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A Prescription for sustainability

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1967
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2002-06-06
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
  2 documents  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2002-06-06
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
Medicare emerged from the 1990s bent, but not broken — in large measure due to the tireless efforts of health professionals whose commitment has always been, first and foremost, to their patients. However, this level of effort cannot continue. Canadian health providers and the facilities they work in are stretched to the limit. Over the past decade there have been countless studies on what is wrong with Canada’s health care system. However, very little action has been taken to solve the problems identified in the reports because very few of these reports provided a roadmap with concrete recommendations on how to achieve change. Furthermore, many decisions regarding the health care system have been made by governments without meaningful input from health professionals. As we indicated in our first submission, there is clearly a need for a collaborative approach to “change management” that is based on early, ongoing and meaningful involvement of all key stakeholders. However, before consideration is given to how to solve the woes of the health care system, it is essential to establish a shared vision of Canada’s health care system. Several attempts have been made to this end; however, few have included health care providers or the public in the process. The CMA has established its own vision for a sustainable health care system, upon which the recommendations we have presented in this submission are based. To ensure that our health care system in Canada is sustainable in the future, longer-term structural and procedural reforms are required. The CMA proposes 5 recommendations involving the implementation of three integrated “pillars of sustainability” that together will improve accountability and transparency in the system. These pillars would also serve as the basis for addressing the many short- to medium-term issues facing Medicare today and into the future. To this end, we put forward 25 recommendations suggesting specific “hows” for solving these critical problems. The three “pillars” are: a Canadian Health Charter, a Canadian Health Commission, and a renewal of the federal legislative framework. A Canadian Health Charter would underline governments’ shared commitment to ensuring that Canadians will have access to quality health care within an acceptable time frame. It would also clearly articulate a national health policy that sets out our collective understanding of Medicare and the rights and mutual obligations of individual Canadians, health care providers, and governments. The existence of such a Charter would ensure that a rational, evidence-based, and collaborative approach to managing and modernizing Canada’s health system is being followed. In conjunction with the Canadian Health Charter, a permanent, independent Canadian Health Commission would be created to promote accountability and transparency within the system. It would have a mandate to monitor compliance with and measure progress towards Charter provisions, report to Canadians on the performance of the health care system, and provide ongoing advice and guidance to the Conference on Federal-Provincial-Territorial ministers on key national health care issues. Recognizing the shared federal and provincial/territorial obligations to the health care system, one of the main purposes of the Canadian Health Charter is to reinforce the national character of the health system. The federal government would be expected to make significant commitments in a number of areas, including a review of the Canada Health Act, changes to the federal transfers to provinces and territories, and a review of federal tax legislation. While these three “pillars” will address the broader structural and procedural problems facing Canada’s health care system, there are many other changes required to meet specific needs within the system in the short to medium term. The CMA has provided specific recommendations in the following key areas: * Meaningful stakeholder input and accountability * Defining the public health system (e.g. core services, a “safety valve”, Public Health, Aboriginal health) * Investing in the health care system (e.g. human resources, capital infrastructure, surge capacity, information technology, and research and innovation) * Health system financing * Organization and delivery of services (e.g. consideration of the full continuum of care, physician compensation, rural health, the private sector, the voluntary sector and informal caregivers) The following is a summary of the key recommendations set out in A Prescription for Sustainability. While we have put an emphasis on having the recommendations as self-contained as possible, readers are encouraged to consult the corresponding section of this paper as appropriate for further details. The first five recommendations refer specifically to the three pillars. The remaining recommendations address the more specific and immediate needs of the health care system. Recommendation 1 That the governments of Canada adopt a Canadian Health Charter that * reaffirms the social contract that is Medicare * acknowledges the ongoing roles of governments in terms of overall coordination and health planning * sets out the accessibility and portability rights and responsibilities of residents of Canada * sets out the rights and responsibilities of the governments, providers and patients in Canada * provides for a “Canadian Health Commission.” Recommendation 2 That a permanent Canadian Health Commission be established and operate at arm’s length from governments. The Commission’s mandate would include * monitoring compliance with the Canadian Health Charter * reporting annually to Canadians on the performance of the health care system and the health status of the population * advising the Conference of Federal-Provincial-Territorial Ministers of Health on critical issues. Recommendation 3 That the federal government undertake a review of the Canada Health Act with the view to amending it * to embody the Canadian Health Charter within it * to provide for the Canadian Health Commission and * to allow for a broader definition of core services and for certain service charges under certain terms and conditions. Recommendation 4 (a) That the federal government’s contribution to the publicly funded health care system * be harmonized with the five-year review of the federal equalization program * be locked-in for a period of five years, with an escalator tied to a three-year moving average of per capita GDP * rise to a target of 50% of provincial/territorial per capita health spending for core services * provide for notional earmarking of funds for health. (b) That the federal government create special purpose, one-time funds totalling $2.5 billion over five years (or build on existing funds) to address pressing issues in the following areas * health human resources planning * capital infrastructure * information technology * accessibility fund. Recommendation 5 That a blue ribbon panel of Parliament be established to work with the Canadian Health Commission to review the current provisions of federal tax legislation with a view to identifying ways of enhancing support for health policy objectives through tax policy. Recommendation 6 That governments and regional health authorities initiate or enhance significant efforts to secure the participation of and input from practicing physicians at all levels of health care decision-making. Recommendation 7 That all Canadians be provided coverage for a basket of core services under uniform terms and conditions. Recommendation 8 (a) That the scope of the basket of core services be determined and be updated regularly to reflect and accommodate the realities of health care delivery and the needs of Canadians. (b) That the scope of core services should not be limited by its current application to hospital and physician services, provided that access to medically necessary hospital and physician services is not compromised. Recommendation 9 (a) That the scope of the basket of core services be determined and regularly updated by a federal-provincial-territorial process that has legitimacy in the eyes of Canadians – patients, taxpayers and health care professionals. (b) That the values of transparency, accountability, evidence-based, inclusivity and procedural fairness should characterize the process used to determine the basket of core services to include under Medicare. Recommendation 10 (a) That governments develop a new framework to govern the funding of a basket of core services with a view to ensuring that * Canadians have reasonable access to core services on uniform terms and conditions in all provinces and territories * governments, providers and patients are accountable for the use of health care resources * no Canadian is denied essential care because of her or his personal financial situation. (b) That legislation be amended to permit at least some core services to be cost-shared under uniform terms and conditions in all provinces and territories. (c) That once the basket of core services is defined, minimum levels of public funding for these services be uniformly applied across provinces and territories, with flexibility for individual governments to increase the share of public funding beyond these levels. Recommendation 11 (a) That Canada’s health system develop and apply agreed upon standards for timely access to care, as well as provide for alternative care choices – a “safety valve” – in Canada or elsewhere, if the publicly funded system fails to meet these standards. (b) That the following approach be implemented to ensure that governments are held accountable for providing timely access to quality care. * First, governments must establish clear guidelines and standards around quality and waiting times that are evidence-based and that patients, providers and governments consider reasonable. An independent third-party mechanism must be put in place to measure and report on waiting times and other dimensions of health care quality. * Second, governments must develop a clear policy which states that if the publicly funded health care system fails to meet the specified agreed-upon standards for timely access to core services, then patients must have other options available to them that will allow them to obtain this required care through other means. Public funding at the home province rate would follow the patient in this circumstance, and patients would have the opportunity to purchase insurance on a prospective basis to cover any difference in cost. Recommendation 12 (a) That governments demonstrate healthy public policy by making health impact the first consideration in the development of all legislation, policy and directives. (b) That the federal government provide core funding to assist provincial and territorial authorities in improving the coordination of prevention and detection efforts and the response to public health issues among public health officials, educators, community service providers, occupational health providers, and emergency services. (c) That governments invest in the human, infrastructure and training resources needed to develop an adequate and effective public health system capable of preventing, detecting and responding to public health issues. (d) That governments undertake an immediate review of Canada’s self-sufficiency in preventing, detecting and responding to emerging public health problems and furthermore, facilitate an ongoing, inclusive process to establish national public health priorities. Recommendation 13 That the federal government adopt a comprehensive strategy for improving the health of Aboriginal peoples which involves a partnership among governments, nongovernmental organizations, universities and the Aboriginal communities. Recommendation 14 (a) That the federal government establish a $1 billion, five-year Health Resources Education and Training Fund to (1) further increase enrolment in undergraduate and postgraduate medical education (including re-entry positions), (2) expand the infrastructure (both human and physical resources) of Canada’s 16 medical schools in order to accommodate the increased enrolment and (3) enhance continuing medical education programs. (b) That the federal government increase funding targeted to institutions of postsecondary education to alleviate some of the pressures driving tuition fee increases. (c) That the federal government enhance financial support systems for medical students that are (1) non-coercive, (2) developed concomitantly or in advance of any tuition increase, (3) in direct proportion to any tuition fee increase and (4) provided at levels that meet the needs of the students. (d) That incentives be incorporated into medical education programs to ensure adequate numbers of students choose medical fields for which there is greatest need. Recommendation 15 (a) That governments and communities make every effort to retain Canadian physicians in Canada through non-coercive measures and optimize the use of existing health human resources to meet the health needs of Canadian communities. (b) That the federal government work with other countries to equitably regulate and coordinate international mobility of health human resources. (c) That governments adopt a policy statement that acknowledges the value of the health care workforce in the provision of quality care, as well as the need to provide good working conditions, competitive compensation and opportunities for professional development. Recommendation 16 (a) That a national multistakeholder body be established with representatives from the health professions and all levels of government to develop integrated health human resource strategies, provide planning tools for use at the local level and monitor supply, mix and distribution on an ongoing basis. (b) That scopes of practice should be determined in a manner that serves the interests of patients and the public, safely, efficiently, and competently. Recommendation 17 (a) That hospitals and other health care facilities conduct a coordinated inventory of capital infrastructure to provide governments with an accurate assessment of machinery and equipment. (b) That the federal government establish a one-time catch-up fund to restore capital infrastructure to an acceptable level. (see Recommendation 4(b).) (c) That governments commit to providing adequate, ongoing funding for capital infrastructure. (d) That public-private partnerships (P3s) be explored as a viable alternative source of funding for capital infrastructure investment. Recommendation 18 That the federal government cooperate with provincial and territorial governments and with governments of other countries to ensure that a strong, adequately funded emergency response system is put in place to improve surge capacity. Recommendation 19 That federal government make an additional, substantial, ongoing national investments in information technology and information systems, with the objective of improving the health of Canadians as well as improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the health care system. Recommendation 20 That governments adopt national standards that facilitate the collection, use and exchange of electronic health information in a manner which ensures that the protection of patient privacy and confidentiality are paramount. Recommendation 21 That the federal government’s investment in health research be increased to at least 1% of national health expenditures. Recommendation 22 (a) That the provincial and territorial governments’ commitment to funding core services be locked-in for an initial five-year period with an escalator tied to provincial population demographics and inflation. (b) That governments establish a health-specific contingency fund to mitigate the effects of fluctuations in the business cycle and to promote greater stability in health care financing. Recommendation 23 That any effort to change the organization or delivery of medical care take into account the impact on the whole continuum of care. Recommendation 24 (a) That governments work with the provincial and territorial medical associations and other stakeholders to draw on the successes of evaluated primary care projects to develop a variety of templates of primary care models that would * suit the full range of geographical contexts and * incorporate criteria for moving from pilot projects to wider implementation, such as cost-effectiveness, quality of care and patient and provider satisfaction. (b) That family physicians remain as the central provider and coordinator of timely access to publicly funded medical services, to ensure comprehensive and integrated care, and that there are sufficient resources available to permit this. Recommendation 25 (a) That governments develop a national plan to coordinate the most efficient access to highly specialized treatment and diagnostic services. * This plan should include the creation of defined regional centres of excellence to optimize the availability of scarce specialist services. * Any realignment of services must accommodate and compensate for the relocation of providers. * That the federal government create an accessibility fund that would support interprovincial centres of excellence for highly specialized services. Recommendation 26 That governments respect the principles contained in the CMA’s policy on physician compensation and the terms of duly negotiated agreements. Recommendation 27 That governments work with universities, colleges, professional associations and communities to develop a national rural and remote health strategy for Canada. Recommendation 28 That Canada’s health care system make optimal use of the private sector in the delivery of publicly financed health care provided that it meets the same standards of quality as the public system. Recommendation 29 That governments examine ways to recognize and support the role of the voluntary sector in the funding and delivery of health care, including enhanced tax credits. Recommendation 30 That governments support the contributions of informal caregivers through the tax system. 