confererence of Federal/Provincial/Territorial Ministers of Health. One of the key recommendations of the report called for an increase to 2000 first year medical school places for 2000.3 Since that time several provinces have announced increases in undergraduate enrolment and postgraduate training. As of July 2001, these increases numbered 353 undergraduate, 153 postgraduate and 37 re-entry (specialty) training positions. 9 However, these increases will not begin to have an appreciable impact for a minimum of five to six years. Another key recommendation, calling for efforts to repatriate Canadian physicians practising abroad and which would have a more immediate payoff has received no attention that we can discern. While these enrolment increases are most welcome, they highlight another problem, namely the steep increases in medical tuition and the prospect of tuition deregulation. Already there are reports of cumulative debt loads from undergraduate and medical education that may exceed $100,000. If this upward trend continues, we fear that this might not only re-ignite an exodus of physicians to the U.S. (where loans may be repaid more quickly), but that access to medical education may be restricted to only the most advantaged Canadians. Indeed a 1999 study 10 at one Ontario medical school found that the median family income of the 1st year intake class following a large tuition increase was significantly higher than the 2nd and higher year classes. A further challenge that is posed by the enrolment increases is in the capacity of the 16 Academic Health Sciences Centres (AHSCs) to provide undergraduate medical education and post-graduate training. There is a tendency to overlook the fact that AHSCs have a threefold mission; to provide teaching, to conduct original research, and to provide all levels of care for the surrounding population and highly specialized care for outlying regions. As the site of training moves increasingly out to the community, it will become necessary to recruit even more teachers from a pool of physicians who are only barely able to cope with their existing workloads. With few exceptions the resources required to fund the expansion of medical education to the community have not been forthcoming. Another development is that Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) is in the process of initiating several sectoral studies in health including home care, natural products, nursing, oral health care, pharmacists and physicians. 11 The Canadian Medical Forum, made up of the major national Canadian medical organizations, together with others will be working with HRDC and Health Canada to implement the physician sector study over the next few years. Again, these studies will not produce any short term payoffs toward alleviating the immediate and growing shortages of physicians and other health providers. Looking to the decades ahead we know that the demographic composition of the profession is going to change markedly. Women now represent more than 50% of our graduating medical classes, and while at present they represent 29% of the practising physician population, by 2021 this is expected to reach 44%. The medical profession is also aging. As of 2001 some 27% of physicians are aged 55 and over; by 2021 this proportion will be 37%. Given the historical (and continued) gap of some eight hours per week between the average work week of male and female physicians, there will be a major challenge in sustaining the volume of service required to meet the needs of our aging population. Information Technology in Service of Health The health care system operates within an information intensive environment. However, to date, a substantial portion of the data being collected is gleaned as a derivative of administrative or billing/financial systems. Although this provides useful information for arriving at a “high level” view of the operation of the health care system, it is generally of limited value to health care providers at the interface with their patients. A detailed costing study prepared by PriceWaterhouse Coopers for the CMA in 2000 estimated the cost of connecting all delivery points in the Canadian health care system at $4.1 billion. The $500 million announced in the September 2000 Health Accord is only a modest start. Health care providers require access to a secure and portable electronic health record (EHR) that provides details of all health services provided to their patient as well as the appropriate decision support tools. An EHR that meets the clinical needs of health care providers when interacting with their patients will serve to benefit not only the health of Canadians, but the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the health care system. 12 A critical aspect of the EHR that remains to be addressed is that of privacy. While the Personal Information Privacy and Electronic Document Act is due to come into force for health information in 2002, the privacy protection afforded to patient and provider interactions is not at all clearly defined. The CMA has ongoing serious concerns about the lack of clarity in the Act. These concerns have recently been exacerbated by a decision of the federal Privacy Commissioner to deem physician information as “professional” rather than personal, thereby making confidential information more accessible. This will not make it any easier for Canadian physicians to embrace information technology in service of health. Capital Infrastructure Much of our current infrastructure dates back to the early days of Medicare—forty years ago. In order to provide necessary health services, the health care system must be supported by adequate infrastructure. However, public investment in this area has declined substantially since the late 1980s with the first wave of health care reform initiatives. For example, from 1986-87 to 1993-94, the number of approved public hospital beds decreased by 2.8% annually, and in 1994-95 the decline increased to 7.2% annually after the introduction of the CHST. In total, over this period the number of approved public hospital beds decreased by 36.1%. 13 While the trend in shorter inpatient days, and therefore an increase in outpatient care, has mitigated the problem of a bed shortage somewhat, there is a need to monitor readmission rates on an ongoing basis. Furthermore, the question of whether Canada has an adequate supply of acute care beds for those who require inpatient care must be addressed. We would also add that this has resulted in considerable offloading to the community in the area of primary care, community based services and informal caregivers without any transfer or infusion of resources to support the community’s efforts. Further evidence of the disinvestment in health care infrastructure can be seen in the areas of building construction, machinery and equipment. The following considers expenditures in terms of constant 1992 dollars so that levels are adjusted for inflation. Real per capita capital health expenditures by provincial governments have declined by 16.5% from its 1989 peak at over $63. In terms of new building construction by hospitals, between 1982 and 1998 real per capita expenditures decreased by 5.3% annually. Finally, real investment in new machinery and equipment in the hospital sector has declined annually by 1.8% since 1989. 13 2. CRISIS OF PROVIDER MORALE We are concerned that this telling comment, written by a physician respondent in the CMA’s 2001 Physician Resource Questionnaire (PRQ), reflects the mood of many physicians in Canada today. [BOX CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] [BOX END] Canada’s physicians are working harder than ever. According to the 2001 PRQ survey the average work week of a physician is 53.4 hours (not including call). The bulk of this is taken up with direct patient care (35 hours). The remainder is occupied by activities such as indirect patient care, teaching, research, and education. The physician’s work week does not end there. Again according to the PRQ, three out of four physicians (74%) report taking shared call for their patients out of hours and those who do report an average of 144 hours (six 24-hour days) per month, during which their activities are constrained to a significant degree. It is no surprise that more than one out of two (54%) respondents to the 2001 PRQ reported that their workload had increased over the past 12 months, while fewer than one out of ten (9%) reported a decrease. In every age group, physicians were likely to report that their workloads are heavier than they would like – in terms of potentially compromising their ability to provide high quality care to their patients – rising from 53% among those less than 35 years of age to roughly 70% of those in the 35-54 age group, and then declining to 64% among those aged 55-64 and 37% among those 65 and over. 14 There are at least three main contributing factors to the crisis of physician morale. The first has been the aforementioned blunt and coercive measures made by governments in the early 1990s to curtail physician numbers and manage distribution. Planning requires taking a longer term view and resisting the temptation to “cherry pick” for short term relief. A second facet of practice life that has become increasingly burdensome for patients and providers is the increasing amount of time that it takes to arrange for referrals, tests and treatments for our patients. In urgent or life-threatening situations, care is being provided. However, about two thirds or 64% of respondents to the 2001 PRQ reported difficulty in obtaining appropriate resources on behalf of their patients. The difficulty that Canadian physicians experience in accessing resources on behalf of their patients is further illustrated by the results of a survey conducted by the firm of Harris Interactive, in which physicians were surveyed in 2000 in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S. Data from this study show that high proportions of Canadian physicians report problems with access to care in their practices, particularly when compared to their U.S. colleagues. While Canadian and U.K. physicians report similar levels of problems, there are dramatic differences between Canada and the U.S. For example, Canadian physicians are almost eight times more likely to report problems with access to the latest medical and diagnostic equipment than their U.S. colleagues (63% vs. 8%). Similarly, 61% of Canadian physicians reported problems of availability of medical specialists and consultants, compared with 13% of U.S. physicians, while 66% of Canadian physicians reported major problems with long waiting times for surgical or hospital care compared with just 7% of U.S. physicians 15. This is an avoidable cause of stress on the physician-patient relationship. Third, when regionalization was implemented during the 1990s, physicians and other providers were generally marginalized in the process. Indeed, in several provinces, health providers were expressly prohibited from serving on regional boards. An early indication of this was gained in the CMA’s 1995 Physician Resource Questionnaire. Only 10% of respondents agreed that physicians had been involved or consulted in the implementation of regionalization in their region, and just 21% agreed that the medical profession had any ongoing input. While we have not surveyed our members recently on this, we have little reason to believe that there has been significant change. The crisis of morale is by no means confined to physicians. The authors of a recent policy synthesis on the benefits of a healthy workplace for nurses, their patients and the system declared that “the Canadian healthcare system is facing a nursing shortage that threatens patient care. Many nurses, physically and mentally exhausted, quit; employers cannot fill those vacancies, while paradoxically other nurses cannot find secure jobs with hours that suit them. Meanwhile, nursing schools cannot keep up with the demand for new recruits.” 16 3. CRISIS OF PUBLIC CONFIDENCE The observation quoted here was made by one of the physician moderators at the CMA’s 2001 Public Dialogue Sessions. 17 We believe that, if anything it understates the perilous state of Canadians’ confidence in our health care system. [BOX CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] [BOX END] The precipitous decline in Canadians’ assessment of our health care system has been tracked by the Ipsos-Reid polling firm over the 1990s. While in May 1991, 61% of Canadians rated our health care system as excellent or good, by January 2000 this has declined to just 26%. 18 We found further evidence of the dimensions of this concern in the first CMA National Report Card on Health Care Survey, which was carried out on our behalf by Ipsos-Reid in the summer of 2001. In terms of an overall rating, just 21% of Canadians gave the system an “A” grade, 44% “B”, 26% “C”, and 9% “D”. While the report card confirms previous findings that those who have used the system are generally satisfied (30% “A”, 38% “B”) the ratings of access to most health care services are distressing (Figure 1). While access to family physicians receives an “A” rating, the ratings of most specialized services are dismal. Just 15% of Canadians rate access to medical specialists as “A”, while 22% assign it a failing “F” grade. 19 [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] [TABLE END] Similarly, our Public Dialogue Sessions from the summer made it clear that Canadians believe that the quality of health services has declined in Canada and many fear that it will get worse before it gets better. Six out of ten Canadians (64%) reported that the overall quality of health care services in their community had deteriorated over the past 10-15 years. Looking ahead, 37% of Canadians expect health services to be worse in five years, outnumbering the 30% who think they will get better. As one of our Public Dialogue participants put it this summer, “It will get worse—nursing homes have long waiting lists. Hospital beds are plugged up with people waiting to get into nursing homes. With our aging population—it’s only going to get worse.” 17 Although we do not have much quantitative evidence yet, we believe that patient expectations will continue to increase, as Canadians are bombarded by news of promising new developments through multiple channels. The growth of health information on the Internet has been a chief contributor to this. In the CMA’s 2000 PRQ survey, 84% of physicians reported that patients had at least occasionally presented medical information to them that they had found on the Internet. 20 Also worrisome is the vast array of sources of medical information that can be found on the world wide web – information that is not always from credible sources nor based on scientific evidence. In summary, we are deeply concerned that Canadians’ confidence in our system is hovering at a level that threatens the sustainability of the social consensus that underlies our current Medicare program. Clearly this must be addressed before we attempt to strike a new one. 4. CRISIS OF HEALTH SYSTEM FINANCING When Tommy Douglas’ government implemented Medicare in Saskatchewan in 1962, he said at the time, “all we want to do is pay the bills”. It was not too long after Medicare was implemented nationally in 1971, however, that governments started thinking about ways of controlling costs, and before the decade was out, under the Established Programs Financing (EPF) arrangements, 50:50 cost sharing had been replaced by a combination of tax points and cash contributions linked to economic growth. Clearly, policy thinking has been dominated by top-down supply side management for the past two decades. In a commentary on Justice Emmett Hall’s second (1980) report, noted Canadian health economist Roderick Fraser warned, “the size of the Canadian health care sector in relation to the current health status of Canadians and in particular to the current lifestyle of Canadians, hazardous as it is to health status, leads one to wonder if we have been over-sold on cost-containment.” 21 When EPF was merged with the Canada Assistance Plan (CAP) in the 1995 federal budget, creating the Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST), total federal contributions to health care became impossible to distinguish from contributions to social assistance and services and post-secondary education. Latterly, this has resulted in ongoing feuding between the federal and provincial/territorial governments over the respective shares of health financing. Not only is the portion of the CHST allocated to health care variable and indistinguishable from other social programs, the amount of the CHST itself has been unstable since its introduction. In the two fiscal years beginning April 1996, government cut CHST cash by 33%. It will not be until 2002-03 that the CHST cash floor will equal its 1994-95 level, with no adjustment for the increasing health care needs of Canadians, inflation or economic growth. 12 A five year $11.5 billion cumulative reinvestment in health care announced in 1999 and an additional one-time unearmarked investment of $2.5 billion in 2000 are a combination of increases to the CHST cash floor and one-time supplements. These CHST supplements, totalling $3.5 billion over three years starting in 1999 and $2.5 billion over four years starting in 2000 are not included in the CHST cash floor, nor are they intended to grow over time through an escalator. These multi-year supplements are charged to the preceding year’s budget. Once allocated and spent, the money is gone. These supplements are merely “tentative half-measures” and by no means a substitute for fostering short-, medium- and/or long-term planning. 12 The effect of the squeeze on public health care finance in Canada is clearly evident in international comparative perspective. During the 1980s and early 1990s, governments were fond of calling Canada the “silver medalist” in health expenditures as we were second only to the U.S. in terms of total per capita expenditures. As of 1998, however, Canada ranks fourth among OECD countries and much lower when we consider just the public component. In 1998, Canada ranked 8th with respect to public per capita spending (the “private system” U.S. ranked third and indeed recorded per capita public spending that was 13% higher than Canada). When public expenditure is considered as a percentage of total health expenditure, Canada was much closer to the bottom, ranking 23rd out of 30. 22 These rankings are not generally well-known and governments are generally not interested in getting this information out to Canadians. Demographics The issue of demography has been widely discussed in recent years and a variety of scenarios regarding the impact of the aging Canadian population has been presented. It was featured in the CMA (1982) report as one of two major pressures on the system, along with technology (see below). According to a 1998 Report of the Auditor General of Canada, the number of people 65 years of age and over is expected to more than double from 3.6 million in 1996 to almost 9 million by 2031. 23 The implication for health care is substantial. On average, per capita public spending on health for those aged 65 and over is almost five times greater than per capita spending on the rest of the population. 23 In our 2000 research, we identified four schools of thought: * The first, and the one that has probably received the greatest attention, posits that as a result of population aging, total health costs will increase significantly and will require an increased relative share of GDP. * The second argues that total health costs will increase, but only gradually, and this increase will be absorbed by GDP growth and reallocations from other sectors. * The third school believes that population aging will result in an increase in the demand for health care, but that we will be able to contain costs by delivering health care more efficiently. * The fourth school holds that the demand for health care will decrease because the future population, and in particular the future elderly population, will enjoy better health status. From the 2000 discussion paper it was evident that there is no clear consensus on the prospects for sustainability. 24 In July 2000, Ipsos-Reid polled the Canadian public on behalf of the CMA, with respect to their agreement on the likelihood that each school will play out over the next 20 years. The results are shown in Table 1 (with exact wording). 25 Clearly, Canadians are skeptical about our ability to sustain an affordable health care system. We share their concern. [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Table 1: Poll of Canadians’ Views School of thought % reporting agreement 1. Healthcare costs will rise sharply, thereby increasing demands for public funds for health care 45 2. Healthcare costs will rise gradually, the increase will be manageable due to growth in the economy 19 3. The demand for healthcare will increase but we will be able to contain costs by operating the healthcare system more efficiently 29 4. The demand for healthcare will decrease because the population will enjoy better health status 11 [TABLE END] A September 2001 OECD study has compiled the most recent projections of aging related to public expenditures over the 2000-2050 period, and in general, significant health care cost increases associated with population aging are expected. “The average increase over the 2000-2050 period for the 14 countries where this information is available is 3 to 3.5 percentage points of GDP. But for five countries (Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United States), increases of 4 percentage points or more are projected.” 26 For Canada specifically, the study estimates that the 2000 level of 6.5% of GDP allocated for public health expenditures will increase to roughly 10.5% over the 2000-2050 period—more than the current GDP share of total health expenditures (9.3% in 2000). Similarly, according to a recent study by the Conference Board of Canada, “public health expenditures are projected to rise from 31% in 2000 to 42% by 2020 as a share of total provincial and territorial government revenues.” 27 This would clearly squeeze other categories of social spending and public expenditure. While to a certain degree these projection studies are intended to be “self-defeating prophecies”, in our judgement, when these are factored in to the overall context of what the demographic shift will mean for the aging workforce and social security generally, there is reason for profound concern. Health Technology Over the past few decades, technology has made a great contribution toward pushing back the frontiers of Medicare. Based on a 2001 survey of U.S. general internists of their assessment of 30 of the most significant innovations over the past 25 years, Fuchs and Sox reported that the most important innovation by a considerable margin is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scanning. 28 The potential of CT and MRI technology for screening, diagnosis and the image-guided treatment of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases and cancer has been documented by Industry Canada’s Medical Imaging Technology Roadmap Steering Committee. 29 In terms of keeping pace with developments in technology, Canada is woefully behind other OECD countries for selected diagnostic and treatment technology, except for radiation therapy equipment (Table 2). 30 The CMA has estimated that, for the technologies listed in Table 2 (plus positron emission tomography, for which data are not available from the OECD), it would require an overall capital cost of $1 billion plus an operating cost of $0.74 billion (for a three-year period) to bring Canada up to the standard of access to medical technology of developed countries with a similar level of per capital income. [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Table 2: Canada’s relative position among OECD countries with respect to selected medical technology, 1997 Canada OECD countries reporting Selected Technology Level; units per million pop. Rank No. of countries Avg. level; units per million pop. First rank; units per million pop. Computed tomography 8.1 12 15 12.7 24.9 Magnetic Resonance Imaging 1.7 11 13 3.7 8.4 Lithotripter 0.5 10 11 1.9 3.7 Radiation therapy 7 5 13 6.1 14.8 [TABLE END] The Canadian Coordinating Office for Health Technology (CCOHTA) has just completed a national inventory of several types of imaging equipment, which will form a useful basis for further discussion. If we relate the numbers of units to the July 2001 population 31, the only significant shift since 1997 has been in MRI scanners, where the rate has more than doubled to 3.6 units per million population – still below the 1997 OECD average of 3.7. The 2001 level of CT scanners of 9.7 per million is still significantly below the 1997 OECD average of 12.7, and there has been no change in the relative availability of lithotripters. 32 The September 10, 2000 10-point health accord that was concluded by First Ministers 33 did include a $1 billion fund to modernize technology, however, no accountability measures were attached to it and so a year later we really do not know how much of it has actually been spent on the purchase of new equipment that has been put into the service of patients. More generally, the Canadian Association of Radiologists (CAR) has expressed concerns about aging equipment that may be providing unreliable diagnostic information. 34 In summary, the CMA supports the efforts of CCOHTA to date, while suggesting that the introduction, diffusion and replacement of medical technology is still occurring across Canada in too haphazard a fashion. The need for better planning has been well put by the Industry Canada Committee, which stated that “The health-care system needs to develop budgetary tools and financial systems which permit and facilitate cost-effective technological innovation. Health-care funding, including capital cost amortization, needs to be stable and predictable, and independent of political uncertainties.” 29 5. CRISIS OF ACCOUNTABILITY . . . COOPERATIVE MECHANISMS Why is it that those who know the most about health and health care – practitioners – have the least opportunity to participate in the key decisions about health and health care? This is the key to re-establishing accountability in the system. We believe that the crisis of accountability is due in large measure to a profound problem in the governance of Canada’s health system. If we may define governance as the process of effective coordination when knowledge and power are distributed, there are at least three axes in Canada along which power and knowledge are distributed: a. between federal/provincial/territorial and regional authority/municipal levels of government/administration; b. along the east-west array of provinces and territories; and c. among a range of stakeholders, including government, non-governmental agencies (NGOs) and citizens. There has been a substantial and growing imbalance among these axes over the past decade; it seems that at any given time it is difficult to achieve concerted direction on more than one of them. For much of the past decade, the tension between the federal/provincial/territorial governments in relation to healthcare has been very pronounced. For example, the provinces and territories did not generally participate in the National Forum on Health. Conversely, when the provincial/territorial Health Ministers produced their 1997 Renewed Vision for Canada’s Health System (Conference of Provincial/Territorial Ministers of Health 1997), the report received very little attention at the federal level. 6 In both cases, the admonitions of the health care community went largely unheeded. While there has been progress along this front, as evidenced by the February 1999 Social Union Framework Agreement (Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat 1999) and the September 2000 health accord, this highlights a second problem. In general, governments have discounted the role that NGOs and citizens might play in policy-making and in promoting policy among its members. The recent federal/provincial/territorial agreements have been negotiated by government officials behind closed doors (executive federalism), and yet it is the providers and patients who are expected to implement and live with the results. This is in keeping with the lack of openness and transparency of the entire federal/provincial/territorial policy process. To highlight one problem that this has caused, the acute shortage of physicians in many places across Canada is due, in part, to the unilateral decision by Health Ministers in 1992 to reduce undergraduate medical enrolment by 10%. These problems are exacerbated by the rapid turnover of both Health Ministers and Deputy Ministers. Again, the admonitions of the health community went largely unheeded. Clearly, Canadians are unimpressed with the back and forth squabbling between levels of government. We believe this is partly reflected in the findings of our 2001 Report Card Survey. When asked to rate the federal government’s performance in dealing with health care in Canada, Canadians were six times as likely to give it a failing “F” grade (30%) than they were to give an excellent “A” grade (5%). Similarly, 35% of Canadians gave their provincial government an “F” grade while just 6% gave it an “A” grade. 19 If we are to achieve a vision for a sustainable Medicare program in the challenging decades ahead, it will be critical to resolve the imbalances along these axes. Governments must begin to work collaboratively with other stakeholders, including citizens. Prior to the Health Ministers meeting in September 2000, the Canadian Health Care Association, Canadian Nurses Association and the CMA put forward a proposal to them for a Council on Health System Renewal based on the principles of consultation and collaboration. 35 A year later we have yet to hear a response. Perhaps there may be lessons to learn from the Council of Ministers of Education, which has been meeting since 1967. While this Council does not include formal NGO representation, it does sponsor events such as a symposium that involve key stakeholders.36 PATHWAYS TO STABILIZING THE TRAUMATIZED PATIENT The traumatized patient of “Medicare” needs to be stabilized. The Health Accord (September 2000) goes part of the way. What remains is to set out some of the parameters of change that can ensure that we keep the best of what we have but also progress the system to address the challenges set out in the previous section. Five such parameters of change are set out below. 1. FOCUS ON THE “HOWS”(not just the “whats”) The health reform discussions of the 1990s in Canada have been dominated by questions of what we need to do, e.g. expand benefits to include pharmacare and home care. Discussions did not deal with the “hows”. When the “how” was considered at all, governments generally approached reform with a “big bang” approach. International experts have recognized that this is very unlikely to be successful when there are many stakeholders in a plurality of settings—which is certainly an apt depiction of the Canadian health care landscape. There is a clear need for a collaborative approach to “change management” that is based on early, ongoing and meaningful involvement of all key stakeholders. In approaching change management there are two important principles to keep in mind. The first is the need for evidenced-based decision-making. This is adapted from the concept of evidenced-based medicine, which stresses the examination of evidence from clinical research based on a range of quantitative and qualitative approaches. 37 The second would be to reaffirm the Canadian way of approaching change, namely: evolution not revolution. By this we mean that we should build on the best of what we have in the current Canadian system 2. ADOPT A VALUES-BASED APPROACH TO CHANGE After much discussion, the CMA is of the view that any proposed changes should be assessed in relation to a limited number of first principles. For the purposes of this paper, Medicare as we know it today consists of those services that are covered by the five program criteria of the Canada Health Act; essentially medically necessary services provided in hospitals and doctors’ offices. As we reflect on where we have come in Medicare and where Canada might go, as physicians we believe that the following first principles underpin any new and sustainable policy direction. * Patient-centered focus – reforms must focus on meeting the needs of the patient rather than the system * Inclusivity – to truly achieve buy-in to change all key stakeholders; payors, providers and patients; must be engaged in early, ongoing and meaningful consultation * Accountability – all stakeholders must assume some level of accountability for the health care system * Universality – we believe that health care must be available and accessible to all Canadians and that health resources should be allocated on the basis of relative medical need. We would underscore that Medicare is the last remaining universal program in Canada and needs to be preserved and protected. * Choice – one of the hallmarks of Medicare is that patients have the freedom to choose their physician, to switch with another physician and/or to seek a second opinion. We believe it is essential that the principle of choice between physicians and patients must be sustained. * Physician as Agent of the Patient – we believe that Medicare has promoted the concept of the physician as agent of the patient and that this must continue. * Quality – we believe that the Canadian health care system must continuously strive to provide quality care. By quality care we mean services that are evidenced-based, appropriate for patient needs and delivered in a manner that is timely, safe and effective. In summary, we believe that these principles can serve to guide the “modernization” of our health care system for the future, while at the same time building on the best of our current system. 3. STRIKING A BETTER BALANCE BETWEEN EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE As we contemplate the future of Medicare it is useful to begin by establishing a frame of reference for the Canadian system. Historically, Canada has distinguished itself in terms of health system design by essentially subsuming the demand side of the market (i.e. public financing) while leaving the supply side alone (e.g. fee-for-service payment methods). Canada has also chosen to provide everyone with first dollar coverage for a somewhat limited range of benefits (unlike our European counterparts). Accordingly, there are two broad dimensions that may be used to describe publicly financed or regulated health care systems in the developed or industrialized world: * Universality Dimension…Coverage of Everybody – the extent to which the public program covers the entire population over all health services; and * Comprehensiveness Dimension…Coverage of Everything – the range of services that are included in the public program and the extent of that coverage. An overall proxy measure of comprehensiveness is the share of total health expenditures that come from the public purse. From a national perspective, physician and hospital services are essentially both universal and comprehensive programs. The universality and comprehensiveness of other health services varies between the provinces and territories. With respect to comprehensiveness as it relates to the total health care system, the Canadian system comes in at 70% public coverage – an amount not dissimilar from most industrialized nations.22 Where Canada differs from other countries is in the distribution of that coverage. Canada has provided extensive public coverage in physician and hospital services (over 90% public payment), with less attention to other services such as home care and prescription drugs (e.g. less than 60% of prescription drug expenditures were public in 1998 38). Other countries tend to spread the extent of public coverage more evenly across the broad spectrum of health services. As we think of the future of Medicare, a key challenge will be to determine whether the uneven distribution of public coverage is a significant issue. It is the view of the CMA that this issue does require serious consideration for a number of reasons: * Canadians can point to the fact that the allocation of physician and hospital resources is predominantly based on patient need. This same principle, however, does not extend to patients whose condition requires access to other kinds of services – out-patient prescription drugs, community mental health care and home care being three examples where economic factors may play a greater role in access decisions. We must consider the equity issues of this dichotomy, acknowledging that there are practical constraints. * Where there are treatment alternatives, the lack of comprehensive coverage may lead to biases that increase costs. Physicians faced with decisions about separation from acute care facilities must factor in the availability of home care programs which are often less than adequate. Some drug treatments are simply outside the reach of many Canadian families, though this may be the most efficacious and cost-efficient route. * The problems cited above have been intensifying due to the changing nature of health service delivery, such as the movement of care to the community and the growth in drug therapies. * Canadian provinces do not all have the same ability to expand beyond physician and hospital services and there are no generally accepted principles to govern that expansion. As a result, there is a patchwork quilt of coverage across the country with widely varying services. If the Commission determines that a more comprehensive range of services is required, then the question will become how this can be achieved. There are several alternatives that can be considered, and there will be a need for new thinking. 4. GENERATE NEW THINKING In Canada, Medicare has been defined by five principles that, taken together, embody the collective value or sense that we are all in the same health lifeboat. Over the years the five program criteria or principles of the Canada Health Act (CHA) have been effective in preserving the publicly funded character of hospital and physician services, although there has been a growing crisis of access. The delivery of health care has been markedly transformed. Treatment methods provided today are often quite different from those provided in the past for the same conditions. This affects the extent to which their care is publicly insured, which is dependent upon how they are treated, who treats them, and where they are treated. During the past few years a number of questions have been raised about the values that underlie health care systems both in Canada and internationally. In the Canadian context we can think of the following three critical questions. First, what range of services should be covered by national principles? Second, are the five principles that currently apply to Medicare sufficient? Third, having defined a range of services whose provision is assured by a set of principles, how do we pay for them? One example of an attempt at new thinking may be seen in the 1995 report of the provincial/ territorial Ministerial Council on Social Policy Reform and Renewal which sets out 15 principles along four themes, namely that social programs must be accessible and serve the basic needs of all Canadians; reflect individual and collective responsibility; be affordable, effective and accountable; and be flexible, responsive and reasonably comparable across Canada. 39 In our view, this language promotes a flexibility of interpretation that reflects our modern diversity and allows for a realignment of priorities as they may change over time. To summarize, in our view the language and content of the principles put out over the past few years are a reflection of the following points: * the principles that have defined Medicare to date cover a declining share of the delivery of health care * the existing CHA principles are increasingly inadequate in respect of assuring Canadians a reasonable (i.e. timely) access to medically necessary services * internationally, it appears that there is a move to adopt guiding principles that cover a broader range of the continuum of care and which rebalance individual and collective responsibility in some measure. We have grown complacent while the rest of the world has experimented. Indeed, to some extent our national health insurance system has forced out innovation. On the other hand, because provinces are reasonably autonomous regarding health, we have had the benefit of interprovincial comparisons. We are also on the leading edge of both a health information and a bio-technological revolution that is going to fundamentally change the practice of medicine and the nature of the patient-physician relationship. We will need to promote flexibility and adaptability in an era of diversity and rapid change. 5. RECOGNIZE THAT BETTER MANAGEMENT (WHILE NECESSARY) WILL NOT BE SUFFICIENT Up to the present, the reports of the federal and provincial/territorial task forces and commissions since the 1980s have concluded that we can manage our way out of the sustainability crisis by introducing a series of supply side measures to control costs. In Canada, these initiatives have included the wave of regionalization (and rationalization), physician controls and numerous proposals for primary care reform. The multi-faceted crisis that we are now experiencing is clear evidence of the inadequacy of these strategies. We suspect that many in the health policy community continue to believe that major efficiency gains remain to be squeezed out of the system. After four consecutive years of negative real growth in public sector health spending (1992 to 1996 inclusive) 38, the CMA cannot accept the premise that working harder or smarter is going to solve the problems of the system. Strategic reinvestments in health are clearly required. We do not believe that we can simply manage our way out of this crisis. Physicians have supported many innovations such as the implementation of clinical practice guidelines and have participated in primary care reform demonstration projects. Improved efficiency alone, however, cannot meet the demands we expect to see in the future. The system must be properly resourced on a predictable basis. NEXT STEPS … There is no “magic bullet” or quick fix that will put our national health program on a sustainable footing and restore Canadians’ confidence in it. Working harder to make the current system work better will not be sufficient. While there are still gains to be made from efficiencies and integration, we cannot simply manage our way out of this problem. It is time for fundamental change. We should not be discouraged from pressing on with this daunting challenge; it is imperative that we begin to act immediately. This brief sets out the variety of pressures that render the current health system unsustainable. It also sets out a value-based policy framework that can help guide future deliberations and point us to policies that can help address the rising concerns among both providers and Canadian health consumers. The brief is not intended to be all-encompassing. Various other medical organizations will be making representations to the Commission. The CMA encourages the Commission to seriously consider the complementary briefs submitted by our sister organizations. The CMA intends to submit its final recommendations, building on this framework, in the spring of 2002. This second brief will again be the product of our extensive set of discussions with the profession. REFERENCES 1 Barer M, Stoddart G. Toward Integrated Medical Resource Policies for Canada. Winnipeg: Manitoba Health; 1991. 2 Shortt S. The doctor dilemma: public policy and the changing role of physicians under Ontario Medicare (Chapter 3). Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press; 1999. 3 Tyrrell L, Dauphinee D. Task force on physician supply in Canada. Ottawa: Canadian Medical Forum; 1999. 4 Slight rise in Canada’s physician supply, more specialists and fewer family physicians, reports Canadian Institute for Health Information. Ottawa: Canadian Institute for Health Information; Aug. 9, 2001. [Media release] [http://www.cihi.ca/medrls/09aug2001.shtml] 5 National Health Service. Making the change: a strategy for the professions in healthcare science. London: Department of Health; 2001. [http://www.doh.gov.uk/makingthechange/index.htm] 6 A renewed vision for Canada’s health system. Provincial/Territorial Ministers of Health; Jan. 1997. 7 Prime Minister announces formation of Task Force on Modernizing Human Resources Management in the Public Service [press release]. Ottawa: Prime Minister of Canada; Apr. 3, 2001. [http://pm.gc.ca/default.asp?Language=E&Page=newsroom&Sub=newsreleases&Doc=managementtaskforce. 20010403_e.htm] 8 Listening for direction: a national consultation on health services and policy issues. Ottawa: Canadian Health Services Research Foundation; 2001. 9 Buske L. Additional undergraduate, postgraduate and reentry positions announced since summer 1999. Ottawa: CMA Research Directorate; July 16, 2001. 10 Sim P. Report of the 1999 survey of medical students. London: University of Western Ontario; 1999. 11 Human Resources Development Canada Studies in Progress. http://www.hrdc-drhc.gc.ca//hrib/hrib/hrp-prh/ssd-des/english/projects/projects.shtml. Accessed May 1, 2001. 12 On the road to recovery…an action plan for the Federal Government to revitalize Canada’s health care system. Ottawa: Canadian Medical Association; Sept. 2000. 13 Specialty care in Canada: issue identification and policy challenges. Ottawa: Canadian Medical Association; 2001. 14 2001 Physician resource questionnaire. Ottawa: Canadian Medical Association; 2001. 15 Blendon R, Schoen C, Donelan K, Osborn R, DesRoches CM, Scoles K, et al. Physicians’ views on quality of care: a five-country comparison. Health Aff 2001;20(3):233-243. 16 Commitment and care: the benefits of a healthy workforce for nurses, their patients and the system. Canadian Health Services Foundation, The Change Foundation; 2001. 17 Public dialogue sessions 2001: Planning a full recovery—voices, values & vision. Ottawa: Canadian Medical Association; 2001 18 Wright J. The public domain: current public opinion attitudes and expectations on Canada’s healthcare system. (presentation). Vancouver: Ipsos Reid Group; May 15, 2000. 19 National report card on health care 2001. Ottawa: Canadian Medical Association; 2001. 20 2000 Physician resource questionnaire. Ottawa: Canadian Medical Association; 2000. 21 Bird R, Fraser R. Commentaries on the Hall Report. Toronto: Ontario Economic Council; 1981. 22 Health data 2001. Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; 2001. 23 Population aging and information for parliament: understanding the choices (chapter 6). In Report of the Auditor General of Canada. Ottawa: Office of the Auditor General of Canada; April 1998. 24 In search of sustainability: prospects for Canada’s health care system. Ottawa: CMA; 2001. 25 Canadians call for funding and multi-stakeholder involvement to cure health care ills. Ottawa: CMA; Aug. 13, 2000. [http://www.cma.ca/advocacy/news/2000/08-13.htm]. 26 Dang T, Antolin P, Oxley H. Fiscal implications of ageing: projections of age-related spending. Paris: OECD; Sep. 5, 2001. 27 The future cost of health care in Canada: balancing affordability and sustainability. Ottawa: The Conference Board of Canada; 2001. 28 Fuchs V, Sox H. Physicians’ views of the relative importance of thirty medical innovations. Health Aff 2001; 20(5):30-42. 29 Medical Imaging Technology Roadmap Steering Committee. Future needs for medical imaging in health care. Ottawa: Industry Canada; 2000. 30 Health data 1999. Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; 1999. 31 Statistics Canada. Latest Indicators; Oct. 24, 2001. [http://www.statcan.ca/start.html]. 32National Inventory of Selected Imaging Equipment. Ottawa: Canadian Coordinating Office for Health Technology; 2001. [http://www.ccohta.ca/newweb/imaging_equip/imaging_equip.htm]. 33 First Ministers’ meeting: communiqué on health. Ottawa: Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat; Sep. 11, 2000. [http://www.scics.ca/cinfo00/800038004_e.html]. 34 Radiology in crisis: majority of equipment dangerously outdated. Montreal: Canadian Association of Radiologists; Sep. 28, 2000. [http://www.car.ca/press/equipment.htm]. 35 Barrett P. Letter to Hon. Allan Rock and Hon. David Chomiak. Ottawa: CMA; Sept. 25, 2000. 36 About the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada. Toronto: CMEC; 2000 [http://www.cmec.ca] 37 Evidence-Based Working Group. Evidence-based medicine: a new approach to teaching the practice of medicine. JAMA 1992; 268(4): 2420-2425. 38 National health expenditure trends 1975-2000. Ottawa: Canadian Institute for Health Information; 2000. 39 Report to Premiers. Ottawa: Ministerial Council on Social Policy Reform and Renewal; 1995.
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Presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance Pre-Budget Consultations : Securing Our Future . . . Balancing Urgent Health Care Needs of Today With The Important Challenges of Tomorrow