1. Introduction Medicare emerged from the 1990s bent, but not broken — in large measure, due to the tireless efforts of professionals whose commitment has always been, first and foremost, to their patients. But this level of effort cannot continue. Canadian health care providers and the facilities they work in are stretched to the limit. Our system is truly at a crossroads. The Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada has a unique opportunity to sculpt a health care system that will meet the needs and expectations of Canadians for the 21st century. Fundamentals and principles of change management must be satisfied for change to be of lasting value. Decision-making processes must become more accessible, accountable and transparent to those most affected. Canadians are tired of the “blame game,” and physicians and other health providers are tired of being marginalized. Why is it that those who have the most at stake and those who have the most invested in the health system — namely patients, physicians and other providers — have the least say in system change? All parties need to be at the table. Health professionals have not been involved in an early, ongoing or meaningful way in discussions about the future of their health and health care systems. This must change. Another prerequisite for effective change is to reaffirm that there is more to health than health care. Although Canada has led the world in thinking about the overall determinants of health, the same cannot always be said when it comes to action. Canada needs broad consensus around a multi-year, national health action plan — one that is developed in collaboration with all the key players in the system and one that has clear goals, objectives and milestones. At the same time, sustainability must be seen as ensuring that Canadians have access to required services at the time and to the extent of their need. Canadians have lost confidence that the system will be there for them and for their children. Sustainability is about the legacy of Medicare. These are some of the key issues and challenges that the CMA stressed in earlier submissions to the Commission. In our first report, entitled Getting the Diagnosis Right (November 2001; see Appendix A), we described the signs and symptoms of a system in distress. Earlier this year, in our interim submission, entitled Getting It Right (Appendix B), we outlined some of the broad choices that we have to make as a society to help stabilize the Medicare “patient” and transport it into a sustainable future. As part of this future, the interim report proposed a Canadian Health Charter, which has received considerable attention. In this, our final submission to the Commission, we have built on the earlier work and ask the Commission to consider our Prescription for Sustainability. It is important to note that the recommendations we present to the Commission are integrated; and therefore we ask that they not be “cherry-picked”. This document also refers to a number of appendices that will be available as a separate volume. A great deal of policy research has been done on what changes are needed to make progress. The weak link has been in dealing with the “how.” The CMA believes that if we get the structures and processes right in terms of accountabilities, positive health outcomes will follow for our patients and for the future sustainability of the system. 2. Vision Several attempts have been made over the years to articulate a national vision for Medicare, but they have all proven inadequate. However laudable these attempts may be, they all suffer the fatal flaw of isolationism: they were all developed by governments — federal, provincial or territorial — in isolation from health care providers and the public. Goodwill, collaboration and partnership cannot be legislated or dictated from on high. In planning for the future, we have consistently argued for a values-based approach centred on a shared vision. The CMA has established a vision for Medicare that forms the basis of our recommendations for improving the design and functioning of the health care system. CMA’s Vision for a Sustainable Health System The goal of Canada’s health system is to preserve, protect and improve the health and well-being of each Canadian. This will be achieved through timely access to services that not only keep people well or restore health, but also enhance their quality of life and add longevity. Health care is an investment in both economic and social terms, providing benefits of value to both individuals and society. The objective of publicly funded health care is timely access to quality care through a defined set of core services that — as the principal building blocks of Canada’s overall health care system — must be provided on a sustainable basis. These core services must be determined and regularly reviewed in an inclusive and transparent manner. This will result in clear choices as to which services will be fully publicly funded, partly publicly funded and fully privately funded. The special nature of care related to illness — the original focus of Medicare — must continue to be recognized. Core services must reflect the immediacy with which such care is required, the potential to place a financial burden on individuals and families, and the unpredictability as to when such care will be required by an individual. Canadians should be able to choose who will provide their care, what the treatment(s) will be and where it will be provided. Every Canadian should have access to a physician of their choice and, in particular, should be encouraged to select a primary care physician who provides continuity of care. Physicians play key roles as agents and advocates for their own patients and for the public at large; they seek a health care system that respects the integrity and primacy of the patient–physician relationship. Payment and delivery mechanisms should be structured to foster and support these roles and to protect clinical and professional autonomy. Evidence-based care with explicit standards and benchmarks (e.g., maximum, acceptable waiting times) is a prerequisite to achieving high-quality health care — a primary objective of the public system. Individuals should have the opportunity to purchase health services where they are not publicly funded and where the public system does not meet agreed-upon standards. 3. Three Pillars of Sustainability The CMA believes that the current health policy decision-making system is fundamentally flawed and that three steps must be taken to help put the health of Canadians first. The three inextricably linked “pillars of sustainability” presented here are long-term structural and procedural reforms needed to improve accountability and transparency and, thus, enhance the overall sustainability of the system. In Getting the Diagnosis Right, we contended that Canadians had lost confidence that the system would be there for them and their families at the time and to the extent of their need. In our interim report, we also indicated that Canadian health care providers have never felt more demoralized or disenfranchised. The shortages of providers, poor access, resource constraints and passive privatization that occurred through most of the 1990s have combined to create uncertainties around the scope of coverage and the standard of care Canadians can expect from their health care system. The CMA believes that these uncertainties that accompany unplanned changes have also had a deleterious effect on the Canadian economy and a demoralizing effect on the health care community. On both counts, a clarification of the social contract for health is required at the highest level. 3.1 Canadian Health Charter The need to renew the social contract underlying Medicare raises a number of fundamental questions. What will this new social contract look like? Where will it be vested? Who will oversee its development and implementation? And what difference will it make for Canadians? The answers to these questions are set out below in the CMA’s proposal for a Canadian Health Charter. 3.1.1 What is it? The concept of a Canadian Health Charter is not new. The 1964 report of the Royal Commission on Health Services chaired by Justice Emmett Hall recommended a charter that set out a vision for a universally accessible system of prepaid health care, including the roles and responsibilities for individual Canadians, providers and governments. Currently, neither the Canada Health Act nor the Charter of Rights and Freedoms offers Canadians an explicit right of access to quality health care delivered within an acceptable time-frame.1 Moreover, Canadians do not have the benefit of a clearly articulated national health policy that sets out our shared understanding of Medicare and the rights and mutual obligations of individual Canadians, health care providers and governments. Without such a national policy statement to set the broad parameters around which Canada’s health system can be managed and modernized, the Medicare debate will continue to be characterized by rhetoric, hidden agendas and fruitless finger-pointing. To be certain, the notion of a Canadian Health Charter raises many issues in a decentralized federation such as Canada, where the constitutional responsibility for health care delivery lies with provinces and territories. Having examined the relevant legal, political and health policy considerations, the CMA is proposing the development and formal approval of a Canadian Health Charter based on a renewed partnership between levels of government and with the agreement of patients and providers.2 3.1.2 What would it look like? The CMA envisions a charter with three main parts: a vision statement, a section on national planning and coordination and a section on roles, rights and responsibilities. The CMA has developed an illustrative example of a charter in a separately released paper, Charter at a Glance. Vision Although there is no shortage of vision statements for Medicare, there is no single shared vision. The federal government, provinces and territories and individual stakeholders have all developed their own visions for various purposes and at various times. In some cases, such as the September 2000 Health Accord, governments have gone as far as issuing jointly approved vision statements. What is needed is for all parties to come together and achieve consensus on a shared vision that will lay out a modern view of Canada’s health system. The CMA has articulated its own vision in section 2, above. National planning and coordination The Canadian Health Charter would set out the requirement for national planning and coordination based on such principles as collaboration, evidence-based decision-making, stable and predictable funding, regional and local flexibility, and accountability. It could also specify areas where national planning and coordination are required, particularly with respect to the determination and regular review of core health care services; the development of national benchmarks for timeliness, accessibility and quality of health care; health system resources including health human resources and information technology; and the development of national goals and targets to improve the health of Canadians. The charter would also provide for the creation of a Canadian Health Commission to monitor compliance with and measure progress towards charter provisions, report to Canadians on the performance of the health care system, and provide ongoing advice and guidance to the Conference of Federal–Provincial–Territorial Ministers on key national issues. Roles, rights and responsibilities One of the key aims of the charter would be to develop a common understanding of the roles, rights and responsibilities of the key players in the renewal of Medicare. Key aspects of understanding would include * Acknowledgement of the ongoing role of governments in terms of overall coordination and health planning * Reinforcement of the accessibility and portability rights of the residents of Canada by a clear and unequivocal statement that governments must do everything in their power to provide reasonably comparable access to timely, high-quality health care3 * Establishment of the rights and responsibilities of patients, providers and governments in Canada. 3.1.3 Development and implementation of a charter Key features of our proposed Canadian Health Charter are as follows. * National mandate: It will be an inclusive document — one that is truly national as opposed to federal or interprovincial or interterritorial. * Values-based: It will be consistent with publicly accepted values and principles. * Enforceable: It will achieve compliance to its provisions through administrative mechanisms rather than through the courts. * Non-derogational: It will respect federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictional boundaries. The Canadian Health Charter will only be as good as the process put in place to develop it and to oversee its implementation. Although it may be too early to speculate on how this would be orchestrated, we make the following observations. * The development of the Canadian Health Charter will require a broad consultative process. Although this process could be led by governments, it should be developed in an inclusive manner with all stakeholders, including organizations representing health care providers and consumers. * Once consensus is reached on a proposed Canadian Health Charter, it will be important for the federal, provincial and territorial governments to give it formal approval. This could be accomplished in a number of ways, including approval at a first ministers meeting, through the elected assemblies or by way of a royal proclamation.4 Recommendation 1 That the governments of Canada adopt a Canadian Health Charter that * reaffirms the social contract that is Medicare * acknowledges the ongoing roles of governments in terms of overall coordination and health planning * sets out the accessibility and portability rights and responsibilities of residents of Canada * sets out the rights and responsibilities of the governments, providers and patients in Canada * provides for a “Canadian Health Commission.” 3.2 Canadian Health Commission What is clear from the past decade — through numerous provincial Commissions, a three-year National Health Forum, a Senate study and now the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada — is that strategic health planning is a never-ending challenge. This is why we need a permanent, depoliticized forum at the national level for ongoing dialogue and debate — a Canadian Health Commission. 3.2.1 Structure, composition and mandate Our thinking on the development of a Canadian Health Commission has been guided by a number of precedents and models that have been used in the Canadian context, beginning with the Dominion Council of Health, which was provided for in the Act constituting the Department of Health in 1919. It was formed to facilitate coordination with the provinces and territories and various private organizations on health matters and was the principal advisory agency to the Minister of National Health and Welfare. Membership comprised the federal deputy minister (chair), provincial deputy ministers and external members representing women’s organizations, labour, agriculture and medical science. We also examined more recent models of national advisory and oversight bodies. More details on the structures and basic mandates of these bodies are provided in Appendix C. Our assessment of these Commissions, roundtables and councils leads us to a number of conclusions about the structure and composition of the Canadian Health Commission: * Independence: The Commission should be at arm’s length from governments and have the freedom to conduct research and advise governments on a broad range of health and health care issues. However, it should have close links with government agencies such as the Canadian Institute for Health Information and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research to facilitate its work. * Transparency: The Commission should be open and transparent. We do not want to recreate the black box of executive federalism. Government representatives would be welcome as observers, and the Commission’s deliberations would be made public. * Credibility: The composition of the Commission should reflect a broad range of perspectives and expertise necessary fulfill its mandate. Appointments should not be constituency-based, to ensure that constituency politics do not interfere with the Commission’s deliberations. * Legitimacy: Although the Commission would be established by the federal government, its structure, composition and mandate will have to be legitimate in the eyes of provincial and territorial governments. * Permanence: The Commission should be permanent and it should be afforded adequate resources to do its job, subject to a regular review of its mandate and effectiveness. * Stakeholder engagement: The Commission should include representation from the general public and should seek to engage Canadians at large through research, consultation and public education activities. * Authoritative leadership: The Commission should be chaired by a Canadian Health Commissioner, who would be an officer of Parliament (similar to the Auditor General) appointed for a five-year term by consensus among the federal, provincial and territorial governments. The Health Commissioner would not be a substitute for the federal minister of health. The minister of health would continue to be responsible to Parliament for federal health policies and programs, as well as for promoting intergovernmental collaboration on a range of health and health care issues. The Commissioner would be afforded the powers necessary to conduct the affairs of the Commission, such as the power to call witnesses before hearings of the Commission. The Commission’s mandate would include the following responsibilities: * Monitor compliance with the Canadian Health Charter * Report annually to Canadians on the performance of the health care system and the health status of the population * Advise the Conference of Federal–Provincial–Territorial Ministers of Health on critical questions such as: - defining the basket of core services that would be publicly financed - establishing national benchmarks for timeliness, accessibility and quality of health care - planning and coordinating health system resources at the national level, including health human resources, information technology, and capital infrastructure - developing national goals and targets to improve the health of Canadians. Recommendation 2 That a permanent Canadian Health Commission be established and operate at arm’s length from governments. The Commission’s mandate would include * monitoring compliance with the Canadian Health Charter * reporting annually to Canadians on the performance of the health care system and the health status of the population * advising the Conference of Federal-Provincial-Territorial Ministers of Health on critical issues. 3.3 Renewing the Federal Legislative Framework Flowing from the Canadian Health Charter will be a number of moral and political obligations directed at the federal, provincial, and territorial governments, providers and patients. Recognizing the shared federal, provincial and territorial obligations to the health care system, one of the main purposes of the Charter is to reinforce the national character of Canada’s health system. The federal government would be expected to make significant commitments in a number of areas. 3.3.1 The Canada Health Act The Canada Health Act (CHA) was adopted by Parliament in 1984 as the successor to federal legislation governing cost-sharing agreements for hospital and medical insurance. Its principles have become the cornerstone of Medicare. The CHA articulates the underlying vision and values of Medicare and sets out the five conditions with which provincial and territorial health insurance plans must comply — universality, accessibility, comprehensiveness, portability and public administration — to receive the full federal financial contribution that they are entitled to under the Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST). Thus, the Canada Health Act is the linchpin that holds together 13 separate provincial and territorial health systems. Although the CHA has been a lightning rod for several federal–provincial–territorial disputes over the years, the reasons for these disagreements have had more to do with politics than with the substance of the act. In fact, if there is one public policy issue in Canada over which there is near unanimity across provinces and territories and across political parties, it is that the principles of the CHA are sound. Recently, federal, provincial and territorial governments agreed to establish a formal dispute avoidance and resolution mechanism to deal more openly and transparently with issues arising from the interpretation of the Canada Health Act. The CMA applauds this development. In section 5.1.3 of this report, the CMA calls for the establishment of a process at the national level to determine and review regularly the basket of core services in an open, transparent and evidence-based manner. The CHA should be amended to provide for such a process. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the CHA should be amended to reflect the Canadian Health Charter. This would include changing the preamble to ensure that it reflects a modern vision and values of Medicare, provides for a Canadian Health Commission, recognizes the federal role and reflects the accessibility and portability rights of Canadians. Recommendation 3 That the federal government undertake a review of the Canada Health Act with the view to amending it * to embody the Canadian Health Charter within it * to provide for the Canadian Health Commission and * to allow for a broader definition of core services and for certain service charges under certain terms and conditions. 3.3.2 Transfers to provinces and territories The nature of Canada’s publicly funded health care system creates unique challenges and opportunities regarding accountability and sustainability. Provinces and territories have the constitutional responsibility for health care and provide most of the funding; the federal government’s role includes funding and is based on the desire of Canadians to have the semblance of a national health care program. The CMA has been a strong advocate of stable, predictable and adequate federal funding for health care. The federal government has responded by introducing a cash floor for the CHST and by restoring some of the cuts made during the 1990s. However, the federal government still has a long way to go. Cash transfers must be increased if the federal government is to be considered a credible partner in Medicare. A larger and continuing federal role in health care financing is required, and the allocation of funds must be done more transparently and in support of a longer planning horizon. Transparency in federal funding for health care means that the federal government can no longer claim to be spending its CHST contribution three ways. Canadians have a right to know how much of their federal tax dollars is being transferred to provinces and territories to support Medicare. The same should hold for transfers related to postsecondary education and social services. Although this may be at odds with the prevailing doctrine in the ministries of finance and intergovernmental affairs, it is the least that Canadians can expect from their governments in terms of accountability. It also serves to underscore the fact that the underlying purpose of fiscal federalism is to support Medicare and other important social programs, not the reverse. In addition to the transfer of block funds to provinces and territories, the sheer magnitude and pressing nature of many issues facing Medicare warrant the use of one-time only, targeted, special-purpose transfers. Precedents for these types of transfers include the National Health Grants Program created in 1948 to develop hospital infrastructure across the country, as well as the more recent funds created to support early child development, medical equipment, the health infoway and primary care renewal. This type of approach, coupled with more stringent accountability provisions to ensure that the funds are spent as intended, should be used to address serious system shortcomings in the areas of health human resources, capital infrastructure and information technology. Recommendation 4 (a) That the federal government’s contribution to the publicly funded health care system * be harmonized with the five-year review of the federal equalization program * be locked-in for a period of five years, with an escalator tied to a three-year moving average of per capita GDP * rise to a target of 50% of provincial/territorial per capita health spending for core services * provide for notional earmarking of funds for health. (b) That the federal government create special purpose, one-time funds totalling $2.5 billion over five years (or build on existing funds) to address pressing issues in the following areas * health human resources planning * capital infrastructure * information technology * accessibility fund. 3.3.3 Tax policy in support of health In the past, the Government of Canada has relied heavily on its spending power and legislation to influence the development of Medicare across Canada. However, increasing concern associated with Canada’s health care system has obliged the federal government to maximize all its available policy levers, including taking another look at how the tax system can be used to support renewal of the health sector. Although taxes are widely used as a public policy tool, to date the role of taxation in the area of health has been relatively small. In total, personal income tax assistance (i.e., foregone government revenue) for health was estimated at $3.8 billion in 2001, equal to only a little more than 3.7% of total health expenditures for that year. The tax system interfaces with the health sector at three levels — health care financing, health care inputs and lifestyle choices. Key questions of reform that could be addressed through a review of the tax system at these levels include the following. Health care financing * Could tax incentives be used to improve access to private supplemental insurance? * How could increased tax relief be provided to people with high out-of-pocket medical expenses? * Should the tax system be used to encourage personal savings for long-term care? Health care inputs * How could tax incentives be used to address health human resource issues (e.g., attracting physicians and nurses to rural and remote areas, off-setting high costs of medical education, promoting continuing education)? * How can the federal government proceed with changes to the tax system to ensure equitable treatment of all health providers (e.g., GST)? * Could enhanced tax credits be developed to support informal caregivers? * Could tax incentives be used to promote research and innovation in health care beyond the pharmaceutical sector? Lifestyle choices * How could the tax system be used to encourage healthy lifestyles (e.g., incentives to eat well and exercise; disincentives for unhealthy choices)? The level of support provided by the tax system for people facing high out-of-pocket expenses is a particularly pressing question. Currently, the medical expenses tax credit provides limited relief to those whose expenses exceed $1,637 or 3% of net income. The 3% threshold was established before Medicare was introduced. Does it still make sense in 2002? Are there ways to enhance this provision to reduce financial disincentives facing many Canadians when they have to pay for health services that may not be medically necessary, but are beneficial and worthy of government support? The CMA encourages the federal government to undertake a comprehensive review of these and other tax questions pertaining to health. Clearly, we do not believe tax policy will, by itself, solve all of the challenges facing Canada’s health care system. Nevertheless, the CMA believes that the tax system can play a key role in helping the system adapt to changing circumstances, thereby complementing the other two components of our renewal strategy. Recommendation 5 That a blue ribbon panel of Parliament be established to work with the Canadian Health Commission to review the current provisions of federal tax legislation with a view to identifying ways of enhancing support for health policy objectives through tax policy. 4. Meaningful Stakeholder Input and Accountability In the Commission’s interim report, the question was posed: why are those who have the most to contribute, who are the most committed — Canada’s health professionals — not at the table when the future of health and health care is being discussed by this country’s leaders? Physicians individually and collectively feel disempowered and disengaged. They feel frustrated, marginalized and left out at all levels of decision-making. Nowhere is this more evident than at the national level, where physicians and other health care providers have tried in vain to gain access to the “black box” of executive federalism. Physicians and other providers have been systematically excluded from participating in decisions about the future of health and health care. During the past decade, with the exception of successful joint management ventures at the provincial, territorial or regional levels, physicians have been increasingly marginalized in terms of policy decisions. At the federal–provincial–territorial level, physicians have been frozen out since the late 1980s. At the federal level, organized medicine had no opportunity for formal input to the National Forum on Health. Physicians were specifically excluded from many regional boards when they were established in the early 1990s. Finally, the consolidation of many local governance structures (e.g., hospital boards) into regional boards has reduced opportunities for local decision-making. A basic principle of justice states that those who are affected directly by decisions ought to be present when such decisions are made. Physicians, nurses and others bring much to the table. The grounds for exclusion are often not clear, but tend to be a result of the misguided notion that self-interest might prevail over the collective interest. In today’s environment, with the rapid turnover of senior health officials, we believe the pendulum must swing toward building a table where enlightened self-interest is promoted. Whereas elected officials are in the health business for only a short time, physicians and other providers have their careers on the line. We have the most invested, the most to give and, next to our patients, the most to lose. Why is it that we have the least say in decisions about the future of health and health care? Why is it that we learn about decisions after the fact and are then expected to support them? Canada has paid an enormous price for this policy of exclusion. Ill-informed policy decisions in human health resources planning have had catastrophic results. Recently, the shell game around investments in medical technology has typified how federal, provincial and territorial governments working behind closed doors tend to promote solutions that minimize friction between the two levels of government, but are of little or no concrete benefit to the health care system. We need a more transparent and accountable process. Recommendation 6 That governments and regional health authorities initiate or enhance significant efforts to secure the participation of and input from practicing physicians at all levels of health care decision-making. 