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy2013
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2001-11-01
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Health human resources
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2001-11-01
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Health human resources
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) values the open, constructive and ongoing dialogue afforded by the Standing Committee on Finance’s Pre-Budget Consultations process. As a society, it is essential that we make every effort to work together to find lasting solutions to what are a series of complex and interdependent policy issues, especially during these turbulent times. Last August, the Committee set out objectives for this year’s consultations. You asked for advice on how to ensure that Canada remains a major player in the New Economy while providing Canadians with equal opportunities to succeed and create a socio-economic environment where they can enjoy the best quality of life and standard of living. However, world events have intervened and the urgent has crowded out the important. The CMA has suspended, for the most part, what we consider important longer term issues in an effort to do our part in helping guide the government’s deliberations in this time of national need. We support the government’s commitments, to date, in response to the events of September 11 and their aftermath. We are cognizant of the economic forecasts that show a slowing economy as a result and the need to re-focus our national attention on security issues. The overriding challenge for this Committee therefore, will be to develop recommendations for the next budget that address the current and future situation with respect to national security without losing sight of internal needs such as pursuing the innovations necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of our health care system. Indeed, we see the latter as supporting the former. The CMA is committed to working closely with the federal government to ensure that Canada’s health care system can respond to immediate health security challenges. Our members are committed to continuing to ensure that Canadians’ confidence is restored by developing and implementing policy initiatives that serve to strengthen Canadians’ access to quality health care when they need it. To this end and building on our efforts since September 11, the CMA has put together a to meet these objectives. Specifically, the CMA has examined and developed recommendations that address national preparedness in terms of security, health and capacity; the capacity of our health human workforce in addressing current and future demands; and a look beyond the urgent to the necessary, in the form of a proposed process to review tax policy in support of health policy. II. PREPAREDNESS Health and Security The events of September 11, 2001 have had a profound impact on the lives of Canadians. Anxiety over the openness of our borders, the safety of our airlines and our vulnerability to attacks filled the media and our conversations in the days following the tragedies in the United States. A Canadian Ipsos Reid Express survey taken for the Canadian Medical Association October 23-25, 2001 indicated that 31% of respondents report ongoing sadness, anger, disturbed sleep, or are overprotective of their children. 1 This confirms what our members are telling us, based on everyday practice. A GPC International survey indicates that three-quarters of Canadians have a moderate to strong fear that the US-led anti-terrorist campaign will lead to Canada being a possible terrorist target. 2 An earlier Canadian Ipsos Reid Express survey taken October 1, 2001 shows that the attacks have risen to the top of the list of issues (73%) that should receive the greatest attention among our leaders. 3 Social issues, including health, are the second rated (49%) concern among Canadians. The Canadian Medical Association’s response following the terrorist attack was immediate and is ongoing. Working through and with our provincial/territorial Divisions and Affiliates, the Association began collecting names of those physicians willing to offer assistance to US agencies dealing with the tragedy should it have been requested. As well, we spearheaded the development of the Canadian Mental Health Support Network (www.cma.ca/cmhsn), which includes Health Canada and twelve other national health associations, to help Canadians and Canada’s health professionals cope with the mental health aftermath of the attack. The work of this network continues in terms of a series of public security announcements to be released very soon and in terms of ensuring that the information available through health professionals is clear, concise and consistent. We also provided continuous updated advice to Canadian doctors about bioterrorist threats. In the early days of the anthrax scare, before Health Canada had materials available for the public, hundreds of calls for information to 1-800-OCanada were referred daily by Health Canada to the CMA. However, there is an aspect of this issue requiring urgent attention given the current environment. It is the ability of our health system to respond to a disaster, be it a terrorist attack, a natural disaster or a large scale accident. As the Canadian Medical Association and others have documented, the people and the infrastructure of our system is already stretched in its capacity to deal with everyday demands. We have seen that emergency rooms across this country can barely cope with the increased demands brought on by the annual flu season. The system is already operating at or beyond capacity. Devastation approaching the scale of September 11 has not been seen in Canada since December 6, 1917 with the Halifax explosion. While no health system can ever be fully prepared to meet such a staggering level of destruction, it must have the confidence, the resources and, the disaster planning and referral systems to rise to the challenge if Canadians are to be reassured that help will be there if and when they need it. Public Health and Safety The challenge – if and when it comes – will require a local response that is supported nationally. To appreciate the scope of the work necessary to prepare the health system for the threats brought by terrorism it will be useful to understand the challenges currently facing public health in Canada. We have long enjoyed the benefits of a solid public health system through the various health protections, health promotion, and disease prevention and control programs created to maintain and improve the health of the population. The essential role of the medical officer of health in the public health system must be acknowledged, supported, and respected. Their credibility provides the community and health care professionals, particularly physicians, with balance and specialized medical expertise on public health matters. When the board of health is performing its mandated duties successfully, few are even aware that it is at work. Yet when a public health crisis strikes, the community expects rapid, knowledgeable, expert and quality attention to matters. But it can only do that if there is a strong infrastructure in place to meet the challenge. A clear and present danger is the emergence of new diseases or the re-appearance of old ones. An editorial in the April 27, 2000 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine expresses concern about the ability of public health infrastructures to cope with this problem without the resources needed to respond. 4 Increased trade, rising migration rates, and changes in the environment have led to worries over the revival of diseases thought to be under control or near extinction (e.g., human plague, tuberculosis and malaria) and even the recognition of some new “bugs”. The need to be vigilant about the re-emergence of infectious diseases was brought home to governments with a large outbreak of human plague in India in 1994. 5 Out of 876 cases reported, characterized as presumptive plague, 56 were fatal. A large outbreak of Ebola in Zaire in 1995 led to as many as 233 people dying from the disease and further strengthened the case for devoting resources to this problem. 6 West Nile Virus The New York City area got a first-hand look at this problem in 1999 with the appearance of the West Nile virus in North America. As the New York Times reported, it may have come in the blood of a traveler returning from Africa or Europe. 7 It may have arrived in an infected bird smuggled in baggage or even in a mosquito that got onto a jet. In spite of efforts to contain the disease, it has now begun to spread through the eastern portion of the continent, as far north as southern Ontario and as deep as Florida. Tuberculosis Tuberculosis remains one of the world’s two deadliest infections and it is feared to be on the verge of a major comeback. The disease kills 1.5 million to 2 million people a year, almost as many as AIDS. Experts say that toll could increase in the coming years because TB bacteria are evolving dangerous new strains that are increasingly drug-resistant. 8 Health Canada reports that there have been some cases (and deaths) in Canada of multiple drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) strains. 9 Only Newfoundland, PEI and the territories have not had cases of drug-resistant TB. Latvia and Russia are considered “hot spots” in the world for MDR-TB. However, one in three reported isolates in New York City in recent years was MDR-TB. As well, highly resistant strains spread from New York to Florida, Nevada, Georgia and Colorado in less than two years. Malaria The World Health Organization estimates that one million die from malaria a year and 90% of those deaths are Africans (2500 African children under five die from malaria each day). 10 The disease seems to be dying back in other continents but growing stronger across Africa. The WHO report on infectious diseases describes malaria as having the power to “overwhelm a young child causing high fever, convulsions and breathing difficulties. With the onset of cerebral malaria the child lapses into a coma and may die within 24 hours.” 11 AIDS According to the WHO, there are over 33 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS. 12 The hardest hit area is sub-Saharan Africa where one in four of the adult population has HIV/AIDS. In South Africa, 10% of the population is now infected with HIV. 13 The problem among pregnant women is worse, with 22% infected with HIV. In May, 2000, the US National Security Council declared that the spread of AIDS across the world is a threat to national security. 14 The concern, like many of the infectious diseases, is that eventually it will overwhelm the ability of governments to cope with the disease. The US government has sought to double to $254 million to combat AIDS overseas. Readiness Post-September 11 The tragic events of September 11 provided a grim reminder of the necessity of having a strong public health infrastructure in place at all times. As was demonstrated quite vividly that day, we do not have the luxury of time to prepare for these events. While it is not possible to plan for every contingency, certain scenarios can be sketched out and prepared for. To succeed, all communities must maintain a certain consistent level of public health infrastructure to ensure that all Canadian residents are protected from threats to their health. These are only some of the external threats. The Canadian public health system must also cope with domestic issues such as diseases created by environmental problems (e.g., asthma), sexually transmitted diseases, and influenza, among many others. Even before the spectre of bioterrorism this country’s public health experts were concerned about the infrastructure’s ability to deal with multiple crises. There are many vacancies among the public health physician and nursing staffs, particularly in rural and northern Canada as well as the First Nations units. This workforce is also aging and efforts to attract and retain staff have been lagging. The announcement of October 18, 2001 by the federal government of a $11.59 million investment was welcome news to Canadians in the aftermath of September 11. It provided for the “basics” in terms of stockpiling of necessary antibiotics, the purchase of sensor and detection equipment to help respond to radio-nuclear incidents, enhancing a laboratory network to better equip them to detect biological agents, and provide training to front-line health care professionals to help them recognize, diagnose and treat suspicious illnesses. However, far more needs to be done to improve our ability to respond to health and security contingencies of all kinds. The Walkerton water crisis is an example of the difficulties often faced by public health officials. Without the full resources (legislative, physical, financial, human) to do the job properly, the health of Canadians is potentially jeopardized. The Ontario Medical Association emphasized this point in its brief to the Walkerton Inquiry: “Unstable and insufficient resources hamper the Ontario public health system. Steps must be taken by the provincial government to enhance the ability of boards of health to deliver public health programs and services that promote and protect health and prevent disease and injury. Sufficient and reliable public health funding is critical.” 15 The CMA reinforced that message in a resolution passed at its 2001 Annual General Meeting: “That CMA recommend all levels of government across Canada urgently review legislation governing all aspects of drinking water from source to consumption to ensure that comprehensive programs are in place and being properly implemented, with effective linkages to local, provincial and territorial public health officials and Ministries of Health.” In a recent broadcast in the United States, Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laid out seven priority areas for building capacity and preparedness within a public health system: 16 * A well trained, well staffed public health workforce * Laboratory capacity to produce timely and accurate results for diagnosis and investigation * Epidemiology and surveillance to rapidly detect health threats * Secure, accessible information systems to help analyze and interpret health data * Solid communication to ensure a secure two-way flow of information * Effective policy evaluation capability * A preparedness and response capability which includes a response plan and testing and maintaining a high state of preparedness These points apply whether the threat is a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. Public health must be ready for all such threats. And, at present, we are told, that responding to a crisis like Walkerton or North Battleford, not to mention the possibility of co-ordinated bioterrorism, effectively results in public health units shutting down many core programs that are the building blocks of the health care system. As the long shadow of bioterrorism rises over Canada and menaces our health and wellbeing, these issues take on even more significance to Canadians. This Committee must do its part to provide for an “act locally by thinking nationally” with regard to public health support systems. The Current Context As noted above, prior planning and preparation is one of the keys to ameliorating the effects of such sudden and calamitous occurrences. It must be remembered that a catastrophic event of the nature that occurred on September 11 is a local event in that it happens within the jurisdiction of a specific municipality. The quality and level of the response depends on how well prepared the local authorities are for such actions. The local capacity to respond varies across Canada with some area health services (e.g., the larger urban centres) better prepared and equipped than others (there may be jurisdictions that do not have plans). Regardless of how well prepared any municipality is there is always the very strong possibility that public health officials will be overwhelmed and need to turn to the province or territory for help. It is also possible that the event is so massive that even the provincial or territorial resources are besieged and it must call on the federal government with their stockpiles of medical supplies and access to epidemiologists and laboratory services. That assumes good planning before hand between the federal and provincial/territorial governments and that is not necessarily the case. There is an important role for the federal government to urgently improve the coordination among authorities and reduce the variability among the various response plans in cooperation with provincial authorities (and assist those in preparing plans where none exist). Health Canada must help facilitate efforts to rationalize preparations and make it easier for jurisdictions to assist one another in a time of disaster. This could include measures such as transferring patients quickly to facilities outside the affected area when the immediate hospitals are full or even to transferring them to other provinces or territories if necessary. Disease surveillance is another component of these measures. To be effective there must be, at the provincial and territorial level, linked electronic surveillance mechanisms that are standardized and the staff available to analyze and report the data. At the federal level, the government must be ready to provide data in a timely fashion, especially in an emergency. However, very few of Canada’s doctors will have seen the disease entities that threaten Canadians at the moment (e.g., anthrax, smallpox). The CMA has expressed its willingness to assist Health Canada in bringing together stakeholders to develop quickly a curriculum that would train health care professionals to recognize, diagnose and treat the new threats we face as a society. The government must also aid in the development of volunteer teams of health professionals and other experts that can be mobilized rapidly in response to disasters wherever and whenever they occur. The concept would be similar to the military's Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART). 17 DART consists of medical, engineering, logistics, communications and security personnel ready to deploy at short notice to anywhere in the world from their support base at Canadian Forces Base Trenton. It is crucial, that the federal government build and maintain its supplies for emergency use, its public health laboratories for early detection, its capacity to rapidly train and inform frontline health workers of emerging threats, its ability to assist the provinces and territories, and co-ordinate provincial responses in the event of overwhelming or multiple simultaneous threats. In this area, the CMA recommends that: 1. The federal government immediately provide a minimum of $15 million for an assistance fund to municipal and provincial authorities to improve the co-ordination of their emergency responses among public health officials, police, fire and ambulance services, hospitals and other services. This fund should be over and above a similar sized investment to ensure that Health Canada’s Centre for Emergency Preparedness can function even only at a minimal level of effectiveness. The announcement of October 18 by the Minister of Health that $11.59 million would be spent to enhance our response to a potential attack is an important step toward reassuring Canadians that help will be there when they need it. However, far more must be done to further expand the federal government’s ability to assist municipalities, provinces and territories in dealing with disasters. The vital role played by disease surveillance cannot be stressed enough. In the event of an unusual or particularly feared illness, or an outbreak of a preventable disease, the public’s attention can quickly focus on the public health unit’s response. The medical officer of health communicates with physicians (specialists and, general and family practices physicians) in the community. Physicians, especially general and family practice physicians, depend upon their medical officers of health and the health units as an important resource. This includes information on contact tracing, interpretation of unusual clinical symptomatology, vaccination, communicable disease control, outbreak control, environmental health, cluster investigation, epidemiology, travel medicine etc. An effective and efficient surveillance system must be in place in order to provide this data quickly to stop the spread of a disease as fast as possible. Unfortunately, a weak link in the existing surveillance system is communications. This has had an impact on health professionals’ ability to receive timely information regarding changes in disease incidence in their community. Regional, provincial/territorial and federal authorities must work to improve the coordination of communications at all levels to protect the health and wellbeing of Canadians in times of crisis. The CMA recommends that: 2. The federal government continue to invest, at a minimum, $25 million in the coming year in the resources and infrastructure (i.e., medical supplies, equipment, laboratory facilities, and training for health care professionals), needed to anticipate and respond to disasters. The sale of Connaught Laboratories meant that Canada lost much its residual capacity to manufacture vaccines. If this were a “normal” war, Canadians would be looking to divert our manufacturing capacity toward meeting the threat. Given the biological threat, the Government of Canada should be negotiating with the pharmaceutical industry to increase our capacity to produce a secure supply of vaccine on Canadian soil. This would include the need for more than one supplier and the capacity to increase quickly the production of the vaccine. The CMA recommends that: 3. That the federal government undertake an immediate review of Canada’s self-sufficiency in terms of critical medical supplies (e.g., vaccines) required in the event of disasters with a view to short term self sufficiency. Surge Capacity Among the first points of contact with the health system for Canadians in the event of a significant attack on our population it will be the doctors offices and the emergency rooms of our hospitals. As noted earlier, we have witnessed in recent years the enormous strain these facilities can be placed under when even something quite routine like influenza strikes a community hard. The media abounded with stories of patients waiting hours to be examined, of stretchers lining corridors and of ambulances being redirected from hospital to hospital. Canadians themselves experienced first-hand how the resources of the hospitals, particularly the human resources, were stretched to the breaking point. The acute care occupancy rates of Ontario public hospitals across the Ontario Hospital Association regions in 1999-00 illustrate this point. In three of the five regions (Eastern Ontario, Central and South West) the occupancy rate ranged from 94% to 97% 18. The highest rate was found in the very heavily populated Central region. A British Medical Journal study suggests that an occupancy rate over 90% indicates that the hospital system is in a regular bed crisis 19. This problem is not unique to Ontario: “the decrease in the number of acute care beds across Canada over the past decade, coupled with an aging population and our extraordinary success in extending the survival of patients with significant chronic illness, has eliminated any cushion in bed occupancy in the hospital system.” 20 With this in mind, picture a catastrophe similar in scale to the destruction seen in New York or Washington D.C. occurring in downtown Toronto, Vancouver or Montréal; or perhaps the release of smallpox or botulism over Fredericton or Winnipeg. As noted earlier, the public health system and medical diagnostic and treatment systems in the community and hospitals could become overwhelmed very quickly without the ability to absorb the extra caseload. Like our hydro system, that is why surge capacity must be built into the system nationally to enable hospitals to open beds, purchase more supplies, and bring in the health care professionals it requires to meet the need. An element of surge capacity that is seriously lacking is the federal government’s contribution to emergency bed space. With the closure of most of the Canadian Force’s hospitals and the severe loss of experienced health professionals in the military, the government’s ability to assist local and provincial/territorial civilian authorities should their systems become overwhelmed is limited. Currently the National Emergency Stockpile System can supply up to 40,000 cots, as well as medical supplies and relatively rudimentary hospital equipment. Reports indicate, however, that much of the equipment is decades old, and that protocols for logistical management (e.g., transport and rapid deployment) are outdated. There is an urgent need to reassess and reaffirm capacity in this context. The CMA is in close contact with the American Medical Association as they advise their government on coordinating the use of civilian and federal facilities in an emergency. Most hospitals work on a just-in-time inventory basis for the purchase of drugs. Without some sort of plan to quickly re-supply their pharmacies and expand their capacity, patient care will suffer. The federal government must assure Canadians that municipal and provincial plans are in place with an overarching national plan to support these jurisdictions if their service capacities are overwhelmed. As mentioned earlier, the announcement by the federal government of the $11.59 million investment to enhance our response to a potential attack is a good step. But the government must help further by making available an emergency fund that would enable hospitals to plan and organize their surge capacity. The CMA recommends: 4. The federal government provide, in the coming year, $25 million in specific earmarked funding to the provinces and territories to enable health care facilities to plan, build and maintain surge capacity (e.g., open more beds, purchase emergency supplies) into their systems. The purpose of having such elaborate response plans and stockpiles of supplies and equipment is to be ready for the possibility that, in spite of all efforts to prevent a catastrophe from occurring, it nevertheless happens. That is when responsibility for dealing with the aftermath of the event falls largely to the public health system where a strong and viable infrastructure must already be in place to meet the challenge. Without the resources and the preparations, the crisis might well deteriorate and spread beyond “ground-zero.” That notion is often very difficult for non-health sector agencies and organizations to appreciate and can be an impediment to improving our capacity to help Canadians in times of disaster. No one can be completely prepared but you can prepare for certain scenarios. That is where the federal government can facilitate the health system’s readiness and reassure Canadians that help will be there when they need it. The federal government has taken several steps to reassure Canadians that their physical safety is enhanced. This includes the introduction of the Anti-Terrorism Act and the development of an Anti-Terrorism Plan. As well, there is increased funding to the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service and the Communications Security Establishment to help those agencies do their jobs more effectively. The health system must be considered an integral component of any plan to combat terrorism. It too requires assistance, especially the public health infrastructure, in strengthening its ability to counter the effects of an attack, whomever or whatever is responsible. III. THE CAPACITY OF OUR HEALTH HUMAN WORKFORCE Although the right mix of physical infrastructure and sustainable, long-term funding is necessary, in and of itself, it is not sufficient to ensure that all Canadians have timely access to quality medical services. We must also have an adequate supply of physicians and other health personnel or the system will not have the flexibility or adaptability to respond to basic societal needs or a crisis in times of disaster. We believe that the health workforce in general is facing a major sustainability challenge, and as such, this section of the brief proposes initiatives that are not solely focused on physicians but the entire health human workforce. Reports produced by several health professional organizations show that although overall numbers may be increasing, it is not sufficient to meet future demands. In 2000, there was a moderate 1.7% increase in the nurse population 21; however, a 1997 Canadian Nurses Association report projected that the supply of nurses must grow by 2.1% per year to meet future demand. 22 Similarly, the number of physicians per 100,000 population appears to be increasing slightly each year (187 in 2000), but it remains below the 1993 level of 191 per 100,000 population. The physician to population ratio can be misleading in that it does not necessarily represent full time physicians. CMA figures show that a larger proportion of physicians fall into the older age groups and may not be working full time or indeed may not be providing patient care at all. Also, one needs to factor in the demographics of the current physician workforce. Female physicians, who tend to work fewer hours per week than their male colleagues, now represent 30% of the practising pool. This means that more physicians will be needed to provide the same number of services. But this may not be possible, as approximately two-thirds of all family physicians are no longer routinely accepting new patients. 23 This is placing considerable pressure on those currently working within the health care system with little hope for relief. For example, data gathered through the CMA’s annual Physician Resource Questionnaire (PRQ) substantiates anecdotal evidence that physicians are working harder. Over half the respondents to the 2001 PRQ (53.7%) indicated that their workload had increased over the past year. Looking at specific areas that have caused physicians the greatest degree of stress, 63.7% indicated that their workload is heavier than they would like (up from 62% in 1998), while 58.1% felt that their family and personal life had suffered from choosing medicine as a profession (up from 55% in 1998). There are a number of short-term and longer term initiatives that can be implemented to reverse the shortage in our health care personnel and alleviate the stress they are feeling from trying to keep the system operating as best it can. What follows is a description of the short-term initiative the CMA is proposing for consideration by the Standing Committee. For a detailed description of the longer term initiatives and recommendations, please refer to Appendix A. What Can be Done Today? Given the immediate need for more physicians and other health professionals in Canada and the time lag involved in training, especially for physicians, the CMA proposes that a variation on the strategy adopted by the Canadian Forces (CF) 24 be used to repatriate physicians and other professionals. The CF announced the implementation of a Medical and Dental Direct Entry Officer Recruitment Allowance effective April 1, 1999 to recruit licensed family physicians, general practitioners and dentists. Recruitment incentives involve a lump-sum signing bonus/recruitment allowance of $80,000 per direct entry medical officer and $25,000 per direct entry dental officer after a successful completion of 3 months of basic officer training. The commitment is for a duration of 4 years and retention incentives involve an adjustment to medical and dental rates of pay that are competitive with private sector net earnings. The CMA concurs with the concept of an incentive program as proposed by the CF and suggests that a similar approach be implemented for recruiting and retaining Canadian physicians and other health care professionals currently practising outside of Canada. Presently there are some 10,500 Canadian physicians practicing in the US as well as tens of thousands of Canadian nurses. Of these physicians, close to 1,000 are considered active physicians both in Canada and the US. 25 Some of these physicians are no doubt practising in border towns where dual licensure is common, but many may be expatriates who have maintained their licensure in Canada hopefully with plans to either return or at least leave their future options open. Rather than proposing a lump sum approach as an incentive the CMA proposes that the incentive come through graduated federal income tax relief by reducing federal income tax payable by 50% for 3 years for Canadian physicians and health care professionals who return to practice in Canada. Such an approach provides direct relief and over a period of 3 years would provide incentives similar in size to those proposed by the CF in their recruitment and retention program. It is estimated that such a program would cost approximately $45 million over 3 years to repatriate an estimated 5% or 500 physicians back to Canada. If repatriation of other health care providers were included then it is estimated that the total cost of such an initiative could increase to $85 million over 3 years. The CMA therefore recommends: 5. That the federal government seriously consider implementing a 3-year graduated tax relief and re-allocation policy to encourage expatriate physicians and other health professionals to return to Canada. IV. TAX POLICY IN SUPPORT OF HEALTH POLICY The federal government has played a key role in the development of our health care system, primarily through a variety of measures or policy levers such as: spending; taxation; regulation; and information. Up until now, Canada’s health care system has made extensive use of only two federal policy levers, namely spending, in the form of cost-sharing arrangements between the federal and provincial/territorial governments; and by regulation, through the Canada Health Act. However, the degree to which the government can continue to rely on these levers must be examined. In the not-too-distant future, our health care system will face a number of pressures that will challenge its sustainability. Namely, an aging and more demanding population in terms of the specialty care services and technology they will seek; the cry for expanding the scope of medicare coverage to include homecare and pharmacare; and a shortage of health personnel. Several national health care studies, namely the Prime Minister’s Forum on Health and more recently, the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology’s Study of the Health Care System have raised the need to look at alternative health care funding sources. We can not and should not wait any longer to explore and act upon the options available to us. Looking at Alternatives One of the lesser-explored options has been the strategic use of Canada’s taxation system. A public discussion of tax policy has not been seen in Canada since at least 1966. 26 Nor have we seen a major assessment of tax policy in relation to social policy since the 1980’s Macdonald Commission. In fact, the last major overall tax policy review was that of Benson in 1971. There is an urgent need to more fully consider the role that the tax system can play in supporting the health care system. Several proposals have been put forward over time in this areas, such as earmarked taxes for health; health-related excise taxes; input tax credits for health care services; medical savings accounts; saving for long-term care; social insurance; and refundable tax credits. This list is not exhaustive. In fact, the CMA has done some preliminary work in this area by commissioning a discussion paper on taxation and health policy. 27 In the paper, the author puts forth 10 “real world” proposals where the tax system can be used to support health policy. The CMA has initiated detailed discussion with Health Canada, Statistics Canada and others to model some of the possible scenarios. Of course, some of these are more promising than others. It is for this reason that the CMA is recommending the federal government to establish a National Task Force to review the tax system with the purpose of developing innovative tax-based mechanisms that better synchronize tax policy with health policy. In this area, the CMA recommends: 6. That the Federal Government establish a blue ribbon National Task Force to study the development of innovative tax-based mechanisms to better synchronize tax policy and health policy. First and foremost this Task Force would study: a) increasing the reach of the medical expense deduction (i.e., increasing the threshold from the current 3% of taxable expenditures) b) extending the medical expense deduction from a non-refundable tax credit to a refundable tax credit so that those not having income tax payable are afforded easier access to those services not covered under universal health “programs” c) dealing with the untoward inequities arising out of the application of the GST. The CMA envisions the mandate of the Task Force as being – to conduct a thorough policy and costing analysis of all potential tax-based mechanisms (not limited to those outlined in the above recommendations) that can be developed to assist in the financing and management of the health care system. The Task Force would be comprised of representatives from government, the health care system, private sector, and the public and it would issue its findings and recommendations within 2 years of its conception. V. SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS In closing, the CMA has offered a powerful and strategic combination of policy initiatives designed to re-vitalize Canada’s health care system as well as to restore Canadians’ confidence that they will be taken care of in times of disaster. The proposals are realistic and practical. They give the provinces and territories full flexibility in terms of policy implementation while ensuring full recognition to the federal government for its essential investments. These proposals emphasize the need for the federal government to continue its leadership to ensure that our health care system, Canada’s most cherished social program, is available to meet the health care needs of all Canadians. No one group can address all of the issues and challenges facing the health care system. The CMA reiterates its commitment to work with the federal government and others to ensure that our health care system will be there for all Canadians in the future and in times of crisis. The Summary of Recommendations is as follows: 1. The federal government immediately provide a minimum of $15 million for an assistance fund to municipal and provincial authorities to improve the co-ordination of their emergency responses among public health officials, police, fire and ambulance services, hospitals and other services. 2. The federal government continue to invest, at a minimum, $25 million in the coming year in the resources and infrastructure (i.e., medical supplies, equipment, laboratory facilities, and training for health care professionals), needed to anticipate and respond to disasters. 3. That the federal government undertake an immediate review of Canada’s self-sufficiency in terms of critical medical supplies (e.g., vaccines) required in the event of disasters with a view to short term self sufficiency. 4. The federal government provide, in the coming year, $25 million in specific earmarked funding to the provinces and territories to enable health care facilities to plan, build and maintain surge capacity (e.g., open more beds, purchase emergency supplies) into their systems. 5. That the federal government seriously consider implementing a 3-year graduated tax relief and re-allocation policy to encourage expatriate physicians and other health professionals to return to Canada. 6. That the Federal Government establish a blue ribbon National Task Force to study the development of innovative tax-based mechanisms to better synchronize tax policy and health policy. First and foremost this Task Force would study: a) increasing the reach of the medical expense deduction (i.e., increasing the threshold from the current 3% of taxable expenditures) b) extending the medical expense deduction from a non-refundable tax credit to a refundable tax credit so that those not having income tax payable are afforded easier access to those services not covered under universal health “programs” c) dealing with the untoward inequities arising out of the application of the GST. APPENDIX A The Capacity of Our Health Human Workforce Looking to the Future There are some signs that governments have begun to acknowledge that we are in a sustained shortage situation. In November 1999, several health ministers met with members of the Canadian Medical Forum Task Force on Physician Supply in Canada which recommended 2000 first year medical school places for 2000. Since then, governments have been very active in committing to increases in both undergraduate and postgraduate medical training. Enrolment of new medical students in 2000/2001 reached 1763 for an increase of 12% since 1997/98. This closely matches the promised increases to undergraduate enrolment made by governments. Approximately 140 more positions have been promised for the school years beginning 2001 and 2002. In this area, the CMA recommends that: 7. That the federal government immediately establish a Health Human Resources Education and Training Fund in the amount of $500 million per year for 5 years to fund: (1) increased enrolment in undergraduate and postgraduate education; and (2) the expanded infrastructure (both human and physical resources) required at Canada’s 16 health science centres as a result of increased enrolment. While the outlook for the future supply of physicians in Canada seems brighter, it will be quite a few years before we can benefit from the current increases in undergraduate enrolment. These initiatives must not only continue, but be enhanced to ensure that our health care system is sustainable into the future. However, there is one factor that may keep us from attaining the optimal level of medical school enrolment – high and rising medical school tuition fees. In August 2000, at the Conference of Premiers, Prime Minister Chretien said, “It is indeed important in the new knowledge-based economy that Canadians … have access to high quality post-secondary education without excessive debt loads, and that every child get the best possible start in life. This is all part of the Canadian competitive advantage.” 28 This sounds well and good, but the facts tell us otherwise. Since 1980, medical school tuition costs have increased by almost 880%, or more than twice as fast as the general cost of living. 29 The average tuition for students entering first year medical school in September 2001 was $12,840, a 158% increase over the 1997 average fee of $4,977. This means that over the course of four years, an undergraduate medical student is likely to spend approximately $110,000 in tuition, academic and living expenses. 30 Many students have had to resort to bank loans to cover the shortfall from their government-sponsored student loan, but the growing amount of debt accumulating for medical students is starting to worry the banks. The CIBC says that rising medical education costs have resulted in debt loads growing much faster than medical students’ potential income and so, it will no longer grant medical students preferred lending rates. The CIBC sets limits on the amount of debt that they feel students can repay in the years following their training. Unfortunately, medical students are now reaching these limits – which are in the $100,000 - $130,000 range. 31 Unlike the government-sponsored loans, interest on bank loans begin accruing immediately, up to a decade before a medical student starts earning a full income. This trend raises serious concerns that access to medical education will be restricted solely on the basis of personal financial resources. High debt loads will discourage capable and qualified students – particularly those from modest financial backgrounds – from applying to medical school. Canada’s health care system needs individuals from different socio-economic, cultural, rural and urban backgrounds to serve an equally diverse population of patients. First and foremost, the government must address the situation concerning the high and rising tuition fees and the insufficient financial support systems available to medical students. It must also consider purchasing additional training positions in Canada’s medical schools specifically targeted for groups, such as Aboriginal, Indian and Inuit populations. These measures will foster the education and training of a diverse population of health care givers, and will support the culturally and socially sensitive health care needs of all Canadians. The CMA sees a strong role for the federal government in ensuring that medicine remains a rewarding and affordable career accessible to students based on their passion and academic performance, not their financial status. The CMA therefore recommends: 8. That, in order to alleviate some of the pressures driving tuition fee increases, the federal government increase transfer payments to the provinces/territories with targeted amounts for post-secondary education. 9. That the federal government create and fund a national health services student bursary program to encourage students who have limited financial resources to apply for an education in health care services. 10. That the federal government develop financial support systems for health services students that are: (a) non-coercive; (b) developed concomitantly or in advance of any tuition increase; (c) in direct proportion to any tuition fee increase; and (d) provided at levels that meet the needs of the students. 11. That the federal government purchase additional training slots in Canadian medical schools for particular segments of our population, such as aboriginals. REFERENCES 1 Canadian Ipsos Reid Express. Terrorist Effect. October 23-25, 2001. 2 GPC International. Canadians split on the best response to the terrorist attacks and fear reprisals at home. Media Release October 18, 2001. www.gpcinternational.com/media/releases/20011018.html 3 Canadian Ipsos Reid Express. 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Public Health Training Network Broadcast September 21, 2001 (Downloaded from Web: October 19, 2001 www.phppo.cdc.gov/documents/KoplanASTHO.pdf ) 17 Dept. of National Defence. Canadian Forces Disaster Assistance Relief Team. BG-99-051 (Amended) October 10, 2001. (Downloaded from Web: October 25, 2001 [www.dnd.ca/eng/archive/2001/oct01/28DART_b_e.htm] 18 Ontario Hospital Reporting System, 2001. Acute Care Occupancy Rates, Ontario Public Hospitals by OHA region, 1999/00. Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. 19 Bagust A, Place M, Posnett J. Dynamics of bed use in accommodating emergency admissions: stochastic simulation model. BMJ; 319: 155-158 July 17, 1999. 20 Nicolle L. Viruses without borders. Can J Infect Dis Vol. 11, Issue 3, May/June 2000 (Downloaded from Web: October 23, 2001: www.pulsus.com/Infdis/11_03/nico_ed.htm) 21 CIHI. Canadian Institute for Health Information Reports Moderate Rise in Register Nurses Workforce, Fewer RNs Working on Casual Basis, More Working Full-time, Media Release, May 23, 2001. 22 Canadian Medical Association. Specialty Care In Canada: Issue Identification and Policy Challenges, October 2001. 23 Canadian NewsWire. Not enough family-physicians to meet patient needs, October 25, 2001 [www.cnw.ca/releases/October2001/25/c0304.html] 24 Incentive Programs for the Recruitment and Retention of Medical and Dental Officers, http://www.dnd.ca/eng/archive/1999/jul99/05DocIncen_b_e.htm 25 Based on a linkage done by Canadian Institute for Health Information of data from Southam Medical Data Base and the America Medical Association’s Masterfile. 26 Carter K. Royal Commission on Taxation, Canada, 1966. 27 Thompson A. Taxation and Health Policy: A Discussion Paper, August 2001. 28 Letter from Prime Minister Jean Chretien to the Honorable Gary Doer, Premier of Manitoba, Chair, Conference of Premiers, August 4, 2000. 29 Ontario Medical Association. Medical Education Fact Sheet, 2001. 30 Admissions/Student and Equity Affairs, Faculty of Medicine, University of Western Ontario. Budgeting Guide for Medical Students: 1999-2000. 31 Banks no longer banking on earning potential of medical students, Canadian Medical Association Journal, June 12, 2001; 164(12) 1735
Documents
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Presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance -December 7, 2007

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy9057
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2007-12-07
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Health human resources
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2007-12-07
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Health human resources
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Text
It is a pleasure to address the Standing Committee on Finance today as part of your pre-budget consultations. In keeping with the theme set by the Committee, our presentation - Tax Incentives for Better Living - focuses on changing the tax system to better support the health and well being of all Canadians. Today I will share with you three recommendations improving the health of Canadians and productivity of the Canadian economy: First, tax incentives for pre-paid long-term care insurance; Second, tax incentives to retain and recruit more doctors and nurses; Third, tax incentives to enhance health system productivity and quality improvements. 1. Long Term Care insurance Canada's population is ageing fast. Yet, long-term care has received little policy attention in Canada. Unlike other countries like the UK and Germany who have systems in place, Canada is not prepared to address these looming challenges. The first of the baby-boomers will turn 65 in 2011. By 2031, seniors will comprise one quarter of the population - double the current proportion of 13%. The second challenge is the lack of health service labour force that will be able to care for this ageing population. Long-term care cannot and should not be financed on the same pay-as-you-go basis as medical/hospital insurance. Therefore the CMA urges the Committee to consider either tax-pre-paid or tax-deferred options for funding long-term care. These options are examined in full in the package we have supplied you with today. 2. Improving access to quality care Canada's physician shortage is a critical issue. Here in Quebec, 1 in 4 people do not have access to a family physician. Overall 3.5 people in Canada do not have a family Physician. Despite this dire shortage, the Canada Student Loans program creates barriers to the training of more physicians. Medical students routinely begin their postgraduate training with debts of over $120,000. Although still in training, they must begin paying back their medical school loans as they complete their graduate training. This policy affects both the kind of specialty that physicians-in-training choose, and ultimately where they decide to practice. We urge this Committee to recommend the extension of interest-free status on Canada Student Loans for all eligible health professional students pursuing postgraduate training. 3. Health System IT: increasing productivity and quality of care The last issue I will address is health system automation. Investment in information technology will lead to better, safer and cheaper patient care. In spite of the recent $400 million transfer to Canada Health Infoway, Canada still ranks at the bottom of the G8 countries in access to health information technologies. We spend just one-third of the OECD average on IT in our hospitals. This is a significant factor with respect to our poor record in avoidable adverse health effects. An Electronic Health Record (EHR) could provide annual, system-wide savings of $6.1 billion - every year - and reduce wait times and thereby absenteeism. But, the EHR potential can only be realized if physician's offices across Canada are fully automated. The federal government could invest directly in physician office automation by introducing dedicated tax credits or by accelerating the capital cost allowance related to health information technologies for patients. Before I conclude, the CMA again urges the Committee to address a long-standing tax issue that costs physicians and the health care system over $65 million a year. When you add hospitals - that cost more than doubles to over $145 million-or the equivalent of 60 MRI machines a year. The application of the GST on physicians is a consumption tax on a producer of vital services and affects the ability of physicians to provide care to their patients. And now with the emphasis on further sales tax harmonization, the problem will be compounded. Nearly 20 years ago when the GST was put into place, physician office expenses were relatively low for example: tongue depressors, bandages and small things. There was practically no use computers or information technology. How many of you used computers 20 years ago? Now Canadian physicians' could be and should be using 21st century equipment that is expensive but powerful. This powerful diagnostic equipment can save lives and save the system millions of dollars in the long run. It provides a clear return on investment. Yet, physicians still have to pay the GST (and the PST) on diagnostic equipment that costs a minimum of $500,000 that's an extra $30,000 that physicians must pay. The result of this misalignment of tax policy and health policy is that most Radiologists' diagnostic imaging equipment is over 30-years old. Canadians deserve better. It's time for the federal government to stop taxing health care. We urge the Committee to recommend the "zero-rating" publicly funded health services or to provide one-hundred percent tax rebates to physicians and hospitals. Conclusion In conclusion, we trust the Committee recognizes the benefits of aligning tax policy with health policy in order to create the right incentives for citizens to realize their potential. By supporting: 1. Tax Incentives for Long-Term Care 2. Tax Incentives to Bolster Health Human Resources and, 3. Tax Incentives to Support Health System Automation. This committee can respond to immediate access to health care pressures that Canadians are facing. Delaying a response to these pressures will have an impact on the competiveness of our economy now, and with compounding effects in the future. I appreciate the opportunity of entering into a dialogue with members of the Committee and look forward to your questions. Thank you.
Documents
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Car Seat Restraints for Children – Update 2007