5. Defining the Public Health Care System Sustainability and accountability are overarching themes of this submission, and our ultimate goal is timely access to quality care for all Canadians. The time has come to stop making excuses for rationing the publicly funded health care system. Our patients deserve health care that is available to them in a timely fashion in their own country. Canada’s physicians support publicly funded health care, but not if it means patients are denied timely access to quality care and not if it means rationing and denial of necessary care. We strongly believe that all Canadians, regardless of where they live, should have access to high-quality health care. 5.1 Core Services One of the pathways identified in our initial submission was the need to strike a better balance among everything and everyone. No country in the world has been able to provide first-dollar5 coverage for timely access to all services. In light of the rapidly transforming delivery system with its shift from institutional to community-based care, a re-examination of the Medicare “basket” is overdue. 5.1.1 Uniform coverage for all Canadians All Canadians should have coverage for basic health care services under uniform terms and conditions, regardless of where they live. A clearly defined basket of core services is an essential requirement for a national program in a decentralized system of health care such as Canada’s. This basket would ensure that a minimum level of coverage is applied uniformly across all provinces and territories. However, it is important to acknowledge that variation will occur in health care priorities across provinces and territories; as a result, provinces and territories may choose to add to this basket. Recommendation 7 That all Canadians be provided coverage for a basket of core services under uniform terms and conditions. 5.1.2 Redefining core services Since the inception of Medicare in Canada, core services have generally been understood to be those subject to the five program criteria set out in the Canada Health Act. These include medically necessary hospital services, physician services and surgical dental services provided to insured persons. However, as health care delivery has evolved, more and more services have migrated out of the hospital setting, effectively reducing the relative size of the basket of core services. For example, while hospital and physician expenditures accounted for 56% of total health spending in 1984, by 2000 this had declined to 45%. Many services previously provided in hospitals are now delivered through a combination of community-based services and drug therapy. Services that continue to be provided in hospitals are increasingly being provided on a “day surgery” basis (requiring no admission) or during a much shorter stay. If Medicare is to continue to meet the needs of Canadians, then the notion of core services must be changed to cover an array of services consistent with the realities of health care in the 21st century. Specifically, the definition of core services should be reviewed to determine the extent to which it should go beyond hospital and physician services. Recommendation 8 (a) That the scope of the basket of core services be determined and be updated regularly to reflect and accommodate the realities of health care delivery and the needs of Canadians. (b) That the scope of core services should not be limited by its current application to hospital and physician services, provided that access to medically necessary hospital and physician services is not compromised. 5.1.3 A process for clarifying what is in and what is out There is no simple way to decide what the basket of core services should include or exclude. It involves making difficult value judgements and trade-offs and achieving consensus among a broad cross-section of perspectives and interests. For several years, the CMA has advocated a balanced approach to the determination of core services that addresses the issues of ethics, quality (evidence) and economics (Appendix D). The risks of not making these difficult decisions have become all too clear: a health system that is locked into antiquated notions of health care and is increasingly out of touch with the needs of Canadians. The process used to determine core services should be inclusive and transparent. Decisions should be evidence-based and not biased in favour of any single provider or setting in which care is provided. The special nature of care related to illness should be recognized ? emergent vs. non-emergent conditions, the potential financial burden on individuals and families, and the inability to predict when such care will be required. Most important, whoever is assigned the task of defining and updating the basket of core services must have legitimacy in the eyes of the public. The CMA believes that the values listed below should characterize the process used to determine the basket of core services covered under Medicare. Values for Determining Core Services Transparency: The process and principles or rules on which decisions are based should be open to scrutiny and made public. Accountability: Decision makers should have proper authority to make these decisions and provisions should be in place for them to be held accountable for the decisions they make. Evidence-based: The decision-making process should incorporate relevant empirical evidence as available and appropriate. Inclusivity: Parties having an important stake in the decisions, should be identified, consulted and included in decision-making. Recommendation 9 (a) That the scope of the basket of core services be determined and regularly updated by a federal-provincial-territorial process that has legitimacy in the eyes of Canadians – patients, taxpayers and health care professionals. (b) That the values of transparency, accountability, evidence-based, inclusivity and procedural fairness should characterize the process used to determine the basket of core services to include under Medicare. 5.1.4 Funding core services - finding a new Canadian compromise Under the Canada Health Act, provinces and territories must ensure that medically necessary physician and hospital services are provided on a first-dollar basis. Beyond these core services, provinces and territories provide varying degrees of coverage for other services, which are funded through a mix of government funding and patient cost-sharing. Some services are completely funded from private sources. Beyond hospital and physician services, there is no uniformity across provinces and territories in the terms and conditions under which services may be partly covered under the public funding umbrella. If the basket of core services is to be expanded beyond its focus on physician and hospital care, then certain realities must be addressed. First, although first-dollar coverage may be required to maintain access to services for the most vulnerable in society, its universal application creates the illusion that health care services are free when they clearly are not. Second, given limited fiscal resources and political priorities, governments will likely not be able to afford first-dollar coverage for an expanded set of core services. Without additional funding, resources will have to be reallocated from hospital and physician services to finance other services added to the basket. This argues for a different approach to the funding of core services — one that is more pragmatic and less ideologically driven. Under this approach, health services would be divided into three categories: those that are exclusively publicly funded, those that are partly publicly funded, and those that are exclusively privately funded. The services in the first two categories would be defined as core services. As discussed earlier, the basket of core services would be determined and regularly updated by a legitimate, multistakeholder group using an evidence-based process; it should no longer be defined on the basis of whether the services are 100% publicly financed. If core services are redefined to include services that are currently financed through a mix of private and public funding, then Canadians must be prepared to review the use of first-dollar coverage to ensure that it is applied where it is most needed to maintain access to core services. Uniform terms and conditions for core services with mixed private–public funding must also be developed, i.e., by defining the minimum level of public funding from all provinces and territories. The development of uniform terms and conditions around those services that receive a mix of public and private funds has never been addressed in Canada. Even though the criteria of the Canada Health Act ? universality, accessibility, comprehensiveness, portability and public administration ? should be relatively easy to apply in a world of first-dollar coverage, Canada’s health system has not been able to satisfy all of them consistently. It is essential that these criteria be more diligently applied to core services that are funded on the basis of first-dollar coverage. In addition, they must be adapted to provide an effective framework of terms and conditions to govern access to services with mixed private–public funding. There is a need for a more rational discussion of the role of patient cost-sharing in the Canadian health care system. Many types of mechanisms for cost-sharing are in place today, including premiums, deductibles, co-payments, charges at point of service and taxation of health benefits. Here again, governments should adopt approaches that promote transparency and accountability, while ensuring that no one is denied care because they cannot afford to pay. Service charges are an acceptable part of the provision of many important health-related products and services such as pharmaceuticals and dental care. Furthermore, the Canada Health Act makes an explicit provision for chronic care co-payments. However, other services such as physician and hospital services are currently considered off-limits. Certain services that possess an “amenity” component, such as some pharmaceuticals, prostheses and certain elements of home care could continue to include a service charge to cover a portion of the service. However service charges are applied, it should be done in a fair and equitable manner that takes into consideration those at a financial disadvantage so that it does not impede access to necessary care, but encourages appropriate use of the health care system. In addition, patient cost-sharing arrangements for core services must be consistent across provinces and territories. Minimum thresholds for the public share of financing could be established for different categories of core services; however, any jurisdiction would be free to increase its share to a level above the minimum. Recommendation 10 (a) That governments develop a new framework to govern the funding of a basket of core services with a view to ensuring that * Canadians have reasonable access to core services on uniform terms and conditions in all provinces and territories * governments, providers and patients are accountable for the use of health care resources * no Canadian is denied essential care because of her or his personal financial situation. (b) That legislation be amended to permit at least some core services to be cost-shared under uniform terms and conditions in all provinces and territories. (c) That once the basket of core services is defined, minimum levels of public funding for these services be uniformly applied across provinces and territories, with flexibility for individual governments to increase the share of public funding beyond these levels. 5.2 Care Guarantee and “Safety Valve” A common frustration in recent years among many physicians and patients has been the lack of any recourse or alternative care in Canada when the publicly funded health system fails to provide timely access to health care. For Canadians, the only alternative since the inception of Medicare has been to turn to the United States or other countries for medical care. This may have been acceptable in the early days of Medicare when public funding was plentiful and the need to seek care outside of Canada was more theoretical than real; however, in 1998, the National Population Health survey estimated that some 17,000 Canadians traveled to the United States to seek medical care. Clearly, this is not an option for most Canadians. Recent court cases have held provincial governments accountable for providing timely care. An increasing number of Canadians are seeking private care in Canada, such as at private magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) clinics, even though this service is potentially in conflict with the principles of the Canada Health Act. The public has, in effect, built its own safety valve. This is a concrete example of what happens when the publicly funded system fails to respond to a legitimate demand. This gap in Canadian health policy must be addressed in a way that compels the system to provide timely care while preserving the right of Canadians to seek alternate care if the public system fails to deliver. The first step in addressing these issues is to define core services. The second step is to establish guidelines and standards around quality and waiting times that are evidence-based and that patients, providers and governments consider reasonable. To date, the best example of such benchmarking in Canada has been by the Cardiac Care Network in Ontario. The CMA has reviewed progress toward the development of benchmarks in A Canadian Health Charter: A Background Discussion Paper, which examines Canadian and international experience with health charters. We have also written a policy on operational principles for the measurement and management of waiting lists (Appendix E). If the publicly funded health care system fails to meet the specified agreed-upon standards for timely access to core services, then patients must have other options to allow them to obtain this required care through other means. Step three involves setting up a “safety valve” to address situations where the established time guarantees cannot be met. This safety valve provision would allow patients and their physicians to seek required care wherever it is available. Attempts would be made to find care geographically close to the patient — first within the province or territory, then in another province or territory or even out of country. The public funds that would have been used to pay for the patient’s care if the time guarantee had been met would be used to pay for the service wherever it is provided. In some cases, the cost of this service will be more than what would have been charged had the service been available in a timely manner from the public system in the patient’s home province or territory. Patients would be able to purchase supplementary private insurance on a prospective basis to cover this difference in cost. Ideally, Canadians would never have to use this “safety valve.” However, its inclusion in Canadian health policy will provide assurances and help restore public confidence in the health system. It will also remind governments about the repercussions of not living up to mutually agreed-upon commitments to provide timely access to care. Recommendation 11 (a) That Canada’s health system develop and apply agreed upon standards for timely access to care, as well as provide for alternative care choices – a “safety valve” – in Canada or elsewhere, if the publicly funded system fails to meet these standards. (b) That the following approach be implemented to ensure that governments are held accountable for providing timely access to quality care. * First, governments must establish clear guidelines and standards around quality and waiting times that are evidence-based and that patients, providers and governments consider reasonable. An independent third-party mechanism must be put in place to measure and report on waiting times and other dimensions of health care quality. * Second, governments must develop a clear policy which states that if the publicly funded health care system fails to meet the specified agreed-upon standards for timely access to core services, then patients must have other options available to them that will allow them to obtain this required care through other means. Public funding at the home province rate would follow the patient in this circumstance, and patients would have the opportunity to purchase insurance on a prospective basis to cover any difference in cost. 5.3 Public Health Canada has been a leader in recognizing that there is more to health than health care. The Hon. Marc Lalonde’s 1974 New Perspective on the Health of Canadians, which has since become world renowned, introduced the health field concept that emphasized the role of environmental and lifestyle determinants of health. Public health is often associated with measures to prevent illness, such as safe drinking water, sanitation, waste disposal, immunization programs, well-baby clinics or programs promoting healthy lifestyles. It is the organized response of society to protect and promote health and to prevent illness, injury and disability. Public health carries out its mission through organized, interdisciplinary efforts that address the physical, mental and environmental health concerns of the population at risk of disease and injury. These efforts require coordination and cooperation among individuals, governments (federal, provincial, territorial and municipal), community organizations and the private sector. Putting patients first means, among other things, making sure that the health system is capable of stretching to capacity to meet unforeseen circumstances. The need for this “surge capacity” is discussed in more detail in section 6.3. Canadian physicians have long recognized the value of health promotion and disease prevention and have incorporated these elements into their practices. The CMA and its divisions and affiliates have also been active in the field of public health. For its part, the CMA * Worked with the CBC on the first series of public health broadcasts * Was the first organization to call for a ban of smoking on airplanes * Developed a tool to help physicians determine medical fitness to drive * Launched a campaign to reduce traffic injuries (seatbelts, breathalyzers, etc) * Carried out a national Bicycle Helmet Safety Program * Supported warning labels on tobacco products. Public health is complex, and the current status of the public health system in Canada requires a full and open review. In 1999, the auditor general found Health Canada unprepared to fulfill its responsibilities in the area of public health: communication among multiple agencies was poor and weaknesses in the key surveillance system impeded the effective monitoring of communicable and noncommunicable diseases and injuries. It is imperative that various departments and sectors coordinate and communicate effectively to synergize efforts and to avoid duplication. The capacity of the public health care sector to deliver disease prevention and health promotion programs is inadequate, and its ability to respond varies across the country. This situation is due to a lack of trained professionals and a lack of operational funds. Greater commitment is needed from governments at all levels to ensure that adequate human resources and infrastructure are available to respond to public health issues when they arise. This includes the expansion of the public health training programs. Once a public health issue has been identified, it is the responsibility of professionals within the system to use effective means of control. The public health system must be supported by a strong and viable infrastructure to allow them to meet such challenges. Major public health issues facing Canadians include, but are not limited to, high rates of obesity, tobacco and other substance use, mental health challenges, ensuring a clean and safe environment and prevention of injury and violence. The ability of the public health system to respond to these issues directly affects the well-being of Canadians, in a manner as important as the ability of the acute care system to respond to medical emergencies. However, investment in public health initiatives must not be made at the expense of acute and long-term care. Since the 1970s, the World Health Organization and national governments around the world have paid increasing attention and put greater effort into establishing goals for improving public health and into monitoring achievement. Numerous examples can be cited in the United States, England and Australia. In Canada, although the federal government has not attempted to establish goals, several provinces have undertaken such an exercise. Public health priorities or goals are considered to be an asset to a health care system in that they * Provide a baseline assessment of a population’s health and a tracking system for monitoring change * Encourage an increase in the breadth and intensity of health improvement activities and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of existing activities * Facilitate evaluation of the impact of health improvement activities * Foster unity of purpose, organization, participation and spirit of cooperation through consensus * Build awareness of and support for health programs among policymakers and the public * Guide decision-making and funding allocations. At their meeting in September 2000, the first ministers made several commitments to improve public health * Promote the public services, programs and policies that extend beyond care and treatment and that make a critical contribution to the health and wellness of Canadians * Develop strategies and policies that recognize the determinants of health, enhance disease prevention and improve public health * Further address key priorities for health care renewal and support innovations to meet the current and emerging needs of Canadians * Report regularly to Canadians on health status, health outcomes and the performance of publicly funded health services, and the actions taken to improve these services. Unfortunately, there has been little progress to date. Canada must develop a strategic approach to sustain and strengthen the capacity of the public health system to prevent, detect and respond to public health issues. Recommendation 12 (a) That governments demonstrate healthy public policy by making health impact the first consideration in the development of all legislation, policy and directives. (b) That the federal government provide core funding to assist provincial and territorial authorities in improving the coordination of prevention and detection efforts and the response to public health issues among public health officials, educators, community service providers, occupational health providers, and emergency services. (c) That governments invest in the human, infrastructure and training resources needed to develop an adequate and effective public health system capable of preventing, detecting and responding to public health issues. (d) That governments undertake an immediate review of Canada’s self-sufficiency in preventing, detecting and responding to emerging public health problems and furthermore, facilitate an ongoing, inclusive process to establish national public health priorities. 5.4 Aboriginal health Despite improvements in many areas, First Nations, Métis and Inuit people continue to have a poorer health status than the general Canadian population. The current health status of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples is a result of a broad range of factors. It is generally acknowledged that improving it will take a lot more than simply increasing the quantity of health services. The underlying roots of the problem must be addressed; for example, poverty, low levels of education, unemployment and underemployment, exposure to environmental contaminants, inferior housing, substandard infrastructure and maintenance, low self-esteem and loss of cultural identity. A problem of this magnitude and complexity must be addressed in a comprehensive way, with all components of health, government and other sectors working in full partnership with the Aboriginal community. In recognition of this need, in February 2002 the CMA signed a letter of intent with the National Aboriginal Health Organization (NAHO) (Appendix F) to collaborate on activities in four areas of mutual interest: 1. Workforce initiatives: To increase recruitment and retention of physicians and other health professionals, particularly of Aboriginal descent, who serve Aboriginal communities. 2. Research and practice enhancement initiatives: To promote research into Aboriginal health issues and the translation of research into effective clinical practice through means such as dissemination of best-practice information and the development of user-friendly practice tools. 3. Public and community health programs: To address and develop initiatives to promote healthy living for Aboriginal communities. 4. Leadership programs: To develop and implement leadership development initiatives including mentoring programs for Aboriginal physicians. The exploration of these and other areas is essential to improve Aboriginal health status so that it is on par with the rest of the Canadian population. Recommendation 13 That the federal government adopt a comprehensive strategy for improving the health of Aboriginal peoples which involves a partnership among governments, nongovernmental organizations, universities and the Aboriginal communities. 6. Investing in the Health Care System 6.1 Health Human Resources Governments must demonstrate their commitment to the principle of self-sufficiency in the production of physicians to meet the medical needs of the Canadian population. Coverage means nothing without access, and access means nothing without availability of health care professionals. Unfortunately, there are shortages of human resources in various health care disciplines, and these shortages will be exacerbated by the demographics of the Canadian population and of each provider group and by changing public expectations. The population in general is becoming older. Older age groups experience an increased incidence of illness and disability, and thus place higher demands on the health care system. At the same time, significant numbers of health care providers are approaching retirement; in many cases, there are not enough young people entering the professions to replace those who will soon be leaving. Over the past two decades, one of the most striking changes in the medical workforce in Canada has been the increased proportion of female medical graduates: in 1980, women represented 32% of medical graduates; by 1996, this proportion reached 50%. Women now represent 30% of the practising profession in Canada and this will approach 40% by the end of the decade. Although more research is needed, it is clear that male and female physicians have different practice patterns. The changing gender distribution must be taken into consideration when examining the problem of physician supply. A more highly educated population and the widespread use of information sources such as the Internet are contributing to a heightened sense of patient empowerment, higher expectations and consumerism. These factors will increase pressure for high-quality health services. Although we encourage patients to be informed, we must be prepared for the added demands on the health system that this enhanced knowledge will create, especially in terms of the supply of health human resources. The human resources crisis is one of the most important issues facing health care today. Solutions must be found to address the many specific problems that are plaguing all health provider groups. The nursing field is suffering from many of the same challenges as physicians, including attrition and the “brain drain.” The accessibility crisis is compounded by shortages of laboratory technologists and others in the health care field, who directly support the work of physicians. Although these problems must all be addressed to make our health care system sustainable for the future, this document focuses on the professionals about whom the CMA has the greatest knowledge and expertise: physicians. 6.1.1 Supply, training and continuing education All areas of the health care continuum are experiencing a shortage of physicians. The key factors underlying this shortage include physician demographics (e.g., age and gender distribution), changing lifestyle choices and productivity levels (expectations of younger physicians and women differ from those of older generations) and the insufficient numbers entering certain medical fields. According to 2001 data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Canada ranked 21st out of 26 countries in terms of the ratio of practising physicians to the population. In addition to the factors affecting physician supply mentioned above, other drivers of change, such as technological innovation and information technology, are adding further pressure to an already overworked medical profession. The OECD report further states that empirical evidence shows that lower doctor numbers are closely linked with higher mortality, after taking other health determinants into consideration. Yet, in terms of female and male life expectancy at birth, Canada ranks 7th and 6th, respectively.6 This is a powerful testament to the efforts of Canadian health professionals in putting patients first. Increasing numbers of Canadians feel the impact of the widespread physician shortages when they are unable to find a family physician or they experience delays in seeing specialists. Physicians themselves are finding that they must reduce the time they can spend doing research, teaching and pursuing continuing medical education in order to focus on direct patient care. In November 1999, the Canadian Medical Forum7 (CMF) and the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada met with the federal, provincial and territorial governments to present a detailed report on physician supply containing five specific recommendations. The CMA and the other CMF organizations were encouraged to see that many jurisdictions across Canada agreed with the need to increase enrolment in undergraduate medical education programs, although we are still far from the 2,000 medical students by year 2000 that was recommended. The necessary increases in undergraduate enrolment in medicine require funding not only for the positions themselves, but also for the infrastructure (human and physical resources) needed to ensure high-quality training that meets North American accreditation standards. The concomitant increases in postgraduate positions that will be required three to four years later must also be resourced appropriately. This is in addition to the extra positions recommended in the November 1999 CMF report, which are needed to increase flexibility in the postgraduate training system; the capacity to provide training to international medical graduates; and opportunities for re-entry for physicians who have been in practice. The CMA remains very concerned about high and rapidly escalating increases in medical school tuition fees across Canada. According to data from the Association of Canadian Medical Colleges (ACMC), in just five years (1996 to 2001), average first-year medical school tuition fees increased by 100%. In Ontario, they went up by 223% over the same period. Student financial support through loans and scholarships has not kept pace with this rapid escalation in tuition fees. The CMA is particularly concerned about the impact this will have on the physician workforce and the Canadian health care system. High tuition fees will have a number of consequences. They