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy9066
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2007-12-01
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Resolution
BD08-03-29
The Canadian Medical Association recommends that children with a weight between 18 and 36 kg (40-80 lbs) and a height of less than 145 cm (4 feet 9 inches) (at approximately eight years old), be required to be fastened in a properly secured booster seat in the back seat when passengers in motor vehicles.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2007-12-01
Replaces
Car Seat Restraints for Children (2001)
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Resolution
BD08-03-29
The Canadian Medical Association recommends that children with a weight between 18 and 36 kg (40-80 lbs) and a height of less than 145 cm (4 feet 9 inches) (at approximately eight years old), be required to be fastened in a properly secured booster seat in the back seat when passengers in motor vehicles.
Text
The Canadian Medical Association recommends that children with a weight between 18 and 36 kg (40-80 lbs) and a height of less than 145 cm (4 feet 9 inches) (at approximately eight years old), be required to be fastened in a properly secured booster seat in the back seat when passengers in motor vehicles.
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Counterfeit Drugs

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy9068
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2007-12-01
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Health systems, system funding and performance
Resolution
BD08-03-31
The Canadian Medical Association calls on the Government of Canada to: - implement an anti-counterfeit drugs strategy which could include track-and-trace technology, severe penalties for infractions, and an alert network to encourage reporting by health professionals and patients; and - work with other countries and international organizations on a global effort to stop drug counterfeiting.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2007-12-01
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Health systems, system funding and performance
Resolution
BD08-03-31
The Canadian Medical Association calls on the Government of Canada to: - implement an anti-counterfeit drugs strategy which could include track-and-trace technology, severe penalties for infractions, and an alert network to encourage reporting by health professionals and patients; and - work with other countries and international organizations on a global effort to stop drug counterfeiting.
Text
The Canadian Medical Association calls on the Government of Canada to: - implement an anti-counterfeit drugs strategy which could include track-and-trace technology, severe penalties for infractions, and an alert network to encourage reporting by health professionals and patients; and - work with other countries and international organizations on a global effort to stop drug counterfeiting.
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Promotion of healthy childhood

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy374
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
1999-08-25
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Resolution
GC99-42
That the Canadian Medical Association promote both medical and social interventions to ensure an optimal start to life and a physically, mentally and socially healthy childhood.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
1999-08-25
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Resolution
GC99-42
That the Canadian Medical Association promote both medical and social interventions to ensure an optimal start to life and a physically, mentally and socially healthy childhood.
Text
That the Canadian Medical Association promote both medical and social interventions to ensure an optimal start to life and a physically, mentally and socially healthy childhood.
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Access by the elderly to medical and supportive health care

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy377
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
1999-08-25
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Resolution
GC99-78
That the Canadian Medical Association adopt as policy the following principle: Access in old age. Older citizens in all parts of Canada should have timely access to medical and supportive health care services that are clinically appropriate. This includes: a) rapid access to primary medical care, b) access to a full range of medical, surgical, diagnostic, treatment and rehabilitative services, and c) access to specialized programs designed to address the physical and mental problems of old age. Access to clinically appropriate services should not be denied on the basis of age or disability.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
1999-08-25
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Resolution
GC99-78
That the Canadian Medical Association adopt as policy the following principle: Access in old age. Older citizens in all parts of Canada should have timely access to medical and supportive health care services that are clinically appropriate. This includes: a) rapid access to primary medical care, b) access to a full range of medical, surgical, diagnostic, treatment and rehabilitative services, and c) access to specialized programs designed to address the physical and mental problems of old age. Access to clinically appropriate services should not be denied on the basis of age or disability.
Text
That the Canadian Medical Association adopt as policy the following principle: Access in old age. Older citizens in all parts of Canada should have timely access to medical and supportive health care services that are clinically appropriate. This includes: a) rapid access to primary medical care, b) access to a full range of medical, surgical, diagnostic, treatment and rehabilitative services, and c) access to specialized programs designed to address the physical and mental problems of old age. Access to clinically appropriate services should not be denied on the basis of age or disability.
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Safety of genetically modified organisms

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy378
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
1999-08-25
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Resolution
GC99-80
That the Canadian Medical Association ask Health Canada to ensure it obtains sound evidence of the safety of genetically modified organisms before they are authorized by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
1999-08-25
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Resolution
GC99-80
That the Canadian Medical Association ask Health Canada to ensure it obtains sound evidence of the safety of genetically modified organisms before they are authorized by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
Text
That the Canadian Medical Association ask Health Canada to ensure it obtains sound evidence of the safety of genetically modified organisms before they are authorized by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
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Information program for Canadians on genetically modified organisms

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy379
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
1999-08-25
Topics
Health information and e-health
Resolution
GC99-81
That the Canadian Medical Association urge the federal government to create an information program for Canadians on genetically modified organisms.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
1999-08-25
Topics
Health information and e-health
Resolution
GC99-81
That the Canadian Medical Association urge the federal government to create an information program for Canadians on genetically modified organisms.
Text
That the Canadian Medical Association urge the federal government to create an information program for Canadians on genetically modified organisms.
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Regulations for genetically modified organisms

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy380
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
1999-08-25
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Resolution
GC99-82
That the Canadian Medical Association urge the federal government to act quickly to adopt regulations controlling the development, testing and commercialization of genetically modified organisms.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
1999-08-25
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Resolution
GC99-82
That the Canadian Medical Association urge the federal government to act quickly to adopt regulations controlling the development, testing and commercialization of genetically modified organisms.
Text
That the Canadian Medical Association urge the federal government to act quickly to adopt regulations controlling the development, testing and commercialization of genetically modified organisms.
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Legislation of drinking water

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy429
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2001-08-15
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Resolution
GC01-50
That Canadian Medical Association recommend all levels of government across Canada urgently review legislation governing all aspects of drinking water from source to consumption to ensure that comprehensive programs are in place and being properly implemented, with effective linkages to local, provincial and territorial public health officials and Ministries of Health.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2001-08-15
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Resolution
GC01-50
That Canadian Medical Association recommend all levels of government across Canada urgently review legislation governing all aspects of drinking water from source to consumption to ensure that comprehensive programs are in place and being properly implemented, with effective linkages to local, provincial and territorial public health officials and Ministries of Health.
Text
That Canadian Medical Association recommend all levels of government across Canada urgently review legislation governing all aspects of drinking water from source to consumption to ensure that comprehensive programs are in place and being properly implemented, with effective linkages to local, provincial and territorial public health officials and Ministries of Health.
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Tax programs and health care services

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy431
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2001-08-15
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Resolution
GC01-52
That Canadian Medical Association recommend to the federal, provincial and territorial governments that they should immediately review the creation of tax-related programs that will help patients offset the ever-increasing out-of-pocket cost of health care services, which should include: 1. an increase in the currently allowable medical tax credit, and 2. a health savings plan similar to the RRSP program for application to anticipated future expenses such as long-term care, home care and pharmacological expenses.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2001-08-15
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Resolution
GC01-52
That Canadian Medical Association recommend to the federal, provincial and territorial governments that they should immediately review the creation of tax-related programs that will help patients offset the ever-increasing out-of-pocket cost of health care services, which should include: 1. an increase in the currently allowable medical tax credit, and 2. a health savings plan similar to the RRSP program for application to anticipated future expenses such as long-term care, home care and pharmacological expenses.
Text
That Canadian Medical Association recommend to the federal, provincial and territorial governments that they should immediately review the creation of tax-related programs that will help patients offset the ever-increasing out-of-pocket cost of health care services, which should include: 1. an increase in the currently allowable medical tax credit, and 2. a health savings plan similar to the RRSP program for application to anticipated future expenses such as long-term care, home care and pharmacological expenses.
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Cell phones and driving

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy433
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2001-08-15
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Resolution
GC01-54
That Canadian Medical Association supports legislation prohibiting the use of phones when driving a motor vehicle
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2001-08-15
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Resolution
GC01-54
That Canadian Medical Association supports legislation prohibiting the use of phones when driving a motor vehicle
Text
That Canadian Medical Association supports legislation prohibiting the use of phones when driving a motor vehicle
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Evaluating international medical graduates competencies

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy455
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
1999-08-25
Topics
Health human resources
Resolution
GC99-29
That the Canadian Medical Association support efforts to evaluate the competencies of international medical graduates prior to licensure in Canada by applying equivalent evaluation standards to international medical graduates as those used for graduates of Canadian medical schools so that the safety of the public is assured.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
1999-08-25
Topics
Health human resources
Resolution
GC99-29
That the Canadian Medical Association support efforts to evaluate the competencies of international medical graduates prior to licensure in Canada by applying equivalent evaluation standards to international medical graduates as those used for graduates of Canadian medical schools so that the safety of the public is assured.
Text
That the Canadian Medical Association support efforts to evaluate the competencies of international medical graduates prior to licensure in Canada by applying equivalent evaluation standards to international medical graduates as those used for graduates of Canadian medical schools so that the safety of the public is assured.
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Addressing professional issues of Canadian physicians and medical practice

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy465
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
1999-08-25
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Resolution
GC99-60
That the Canadian Medical Association be the national focus for enhancing organized medicine's effectiveness in addressing the variety of professional issues facing Canadian physicians and medical practice.
Policy Type
Policy resolution
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
1999-08-25
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Resolution
GC99-60
That the Canadian Medical Association be the national focus for enhancing organized medicine's effectiveness in addressing the variety of professional issues facing Canadian physicians and medical practice.
Text
That the Canadian Medical Association be the national focus for enhancing organized medicine's effectiveness in addressing the variety of professional issues facing Canadian physicians and medical practice.
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Organ and tissue donation and transplantation

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy14126
Date
2019-12-07
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Health care and patient safety
  2 documents  
Policy Type
Policy document
Date
2019-12-07
Replaces
Organ and tissue donation and transplantation (update 2015)
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Health care and patient safety
Text
Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation (OTDT) is a rapidly changing area of medical science and practice. Organ and tissue transplantations represent significant lifesaving and life-enhancing interventions that require careful consideration by multiple stakeholders spanning medical disciplines. Technological and pharmacological advancements have made organ and tissue transplantation increasingly viable for treating related medical conditions. Changing social norms have also led to shifting perceptions of the acceptability of organ and tissue donation. Within this context, there is a need for renewed consideration of the ethical issues and principles guiding organ and tissue donation and transplantation in Canada. The overarching principle that guides OTDT is public trust, which requires that the expressed intent either for or against donation will be honoured and respected within the donation and medical systems, and that the best interests of the potential donor are always of paramount importance; policies and mechanisms that guide OTDT should aim to maintain and foster that public trust. The CMA acknowledges and respects the diverse viewpoints, backgrounds, and religious views of physicians and patients and therefore encourages physicians to confront challenges raised by OTDT in a way that is consistent with both standards of medical ethics and patients’ values and beliefs. SCOPE This policy identifies foundational principles to address the challenges surrounding deceased and living donation. In conjunction with applicable laws and regulations in Canada, the Declaration of Istanbul, the World Health Organization (WHO) Guiding Principles on Human Cell, Tissue and Organ Transplantation, and leading clinical practices this policy aims to inform physicians and other interested parties on the guiding principles of OTDT in Canada. This policy is intended to address OTDT in adult populations; the challenges, considerations, legislation, and policy surrounding pediatric and neonatal OTDT are unique and deserve focused attention. Physicians should be aware of relevant legislation, regulatory requirements, and policies in the jurisdiction in which they practice. Physicians are encouraged to refer to the various Canadian specialty societies that deal directly with OTDT for up-to-date information and policy, as well as innovative techniques and approaches. GUIDING PRINCIPLES The practice of OTDT is of great value to patients and society. The CMA supports the continued development of greater capacity, efficiency, and accessibility in OTDT systems in co-ordination with comprehensive and compassionate end-of-life care for Canadians while acknowledging the importance of justice, informed consent, beneficence, and confidentiality to this practice. 1. JUSTICE There is a continuous need to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of OTDT in an effort to narrow the gap between demand and supply in what remains a scarce, lifesaving resource. The principle of justice should continue to guide the equitable allocation of organs and tissues in a manner that is externally justifiable, open to public scrutiny, and balances considerations of fairness (e.g., medical need or length of time on the wait-list) with medical utility (e.g., transplantation success). There should be no discrimination based on social status or perceived social worth. Lifestyle or behavioral factors should only be considered when clear evidence indicates that those factors will impact the medical probability of success. OTDT should also not rely on the patient’s ability to pay; such actions are inconsistent with the principles that underlie Canada’s publicly-funded health system. Of note, living donation to a loved one or acquaintance (via a directed donation) is regarded as ethically acceptable if potential donors are informed of all options, including that of donating in a non-directed fashion. All levels of government should continue to support initiatives to improve the OTDT system, raise public awareness through education and outreach campaigns, and fund ongoing research, such that any Canadian who may wish to donate their tissues or organs are given every reasonable opportunity to do so. Potential donor identification and referral, while legislated in many jurisdictions, is an important area of continued development as failure to identify donors deprives families of the opportunity to donate and deprives patients of potential transplants. To diminish inequities in the rates of organ donation between jurisdictions, federal and provincial governments should engage in consultations with a view to implementing a coordinated, national strategy on OTDT that provides consistency and clarity on medical and legal standards of informed consent and determination of death, and institutes access to emerging best practices that support physicians, providers, and patients. Efforts should be made to ensure adequate engagement with potential donors from communities that have historically had lower living donor rates to help reduce inequities in access to living donation. Policymakers should also continue to explore and appraise the evidence on policy interventions to improve the rates of organ donation in Canada – for example, see a brief overview of opt-in vs. opt-out donation systems in the background to this policy. 2. INFORMED CONSENT AND VOLUNTARINESS Organ and tissue donation must always be an autonomous decision, free of undue pressure or coercion. By law, the potential organ donor, or their substitute decision-maker, must provide informed consent. Physicians should direct patients to appropriate resources if that patient has expressed interest to become a donor after their death. If a potential donor has not made an expression of intent for or against donation, substitute decision-makers, families, or loved ones may be approached to provide authorization for donation. It should also be noted that consent indicates a willingness to donate, but that donation itself hinges on factors such as medical suitability and timing. End-of-life decisions must be guided by an individual's values and religious or philosophical beliefs of what it means to have a meaningful life and death. The autonomy of an individual should always be respected regarding their wish, intent, or registered commitment to become a donor after death. Input from family and loved-ones should always be considered in the context of the potential donor’s wishes or commitments – these situations must be handled on a case-by-case basis with respect for cultural and religious views while maintaining the autonomously expressed wishes of the potential donor. Physicians should make every reasonable effort to be aware and considerate of the cultural and religious views of their patients as they pertain to OTDT. Likewise, Canadian medical schools, relevant subspecialties, and institutions should provide training and continuing professional development opportunities on OTDT, including both medicolegal implications and cultural competency. To protect the voluntariness of the potential donor’s decision, public appeals to encourage altruistic donation should not seek to compensate potential donors through payment and should not subvert established systems of organ allocation. Any exploitation or coercion of a potential donor must be avoided. However, remuneration from officially sanctioned sources for the purpose of reimbursement of costs associated with living donation (e.g., transfer to another location or lost wages during the procedure), may be considered when no party profits financially from the exchange. The CMA supports proposed amendments to the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that criminalizes or otherwise seeks to prevent the coercive collection and transplantation of organs domestically and internationally (i.e., organ trafficking – see relevant guidelines on trafficking ). The CMA also discourages Canadians from participating in organ tourism as either a recipient or donor; physicians should not take part in transplantation procedures where it is reasonable to suspect that organs have been obtained without the donor’s informed consent or where the donor received payment (from WHO Guiding Principle 7); however, in accordance with physicians’ commitment to the well-being of the patient and the professional responsibilities relating to the patient-physician relationship in the CMA Code of Ethics and Professionalism, physicians have an obligation to treat a post-tranplant patient if requested after the patient has participated in organ tourism; physicians should be aware of any legal or regulatory obligations they may have to report a patient’s organ tourism to national authorities, taking into consideration their duties of privacy and confidentiality to the patient. , 3. BALANCING BENEFICENCE AND NON-MALEFICENCE Balancing beneficence and non-maleficence means to: Consider first the well-being of the patient; always act to benefit 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 occurs; recognize the balance of potential benefits and harms associated with any medical act; and act to bring about a positive balance of benefits over harms. Deceased Donation Prospective donors can benefit from the knowledge that they can potentially save lives after their own deaths. However, potential donors must not be harmed by the act of donating. In accordance with the Dead Donor Rule, organ or tissue procurement should never be the cause of death. Moreover, the care of the dying patient must never be compromised by the desire to protect organs for donation or expedite death to allow timely organ retrieval. Physicians determining that a potential donor has died should not be directly involved in tissue or organ removal from the donor or subsequent transplantation procedures, nor should they be responsible for the care of any intended recipients of such tissues and organs (from WHO Guiding Principle 2). Leading clinical criteria, in conjunction with legally prescribed definitions of death and procedures, should inform the determination of death before donation procedures are initiated. DCD should be practiced in compliance with the regulations of individual transplant centers, relevant legislation, and leading Canadian clinical guidelines including the national recommendations for donation after cardiocirculatory death in Canada and the guidelines for the withdrawal of life-sustaining measures. Patients undergoing medical assistance in dying (MAiD) may also be eligible for organ and tissue donation – see relevant policy guidelines. Living Donation Living donors are motivated to act primarily for the benefit of the recipient. The perceived acceptability of living donation varies from person to person; living donation is deemed to be ethically acceptable when the potential benefits outweigh the potential risks of living donation; living donation is not ethically acceptable where there is a material risk of death of the donor; living donors must provide informed consent, meet medical and psychological requirements, and receive appropriate follow-up care. It is not necessary for the potential donor to be biologically or emotionally related to the recipient. 4. CONFIDENTIALITY AND PRIVACY Current practice protects the privacy of both donor and recipient and does not allow donation teams, organ donation organizations, or transplant teams to inform either party of the other’s identity. The continuation of this practice is encouraged at the present time to protect the privacy of both donors and recipients. In addition, healthcare providers should consider the privacy and confidentiality implications of practices employed throughout the assessment and post-operative periods – patient consent should be obtained for practices involving any loss of privacy or confidentiality (e.g. group education sessions, etc.). Deceased Donation A person’s choice about whether or not they intend to donate organs and tissues after their death is individual and, like other health-related information, should be considered private. The right to privacy regarding personal health information extends beyond the declaration of death. Living Donation Whenever possible, potential donor and recipients should be cared for and evaluated by separate medical teams. In the case of non-directed donations, it may be necessary for information to be shared between donor and recipient teams (e.g. recipient’s underlying disease and risk for recurrence); however, such information should be limited to what is necessary for making an informed choice. Conversely, the CMA recognizes that the choice and process of directed donation is one that is deeply personal, which is likely to result in the intersection of both donor and recipient pathways of care. In such cases, the same onus of confidentiality may not apply given the choices of the donor and recipient involved. Approved by the CMA Board of Directors December 2019
Documents
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Equity and diversity in medicine