create barriers to application to medical school and threaten the socioeconomic diversity of future physicians serving the public. They also exacerbate the “brain drain” of physicians to the United States where newly graduated physicians can pay down their large student debts much more quickly. Medical education does not end with earning the title MD; in fact, this is just the beginning of a physician’s learning. The continuously evolving nature of medicine requires that physicians remain up-to-date on emerging medical technologies, new treatment modalities and numerous other developments. In the early 1990s, the conventional wisdom was that medical knowledge was doubling every five years. Now, a time of less than two years is more commonly cited. Clearly, there is an increasing role for continuing medical education (CME), underscored by explicit requirements for self-directed activities to promote maintenance of certification for both family practitioners and specialists. Historically, this is an area where physicians have largely had to fend for themselves. For its part, the CMA has sponsored the Physician Manager Institute, which provides training for physicians moving into leadership positions. Although many provincial and territorial medical associations have negotiated CME benefits with their governments, it is essential that academic health science centres be supported to expand capacity in the area of CME. In the early days of Medicare, the federal government played a leadership role in building the infrastructure for health education through the Health Resources Fund, which distributed $500 million during 1966–1980. The purpose of this fund was to help provinces bear the capital costs of constructing, renovating and acquiring health training facilities and research institutions. More recently, the federal government supported a rebuilding of the university research infrastructure generally through the $800-million Canada Foundation for Innovation fund, which was announced in the 1997 budget, and the $900-million Canada Research Chairs program, which was announced in the 2000 budget to support the establishment of 2,000 research chairs by 2000. The health field will be a significant beneficiary of these funds. However, considering the shortage of health professionals that we face today and that will soon worsen, as well as the prospect of diminished access to professional education as a result of higher tuition, there is an urgent need for targeted federal funds to address this situation immediately. Recommendation 14 (a) That the federal government establish a $1 billion, five-year Health Resources Education and Training Fund to (1) further increase enrolment in undergraduate and postgraduate medical education (including re-entry positions), (2) expand the infrastructure (both human and physical resources) of Canada’s 16 medical schools in order to accommodate the increased enrolment and (3) enhance continuing medical education programs. (b) That the federal government increase funding targeted to institutions of postsecondary education to alleviate some of the pressures driving tuition fee increases. (c) That the federal government enhance financial support systems for medical students that are (1) non-coercive, (2) developed concomitantly or in advance of any tuition increase, (3) in direct proportion to any tuition fee increase and (4) provided at levels that meet the needs of the students. (d) That incentives be incorporated into medical education programs to ensure adequate numbers of students choose medical fields for which there is greatest need. 6.1.2 Physician retention and recruitment As important as investments in medical education may be, they will only begin to pay off in terms of increased supply of physicians in the medium- to long-term. In the short-term, shortages of family physicians and specialists will persist and possibly worsen. There is no quick fix for this problem; we must manage the best we can. This means making sure that we retain the physicians who are now practising in communities across the country. Physician turnover is a chronic problem in both rural and urban areas. The loss of a physician in a community has a very real impact in terms of continuity of care. There are unmeasured costs to patients, such distress and turmoil, as well as to the remaining physician(s) and communities that must cope with the repeated loss of valued physicians. Canada is both an exporter and an importer of physicians. The two-way flow, mainly between Canada and the United States, is tracked by the Canadian Institute for Health Information. Since tracking began in the 1960s, Canada has been a net exporter of physicians to the United States. During the mid-1990s, the net loss exceeded 400 ? roughly equal to 4 graduating medical classes. Since then, it has abated to 164 in 2000, but this is still the equivalent of 1.5 medical classes. Conversely, Canada is a net importer of physicians from the rest of the world. Although the figure is more difficult to quantify, it is estimated that Canada is a net importer of 200–400 international medical graduates, who are most typically recruited to work in rural and remote communities. Short-term responses to the physician shortage include repatriating Canadian physicians working abroad and integrating qualified international medical graduates and other providers. Canada must recognize that there is a global shortage of physicians ? and a global marketplace for our services; a widespread, organized recruitment of physicians from other countries, especially from those that are also experiencing physician shortages, is not the way to solve Canada’s health human resources problems.8 Recommendation 15 (a) That governments and communities make every effort to retain Canadian physicians in Canada through non-coercive measures and optimize the use of existing health human resources to meet the health needs of Canadian communities. (b) That the federal government work with other countries to equitably regulate and coordinate international mobility of health human resources. (c) That governments adopt a policy statement that acknowledges the value of the health care workforce in the provision of quality care, as well as the need to provide good working conditions, competitive compensation and opportunities for professional development. 6.1.3 The need for integrated health human resources planning Health human resource planning is complex. The CMA seeks to build consensus within the medical profession on major program and policy initiatives concerning the supply, mix and distribution of physicians and to work with major stakeholders in identifying and assessing issues of mutual importance. Planning for the provision of services by a broad array of providers to meet changing health care needs should focus on having the right providers in the right places doing the right things. This first requires the determination of the needed supply, mix and distribution of physicians, which will assist in the development of a similar assessment for all other providers. Resource planning must be based on the health care needs of Canadians rather than driven by cost. The CMA has developed principles and criteria for the determination of scopes of practice. The primary purpose is to meet health care needs and to serve the interests of patients and the public safely, efficiently and competently. These principles and criteria (listed below) have been endorsed by the Canadian Nurses Association and the Canadian Pharmacists Association. See Appendix G for more details. Principles and Criteria for the Determination of Scopes of Practice Principles: * Focus * Flexibility * Collaboration and cooperation * Coordination * Patient choice Criteria: * Accountability * Education * Competencies and practice standards * Quality assurance and improvement * Risk assessment * Evidence-based practices * Setting and culture * Legal liability and insurance * Regulation The CMA remains sensitive to Canada’s provincial and territorial realities with respect to the fact that health human resource planning requires assessment and implementation at the local or regional level. However, there is a need for a national body to develop and coordinate health human resources planning initiatives. Recommendation 16 (a) That a national multistakeholder body be established with representatives from the health professions and all levels of government to develop integrated health human resource strategies, provide planning tools for use at the local level and monitor supply, mix and distribution on an ongoing basis. (b) That scopes of practice should be determined in a manner that serves the interests of patients and the public, safely, efficiently, and competently. 6.2 Capital Infrastructure The crisis in health human resources is exacerbated by an underdeveloped capital infrastructure ? bricks, mortar and tools. This is seriously jeopardizing timely access to quality care within the health care system. In our 2001 discussion paper, Specialty Care in Canada, the CMA indicated there has been inadequate investment in buildings, machinery and equipment and in scientific, professional and medical devices. Provincial and territorial government spending on construction, machinery and equipment for hospitals, clinics, first-aid stations and residential care facilities has remained, on average, 16.5% below its peak in 1989. Specifically, real capital expenditures on new building construction decreased 5.3% annually between 1982 and 1998. Investment in new hospital machinery and equipment declined by 1.8% annually between 1989 and 1998. In 1998, hospital expenditures on scientific, professional and medical devices were nearly 17% below 1994 levels. While these cutbacks were occurring, significant innovations in medical technology were being introduced worldwide. Although hospitals are still providing most acute care services, whether patients are treated as inpatients or outpatients, the equipment required is not keeping pace with the growth of new technologies, the health needs of the patients and the increase and aging of the population. Equipment and machinery in the hospital sector are overaged due to a lack of replacement capital. In the absence of timely access to current and emerging health technologies, Canadians face the prospect of unrestrained progression of disease, increased stress and anxiety over their health status and, possibly, premature death. Meanwhile, society bears the direct and indirect costs associated with delayed access. On September 11, 2000, the federal government announced a new $1 billion transfer to provinces and territories for the purpose of purchasing new medical equipment. A recent analysis by the CMA found that just over half of this fund can be accounted for as being spent as intended (Appendix H). The question remains as to what has happened to the remainder of the fund. Governments have been placing a lower priority on capital investment when allocating financial resources for health care. It will not be enough simply to bring Canada’s health infrastructure up to par; a commitment to ongoing funding to maintain the equipment must also be made. This, in turn, requires continuous inventory maintenance for regular replacement. Therefore, it may be necessary for hospitals to develop innovative approaches to financing capital infrastructure. The CMA agrees with other organizations such as the Canadian Healthcare Association on the need to explore the concept of entering into public–private partnerships (P3s) to address capital infrastructure needs as an alternative to relying on government funding. Joint ventures and hospital bonds are but two examples of P3 financing. Recommendation 17 (a) That hospitals and other health care facilities conduct a coordinated inventory of capital infrastructure to provide governments with an accurate assessment of machinery and equipment. (b) That the federal government establish a one-time catch-up fund to restore capital infrastructure to an acceptable level. (see Recommendation 4(b).) (c) That governments commit to providing adequate, ongoing funding for capital infrastructure. (d) That public-private partnerships (P3s) be explored as a viable alternative source of funding for capital infrastructure investment. 6.3 Surge Capacity Putting patients first means, among other things, making sure that the health care system is capable of stretching its capacity to meet unforeseen circumstances, that the system is monitored for quality, that compensation is available when unintended harm occurs and that patient privacy and confidentiality are respected. The tragic events of September 11, 2001, followed closely by the distribution of anthrax through the United States postal service, provided a grim reminder of the necessity of having a strong public health infrastructure in place at all times. As was demonstrated quite vividly, we do not have the luxury of time to prepare for these events. Although it is not possible to plan for every contingency, certain scenarios can be sketched out and anticipated. 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. In addition to 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. Like our hydro system, “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 they require to meet the need. The CMA’s 2001 pre-budget submission lays out comprehensive recommendations to address this issue (Appendix I). Recommendation 18 That the federal government cooperate with provincial and territorial governments and with governments of other countries to ensure that a strong, adequately funded emergency response system is put in place to improve surge capacity. 6.4 Information Technology Much of the recent debate about the future of the health care system has focused on the need to improve its adaptability and overall integration. One critical ingredient in revitalizing the system is establishing the information technology (IT) and information systems (IS) that physicians and other health care professionals must have at their disposal. Effective and efficient networks will facilitate integrated and coordinated care, as well as better management of clinical information. Although health care is information-intensive, health care systems in Canada and abroad have generally been slow to adopt IT. Other sectors of the economy have invested heavily in IT/IS over the past two decades and have reaped enormous benefits in efficiency and service to clients. IT should be viewed as a “social investment” in the acquisition of knowledge. Patients will benefit through potential reductions in rates of mortality and morbidity due to misdiagnosis and improper treatment, as well as reductions in medication errors that come with access to online drug reference databases and the virtual elimination of handwritten prescriptions. IT will permit better access to diagnostic services and online databases, such as clinical practice guidelines, that are widely available but underused. Health promotion and disease prevention will be enhanced through superior monitoring and patient education (e.g., e-libraries), and decision-making by providers and patients will be improved. These represent only a subset of the potential benefits to Canadians. A great deal of effort is currently being devoted to the development of a secure electronic health record (EHR) that provides details of all health services provided to a patient. An EHR will not generate new information on patients; it will simply make existing information more readily accessible to the physician or appropriate health care provider. We are still at the infant stage of EHRs. Implementation will require a process of continual expansion, beginning with the most basic of patient information and evolving into a comprehensive record of all of the patient’s encounters with the health care system ? as well legislation protecting personal privacy and unwarranted access. It is widely accepted in industry that 4 – 5% of financial budgets is a reasonable target for information technology spending. It is equally widely accepted that in Canada the health care sector falls well short of this target. As part of the September 2000 Health Accord, the federal government invested $500 million to create the Canada Health Infoway with a mandate to accelerate the development and adoption of modern systems of IT, such as electronic patient records. The CMA applauds this investment, but notes that the $500-million down-payment is only a fraction of the $4.1 billion that the CMA estimates it would cost to fully connect the Canadian health care system. A number of provincial and territorial governments are also moving ahead with the development of IT in health care, but further financial support is required. The CMA is prepared to play a pivotal partnership role in achieving the buy-in and cooperation of physicians and other health care providers through a multistakeholder process. Toward this end, the CMA has developed principles for the advancement of EHRs (Appendix J). The CMA’s involvement would be a critical success factor in helping the federal government make an electronic health care system a realizable goal in the years to come. Recommendation 19 That federal government make an additional, substantial, ongoing national investments in information technology and information systems, with the objective of improving the health of Canadians as well as improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the health care system. Recommendation 20 That governments adopt national standards that facilitate the collection, use and exchange of electronic health information in a manner which ensures that the protection of patient privacy and confidentiality are paramount. 