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy14127
Date
2019-12-07
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
  3 documents  
Policy Type
Policy document
Date
2019-12-07
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Text
The objective of this policy is to provide guidance to physicians and institutions by identifying a set of guiding principles and commitments to promote equity and diversity in medicine (as defined in the Guiding Principles section). We address equity and diversity in medicine to improve circumstances and opportunities for all physicians and learners as part of our efforts to create a more collaborative and respectful culture and practice of medicine. To achieve this, we must redress inequities, bias, and discrimination in learning and practice environments. Individual protection from bias and discrimination is a fundamental right of all Canadians. By embracing the principles of equity and diversity, we can systematically address root causes and reduce structural barriers faced by those who want to enter the medical profession and those practicing medicine. In so doing, we improve their opportunities for advancement, health, and livelihood. The principles of equity and diversity are grounded in the fundamental commitment of the medical profession to respect for persons. This commitment recognizes that everyone has equal and inherent worth, has the right to be valued and respected, and to be treated with dignity. When we address equity and diversity, we are opening the conversation to include the voices and knowledge of those who have historically been under-represented and/or marginalized. It is a process of empowerment—where a person can engage with and take action on issues they define as important. Empowerment involves a meaningful shift in experience that fosters belonging in the profession and draws on community supports. As part of equity and diversity frameworks, inclusion is often articulated to refer to strategies used to increase an individual’s ability to contribute fully and effectively to organisational structures and processes. Inclusion strategies are specific organisational practices or programs focused on encouraging the involvement and participation of individuals from diverse backgrounds to integrate and value their perspectives in decision-making processes. Robust processes for inclusion are a vehicle to achieving equity and diversity. Thus, in this policy, the process of inclusion is understood to be positioned at the nexus of the overarching principles of equity and diversity. Equity and diversity initiatives can be carefully structured to complement and strengthen merit-based approaches. Enhanced support and appropriate methods of evaluation that increase equity of opportunity (for example, equity in training, hiring processes, and in access to resources) provide all physicians and learners with a fair opportunity to cultivate and demonstrate their unique capabilities and strengths, and to realize their full potential. Promoting equity and diversity fosters a just professional and learning culture that cultivates the diverse perspectives within it, reflects the communities physicians serve, and promotes professional excellence and social accountability as means to better serve patients. An increasingly diverse medical population provides opportunities for underserviced populations to receive better access to medical services and bolsters the management of clinical cases through the contribution of different points of view. Evidence indicates that when demonstrably more equity and diversity in medicine is achieved, physicians experience greater career satisfaction, health and wellness, and a sense of solidarity with the profession while patients experience improved care and a more responsive and adaptable health care system. Evidence further indicates that realizing the full potential of human capital is an essential driver of innovation and health system development. This policy is consistent with the CMA Code of Ethics and Professionalism and the CMA Charter of Shared Values and strives to be in the spirit of the recommendations relevant to health made in the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The policy is informed by a body of evidence described in the accompanying Background document that includes a Glossary of terms. GUIDING PRINCIPLES A clear set of principles and commitments to improving equity and diversity demonstrates that we hold ourselves accountable to recognizing and challenging behaviours, practices, and conditions that hinder equity and diversity and to promoting behaviours, practices, and conditions that will achieve these goals. Achieving equity in medicine Equity refers to the treatment of people that recognizes and is inclusive of their differences by ensuring that every individual is provided with what they need to thrive, which may differ from the needs of others. It is a state in which all members of society have similar chances to become socially active, politically influential, and economically productive through the absence of avoidable or remediable differences among groups of people (defined socially, economically, demographically, or geographically). Equity in the medical profession is achieved when every person has the opportunity to realize their full potential to create and sustain a career without being unfairly impeded by discrimination or any other characteristic-related bias or barrier. To achieve this, physicians must 1) recognize that structural inequities that privilege some at the expense of others exist in training and practice environments and 2) commit to reducing these by putting in place measures that make recruitment, retention, and advancement opportunities more accessible, desirable, and achievable. To that end, physicians must apply evidence-based strategies and support applied research into the processes that lead to inequities in training and practice environments. Fostering diversity in medicine Diversity refers to observable and non-observable characteristics which are constructed—and sometimes chosen—by individuals, groups, and societies to identify themselves (e.g., age, culture, religion, indigeneity, ethnicity, language, gender, sexuality, health, ability, socio-economic and family status, geography). The barriers to diversity in medicine are broad and systemic. Individuals and groups with particular characteristics can be excluded from participation based on biases or barriers. Even when they are included, they are often not able to use the full range of their skills and competencies. As with improving equity, the benefits of a more diverse medical profession include improved health outcomes, system-level adaptation, and physician health and wellness. To achieve these benefits, the medical profession must become increasingly diverse by striving to create, foster, and retain physicians and learners who reflect the diversity of the communities they serve and it must be responsive to the evolving (physical, emotional, cultural, and socioeconomic) needs of patients. Promoting a just professional and learning culture Physicians value learning and understand that it reflects, and is informed by, the professional culture of medicine. A just professional and learning culture is one of shared respect, shared knowledge, shared opportunity, and the experience of learning together. An environment that is physically and psychologically safe by reducing bias, discrimination, and harassment is critical to creating and sustaining such a culture. To achieve this, the profession must strive to integrate cultural safety by fostering and adopting practices of cultural competence and cultural humility. Physicians and leaders across all levels of training, practice, and health settings, and through formal and informal mentorships, must also promote and foster environments where diverse perspectives are solicited, heard, and appreciated. In this way, diverse individuals are both represented in the professional culture of medicine and actively involved in decision-making processes in all aspects of the profession. Fostering solidarity within the profession Solidarity means standing alongside others by recognizing our commonality, shared vulnerabilities and goals, and interdependence. It is enacted through collective action and aims. To show solidarity within the profession means making a personal commitment to recognizing others as our equals, cultivating respectful, open, and transparent dialogue and relationships, and role modelling this behaviour. Solidarity enables each of us to support our colleagues in meeting their individual and collective responsibilities and accountabilities to their patients and to their colleagues. Being accountable to these goals and to each other means taking action to ensure the principles that guide the medical profession are followed, responding justly and decisively when they are not, and continually searching for ways to improve the profession through practice-based learning and experience. Promoting professional excellence and social accountability Engaged and informed research and action on equity and diversity is critical to promoting professional excellence and social accountability in medicine as means to better serve patients. Professional excellence is a fundamental commitment of the profession to contribute to the development of and innovation in medicine and society through clinical practice, research, teaching, mentorship, leadership, quality improvement, administration, and/or advocacy on behalf of the profession or the public. Social accountability is a pillar of the commitment to professional excellence by focusing those efforts on fostering competence to address the evolving health needs of the patients and communities physicians are mandated to serve. For care to be socially accountable, and to achieve professional excellence, physicians must provide leadership through advocacy and through action: advocacy about the benefits of addressing equity and diversity to achieve equitable health outcomes; and actions to be responsive to patient, community, and population health needs through high-quality evidence-based patient care. RECOMMENDATIONS To accomplish equity and diversity in medicine, organizational and institutional changes will be required across many facets of operation and culture including leadership, education, data gathering/analysis, and continuous improvement through feedback and evaluation of policies and programs. To achieve this, the CMA seeks to provide direction on broad action areas that require further specific actions and development measures in specific recruitment, training, and practice contexts. The CMA recommends: All medical organizations, institutions, and physician leaders: A. Take a leadership role in achieving greater equity and diversity by co-creating policies and processes that apply to them, and the individuals therein, in an accountable and transparent manner. This includes: 1. Identifying and reducing structural inequities, barriers, and biases that exist in training and practice environments to create fair opportunities for all physicians and learners; and providing the appropriate platforms, resources, and training necessary to do so to effect change collaboratively. 2. Practicing and promoting cultural safety, cultural competence, and cultural humility. 3. Providing training on implicit bias, allyship, cultural safety, cultural competence, and cultural humility, structural competence, and the value of diversity in improving health outcomes. 4. Ensuring a process is in place to review all workforce and educational policies, procedures, and practices toward considering their impact on equity and diversity. Areas of consideration include (but are not limited to) recruitment, promotion, pay, leave of absence, parental leave, resources and support, and working/learning conditions and accommodations. 5. Ensuring safe, appropriate, and effective avenues exist for those who may have experienced discrimination, harassment, or abuse in training and practice environments to report these events outside of their supervisory/promotional chain. Those experiencing these events should also be able to seek counselling without the fear of negative consequences. 6. Working towards creating and appropriately funding equity and diversity Chairs, Committees, or Offices with a mandate to investigate and address issues in equity and diversity. 7. Promoting and enabling formal and informal mentorship and sponsorship opportunities for historically under-represented groups. B. Encourage the collection and use of data related to equity and diversity through research and funding, and, specifically, review their data practices to ensure: 1. Historically under-represented groups are meaningfully engaged through the co-development of data practices. 2. Data regarding the representation of under-represented groups is being systematically and appropriately collected and analyzed. 3. Information collected is used to review and inform internal policy and practice with the aim of reducing or eliminating system-level drivers of inequity. 4. Findings relating to these data are made accessible. C. Support equity and diversity in recruitment, hiring, selection, appointment, and promotion practices by: 1. Requesting and participating in training to better understand approaches and strategies to promote equity and diversity, including implicit bias and allyship training that highlights the roles and responsibilities of all members of the community with emphasis on self-awareness, cultural safety, and sensitivity to intersectionalities. 2. Studying organizational environments and frameworks and identifying and addressing hiring procedures, especially for leadership and executive positions, that perpetuate institutional inequities and power structures that privilege or disadvantage people. 3. Adopting explicit criteria to recruit inclusive leaders and to promote qualified candidates from historically under-represented groups in selection processes. Additional recommendations for institutions providing medical education and training: 1. Establishing programs that espouse cultural safety, cultural competence, and cultural humility. 2. Encouraging all instructors develop competencies including non-discriminatory and non-stereotyping communication, awareness of intersectionality, and cultural safety. 3. Providing training programs, at the undergraduate level onwards, that include awareness and education around stereotypes (gender and otherwise), intersectionalities, and the value of diversity in improving health outcomes. 4. Providing diversity mentorship programs that aim to support diverse candidates through education and training to graduation. 5. Promoting and funding student-led programs that create safe and positive spaces for students and principles of equity and diversity. 6. Ensuring recruitment strategies and admission frameworks in medical schools incorporate more holistic strategies that recognize barriers faced by certain populations to enable a more diverse pool of candidates to apply and be fairly evaluated. 7. Developing learning communities (such as undergraduate pipelines described in the background document) to promote careers in medicine as a viable option for individuals from historically under-represented communities. Approved by the CMA Board of Directors December 2019
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The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change - Policy brief for Canada

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy14257
Date
2019-11-01
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Policy endorsement
Date
2019-11-01
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change Policy brief for Canada 1 Finding: Exposure to wildfires is increasing in Canada, with more than half of the 448,444 Canadians evacuated due to wildfires between 1980 and 2017 displaced in the last decade. Recommendation: Incorporate lessons learned from recent severe wildfire seasons into a strengthened pan-Canadian emergency response approach that anticipates increasing impacts as the climate continues to change. Finding: The percentage of fossil fuels powering transport in Canada remains high, though electricity and biofuels are gaining ground. Fine particulate air pollution generated by transportation killed 1063 Canadians in 2015, resulting in a loss of economic welfare for Canadians valued at approximately $8 billion dollars. Recommendation: Develop provincial and territorial legislation requiring automakers to gradually increase the annual percentage of new light-duty vehicles sold that are zero emissions, working toward a target of 100% by 2040. Finding: Canada has the third-highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions from healthcare in the world, with healthcare accounting for approximately 4% of the country’s total emissions. Recommendation: Establish a sustainable healthcare initiative that assembles experts from research, education, clinical practice, and policy to support Canada’s healthcare sector in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preventing pollution-related deaths, consistent with healthcare’s mandate to ‘do no harm’ and the timelines and goals of the Paris Agreement, charting a course for zero-emissions healthcare by 2050. Finding: The health of Canadians is at risk due to multiple and varied risks of climate change, including those described in this policy brief (see Figure 1). An ongoing, coordinated, consistent and pan-Canadian effort to track, report, and create healthy change is required. Recommendation: Integrate health considerations into climate-related policymaking across sectors, including in Canada’s updated 2020 Nationally Determined Contribution Commitments under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process, and increase ambition to ensure Canada commits to doing its fair share in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. Introduction Climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century,1 and tackling it could be our greatest health opportunity.2 “The health of a child born today will be impacted by climate change at every stage in their life. Without significant intervention, this new era will come to define the health of an entire generation.”3 However, another path is possible: a world that meets the ambition of the Paris Agreement and proactively adapts to protect health from the climate impacts we cannot now avoid. This year’s briefing presents key findings and recommendations toward this path. Key messages and recommendations Health and climate change in Canada Imagine an infant born today in Canada. This child enters a country warming at double the global rate, with the average temperature in Canada having increased 1.7oC between 1948-2016.4 The North is warming even faster: areas in the Northwest Territories’ Mackenzie Delta are now 3oC warmer than in 1948.5 Climate-related impacts on health and health systems are already being felt,6 with examples outlined in Figure 1. By the time the child is in their twenties, in all feasible emissions scenarios, Canada will have warmed by at least 1.5oC as compared to a 1986-2005 reference period.4 Two scenarios are possible for the remainder of the child’s life. If GHG emissions continue to rise at the current rate (a situation referred to by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as the “high emissions scenario,” or ‘RCP8.5’) temperature increases in Canada will continue after 2050, reaching 6oC relative to 1986-2005 by the time the child is in their child’s sixties.4 Globally, this degree of warming places populations at a greater risk of wildfires, extreme heat, poor air quality, and weather-related disasters. It will also lead to changes in vector-borne disease, as well as undernutrition, conflict, and migration. These impacts and others negatively impact mental health,3 including via ecological anxiety and grief.8 Climate change will not impact everyone equally, and can widen existing disparities in health outcomes between and within populations, with Indigenous populations, people in low-resource settings,28 and future generations29 disproportionately affected.30 This degree of warming has the potential to disrupt core public health infrastructure and overwhelm health services.2 Alternatively, if global emissions peak soon and quickly fall to net zero, consistent with the IPCC’s low-emissions scenario, (RCP 2.6), temperatures will remain steady from 2040 onwards.4 Measures needed to accomplish this, such as increasing clean energy, improving Figure 1: Examples of impacts of Climate Change on Health and Health Systems in Canada Indicators of climate-related health impacts and adaptation This year’s policy brief presents information on three key indicators of climate-related health impacts and adaptive responses. Additional recommendations can also be found in the 2017 and 2018 policy briefs.6,24 Wildfires Lancet Countdown data indicates that the number of daily population wildfire exposure events increased from an average of 35,300 in 2001-2004 to 54,100 in 2015-2018, not including those subjected to wildfire smoke. Canadian data supports increasing impacts: more than half of the 448,444 Canadians evacuated due to wildfires between 1980-2017 were displaced in the last decade.35 These exposures not only pose a threat to public health, but also result in major economic and social burdens. 2019 marks a crux point for humanity: choices and policies made in the lead up to the 2020 UNFCCC Nationally Determined Contribution submissions will determine whether the world follows the disastrous high-emissions scenario, or the safer low-emissions path. Children are taking to the streets to demand a livable world. It is the task of today’s political leaders and other adults to exert maximal effort within their spheres of influence in order to set a course for a healthy response to climate change. public transit, cycling and walking rates, and adhering to a plantrich diet in accordance with Canada’s new food guide, decrease emissions, and also improve health and decrease healthcare costs.30 Canada is not on track: in 2016, total Canadian GHG emissions were 704 Mt CO2e, an increase of more than 100 Mt since 1990.31 Policies and measures currently under development but not yet implemented are forecast to reduce national emissions to 592 Mt CO2e by 2030,32 79 Mt CO2e above Canada’s 2030 target of 513 MtCO2e 32—a goal which is itself too weak to represent a fair contribution by Canada to the emissions reductions necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Climate Change Agreement. The Earth as a whole is warming less quickly than Canada—but still far too fast. The IPCC and the World Health Organization have emphasized that keeping global surface temperature warming to 1.5oC is key to obtaining the best outcomes now possible for human health.33,34 To do so would require global net human-caused emissions to fall by about 45% from 2010 by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ by 2050.34 Updated Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement are due to be submitted by 2020: policymakers must integrate health considerations through proposed interventions. Figure 2: Number of Wildfire Evacuees in Canada 1980-2017.* Source: Wildland Fire Evacuation Database, Natural Resources Canada.35 (used with permission) *N.B. Reporting for 2017 only includes evacuations up to and including July In a mid-range GHG emissions scenario, wildfires in Canada are projected to rise 75% rise by the end of the 21st century,36 necessitating a strong adaptive response. Human health impacts of fire include death, trauma, and major burns,37 anxiety during wildfire periods,35,38 and post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression related to evacuations.39,40 Wildfire smoke also travels vast distances41 and increases asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbations, with growing evidence of an association with all-cause mortality.41 Impacts on health systems can be severe: during the Fort McMurray fire hospital staff evacuated 103 patients in a matter of hours,10,42 and the 2017 British Columbia wildfires resulted in 700+ staff displaced, 880 patients evacuated, and 19 sites closed by the Interior Health Authority, at a cost of $2.7 million.12 Such devastating events also generate significant emissions, contributing to climate change, and helping to generate conditions conducive to future blazes.43 Much can be done to lessen the health impacts of wildfires. Qualitative data indicates that populations who are better-briefed on the local evacuation plan, as well as ways to lessen the risk of fire to their property, are not only more prepared but also less anxious.35,38 Building codes can be changed to help keep smoke out, primary care practitioners can ensure vulnerable patients receive at-home air filtration systems and respiratory medications prior to wildfire season,44 public health professionals can collaborate with municipal officials to maximize smoke forecast-informed outdoor and well-ventilated indoor recreation opportunities,38 and health personnel can help ensure evacuation plans are clearly communicated.45 Sustainable and healthy transport since 2000, they account for less than 4% of the energy used in transport (Figure 3). This rate of change is inconsistent with the emissions pathway required to keep today’s and future children safe. Support is therefore required for investments in public transit,47 and cycling infrastructure,48 creating win-wins for health by increasing physical activity levels and improving community cohesion, while reducing chronic disease, healthcare costs and GHG emissions.49,50 Zero emissions vehicles also reduce air pollution and are increasingly affordable: the up-front cost of electric vehicles is forecast to become competitive on an un-subsidized basis from 2024 onwards.51 British Columbia recently passed legislation requiring all new cars sold to be zero-emission by 2040.52 Other provinces would benefit from matching this ambition. Figure 3: Per Capita Fuel Consumption for Transport in Canada. Source: Lancet Countdown Transport-related pollution is harming the health of Canadians. Fine particulate matter (PM2.5) air pollution related to land-based transportation was responsible for approximately 1063 deaths in 2015 in Canada, resulting in a loss of economic welfare for Canadians valued at approximately $8 billion dollars.24 Additionally, Canada has the highest pediatric asthma rate amongst countries of comparable income level, with nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from traffic responsible for approximately 1 in 5 new cases of asthma in children.46 With transport responsible for 24% of national GHG emissions in 2017,31 decarbonizing this sector must be prioritized. Progress is entirely too slow: total fuel consumption for road transport per capita decreased 5.4% from 2013 to 2016. While per capita use of electricity and biofuels for transport increased by 600% Healthcare sector emissions Though Canadians are proud of the care they provide for one another with this country’s system of universal healthcare,53 Lancet Countdown analysis reveals an area which should give pause to all who endeavor to “do no harm”: Canada’s healthcare system has the world’s third highest emissions per capita. Previous analysis showed healthcare sector emissions to be responsible for 4.6% of the national total,54 as well as more than 200,000 tons of other pollutants, resulting in 23,000 disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) lost annually.54 Emissions from the health sector represent a strategic mitigation target in a single-payer healthcare system straining under the weight of an inexorably increasing burden of disease. While Canadian healthcare sector emissions are increasing, the world-leading Sustainable Development Unit in England reported an 18.5% decrease in National Health Service, public health and social care system emissions from 2007-2017 despite an increase in clinical activity.55 Despite healthcare being a provincial jurisdiction, there is a role for pan-Canadian sustainability initiatives to unite diverse experts spanning public health and the spectrum of clinical disciplines, economics, sustainability science and beyond. This demands health sector-wide education, consistent with existing efforts to increase environmental literacy for health professionals.56 1. Costello A, Abbas M, Allen A, Ball S, Bell S, Bellamy R, et al. Managing the health effects of climate change: Lancet and University College London Institute for Global Health Commission. Lancet 2009;373(9676):1693-733. 2. Watts N, Amann M, Arnell N, et al. The 2018 report of The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: shaping the health of nations for centuries to come. Lancet 2018; vol. 392: 2479–514. 3. Watts N, Amann M, Arnell N, et al. The 2019 report of The Lancet Countdown on health and climate change: ensuring that the health of a child born today is not defined by a changing climate. Lancet 2019; vol. 394: 1836–78. 4. Government of Canada. Canada’s Changing Climate Ottawa, Ontario,; 2019. 5. Government of the Northwest Territories. Climate Observations in the Northwest Territories (1957-2012) Inuvik * Norman Wells * Yellowknife * Fort Smith. 6. Howard C, Rose C, Hancock T. Lancet Countdown 2017 Report: Briefing for Canadian Policymakers. Lancet Countdown and Canadian Public Health Association; 2017 October 31st, 2017. 7. Rosol R, Powell-Hellyer S, Chan HM. Impacts of decline harvest of country food on nutrient intake among Inuit in Arctic Canada: impact of climate change and possible adaptation plan. Int J Circumpolar Health 2016;75(1):31127. 8. Cunsolo A, Ellis N. Ecological grief as a mental health response to climate change-related loss. Nature Climate Change 2018;8:275-81. 9. Yao J, Eyamie J, Henderson SB. Evaluation of a spatially resolved forest fire smoke model for population-based epidemiologic exposure assessment. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 2016;26(3):233-40. 10. Hampshire G. Hospital heroes get patients to safety during Fort McMurray fire: 17 buses took 105 patients to safety in dramatic evacuation. CBC News. 2016. Available from: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/hospital-heroesget- patients-to-safety-during-fort-mcmurray-fire-1.3574416. 11. Kirchmeier-Young M, Zwiers F, Gillett N, Cannon A. Attributing extreme fire risk in Western Canada to human emissions. Climatic Change 2017;144(2):365-79. 12. British Columbia Interior Health Authority. Wildfire Emergency Response 2017. 2018. 13. Kirchmeier-Young M, Gillett N, Zwieres F, Cannon A, Anslow F. Attribution of the Influence of Human-Induced Climate Change on an Extreme Fire Season. Earth’s Future: American Geophysical Union 2018. 14. Alberta Health. Impact of Wildfires on the Mental Health of Fort McMurray Residents: Neurotic Disorders, Daily Physician Visits within an Emergency Department 2015 vs. 2016. Alberta Health, Health Standards, Quality and Performance Division, Analytics and Performance Reporting Branch,; 2016. 15. Teufel B, Diro GT, What K, Mildrad SM, Jeong DI, Ganji A, et al. Investigation of the 2013 Alberta flood from weather and climate perspectives. Climate Dynamics 2017:2881-99. 16. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Alberta Flood 2013: The five people we lost. 2014. Available from: https://www.cbc.ca/calgary/features/albertaflood2013/ alberta-flood-deaths/. 17. United Nurses of Alberta. UNA Calgary office closed, many health facilities affected by southern Alberta flooding. 2013 June 21, 2013. 18. Yusa A, Berry P, J JC, Ogden N, Bonsal B, Stewart R, et al. Climate Change, Drought and Human Health in Canada. Int J Environ Res Public Health 2015;12(7):8359-412. 19. Smoyer-Tomic KE, Klaver JD, Soskolne CL, Spady DW. Health Consequences of Drought on the Canadian Prairies. EcoHealth 2004. 20. Government of Canada Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Impact of Climate Change on Canadian Agriculture. 2015 [Oct 22, 2017]; Available from: http:// www.agr.gc.ca/eng/science-and-innovation/agricultural-practices/agriculture- and-climate/future-outlook/impact-of-climate-change-on-canadian-agriculture/? id=1329321987305 21. Cryderman K. Drought in Western Canada is becoming an agricultural nightmare for farmers. 2018. Available from: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/ canada/alberta/article-drought-in-western-canada-is-becoming-an-agricultural- nightmare-for/. 22. Ziska LH, Makra L, Harry SK, Bruffaerts N, Hendrickx M, Coates F, et al. Temper-ature-related changes in airborne allergenic pollen abundance and seasonality across the northern hemisphere: a retrospective data analysis. Lancet Planet Health 2019;3(3):e124-e31. 23. Nelder MP, Wijayasri S, Russell CN, Johnson KO, Marchand-Austin A, Cronin K, et al. The continued rise of Lyme disease in Ontario, Canada: 2017. Canadian Communicable Disease Review 2018;44(10):231-6. 24. Howard C, Rose C, Rivers N. Lancet Countdown 2018 Report: Briefing for Canadian Policymakers. Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Public Health Association, The Lancet Countdown; 2018 November. 25. a. Regional Public Health Department of Montreal. Epidemiological Investigation Heat Wave Summer 2018 in Montréal - Summary. 2019. b. Vogel MM, Zscheischler J, Wartenburger R, et al. Concurrent 2018 hot extremes across Northern hemisphere due to human-induced climate change. Earth's Future, 2019; vol. 7, 692–703. https://doi.org/10.1029/ 2019EF001189 26. Fenech A. Yes, Mr. Premier, Your Province is Shrinking! 2014 [cited 2019 Sept 20, 2019]; Available from: http://projects.upei.ca/climate/2014/02/16/ yes-mr-premier-your-province-is-shrinking/ 27. Kelleya C, Mohtadib S, Canec M, Seagerc R, Kushnirc Y. Climate change in the Fertile Crescent and implications of the recent Syrian drought. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science 2015;112 no 11: 3241–6,. 28. Berry HL, Bowen K, Kjellstrom T. Climate change and mental health: a causal pathways framework. Int J Public Health 2010;55(2):123-32. 29. Walpole SC, Rasanathan K, Campbell-Lendrum D. Natural and unnatural synergies: climate change policy and health equity. Bull World Health Organ 2009;87(10):799-801. 30. Watts N, Adger WN, Agnolucci P, Blackstock J, Byass P, Cai W, et al. Health and climate change: policy responses to protect public health. Lancet 2015;386(10006):1861-914. 31. Government of Canada. Greenhouse Gas Emissions. 2018 [June 13, 2018.]; Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/ services/environmental-indicators/greenhouse-gas-emissions.html 32. Environment and Climate Change Canada. Canadian Environmental Sustainability Indicators: Progress Towards Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Target. 2019 [Sept 3, 2019]; Available from: https://www.canada. ca/content/dam/eccc/documents/pdf/cesindicators/progress-towards-canada- greenhouse-gas-reduction-target/2019/progress-towards-ghg-emissions- target-en.pdf 33. Ebi K, Campbell-Lendrum D, Wyns A. The 1.5 Health Report--Synthesis on Health and Climate Science in the IPCC SR1.5. 2018 2018. 34. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Global Warming of 1.5C--Summary for Policymakers. 2018 October 8, 2018. 35. Christianson A. Wildland Fire Evacuations in Canada. Natural Resources Canada; 2017. 36. Wotton M, Nock C, Flannigan M. International Journal of Wildland Fire 2010;19(3):253-71. 37. Cameron PA, Mitra B, Fitzgerald M, Scheinkestel CD, Stripp A, Batey C, et al. Black Saturday: the immediate impact of the February 2009 bushfires in Victoria, Australia. Med J Aust 2009;191(1):11-6. 38. Dodd W, Scott P, Howard C, Scott C, Rose C, Cunsolo A, et al. Lived experience of a record wildfire season in the Northwest Territories, Canada. Can J Public Health 2018;109(3):327-37. 39. McDermott BM, Lee EM, Judd M, Gibbon P. Posttraumatic stress disorder and general psychopathology in children and adolescents following a wildfire disaster. Can J Psychiatry 2005;50(3):137-43. 40. Papanikolaou V, Adamis D, Mellon RC, Prodromitis G. Psychological distress following wildfires disaster in a rural part of Greece: a case-control population- based study. Int J Emerg Ment Health 2011;13(1):11-26. 41. Reid CE, Brauer M, Johnston FH, Jerrett M, Balmes JR, Elliott CT. Critical Review of Health Impacts of Wildfire Smoke Exposure. Environ Health Perspect 2016;124(9):1334-43. 42. Matear D. The Fort McMurray, Alberta wildfires: Emergency and recovery management of healthcare services. J Bus Contin Emer Plan 2017;11(2):128- 50. 43. Liu Y, Goodrick S, Heilman W. Wildland fire emissions, carbon, and climate: Wildfire–climate interactions. Forest Ecology and Management 2014;317:80- 96. 44. Barn PK, Elliott CT, Allen RW, Kosatsky T, Rideout K, Henderson SB. Portable air cleaners should be at the forefront of the public health response to landscape fire smoke. Environ Health 2016;15(1):116. 45. Maguet S. Public Health Responses to Wildfire Smoke Events. BC Center for Disease Control; 2018. 46. Achakulwisut P, Brauer M, Hystad P, Anenberg SC. Global, national, and urban burdens of paediatric asthma incidence attributable to ambient NO2 pollution: estimates from global datasets. Lancet Planet Health 2019;3(4):e166-e78. 47. Besser LM, Dannenberg AL. Walking to public transit: steps to help meet physical activity recommendations. Am J Prev Med 2005;29(4):273-80. 48. United Kingdom Department of Transport. Value for Money Assessment for Cycling Grants. 2014. 49. Woodcock J, Tainio M, Cheshire J, O’Brien O, Goodman A. Health effects of the London bicycle sharing system: health impact modelling study. BMJ 2014;348:g425. 50. Maizlish N, Woodcock J, Co S, Ostro B, Fanai A, Fairley D. Health cobenefits and transportation-related reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in the San Francisco Bay area. Am J Public Health 2013;103(4):703-9. 51. Willett W, Rockstrom J, Loken B, Springmann M, Lang T, Vermeulen S, et al. Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems. Lancet 2019. 52. Zussman R. Legislation introduced to require all new cars sold in B.C. to be zero-emission by 2040. Global News Online. 2019. Available from: https:// globalnews.ca/news/5152429/legislation-introduced-electric-cars/2019. 53. Thompson N. More Canadians take pride in symbols of the country’s present than its past: survey. 2019. 54. Eckelman MJ, Sherman JD, MacNeill AJ. Life cycle environmental emissions and health damages from the Canadian healthcare system: An economic- environmental-epidemiological analysis. PLoS Med 2018;15(7):e1002623. 55. National Health System Sustainable Development Unit. Reducing the use of natural resources in health and social care 2018 report. 2018. 56. Parkes M, Poland B, Allison A, Cole DC, Culbert I, Gislason MK, et al. In press-Preparing for the future of public health: Ecological determinants of health and the call for an eco-social approach to public health education. Canadian Journal of Public Health 2019. DOI: 10.17269/s41997-019-00263-8. References Organisations and acknowledgements The concept of this brief was developed by the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change. This brief was written by Courtney Howard, MD; Chris Buse, PhD; Caren Rose, PhD; Andrea MacNeill, MD, MSc; and Margot Parkes, MBChB, MAS, PhD. Review was provided by Owen Adams, PhD; Ian Culbert; and Sandy Buchman, MD. Thanks to Sarah Henderson, PhD; Peter Barry, PhD; Brian Wiens, PhD; Robin Edger, LLB, LLM; Jeff Eyamie, and Ashlee Cunsolo, PhD for their assistance. Contributions and review on behalf of the Lancet Countdown were provided by Jess Beagley and Nick Watts, MBBS. THE LANCET COUNTDOWN The Lancet Countdown: Tracking Progress on Health and Climate Change is an international, multi-disciplinary collaboration that exists to monitor the links between public health and climate change. It brings together 35 academic institutions and UN agencies from every continent, drawing on the expertise of climate scientists, engineers, economists, political scientists, public health professionals, and doctors. Each year, the Lancet Countdown publishes an annual assessment of the state of climate change and human health, seeking to provide decision-makers with access to high-quality evidence-based policy guidance. For the full 2019 assessment, visit www.lancet countdown.org/2019-report . THE CANADIAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION The Canadian Medical Association (CMA), formed in Quebec City in 1867, has led some of Canada’s most important health policy changes. As we look to the future, the CMA will focus on advocating for a healthy population and a vibrant profession. THE CANADIAN PUBLIC HEALTH ASSOCIATION The Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA) is a national, independent, non-governmental organization that advances public health education, research, policy and practice in Canada and around the world through the Canadian Journal of Public Health, position statements, discussion documents and other resources.
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Clinical guideline for homeless and vulnerably housed people, and people with lived homelessness experience