6.5 Research and Innovation Research and innovation in the health sector are producing an expanding array of treatments and therapies that improve quality of life and longevity, e.g., pharmaceuticals, surgery, human genome, etc. Health research provides substantial economic, social and health care benefits to society. It * Creates high-quality, knowledge-based jobs that drive economic growth * Supports academic institutions across the country and helps train new health professionals in the latest health care technologies and techniques * Supports health care delivery and is key to maintaining centres of excellence for highly specialized care * Leads directly to better ways to treat patients and promote a healthier population. In Canada, health research is carried out by a mix of public, voluntary and private-sector organizations with the federal government being the main player in publicly funded health research. Several provinces have their own health research funding agencies. Canada’s health charities play an important role in funding research on a range of diseases and conditions. The pharmaceutical industry, especially the name-brand companies, invests heavily to develop new drugs. Recent federal investments have begun to revitalize Canada’s health research capacity. With the creation of the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), Canada now has a modern funding agency that integrates biomedical, clinical, health services and population health research. New programs have been introduced to attract world-class scientists, modernize research infrastructure and equipment and support research in genomics. As significant as these investments have been, Canada still ranks second-to-last among G7 countries in terms of support for health research. The United States’ National Institutes of Health has a budget that is 50 times that of the CIHR for a population only 10 times bigger than Canada’s. Other countries are increasing their investment in health research to keep pace. If Canada is to improve it position vis-à-vis our key competitors, the federal government must map out a plan to increase its investment in health research to internationally competitive levels. The federal government’s investment in health research currently stands at about 0.5% of total health expenditures. There is a broad consensus in the health community that this should be increased to at least 1% of total health expenditures. Recommendation 21 That the federal government’s investment in health research be increased to at least 1% of national health expenditures. 7. Health System Financing Governments’ contributions to funding Canada’s health system should support the long-term sustainability of the system and the provision of high-quality health care for all Canadians. Governments’ contribution to Medicare should promote greater public accountability, transparency and a linkage of sources with their uses. Changes in health system financing have played a central role in the crisis facing Medicare. Significant and unpredictable funding cuts at both federal and provincial–territorial levels have wreaked havoc in the planning and delivery of a very complex array of services. Health care costs that were previously covered by provincial and territorial health insurance plans have been gradually shifted to individuals (“passive privatization”) leaving those without private insurance coverage increasingly vulnerable. Mounting evidence of unacceptably long waits for treatment and poor access to services has underlined the risks attached to having a single-payer system, with insufficient accountability for timeliness and accessibility of care. Growing problems of access and declining provider morale, combined with constant bickering about funding between federal and provincial–territorial governments have led to deterioration of public confidence in the system. The message from the front lines is clear: restoring the health care system to a sustainable footing cannot be accomplished by simply managing our way out of this crisis. As Medicare is renewed, it is essential that its underlying financing framework is modernized, taking into account the multiple policy objectives served by health financing mechanisms. 10 Policy Objectives for Health Financing Mechanisms 1. Stable and sustainable funding 2. Risk-pooling 3. Equity (between population subgroups, across regions) 4. Responsible use 5. Administrative simplicity 6. Transparency and accountability 7. Choice 8. Efficiency 9. Meet current needs 10. Fairness between generations (intergenerational equity) Our recommended changes to the legislation governing federal transfers to provinces and territories are set out in section 3.3.2. To restore the federal–provincial–territorial partnership in health, we recommend that the federal contribution to the public health care system be locked in for a 5-year period, with a built-in escalator tied to increases in GDP, rising to a target of 50% of spending for core services. We also recommend that the federal government establish special purpose, one-time funds to address a number of pressing issues. Given their constitutional responsibility in the area of health care, provinces and territories will continue to play the lead role in regulating the flow of public funding for health care. Once the basket of core services is determined according to the process outlined in section 5.1, provinces and territories will have to commit sufficient funding to ensure that these services are available and accessible in a timely way. The funding commitment of provinces and territories will, therefore, drive the federal government’s 50% contribution. In addition to providing half of public funding for core services, provinces and territories will also have the option of funding additional health services beyond the national minimum core basket, much as they do now. Although adequate and stable funding for health care is imperative at the federal level, it is equally important at the provincial and territorial level. Provincial and territorial commitment to funding core services must also be locked-in for a five-year period with an escalator tied to provincial demographics and inflation. To ensure stability, a buffer will also be needed to protect provincial and territorial health care budgets from the ebbs and flows of the business cycle. Currently, the federal Fiscal Stabilization Program compensates provinces if their revenues fall substantially from one year to the next due to changes in economic circumstances. However, this program is not health-specific and only takes effect when provincial revenues drop by over 5%. It is also funded from general revenues, which makes it more vulnerable to economic and political factors. A more robust approach to guaranteeing stability of public funding for health care would be to create a stand-alone contingency fund to which all governments would contribute. Excess revenues would be collected into this fund during periods of high economic growth, and could be used during less prosperous periods when governments experience fiscal capacity shortfalls. Recommendation 22 (a) That the provincial and territorial governments’ commitment to funding core services be locked-in for an initial five-year period with an escalator tied to provincial population demographics and inflation. (b) That governments establish a health-specific contingency fund to mitigate the effects of fluctuations in the business cycle and to promote greater stability in health care financing. 8. Organization and Delivery of Services 8.1 The Medical Care Continuum There is a tendency to separate medical care into two areas; primary care and specialty care. However, we must recognize that medical and health care encompass a broad spectrum of services ranging from primary prevention to highly specialized care. Primary and specialty care are so closely interrelated that the renewal of either should not be attempted without considering the impact on the rest of the care continuum. Recommendation 23 That any effort to change the organization or delivery of medical care take into account the impact on the whole continuum of care. 8.1.1 Primary care services In recent years, several government task force and Commission reports have called for primary care reform. Common themes include improving continuity of care (including 24/7 coverage); establishing alternatives to fee-for-service payment of physicians; placing greater emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention; and adopting team models that involve nurse practitioners and other health care providers working collaboratively with physicians. Governments have responded by launching pilot projects to evaluate different models of primary care delivery. It is critical to evaluate these projects before moving ahead with them on a broader scale and to consider the implications of their system-wide implementation. Although some jurisdictions have moved forward with ambitious proposals to change the structure of primary care and the remuneration of physicians, the CMA urges the Commission not to view primary care renewal as a panacea for all that ails Medicare. Primary care renewal should not be used as a pretext for changing how doctors are paid nor should it focus on substituting the lowest cost provider. The focus should be on patient need. Any changes to the delivery of primary care should respect the following principles: * All Canadians should have access to a family physician. * No single model will meet the primary care needs of all communities in all regions of the country. Successful renewal of primary health care delivery cannot be accomplished without also addressing the shortage of family practitioners. Not only is the supply of these physicians affected by an aging physician population and by changes in lifestyle and productivity, but the popularity of primary care as a career choice among medical graduates is also declining. According to the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS), in 1997, only 10% of positions that were still vacant after the first round of the residency match were in family medicine. By 2000, family medicine’s share of vacant positions after the first iteration peaked at 57%; since then it has remained close to 50%. Furthermore, before 1994, more graduates were choosing family medicine than there were positions available. Since then, the situation has reversed with fewer graduates consistently choosing family medicine than there are positions available.9 A major factor in this trend may be the 1993 change in the residency program, which removed graduates’ ability to do a first-year rotation in family medicine, then have the choice of continuing in the family medicine program or switching into a specialty. Now, any graduate who chooses family medicine is committed to that program. The dramatic shift in the number of graduates choosing family medicine in 1994 is likely due to the assumption that it is easier to switch out of a specialty into family medicine than vice versa. The uncertainty of the future of primary care caused by these constant reform efforts has also contributed to the decline in popularity of family medicine among medical graduates. Efforts must be made to remove these perceived barriers so that the public’s need for primary care services can be met. Multidisciplinary teams, both formal and informal, are common in primary care today. The reliance on the team approach will likely grow because of the increased complexity of care, the exponential growth of knowledge, the greater emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention, and the choice of patients and providers. Although desirable, primary care teams ? physicians, nurses, pharmacists, dieticians and others ? will cost the system more, not less, than the traditional fee-for-service physician approach. Funding these initiatives must not come at the expense of the provision of illness care. The add-on costs of primary care teams, including informational technology (IT) and information systems (IS), must be looked upon as an investment in the health of Canadians. (IT and IS opportunities must also be available to all physicians, regardless of how they are paid or their patterns of practice.) Although multidisciplinary teams may provide a broader array of services, for most Canadians having a family doctor as the central provider of all primary medical care services is a core value. As the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) indicated in its submission to the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada, over 90% of Canadians seek advice from a family physician as their first resource in the health care system. The CPFC also reports that a recent Ontario College of Family Physicians public opinion survey, conducted by Decima, found that 94% of people agree that it is important to have a family physician who provides the majority of primary care and coordinates the care delivered by others.10 A family physician as the central coordinator of medical services promotes the efficient and effective use of resources. This facilitates continuity of care because the family physician generally has the benefit of developing an ongoing relationship with his or her patients and their families and, as a result, can advise and direct the patient through the system so that the patient receives the appropriate care from the appropriate provider. Canada has one of the best primary care systems in the world, but it can be improved through better integration and coordination of care. This requires investment to increase quality and productivity through improved IT and connectivity to support physicians in their expanded roles as information providers, coordinators and integrators of care, and to support the integrated care of primary care teams. Recommendation 24 (a) That governments work with the provincial and territorial medical associations and other stakeholders to draw on the successes of evaluated primary care projects to develop a variety of templates of primary care models that would * suit the full range of geographical contexts and * incorporate criteria for moving from pilot projects to wider implementation, such as cost-effectiveness, quality of care and patient and provider satisfaction. (b) That family physicians remain as the central provider and coordinator of timely access to publicly funded medical services, to ensure comprehensive and integrated care, and that there are sufficient resources available to permit this. 8.1.2 Specialty care services Much of the focus in recent years has been on primary care renewal. Countless reports indicating a major crisis in the area of primary care delivery have overshadowed the problems that are plaguing other areas of the health care continuum. For example, a severe physician shortage is occurring in specialty care at the generalist level. The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada reports that a third of general surgeons are aged 55 or older and nearly 40% more general surgeons are retiring than are graduating from medical schools.11 Canada cannot