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy14165
Date
2019-10-17
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Policy endorsement
Date
2019-10-17
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
Homeless and vulnerably housed populations are heterogeneous and continue to grow in numbers in urban and rural settings as forces of urbanization collide with gentrification and austerity policies.2 Collectively, they face dangerous living conditions and marginalization within health care systems.3 However, providers can improve the health of people who are homeless or vulnerably housed, most powerfully by following evidence-based initial steps, and working with communities and adopting anti-oppressive practices.1,4,5 Broadly speaking, “homelessness” encompasses all individuals without stable, permanent and acceptable housing, or lacking the immediate prospect, means and ability of acquiring it.6 Under such conditions, individuals and families face intersecting social, mental and physical health risks that significantly increase morbidity and mortality.7,8 For example, people who are homeless and vulnerably housed experience a significantly higher prevalence of trauma, mental health conditions and substance use disorders than the general population.7,9 Canadian research reports that people who experience homelessness face life expectancies as low as 42 years for men and 52 years for women.7 A generation ago, homeless Canadians were largely middleaged, single men in large urban settings.10 Today, the epidemiology has shifted to include higher proportions of women, youth, Indigenous people (Box 1), immigrants, older adults and people from rural communities.13,14 For example, family homelessness (and therefore homelessness among dependent children and youth) is a substantial, yet hidden, part of the crisis.15 In 2014, of the estimated 235 000 homeless people in Canada, 27.3% were women, 18.7% were youth, 6% were recent immigrants or migrants, and a growing number were veterans and seniors.10 Practice navigators, peer-support workers and primary care providers are well placed to identify social causes of poor health and provide orientation to patient medical homes.16,17 A patient’s medical home is “a family practice defined by its patients as the place they feel most comfortable presenting and discussing their personal and family health and medical concerns.”18 Medical care is “readily accessible, centred on the patients’ needs, provided throughout every stage of life, and seamlessly integrated with other services in the health care system and the community” (https://patientsmedicalhome.ca). Primary care providers are also well positioned to mobilize health promotion, disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment, and rehabilitation services.19 GUIDELINE VULNERABLE POPULATIONS CPD Clinical guideline for homeless and vulnerably housed people, and people with lived homelessness experience Kevin Pottie MD MClSc, Claire E. Kendall MD PhD, Tim Aubry PhD, Olivia Magwood MPH, Anne Andermann MD DPhil, Ginetta Salvalaggio MD MSc, David Ponka MDCM MSc, Gary Bloch MD, Vanessa Brcic MD, Eric Agbata MPH MSc, Kednapa Thavorn PhD, Terry Hannigan, Andrew Bond MD, Susan Crouse MD, Ritika Goel MD, Esther Shoemaker PhD, Jean Zhuo Jing Wang BHSc, Sebastian Mott MSW, Harneel Kaur BHSc, Christine Mathew MSc, Syeda Shanza Hashmi BA, Ammar Saad, Thomas Piggott MD, Neil Arya MD, Nicole Kozloff MD, Michaela Beder MD, Dale Guenter MD MPH, Wendy Muckle BScN MHA, Stephen Hwang MD, Vicky Stergiopoulos MD, Peter Tugwell MD n Cite as: CMAJ 2020 March 9;192:E240-54. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.190777 CMAJ Podcasts: author interview at https://soundcloud.com/cmajpodcasts/190777-guide See related article at www.cmaj.ca/lookup/doi/10.1503/cmaj.200199 KEY POINTS
Clinical assessment and care of homeless and vulnerably housed populations should include tailoring approaches to a person’s gender, age, Indigenous heritage, ethnicity and history of trauma; and advocacy for comprehensive primary health care.
As initial steps in the care of homeless and vulnerably housed populations, permanent supportive housing is strongly recommended, and income assistance is also recommended.
Case-management interventions, with access to psychiatric support, are recommended as an initial step to support primary care and to address existing mental health, substance use and other morbidities.
Harm-reduction interventions, such as supervised consumption facilities, and access to pharmacologic agents for opioid use disorder, such as opioid agonist treatment, are recommended for people who use substances. GUIDELINE CMAJ
MARCH 9, 2020
VOLUME 192
ISSUE 10 E241 However, the social and health resources available to homeless and vulnerably housed people may vary based on geographic setting, municipal resources, housing coordination, and patients’ mental health and substance use–related care needs. In addition, many physical and mental health disorders remain undiagnosed or inconsistently treated because of missed opportunities for care, patient mistrust of the health care system or limited access to health services.3 Homeless and vulnerably housed people can benefit from timely and effective health, addiction and social interventions. Our guideline provides initial steps for practice, policy and future research, and is intended to build collaboration among clinicians, public health providers and allied health providers. Values such as trauma-informed and patient-centred care, and dignity are needed to foster trust and develop sustainable therapeutic relationships with homeless and vulnerably housed people.20,21 Scope The purpose of this clinical practice guideline is to inform providers and community organizations of the initial priority steps and effective interventions for homeless and vulnerably housed people. The guideline addresses upstream social and health needs (i.e., housing), as well as downstream health-related consequences of inadequate housing. The target audiences are health providers, policymakers, public health practitioners and researchers. Our guideline does not aim to address all conditions associated with homelessness, nor does it aim to discuss in depth the many etiologies of homelessness, such as childhood trauma, the housing market, or the root causes of low social assistance rates and economic inequality. Rather, this guideline aims to reframe providers’ approach toward upstream interventions that can prevent, treat and work toward ending the morbidity and mortality associated with homelessness. A parallel set of Indigenous-specific clinical guidelines is currently being developed by an independent, Indigenous-led team.22 This process recognizes the distinct rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the right to develop and strengthen their own economies, social and political institutions; the direct links between historic and ongoing colonial policies and Indigenous homelessness; and the need for Indigenous leadership and participation in research that is about Indigenous Peoples. Recommendations The steering committee and guideline panel members developed and approved recommendations to improve social and health outcomes for homeless and vulnerably housed people. The order of these recommendations highlights priority steps for homeless health care. We list a summary of the recommendations in Table 1 and we present our list of good practice statements in Table 2. These good practice statements are based on indirect evidence and support the delivery of the recommendations. The methods used to develop the recommendations are described later in this document. A summary of how to use this guideline is available in Box 2. Permanent supportive housing
Identify homelessness or housing vulnerability and willingness to consider housing interventions.
Ensure access of homeless or vulnerably housed individuals to local housing coordinator or case manager (i.e., call 211 or via a social worker) for immediate link to permanent supportive housing and/or coordinated access system (moderate certainty, strong recommendation). Evidence summary Our systematic review (Tim Aubry, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ont.: unpublished data, 2020) identified 14 trials on permanent supportive housing (PSH).30–43 Several trials across Canada and the United States showed that PSH initiatives house participants more rapidly compared with usual services (73 v. 220 d; adjusted absolute difference 146.4, 95% confidence interval [CI] 118.0 to 174.9);30 increase the number of people who maintain stable housing at 2 years (pooled odds ratio [OR] 3.58, 95% CI 2.36 to 5.43);30,40 and significantly increase the percentage of days spent stably housed.41 No trials showed a significant improvement in mental health symptoms compared with standard care.30,31,33,34,41,42 Two studies found that the mental health of PSH participants did not improve as much as that of usual care participants (e.g., mean difference –0.49, 95% CI –0.85 to –0.12).30,31 The At Home/Chez Soi trial showed small improvements in quality of life for high-needs (adjusted standardized mean difference 0.15, 95% CI 0.04 to 0.24)30 and moderate-needs (mean difference 4.37, 95% CI 1.60 to 7.14) homeless participants in patients receiving PSH.41 Youth receiving PSH saw larger improvements in their quality of life during the first 6 months (mean difference 9.30, 95% CI 1.35 to 17.24), which diminished over time (mean difference 7.29, 95% CI –1.61 to 16.18).44 No trials showed a significant improvement in substance use compared with standard care.30,33,41–43 Most trials reported no effect of PSH on acute care outcomes (e.g., number of emergency department visits and percentage of participants admitted to hospital).30,41 However, 2 trials suggest that PSH participants had lower rates of hospital admission (rate reductions of 29%, 95% CI 10 to 44) and time in hospital (e.g., mean difference –31, 95% CI –48 to –14).34,38,45 One trial found no effect of PSH on job tenure, hours of work per week or hourly wage compared with standard care.46 Participants receiving PSH may have increased odds of employment, but this depends on the severity of participant needs.46 One trial found no effect on income outcomes.46 Box 1: Indigenous homelessness Indigenous homelessness is a term used to describe First Nations, Métis and Inuit individuals, families or communities who lack stable, permanent and appropriate housing, or the immediate prospects, means or ability to acquire such housing. However, this term must be interpreted through an Indigenous lens to understand the factors contributing to this condition. These factors include individuals, families and communities isolated from their relationships to land, water, place, family, kin, each other, animals, cultures, languages and identities as well as the legacy of colonialism and genocide.11 It is estimated that urban Indigenous people are 8 times more likely to experience homelessness than the general population.11,12 GUIDELINE E242 CMAJ
ISSUE 10 The certainty of the evidence was rated moderate, because blinding of participants and personnel was not feasible in any of the trials we examined as a result of the nature of the intervention. Furthermore, several trials did not employ allocation concealment or blinding of outcome-assessment procedures, which could introduce high risks of detection and performance biases. Income assistance
Identify income insecurity.
Assist individuals with income insecurity to identify incomesupport resources and access income (low certainty, conditional recommendation). Evidence summary We identified 10 trials on income-assistance interventions, including rental assistance,47–56 financial empowerment,47 social enterprise interventions,48 individual placement and support,48,54 and compensated work therapy.52 Our systematic review showed the benefit that income-assistance interventions have on housing stability (Gary Bloch, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ont., and Vanessa Brcic, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC: unpublished data, 2020). Rental assistance increased the likelihood of being stably housed (OR 4.60, 95% CI 3.10 to 6.83).56 Rental assistance combined with case management increased the number of days in stable housing per 90-day period compared with case management alone (mean Table 1: Summary of evidence-based recommendations Recommendations and clinical considerations Grade rating* Recommendation 1: A homeless or vulnerably housed person Moderate certainty
Ensure access for homeless or vulnerably housed individuals to local housing coordinator or case manager (i.e., call 211 or via a social worker) for immediate link to permanent supportive housing and coordinated access system. Clinical considerations: Many jurisdictions will provide alternative housing services for specific marginalized populations, for example, Indigenous people, women and families, youth, those who identify as LGBTQ2+, those with disabilities, refugees and migrants. Strong recommendation Recommendation 2: A homeless or vulnerably housed person with experience of poverty, income instability or living in a low-income household Low certainty
Assist individuals with income insecurity to identify income-support resources and access income. Clinical considerations: Consult poverty screening tools when needed (e.g., https://cep.health/clinical-products /poverty-a-clinical-tool-for-primary-care-providers). Conditional recommendation Recommendation 3: A homeless or vulnerably housed person with multiple comorbid or complex health needs (including mental illness and/or substance use) Low certainty
Identify history of severe mental illness, such as psychotic or mood and anxiety disorders, associated with substantial disability, substance use, or multiple/complex health needs.
Ensure access to local community mental health programs, psychiatric services for assessment, and linkage to intensive case management, assertive community treatment or critical time intervention where available. Clinical considerations: Call 211 or consult primary care providers, social workers or case managers familiar with local access points and less intensive community mental health programs. Conditional recommendation Recommendation 4: A homeless or vulnerably housed person currently using opioids Very low certainty
Identify opioid use disorder.
Ensure access within primary care or via an addiction specialist to opioid agonist therapy (OAT), potentially in collaboration with a public health or community health centre for linkage to pharmacologic interventions. Clinical considerations: Encourage all patients taking opioid medication to have a naloxone kit. Though barriers to prescribing methadone and buprenorphine remain, be aware of new regulations that aim to facilitate OAT access and options in your jurisdiction, in particular for buprenorphine. Conditional recommendation Recommendation 5: A homeless or vulnerably housed person with substance use disorder Very low certainty
Identify, during history or physical examination, problematic substance use, including alcohol or other drugs.
Identify the most appropriate approach, or refer to local addiction and harm-reduction/prevention services (e.g., supervised consumption facilities, managed alcohol programs) via appropriate local resources such as public health or community health centre or local community services centre. Clinical considerations: In case of active opioid use disorder, facilitate patient access to OAT. Patients should be made aware of supervised consumption facility locations (Appendix 1, available at www.cmaj.ca/lookup/suppl/ doi:10.1503/cmaj.190777/-/DC1). Conditional recommendation Note: LGBTQ2+ = lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and two-spirited. *See Box 2 for definitions. †211 is a special abbreviated telephone number reserved in Canada and the United States as an easy-to-remember 3-digit telephone number meant to provide information and referrals to health, human and social service organizations. GUIDELINE CMAJ
ISSUE 10 E243 difference 8.58, p < 0.004).55 Compensated work therapy was found to reduce the odds of homelessness (OR 0.1, 95% CI 0.1 to 0.3).52 No income interventions showed an effect on mental health outcomes.47,52,55,56 The impact of these interventions on substance use outcomes were mixed. Provision of housing vouchers did not affect substance use over 3 years;55 however, compensated work therapy showed immediate reductions in drug (reduction: –44.7%, standard error [SE] 12.8%; p = 0.001) and alcohol use problems (–45.4%, SE 9.4%; p = 0.001), as well as the number of substance use–related physical symptoms (–64.4%, SE 8.0%; p = 0.001).52 These differences, however, tended to decline with time. No significant effects were found on overall quality-of-life, finances, health and social relations scores. Provision of housing vouchers resulted in higher family-relations score and satisfaction, and quality of housing compared with standard care.55 One trial reported that rental assistance was associated with reduced emergency department visits and time spent in hospital, but this reduction was not significantly different than in the comparator group.56 Individual placement and support was found to improve employment rates only when there was high fidelity to the model (OR 2.42, 95% CI 1.13 to 5.16).54 Financial-empowerment education and provision of housing vouchers had no effect on employment outcomes.47,55 Financial-empowerment education and individual placement and support had no effect on hourly wages.47,54 Provision of housing vouchers had no effect on monthly income.55 The certainty of the evidence was rated low because several trials introduced high risk of detection and performance bias. Furthermore, 1 trial reported low consent rates of 47% and a 1:4 sampling ratio that further limited statistical power.52 As well, participants in the control group wanting to enter income-assistance programs after completing the study had incentives to underreport symptoms, which introduced high risk for measurement bias. Case management
Identify history of severe mental illness, such as psychotic or mood and anxiety disorders, associated with substantial disability, substance use disorders, or multiple or complex health needs.
Ensure access to local community mental health programs, psychiatric services for assessment and linkage to intensive case management, assertive community treatment or critical time intervention where available (low certainty, conditional recommendation). Evidence summary Our systematic review examined the effectiveness of standard case management, as well as specific intensive casemanagement interventions, such as assertive community treatment, intensive case management and critical time intervention among homeless and vulnerably housed populations and corresponding level of need (David Ponka, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ont.: unpublished data, 2020). We included a total of 56 citations, of which 10 trials reported on standard case management,51,57–65 8 trials on assertive community treatment,66–73 16 trials on intensive case management74–89 and 5 trials on critical time intervention.90–94 Box 2: How to use and understand this GRADE guideline (www.gradeworkinggroup.org) This guideline supplies providers with evidence for decisions concerning interventions to improve health and social outcomes for people who are homeless or vulnerably housed. This guideline is not meant to replace clinical judgment. Statements about clinical considerations, values and preferences are integral parts of the recommendations meant to facilitate interpretation and implementation of the guideline. Recommendations in this guideline are categorized according to the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE) system as strong or conditional recommendations. Strong recommendations indicate that all or almost all fully informed patients would choose the recommended course of action, and indicate to clinicians that the recommendation is appropriate for all or almost all individuals. Strong recommendations represent candidates for quality-of-care criteria or performance indicators. Conditional recommendations indicate that most informed patients would choose the suggested course of action, but an appreciable minority would not. With conditional recommendations, clinicians should recognize that different choices will be appropriate for individual patients, and they should help patients arrive at a decision consistent with their values and preferences. Conditional recommendations should not be used as a basis for standards of practice (other than to mandate shared decision-making). Good practice statements represent common-sense practice, are supported by indirect evidence and are associated with assumed large net benefit. Clinical considerations provide practical suggestions to support implementation of the GRADE recommendation. GRADE certainty ratings High: further research is very unlikely to change our confidence in the estimate of effect. Moderate: further research is likely to have an important impact on the confidence in the estimate of effect and may change the estimate. Low: further research is very likely to have an important impact on our confidence in the estimate of effect and is likely to change the estimate. Very low: any estimate of the effect is very uncertain. Table 2: Good practice statements to support delivery of care Good practice statement Indirect evidence (reference) 1. Homeless and vulnerably housed populations should receive trauma-informed and personcentred care. 23–26 2. Homeless and vulnerably housed populations should be linked to comprehensive primary care to facilitate the management of multiple health and social needs. 27 3. Providers should collaborate with public health and community organizations to ensure programs are accessible and resources appropriate to meet local patient needs. 28,29 GUIDELINE E244 CMAJ
ISSUE 10 Of 10 trials on standard case management, 10 evaluated housing stability. Only 3 reported significant decreases in homelessness,57,62,63 an effect that diminished over time in 1 trial of a time-limited residential case management in which participants in all groups accessed substantial levels of services.57 A program tailored to women reduced the odds of depression at 3 months (OR 0.38, 95% CI 0.14 to 0.99), but did not show improvements in the women’s overall mental health status (mean difference 4.50, 95% CI –0.98 to 9.98).64 One trial reported higher levels of hostility (p < 0.001) and depression symptoms (p < 0.05) among female participants receiving nurse-led standard case management compared with those receiving standard care.60 Few studies reported on substance use, quality of life, employment or income outcomes. Findings of assertive community treatment on housingstability, quality-of-life and hospital-admission outcomes are mixed. Two trials found that participants receiving the treatment reported fewer days homeless (p < 0.01)71 and more days in community housing (p = 0.006),70 whereas 2 trials reported no effect on episodes of homelessness or number of days homeless.66,73 Further, these interventions showed an added benefit in reducing the number of participants admitted to hospital (mean difference –8.6, p < 0.05) and with visits to the emergency department (mean difference –1.2, p = 0.009).67 Most trials of assertive community treatment reported no significant differences in mental health outcomes, including psychiatric symptoms, substance use, or income-related outcomes between the treatment and control groups. Intensive case management reduced the number of days homeless (pooled standardized mean difference –0.22, 95% CI –0.40 to –0.03), but not the number of days spent in stable housing.78,80,89 In most studies, there was no major improvement in psychological symptoms between the treatment and control groups. However, 1 trial reported significantly greater reductions in anxiety, depression and thought disturbances after 24 months (mean difference change from baseline –0.32, p = 0.007), as well as improved life satisfaction (mean difference 1.23, p = 0.001) using intensive case management.86 One trial reported no significant difference in quality of life.83 Findings on substance use were mixed. Six of the 10 trials reported that intensive case management was associated with improvements in substance use behaviours.74,78,82,84,87,88 Participants receiving intensive case management reported fewer visits to the emergency department (mean difference 19%, p < 0.05) but did not have shorter hospital stays compared with control groups.85 Intensive case management had no effect on the number of days of employment, or on income received from employment; however, income received by participants through public assistance increased (e.g., mean difference 89, 95% CI 8 to 170).78,85 Critical time intervention was beneficial in reducing the number of homeless nights (mean difference –591, p < 0.001) and the odds of homelessness (OR 0.23, 95% CI 0.06 to 0.90) during the final 18 weeks of follow-up.91 Participants receiving the treatment were rehoused sooner than those receiving standard care,95 but did not spend more days rehoused.90 Adults receiving critical time intervention showed significant improvements in psychological symptoms (mean difference –0.14, 95% CI –0.29 to 0.01).90 However, findings for children’s mental health were mixed: children aged 1.5–5 years showed improvements in internalizing (ß coefficient –3.65, 95% CI –5.61 to –1.68) and externalizing behaviours (ß coefficient –3.12, 95% CI –5.37 to –0.86), whereas changes for children aged 6–10 years and 11–16 years were not significant.93 There were no significant effects of critical time intervention on substance-use,90 quality-of-life90,92 or income-related outcomes.96 Two trials reported mixed findings on hospital admission outcomes; in 1 study, allocation to critical time intervention was associated with reduced odds of hospital admission (OR 0.11, 95% CI 0.01 to 0.96) and total number of nights in hospital (p < 0.05) in the final 18 weeks of the trial.97 However, another study reported a greater total number of nights in hospital for the treatment group compared with usual care (1171 v. 912).98 The certainty of the evidence was rated low because several trials introduced high risk of detection and performance bias. Opioid agonist therapy
Ensure access to opioid agonist therapy in primary care or by referral to an addiction specialist, potentially in collaboration with public health or community health centre for linkage to pharmacologic interventions (low certainty, conditional recommendation). Evidence summary We conducted a review of systematic reviews on pharmalogic interventions for opioid use disorder.99 Twenty-four reviews, which included 352 unique primary studies, reported on pharmacologic interventions for opioid use disorder among general populations.100–123 We expanded our inclusion criteria to general populations, aware that most studies among “general populations” had a large representation of homeless populations in their samples. We did not identify any substantial reason to believe that the mechanisms of action of our interventions of interest would differ between homeless populations who use substances and the general population of people who use substances. Reviews on pharmacologic interventions reported on the use of methadone, buprenorphine, diacetylmorphine (heroin), levo-a-acetylmethadol, slow-release oral morphine and hydromorphone for treatment of opioid use disorder. We found pooled all-cause mortality rates of 36.1 and 11.3 per 1000 person years for participants out of and in methadone maintenance therapy, respectively (rate ratio 3.20, 95% CI 2.65 to 3.86), and mortality rates of 9.5 per 1000 person years for those not receiving buprenorphine maintenance therapy compared with 4.3 per 1000 person years among those receiving the therapy (rate ratio 2.20, 95% CI 1.34 to 3.61).116 Overdose-specific mortality rates were similarly affected, with pooled overdose mortality rates of 12.7 and 2.6 per 1000 person years for participants out of and in methadone maintenance therapy, and rates of 4.6 and 1.4 per 1000 person years out of and in buprenorphine maintenance therapy.116 Compared with nonpharmacologic approaches, methadone maintenance therapy had no significant GUIDELINE CMAJ
ISSUE 10 E245 effect on mortality (relative risk 0.48, 95% CI 0.10 to 2.39).110 With respect to morbidity, pharmacologic interventions for opioid use disorder reduced the risk of hepatitis C virus (HCV) acquisition (risk ratio 0.50, 95% CI 0.40 to 0.63)112 and HIV infection.103 Adverse events were reported for all agents.100,109,119,122 Treatment with methadone and buprenorphine was associated with reduced illicit opioid use (standardized mean difference –1.17, 95% CI –1.85 to –0.49).109 Availability of buprenorphine treatment expanded access to treatment for patients unlikely to enrol in methadone clinics and facilitated earlier access for recent initiates to opioid use.117 The relative superiority of one pharmacologic agent over another on retention outcomes remains unclear; however, use of methadone was found to show better benefits than nonpharmacologic interventions for retention (risk ratio 4.44, 95% CI 3.26 to 6.04).110 The certainty of evidence ranged from very low to moderate, primarily because of inconsistency, high risk of bias and evidence from nonrandomized studies. Harm-reduction interventions
Identify problematic substance use, including alcohol or other drugs.
Identify the most appropriate approach or refer to local addiction and harm reduction/prevention services (e.g., supervised consumption facilities, managed alcohol programs) via appropriate local resources, such as public health or community health centre or les centres locaux de services communautaires (low certainty, conditional recommendation). Evidence summary We conducted a review of systematic reviews on supervised consumption facilities and managed alcohol programs.99 Two systematic reviews, which included 90 unique observational studies and 1 qualitative meta-synthesis reported on supervised consumption facilities.124–126 For managed alcohol programs, 1 Cochrane review had no included studies,127 and 2 greyliterature reviews reported on 51 studies.128,129 Establishment of supervised consumption facilities was associated with a 35% decrease in the number of fatal opioid overdoses within 500 m of the facility (from 253.8 to 165.1 deaths per 100 000 person years, p = 0.048), compared with 9% in the rest of the city (Vancouver).124 There were 336 reported opioid overdose reversals in 90 different individuals within the Vancouver facility over a 4-year period (2004–2008).125 Similar protective effects were reported in Australia and Germany. Observational studies conducted in Vancouver and Sydney showed that regular use of supervised consumption facilities was associated with decreased syringe sharing (adjusted OR 0.30, 95% CI 0.11 to 0.82), syringe reuse (adjusted OR 2.04, 95% CI 1.38 to 3.01) and public-space injection (adjusted OR 2.79, 95% CI 1.93 to 3.87).125 These facilities mediated access to ancillary services (e.g., food and shelter) and fostered access to broader health support.125,126 Attendance at supervised consumption facilities was associated with an increase in referrals to an addiction treatment centre and initiation of methadone maintenance therapy (adjusted hazard ratio 1.57, 95% CI 1.02 to 2.40).125 Evidence on supervised consumption facilities was rated very low to low, as all available evidence originated from nonrandomized studies. There was a lack of high-quality evidence for managed alcohol programs. Few studies reported on deaths among clients of these programs.128 The effects of managed alcohol programs on hepatic function are mixed, with some studies reporting improvement in hepatic laboratory markers over time, and others showing increases in alcohol-related hepatic damage;129 however, this may have occurred regardless of entry into such a program. This evidence suggested that managed alcohol programs result in stabilized alcohol consumption and can facilitate engagement with medical and social services.128 Clients experienced significantly fewer social, health, safety and legal harms related to alcohol consumption.129 Individuals participating in these programs had fewer hospital admissions and a 93% reduction in emergency service contacts.128 The programs also promoted improved or stabilized mental health128 and medication adherence.129 Cost effectiveness and resource implications Permanent supportive housing We found 19 studies assessing the cost and net cost of housing interventions.30,41,45,130–145 In some studies, permanent supportive housing interventions were associated with increased cost to the payers, and the costs of the interventions were only partially offset by savings in medical and social services as a result of the intervention.30,41,131–134,142 Six studies showed that these interventions saved payers money.135,137,139,141,144,145 Four of these studies, however, employed a pre–post design.135,139,141,145 Moreover, 1 cost-utility analysis of PSH suggested that the provision of housing services was associated with increased costs and increased quality-adjusted life years, with an incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of US$62 493 per quality-adjusted life year.136 Compared with usual care, PSH was found to be more costly to society (net cost Can$7868, 95% CI $4409 to $11 405).138 Income assistance Two studies55,146 focused on the cost effectiveness of incomeassistance interventions. Rental assistance with clients receiving case-management intervention had greater annual costs compared with usual care or groups receiving only case management.55 For each additional day housed, clients who received income assistance incurred additional costs of US$58 (95% CI $4 to $111) from the perspective of the payer, US$50 (95% CI –$17 to $117) from the perspective of the health care system and US$45 (95% CI –$19 to $108) from the societal perspective. The benefit gained from temporary financial assistance was found to outweigh its costs with a net savings of US$20 548.146 Case management Twelve publications provided evidence on cost and costeffectiveness of case-management interventions.44,55,67,69,73,75,88,96,147–150 Findings of these studies were mixed; the total cost incurred by clients of standard case management was higher than that of clients receiving usual or standard care61,88 and assertive GUIDELINE E246 CMAJ
ISSUE 10 community treatment,67,147 but lower compared with a US clinical case-management program that included housing vouchers and intensive case management.55 Cost-effectiveness studies using a societal perspective showed that standard case management was not cost effective compared with assertive community treatment for people with serious mental disorders or those with a concurrent substance-use disorder, as it was more expensive.67 For intensive case management, the cost of supporting housing with this program could be partially offset by reductions in the use of emergency shelters and temporary residences.41 Intensive case management is more likely to be cost effective when all costs and benefits to society are considered.41 A pre–post study showed that providing this program to high-need users of emergency departments resulted in a net hospital cost savings of US$132 726.150 Assertive community treatment interventions were associated with lower costs compared with usual care.66,67,73,148,149 We identified only 1 study on the cost effectiveness of critical time intervention that reported comparable costs (US$52 574 v. US$51 749) of the treatment compared with the usual services provided to men with severe mental illness.96 Interventions for substance use We identified 2 systematic reviews that reported findings from 6 studies in Vancouver on the cost effectiveness of supervised consumption facilities;124,125 5 of these 6 studies found the facilities to be cost effective. After consideration of facility operating costs, supervised consumption facilities saved up to Can$6 million from averted overdose deaths and incident HIV cases. Similarly, Can$1.8 million was saved annually from the prevention of incident HCV infection. Clinical considerations Providers can, in partnership with directly affected communities, employ a range of navigation and advocacy tools to address the root causes of homelessness, which include poverty caused by inadequate access to social assistance, precarious work, insufficient access to quality child care, social norms that allow the propagation of violence in homes and communities, inadequate supports for patients and families living with disabilities or going through life transitions, and insufficient and poor-quality housing stock.151 In addition, providers should tailor their approach to the patient’s needs and demographics, taking into account access to services, personal preferences and other illnesses.152 Providers should also recognize the social and human value of accepting homeless and vulnerably housed people into their clinical practices. The following sections provide additional evidence for underserved and marginalized populations. Women A scoping review of the literature on interventions for homeless women (Christine Mathew, Bruyère Research Institute, Ottawa, Ont.: unpublished data, 2020) yielded 4 systematic reviews153–156 and 9 randomized controlled trials (RCTs)36,60,92,95,157–161 that focused specifically on homeless and vulnerably housed women. Findings showed that PSH was effective in reducing the risk of intimate partner violence and improving psychological symptoms.158 For women with children experiencing homelessness, priority access to permanent housing subsidies can reduce child separations and foster care placements, allowing women to maintain the integrity of their family unit.158 As well, Housing First programs for families, critical time interventions during times of crisis, and therapeutic communities are associated with lower levels of psychological distress, increased self-esteem and improved quality of life for women and their families.92,155 A gender-based analysis highlighted the importance of safety, service accessibility and empowerment among homeless women. We suggest that providers focus on patient safety, empowerment among women who have faced genderbased violence, and improve access to resources, including income, child care and other social support services. Youth A systematic review on youth-specific interventions reported findings from 4 systematic reviews and 18 RCTs.162 Permanent supportive housing improved housing stability. As well, individual cognitive behavioural therapy has been shown to result in significant improvements in depression scores, and family-based therapies are also promising, resulting in reductions in youth substance use through restoring the family dynamic. Findings on motivational interviewing, skill building and case-management interventions were inconsistent, with some trials showing a positive impact and others not identifying significant benefits. Refugee and migrant populations A qualitative systematic review on homeless migrants (Harneel Kaur, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ont.: unpublished data, 2020) identified 17 qualitative articles that focused on the experiences of homeless migrants.163–179 Findings indicated that discrimination, limited language proficiency and severed social networks negatively affected homeless migrants’ sense of belonging and access to social services, such as housing. However, employment opportunities provided a sense of independence and improved social integration. Methods Composition of participating groups In preparation for the guideline, we formed the Homeless Health Research Network (https://methods.cochrane.org/equity/ projects/homeless-health-guidelines), composed of clinicians, academics, and governmental and nongovernmental stakeholders. The Homeless Health Guideline Steering Committee (K.P. [chair], C.K., T.A., A.A., G.S., G.B., D.P., E.A., V.B., V.S. and P.T.) was assembled to coordinate guideline development. Expert representation was sought from eastern and western Canada, Ontario, Quebec and the Prairie provinces for membership on the steering committee. In addition, 5 people with lived experience of homelessness (herein referred to as “community scholars”180) were recruited to participate in the guideline-development activities. A management committee (K.P., C.K. and P.T.) oversaw the participating groups and monitored competing interests. The steering committee decided to develop a single guideline publication informed by a series of 8 systematic reviews. The GUIDELINE CMAJ
ISSUE 10 E247 steering committee assembled expert working groups to operationalize each review. Each working group consisted of clinical topic experts and community scholars who were responsible for providing contextual expertise. The steering committee also assembled a technical team, which provided technical expertise in the conduct and presentation of systematic reviews and meta-analyses. Finally, the steering committee assembled the guideline panel, which had the responsibility to provide external review of the evidence and drafted recommendations. The panel was composed of 17 individuals, including physicians, primary care providers, internists, psychiatrists, public health professionals, people with lived experience of homelessness, medical students and medical residents. Panel members had no financial or intellectual conflicts of interest. A full membership list of the individual teams’ composition is available in Appendix 2, available at www.cmaj.ca/lookup/ suppl/doi:10.1503/cmaj.190777/-/DC1. Selection of priority topics We used a 3-step modified Delphi consensus method (Esther Shoemaker, Bruyère Research Institute, Ottawa, Ont.: unpublished data, 2020) to select priority health conditions for marginalized populations experiencing homelessness or vulnerable housing. Briefly, between May and June 2017, we developed and conducted a survey (in French and English), in which we asked 84 expert providers and 76 people with lived homelessness experience to rank and prioritize an initial list of needs and populations. We specifically asked participants, while answering the Delphi survey, to keep in mind 3 priority-setting criteria when considering the unique challenges of implementing health care for homeless or vulnerably housed people: value added (i.e., the opportunity for a unique and relevant contribution), reduction of unfair and preventable health inequities, and decrease in burden of illness (i.e., the number of people who may have a disease or condition).181 The initial top 4 priority needs identified were as follows: facilitating access to housing, providing mental health and addiction care, delivering care coordination and case management, and facilitating access to adequate income. The priority marginalized populations identified included Indigenous people; women and families; youth; people with acquired brain injury, or intellectual or physical disabilities; and refugees and other migrants (Esther Shoemaker, Bruyère Research Institute, Ottawa, Ont.: unpublished data, 2020). Each working group then scoped the literature using Google Scholar and PubMed to determine a list of interventions and terms relating to each of the priority-need categories. Each working group came to consensus on the final list of interventions to be included (Table 3). Guideline development We followed the GRADE (Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation) approach for the development of this clinical guideline, including the identification of clinical questions, systematic reviews of the best available evidence, Table 3: Descriptions of priority-need interventions Intervention Description Permanent supportive housing
Long-term housing in the community with no set preconditions for access. Housing may be paired with the provision of individualized supportive services that are tailored to participants’ needs and choices, including assertive community treatment and intensive case management.
This guideline groups the Housing First model (a homeless assistance approach that prioritizes providing housing) with permanent supportive housing. Income assistance
Benefits and programs that improve socioeconomic status. This may include assistance that directly increases income and programs that help with cost reduction of basic living necessities.
This guideline also groups employment programs (e.g., individual placement and support, and compensated work therapy) in this category. Case management
Standard case management allows for the provision of an array of social, health care and other services with the goal of helping the client maintain good health and social relationships.
Intensive case management offers the support of a case manager who brokers access to an array of services. Case-management support can be available for up to 12 hours per day, 7 days a week, and each case manager often has a caseload of 15–20 service users.
Assertive community treatment offers team-based care to individuals with severe and persistent mental illness by a multidisciplinary group of health care workers in the community. This team should be available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.
Critical time intervention supports continuity of care for service users during times of transition. Case management is administered by a critical time intervention worker and is a time-limited service, usually lasting 6–9 months. Pharmacologic interventions for substance use disorder
Pharmacologic interventions for opioid use disorder, including methadone, buprenorphine, diacetylmorphine, levo-a-acetylmethadol and naltrexone.
Pharmacologic agents for reversal of opioid overdose: opioid antagonist administered intravenously or intranasally (e.g., naloxone). Harm reduction for substance use disorders
Supervised consumption facilities: facilities (stand-alone, co-located or pop-up) where people who use substances can consume preobtained substances under supervision.
Managed alcohol programs: shelter, medical assistance, social services and the provision of regulated alcohol to support residents with severe alcohol use disorder. GUIDELINE E248 CMAJ
ISSUE 10 assessment of the certainty of the evidence and development of recommendations.182 We conducted a series of systematic reviews to answer the following clinical question: Should PSH, income assistance, case management, pharmacologic agents for opioid use, and/or harm-reduction interventions be considered for people with lived experience of homelessness? Systematic reviews for each intervention were driven by a logic model. A detailed description of the methods used to compile evidence summaries for each recommendation, including search terms, can be found in Appendix 3, available at www.cmaj.ca/ lookup/suppl/doi:10.1503/cmaj.190777/-/DC1. We sought evidence on questions considering population, interventions and comparisons according to published a priori protocols.183–186 We used relevant terms and structured search strategies in 9 bibliographic databases for RCTs and quasi-experimental studies. The technical team reviewed titles, abstracts and full texts of identified citations, selected evidence for inclusion and compiled evidence reviews, including cost-effectiveness and resource-use data, for consideration by the guideline panel. The technical team collected and synthesized data on the following a priori outcomes: housing stability, mental health, quality of life, substance use, hospital admission, employment and income. Where possible, we conducted meta-analyses with random effects and assessed certainty of evidence using the GRADE approach. Where pooling of results was not appropriate, we synthesized results narratively. In addition to the intervention and cost-effectiveness reviews, the technical team conducted 3 systematic reviews to collect contextual and population-specific evidence for the populations prioritized through our Delphi process (women, youth, refugees and migrants) (Christine Mathew, Bruyère Research Institute, Ottawa, Ont.: unpublished data, 2020; Harneel Kaur, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ont.: unpublished data, 2020).162 Additionally, we conducted 1 qualitative literature review to capture patient values and preferences, focused on the experiences of people who are homeless in engaging with our selected interventions.20 Drafting of recommendations The steering committee hosted a 2-day knowledge-sharing event, termed the “Homeless Health Summit,” on Nov. 25–26, 2018. Attendees included expert working group members, community scholars, technical team members, and other governmental and nongovernmental stakeholders. Findings from all intervention reviews were presented and discussed according to the GRADE Evidence to Decision framework.187 After the meeting, the steering committee drafted GRADE recommendations (Box 2) through an iterative consensus process. All steering-committee members participated in multiple rounds of review and revision of the drafted clinical recommendations. Guideline panel review We used the GRADE Evidence to Decision framework to facilitate the development of recommendations187–189 (Appendix 4, available at www.cmaj.ca/lookup/suppl/doi:10.1503/cmaj.190777/-/DC1). We used GRADEpro and the Panel Voice software to obtain input from the guideline panel.190 Panellists provided input on the wording and strength of the draft recommendations. They also provided considerations for clinical implementation. We required endorsement of recommendations by 60% of panel members for acceptance of a recommendation. After review by the guideline panel, the steering committee reviewed the final recommendations before sign-off. Good practice statements We developed a limited number of good practice statements to support the delivery of the initial evidence-based recommendations. A good practice statement characteristically represents situations in which a large and compelling body of indirect evidence strongly supports the net benefit of the recommended action, which is necessary for health care practice.191–193 Guideline-development groups consider making good practice statements when they have high confidence that indirect evidence supports net benefit, there is a clear and explicit rationale connecting the indirect evidence, and it would be an onerous and unproductive exercise and thus a poor use of the group’s limited resources to collect this evidence. The steering committee came to a consensus on 3 good practice statements based on indirect evidence. Identification of implementation considerations We completed a mixed-methods study to identify determinants of implementation across Canada for the guideline (Olivia Magwood, Bruyère Research Institute, Ottawa, Ont.: unpublished data, 2020). Briefly, the study included a survey of 88 stakeholders and semistructured interviews with people with lived experience of homelessness. The GRADE Feasibility, Acceptability, Cost (affordability) and Equity (FACE) survey collected data on guideline priority, feasibility, acceptability, cost, equity and intent to implement. We used a framework analysis and a series of meetings (Ottawa, Ont., Jan. 13, 2020; Hamilton, Ont., Aug. 16, 2019; Gatineau, Que., July 18, 2019) with relevant stakeholders in the field of homeless health to analyze our implementation data. Management of competing interests Competing interests were assessed using a detailed form adapted from the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors Uniform Disclosure Form for Potential Conflicts of Interest194 and the Elsevier sample coauthor agreement form for a scientific project, contingencies and communication.195 These forms were collected at the start of the guideline activities for the steering committee, guideline panel and community scholars. All authors submitted an updated form in June 2019 and before publication. The management committee iteratively reviewed these statements and interviewed participants for any clarifications and concerns. A priori, the management committee had agreed that major competing interests would lead to dismissal. There were no competing interests declared. Implementation Our mixed-methods study (Olivia Magwood, Bruyère Research Institute, Ottawa, Ont.: unpublished data, 2020) looking at guideline priority, feasibility, acceptability, cost, equity and intent to implement, identified the following concerns regarding implementation of this guideline. GUIDELINE CMAJ
ISSUE 10 E249 Stakeholders highlighted the importance of increasing primary care providers’ knowledge of the process of applying to PSH programs and informing their patients about the resources available in the community. The major concerns regarding feasibility arose around the limited availability of existing services, such as housing, as well as administrative and human resources concerns. For example, not all primary care providers work in a team-based comprehensive care model and have access to a social worker or care coordinator who can help link the patient to existing services. Furthermore, wait lists for PSH are frequently long. Despite this, all stakeholders agreed that access to PSH was a priority and is a feasible recommendation. Allied health practitioners and physicians do not always agree with their new role in this area. Some feedback suggested pushback from family physicians who have limited time with patients and less experience exploring social determinants of health, such as housing or income. The initial steps outlined in this guideline would come at an opportunity cost for them. Stigma attached to the condition of homelessness was recognized as an important barrier to care for homeless populations. Many stakeholders recognized that successful implementation of these recommendations may require moderate costs to increase the housing supply, income supports and human resources. However, supervised consumption facilities, with their range of benefits, were perceived as cost-saving. Many interventions have the potential to increase health equity, if available and accessible in a local context. Many stakeholders highlighted opportunities to increase knowledge of the initial steps and advocate on a systematic level to increase availability of services. Suggested performance measures We developed a set of performance measures to accompany this guidleline for consideration by providers and policy-makers:
The proportion of adults who are assessed for homelessness or vulnerable housing over 1 year.
The proportion of eligible adults who are considered for income assistance over 1 year.
The proportion of eligible adults using opioids who are offered opioid agonist therapy over 1 year. Updates The Homeless Health Research Network will be responsible for updating this guideline every 5 years. Other guidelines This guideline complements other published guidelines. This current guideline aims to support the upcoming Indigenousspecific guidelines that recognize the importance of Indigenous leadership and methodology that will recognize distinct underlying causes of Indigenous homelessness (Jesse Thistle, York University, Toronto, Ont.: personal communication, 2020). The World Health Organization has developed guidelines to promote healthy housing standards to save lives, prevent disease and increase quality of life.196 Other guidelines specific to opioid use disorder exist,197,198 including 1 for “treatment-refractory” patients.199 In the United Kingdom, the National Institute for Health Care and Excellence has published guidelines for outpatient treatment of schizophrenia and has published multimorbidity guidelines (www.nice.org.uk/guidance). The National Health Care for the Homeless Council in the US has adapted best practices to support front-line workers caring for homeless populations.200 How is this guideline different? This guideline distills initial steps and evidence-based approaches, to both homeless and vulnerably housed people, with the assistance of patients and other stakeholders. It also introduces a new clinical lens with upstream interventions that provide a social and health foundation for community integration. Its initial steps support the vision of the Centre for Homelessness Impact in the UK, which envisions a society where the experience of homelessness, in instances where it cannot be prevented, is only ever rare, brief and nonrecurrent.201 Finally, we hope that our stakeholder engagement inspires and equips future students, health providers and the public health community to implement the initial step recommendations. Gaps in knowledge Evidence-based policy initiatives will need to address the accelerating health and economic disparities between homeless and general housed populations. As primary care expands its medical home models,27 there will be a research opportunity for more traumainformed care202 to support the evidence-based interventions in this guideline. Indeed, clinical research can refine how providers use the initial steps protocol: housing, income, case management and addiction. With improved living conditions, care coordination and continuity of care, research and practice can shift to treatable conditions, such as HIV and HCV infection, substance use disorder, mental illness and tuberculosis.203 Medical educators will also need to develop new training tools to support the delivery of interventions. Curricula and training that support the delivery of interventions, such as traumainformed and patient-centred care, will also be needed.12 Many of the recommended interventions in this guideline rely on collaboration of community providers, housing coordinators and case management. Interdisciplinary primary care research and maintenance of linkages to primary care will benefit from new homeless health clinic networks. Monitoring transitions in care and housing availability will be an important research goal for Canada’s National Housing Strategy and the associated Reaching Home program. Conclusion Homelessness has become a health emergency. Initial steps in addressing this crisis proposed in this guideline include strongly recommending PSH as an urgent intervention. The guideline also recognizes the trauma, disability, mental illness and stigma GUIDELINE E250 CMAJ
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ISSUE 10 195. Primack RB, Cigliano JA, Parsons ECM, et al. Coauthors gone bad; how to avoid publishing conflict and a proposed agreement for co-author teams [editorial]. Biol Conserv 2014;176:277-80. 196. WHO housing and health guidelines. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2018. 197. Korownyk C, Perry D, Ton J, et al. Managing opioid use disorder in primary care: PEER simplified guideline. Can Fam Physician 2019;65:321-30. 198. Bruneau J, Ahamad K, Goyer M-È, et al.; CIHR Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse. Management of opioid use disorders: a national clinical practice guideline. CMAJ 2018;190:E247-57. 199. Fairbairn N, Ross J, Trew M, et al. Injectable opioid agonist treatment for opioid use disorder: a national clinical guideline. CMAJ 2019;191:E1049-56. 200. Montauk SL. The homeless in America: adapting your practice. Am Fam Physician 2006;74:1132-8. 201. Teixeira L, Russell D, Hobbs T. The SHARE framework: a smarter way to end homelessness. London (UK): Centre for Homelessness Impact; 2018; Available: www. homelesshub.ca/resource/share-framework-smarter-way-end-homelessness (accessed 2019 Dec. 12). 202. Purkey E, Patel R, Phillips SP. Trauma-informed care: better care for everyone. Can Fam Physician 2018;64:170-2. 203. Homelessness & health: What’s the connection [fact sheet]. Nashville (TN): National Health Care for the Homeless Council; 2011. Available: https://nhchc.org/wp-content /uploads/2019/08/Hln_health_factsheet_Jan10-1.pdf (accessed 2019 June 1). Competing interests: Gary Bloch is a founding member, former board member and currently a clinician with Inner City Health Associates (ICHA), a group of physicians working with individuals experiencing homelessness in Toronto, which provided funding for the development of this guideline. He did not receive payment for work on the guideline and did not participate in any ICHA board decision-making relevant to this project. Ritika Goel, Michaela Beder and Stephen Hwang also receive payment for clinical services from ICHA, and did not receive payment for any aspect of the submitted work. No other competing interests were declared. This article has been peer reviewed. Affiliations: C.T. Lamont Primary Health Care Research Centre (Pottie, d Wendy Muckle led the Homeless Health Summit. Esther Shoemaker led the Delphi consensus. Olivia Magwood led the reviews on lived experiences and substance use, Tim Aubry led the review on housing, Gary Bloch and Vanessa Brcic led the review on income, David Ponka and Eric Agbata led the review on case management, Jean Zhuo Jing Wang and Sebastian Mott led the homeless youth review, Harneel Kaur led the homeless migrant review, Christine Mathew and Anne Andermann led the homeless women review, Syeda Shanza Hashmi and Ammar Saad led medical student engagement and competency review, Thomas Piggott co-led the GRADE Assessment with Olivia Magwood and Kevin Pottie, Michaela Beder and Nicole Kozloff contributed substantially to the substance use review, and Neil Arya and Stephen Hwang provided critical policy information. All of the named authors engaged in the writing and review, gave final approval of the version of the guideline to be published, and agreed to be accountable for all aspects of the work. Funding: This guideline was supported by a peer-reviewed grant from the Inner City Health Associates, and supplemental project grants from the Public Health Agency of Canada, Employment Social Development Canada, Canadian Medical Association and Champlain Local Integrated Health Network. Personnel from collaborating agencies provided nonbinding feedback during the preparation of systematic reviews and the guideline. The funders had no role in the design or conduct of the study; collection, analysis and interpretation of the data; or preparation, review or final approval of the guideline. Final decisions regarding the protocol and issues that arose during the guideline-development process were solely the responsibility of the guideline steering committee. Acknowledgements: The authors thank everyone who participated in the development of this guideline, including community scholars, technical team leads, guideline panel members and working group members. Endorsements: Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Public Health Association, Canadian Federation of Medical Students, The College of Family Physicians of Canada, Public Health Physicians of Canada, Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, The Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, Canadian Nurses Association Disclaimer: The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of the funding agencies. Correspondence to: Kevin Pottie, kpottie@uottawa.ca
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Health Canada consultation on vaping products labelling and packaging regulations

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy14124
Date
2019-09-05
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Response to consultation
Date
2019-09-05
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) appreciates this opportunity to respond to the notice as published in the Canada Gazette, Part 1 for interested stakeholders to provide comments on Health Canada’s intent to establish a single set of regulations under the authorities of the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act (TVPA) and the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (CCPSA) with respect to the labelling and packaging of vaping products.1 Canada’s physicians, who see the devastating effects of tobacco use every day in their practices, have been working for decades toward the goal of a smoke-free Canada. The CMA issued its first public warning concerning the hazards of tobacco in 1954 and has continued to advocate for the strongest possible measures to control its use. The CMA has always supported strong, comprehensive tobacco control legislation, enacted and enforced by all levels of government, and we continue to do so. This includes electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes). Our approach to tobacco and vaping products is grounded in public health policy. We believe it is incumbent on all levels of government in Canada to continue working on comprehensive, coordinated and effective tobacco control strategies, including vaping products, to achieve the goal of reducing smoking prevalence. Introduction In our most recent brief, the CMA expressed its concerns regarding vaping and youth. This included marketing, flavours, nicotine levels, and reducing vaping and e-cigarette use among youths.2 In April 2019, the Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health expressed alarm at the rising number of Canadian youths who are vaping, having found this trend “very troubling.”3 The CMA concurred with this assessment and supports Health Canada’s intention to further tighten the regulations.2 Identifying Vaping Substances The findings of a recent Canadian study indicate an increase in vaping among adolescents in Canada and the United States.4 The growing acceptance of this practice is of concern to the CMA because of the rapidly emerging popularity of vaping products such as JUUL® and similar devices.4 It will be very important to identify clearly on the packaging all the vaping substances contained therein, along with a list of ingredients, as not enough is known about the long-term effects users may face.5,6 Users need to know what they are consuming so they can make informed choices about the contents. Studies have found substances in e-cigarette liquids and aerosols such as “nicotine, solvent carriers (PG and glycerol), tobacco-specific nitrosamines (TSNAs), aldehydes, metals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), phenolic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), flavorings, tobacco alkaloids, and drugs.”7 Nicotine Content As Hammond et al noted in their recent study, “JUUL® uses benzoic acid and nicotine salt technology to deliver higher concentrations of nicotine than conventional e-cigarettes; indeed, the nicotine concentration in the standard version of JUUL® is more than 50 mg/mL, compared with typical levels of 3-24 mg/mL for other e-cigarettes.”4 The salts and flavours available to be used with these devices reduce the harshness and bitterness of the taste of the e-liquids. Some of its competition deliver even higher levels of nicotine.8 The CMA has expressed its concerns about the rising levels of nicotine available through the vaping process.2 They supply “high levels of nicotine with few of the deterrents that are inherent in other tobacco products. Traditional e-cigarette products use solutions with free-base nicotine formulations in which stronger nicotine concentrations can cause aversive user experiences.”9 The higher levels of nicotine in vaping devices is also of concern because it “affects the developing brain by increasing the risk of addiction, mood disorders, lowered impulse control, and cognitive impairment.”10,11 The CMA has called on Health Canada to restrict the level of nicotine in vaping products to avoid youth (and adults) from developing a dependence.2 4 Health Warnings The CMA reiterates, again, its position that health warnings for vaping should be similar to those for tobacco packages.12,13 We support placing warning labels on all vaping products, regardless of the size of the package. The “space given to the warnings should be sufficient to convey the maximum amount of information while remaining clear, visible, and legible. The warnings should be in proportion to the packaging available.”13 The need for such cautions is important as there is still much that is not known about the effects vaping can have on the human body. A US study found “evidence that using combusted tobacco cigarettes alone or in combination with e-cigarettes is associated with higher concentrations of potentially harmful tobacco constituents in comparison with using e-cigarettes alone.”14 Some researchers have found that there is “significant potential for serious lung toxicity from e-cig(arette) use.”15,16 Another recent US study indicates that “adults who report puffing e-cigarettes, or vaping, are significantly more likely to have a heart attack, coronary artery disease and depression compared with those who don’t use them or any tobacco products.”17 Further, it was found that “compared with nonusers, e-cigarette users were 56 percent more likely to have a heart attack and 30 percent more likely to suffer a stroke.17 A worrisome development has emerged in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working in consultation with the states of Wisconsin, Illinois, California, Indiana, and Minnesota regarding a “cluster of pulmonary illnesses linked to e-cigarette product use, or “vaping,” primarily among adolescents and young adults.”18 Additional possible cases have been identified in other states and are being investigated. Child-Resistant Containers The CMA supports the need for child-resistant containers in order to enhance consumer safety; we have adopted a similar position with respect to cannabis in all forms.19,20 The need to include warning labels should reinforce the need for packaging these vaping products such that they will be inaccessible to small children. Recommendations 1. The CMA recommends more research into the health effects of vaping as well as on the components of the vaping liquids. 2. Health Canada should work to restrict the level of nicotine available for vaping products to avoid youth and adults from developing a dependence. 3. The CMA reiterates its position that health warnings for vaping should be like those being considered for tobacco packages. We support the proposed warning labels being placed on all vaping products. 4. The CMA recommends that all the vaping substances be identified clearly on the packaging, along with a list of ingredients. 5. The CMA supports the need for child-resistant containers. 5 1 Government of Canada. Canada Gazette, Part I, Volume 153, Number 25: Vaping Products Labelling and Packaging Regulations. Ottawa: Government of Canada; 2019. Available: http://gazette.gc.ca/rp-pr/p1/2019/2019-06-22/html/reg4-eng.html (accessed 2019 Jul 10). 2 Canadian Medical Association (CMA). Health Canada Consultation on Reducing Youth Access and Appeal of Vaping Products. Ottawa: CMA; 2019 May 24. Available: https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy14078 (accessed 2019 Jul 10). 3 Public Health Agency of Canada. Statement from the Council of Chief Medical Officers of Health on the increasing rates of youth vaping in Canada. Ottawa: Health Canada; 2019. Available: https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/statement-from-the-council-of-chief-medical-officers-of-health-on-the-increasing-rates-of-youth-vaping-in-canada-812817220.html (accessed 2019 Jul 24). 4 Hammond David, Reid Jessica L, Rynard Vicki L, et al. Prevalence of vaping and smoking among adolescents in Canada, England, and the United States: repeat national cross sectional surveys BMJ. 2019; 365:2219. Available: https://www.bmj.com/content/bmj/365/bmj.l2219.full.pdf (accessed 2019 Jul 24). 5 WHO Report on the Global Tobacco Epidemic, 2019. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2019. Available: https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/326043/9789241516204-eng.pdf?ua=1 (accessed 2019 Jul 30). 6 Dinakar, C., O’Connor GT. The Health Effects of Electronic Cigarettes. N Engl J Med. 2016;375:1372-81. Available: https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra1502466 (accessed 2019 Jul 30). 7 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Public health consequences of e-cigarettes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2018. Available: https://www.nap.edu/catalog/24952/public-health-consequences-of-e-cigarettes (accessed 2019 Jul 29). 8 Jackler RK, Ramamurthi D. Nicotine arms race: JUUL and the high-nicotine product market Tob Control 2019;0:1–6. 9 Barrington-Trimis JL, Leventhal AM. Adolescents’ Use of “Pod Mod” E-Cigarettes —Urgent Concerns. N Engl J Med 2018; 379:1099-1102. Available: https://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJMp1805758?articleTools=true (accessed 2019 Jul 30). 10 Chen-Sankey JC, Kong G, Choi K. Perceived ease of flavored e-cigarette use and ecigarette use progression among youth never tobacco users. PLoS ONE 2019;14(2): e0212353. Available: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0212353 (accessed 2019 Jul 30). 11 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. E-Cigarette Use Among Youth and Young Adults. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2016. Available: https://e-cigarettes.surgeongeneral.gov/documents/2016_sgr_full_report_non-508.pdf (accessed 2019 Jul 30). 12 Canadian Medical Association (CMA) CMA’s Recommendations for Bill S-5: An Act to amend the Tobacco Act and the Non-smokers’ Health Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. Ottawa: CMA; 2017 Apr 7. Available: https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy13641 (accessed 2019 Jul 30). 13 Canadian Medical Association. Health Canada consultation on tobacco products regulations (plain and standardized appearance) Ottawa: CMA; 2018 Sep 6. Available: https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy13930 (accessed 2019 Jul 30). 14 Goniewicz ML. et al. Comparison of Nicotine and Toxicant Exposure in Users of Electronic Cigarettes and Combustible Cigarettes JAMA Network Open. 2018;1(8):e185937. Available: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2718096 (accessed 2019 Jul 30). 15 Chan LF. Et al. Pulmonary toxicity of e-cigarettes Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 313: L193–L206, 2017 Available: https://www.physiology.org/doi/pdf/10.1152/ajplung.00071.2017 (accessed 2019 Jul 30). 16 Li D, Sundar IK, McIntosh S, et al. Association of smoking and electronic cigarette use with wheezing and related respiratory symptoms in adults: cross-sectional results from the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) study, wave 2. Tob Control. 0:1-8, 2019. 17 American College of Cardiology. E-Cigarettes Linked to Heart Attacks, Coronary Artery Disease and Depression. Media Release March 7, 2019 Available: https://www.acc.org/about-acc/press-releases/2019/03/07/10/03/ecigarettes-linked-to-heart-attacks-coronary-artery-disease-and-depression (accessed 2019 Jul 30). 18 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC, states investigating severe pulmonary disease among people who use e-cigarettes. Media Statement 2019 Aug 17. Available: https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2019/s0817-pulmonary-disease-ecigarettes.html (accessed 2019 Aug 20). 19 Canadian Medical Association (CMA). Health Canada Consultation on Edible Cannabis, Extracts & Topicals Ottawa: CMA; 2019 Feb 20. Available: https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy14020 (accessed 2019 Aug 6). 20 Canadian Medical Association (CMA). Proposed Approach to the Regulation of Cannabis Submission to Health Canada. 2018 Jan 19 Available: https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy13838. (accessed 2019 Aug 6).
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