afford to continue to ignore this key segment of the care continuum. A concerted effort must be made to increase the visibility of secondary care specialists and to encourage medical students to enter general specialties. As highly specialized care and technology have advanced, there has been increasing pressure at the tertiary level of the health care system to provide the highest level of care possible. Delivering tertiary care in the ways to which Canadians are accustomed cannot be sustained into the future; and such tertiary care cannot be available in all areas of the country. Alternative approaches to delivering and receiving high-level specialty care are both required and inevitable. The aging population, the challenges posed by Canada’s geography, rapidly expanding high-cost technologies and the lack of a critical mass of highly specialized health care providers necessitate a change in thinking. The health system has reached the point where certain types of care are neither universally nor readily available. The shortage of specialists and the high cost of technology and pharmaceuticals will exacerbate this situation. The future challenge is to design delivery systems that are built around a series of regional centres of excellence, without abandoning the concept of “reasonable” access. As these highly specialized services are realigned interprovincially, resources must also be realigned to accommodate and compensate for the relocation of providers and to ensure that patients have equitable access to treatment. At their January 2002 meeting in Vancouver, the premiers recognized that some types of surgery and other medical procedures are performed infrequently and that the necessary expertise cannot be developed and maintained in each province and territory. Building on the experience in Canada’s three territories and Atlantic Canada, they agreed to share human resources and equipment by developing sites of excellence in such fields as pediatric cardiac surgery and gamma knife neurosurgery. This should lead to better care for patients and more efficient use of health care dollars. At the provincial–territorial level, this strategy has led to regional centres and hospitals with responsibilities for province- and territory-wide programs and services. The concept of centres of excellence can be further supported by the adoption of telemedicine and telehealth technologies which will permit rapid access to or exchange of electronic diagnostic information (e.g., imaging) and enable remote consultation and treatment. Determining where care is available will become an increasingly relevant policy matter ? especially as costs such as travel and lost income could be downloaded onto patients and their families. Efforts will be required to optimize the use of scarce specialist services, improve care and availability, assure continuity and enhance provider morale. In the interests of quality care, patient safety and the economical use of scarce resources interjursidictionally, there is a need for a Canadian Accessibility Fund. This fund would be modeled after the Portability Fund established to support the Federal–Provincial–Territorial Eligibility and Portability Agreements under the Medical Care Act. The cost of the new fund, like the old, would be 50–50 cost-shared by the federal and provincial–territorial governments. It would require an initial investment of $100 million. Access to the fund would be determined by a mutually agreed upon set of criteria, and any monies withdrawn would be used to facilitate access to highly specialized health care services that are not available in the patient’s home province. Recommendation 25 (a) That governments develop a national plan to coordinate the most efficient access to highly specialized treatment and diagnostic services. * This plan should include the creation of defined regional centres of excellence to optimize the availability of scarce specialist services. * Any realignment of services must accommodate and compensate for the relocation of providers. * That the federal government create an accessibility fund that would support interprovincial centres of excellence for highly specialized services. 8.2 Physician Remuneration It is a common misconception that successful renewal of the health care system involves simply changing how physicians are paid ? specifically, abolishing fee-for-service. In their analysis of primary care in Canada, Hutchison and colleagues note that governments’ preoccupation with the “big bang” approach — that typically involves the adoption of inappropriate funding and remuneration methods — is a major contributor to the failure of many primary care projects.12 Every system of remuneration has its strengths and weaknesses. Canadians should not be led to think that movement away from fee-for-service remuneration of physicians will provide them with better care. How physicians (and other health care providers) are paid should be a means to an end, not an end unto itself. Nevertheless, physicians are willing to consider other appropriate methods of remuneration in appropriate circumstances. Physicians must be given a choice about their method of payment. Experience has taught us that a “one size fits all” approach to compensation does not work. Furthermore, any remuneration arrangement must preserve and protect physician autonomy and the ability of the physician to act as an advocate for his or her patients. In 2001, the CMA developed a policy on physician compensation (Appendix K) that is based on the following principles. CMA Policy on Physician Compensation: Basic Principles * Medical practitioners must receive fair, reasonable and equitable remuneration for the full spectrum of their professional activities. * Physicians need to receive reasonable consideration and compensation when facilities and programs are discontinued, reduced or transferred. * Individual medical practitioners have the liberty to choose among payment methods. * Payment systems must not compromise the ability of physicians to provide high-quality cost-effective medical services. * Payment mechanisms must allow for a reasonable quality of life. * Provincial and territorial government resources and funding for physician services must be allocated directly to physicians for services provided. * All physicians, including those indirectly affected, have the right to representation in negotiations on issues of payment, funding, and the terms and conditions of their work. * Paying agencies must fulfill the terms of agreement negotiated with legitimate agents of the medical profession and be obliged to honour a mutually agreed-upon and established process of negotiation with those agents. * In the event of failure of negotiations relating to physician compensation, such disagreement must be resolved by a mutually agreed-upon, timely process of dispute resolution. * The federal minister of health must enforce the provisions of the Canada Health Act relevant to physician compensation (section12.2). Recommendation 26 That governments respect the principles contained in the CMA’s policy on physician compensation and the terms of duly negotiated agreements. 8.3 Rural Health Care Canadian physicians and other health care professionals are greatly frustrated by the impact that health care budget cuts and reorganization have had, and continue to have, on the timely provision of quality care to patients and on general working conditions. For physicians who practise in rural and remote communities, this impact is exacerbated by the breadth of their practice, long working hours, lifestyle restrictions created by on-call responsibilities, geographic isolation and lack of professional backup and access to specialist services. In 2000, the CMA developed a policy statement on rural and remote practice (Appendix L) to help governments, policymakers, communities and others involved in the retention of physicians understand the various professional and personal factors that must be addressed to retain and recruit physicians to rural and remote areas. The 28 recommendations address training, compensation and work and lifestyle support issues. Training for rural practice must span the full medical career lifecycle, from recruitment of candidates likely to enter rural practice to special skills training, retraining and continuing professional development. Compensation must reflect the degree of isolation, level of responsibility, frequency of on-call duty, breadth of practice and additional skills. Consideration must also be given to the broader social issues of the physician and his or her family, as well as the need to facilitate the availability of locum tenens, particularly across jurisdictional boundaries. There is a need to ensure that there is sufficient availability of physicians so that on-call requirements are manageable and that adequate professional backup is provided, e.g., locum services currently offered through provincial and territorial medical associations. We concur with the observation made by the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada in their August 2001 submission to the Commission that Canada needs a national rural health strategy. The aim of the strategy would be to look at the systemic barriers to meeting the needs of rural Canadians and to provide strategic program funding to catalyze change. Recommendation 27 That governments work with universities, colleges, professional associations and communities to develop a national rural and remote health strategy for Canada. 8.4 Emerging and Supportive Roles in Health Care Delivery 8.4.1 Private sector Canada has a mixed system of public–private delivery and public–private financing, as illustrated in the following diagram with all four possible combinations. [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Delivery Public Private Financing Public Public delivery/ public financing (e.g., public hospital services) Private delivery/ public financing (e.g., doctor’s office care) Private Public delivery/ private financing (e.g., private room in a public hospital) Private delivery/ private financing (e.g., cosmetic surgery) [TABLE END] No issue in Canadian health policy has generated more controversy than the role of the private sector. As we move forward with the renewal of Medicare, it will be important for Canadians to understand the distinction between private delivery and private funding. The appropriate mix of public and private should not be based on ideology, but rather on the optimal use of resources. Health care is delivered mainly by private providers including physicians, pharmacists, private not-for-profit hospitals, private long-term care facilities, private diagnostic and testing facilities, rehabilitation centres. (In addition, supplies from food and laundry to drugs and technology are provided almost exclusively by the private sector.) This significant level of private-sector delivery has served Canada well. Accordingly, the CMA supports a continuing and major role for the private sector in the delivery of health care. However, we are not proposing a parallel private system. There may be a growing role for private delivery. We would encourage this as long as the services can be provided cost-effectively. As with the public sector, any private-sector involvement in health care must be patient-centred as well as open, transparent and accountable. Furthermore, it must be strictly regulated to ensure that high standards of quality care are being met and monitored. Recommendation 28 That Canada’s health care system make optimal use of the private sector in the delivery of publicly financed health care provided that it meets the same standards of quality as the public system. 8.4.2 Voluntary sector The voluntary sector, including many charities and consumer advocacy groups, has played a critical role in the development of the public health system ? providing and funding services, programs, equipment and facilities. Much of the capital infrastructure development, especially in hospitals, has been made possible through the fundraising efforts of charity foundations and service organizations. In addition, many patient support services such as “Meals on Wheels” exist only because of the efforts of volunteer groups. Although the voluntary sector is a major asset for Canada’s health care system, it is critical for governments to fulfill their obligation to support publicly financed health care. Governments must avoid passing off their responsibilities to the voluntary sector, which is already stretched to the limit. Governments should not abuse the voluntary sector, but should properly fund the public health system’s ongoing operating costs and capital expenditures. The voluntary sector should be formally recognized for the contribution it makes to the health care system. Many of these organizations operate on a shoestring budget with limited capacity to respond to the increasing demands being placed on them. Recommendation 29 That governments examine ways to recognize and support the role of the voluntary sector in the funding and delivery of health care, including enhanced tax credits. 8.4.3 Informal caregivers Informal caregivers ? particularly those who provide care for ailing relatives and friends ? play an essential role in the health care system. The massive off-loading onto these caregivers has gone unrecognized. The costs of providing this kind of care go beyond identifiable dollar amounts such as loss of income. Many indirect costs, including emotional strain on the caregivers and their families, must also be acknowledged with support provided by governments and employers. Patients often prefer to receive their care at home, but it cannot be assumed that care provided at home is better for the patient than that provided within a health care institution. Resources must be made available to ensure that the care patients receive at home is acceptable. Increased financial support should be provided to informal caregivers through the tax system. Refundable tax credits and a program for family leave are two examples of this support. Recommendation 30 That governments support the contributions of informal caregivers through the tax system. Conclusions Canada’s health care system is at a crossroads. We need to act now to ensure that our health care system will be able to meet the current and future health care needs of Canadians. Canadians are looking for real solutions that will have meaningful results. This means not only addressing the most critical issues such as health human resources, infrastructure and delivery mechanisms, but also implementing system-wide structural and procedural changes. It also means involving all key stakeholders in the decision-making process at all levels. In this second submission to the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada, the CMA has offered solutions that are patient-centred and reflect Canadian values of a publicly funded system that is sustainable and accountable and provides timely access to high-quality care. These recommendations form a complete, integrated package that should be implemented as a whole to be successful. The CMA would like to thank the Commission for providing this opportunity to submit our Prescription for Sustainability and we wish the Commission every success in developing a concrete plan for revitalizing our cherished Canadian health care system. 1 A recent article by Patrick Monahan and Stanley Hartt published by the C.D. Howe Institute argues that Canadians have a constitutional right to access privately funded health care if the publicly funded system does not provide access to care in a timely way. 2 Although the word “charter” has a legal connotation, it has been used in other contexts. An example is the 1986 Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion, an international call for action on health promotion that has received worldwide acclaim. 3 This could be linked to the equalization provision in Section 36(2) of the Constitution Act (1982). 4 Proclamations are issued by the Queen’s representative in the particular jurisdiction. An example of a proclamation that has been issued this way is the “Proclamation Recognizing the Outstanding Service to Canadians by Employees in the Public Service of Canada in Times of Natural Disaster” (13 May, 1998). 5 100% government-funded without patient cost-sharing. 6 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Health at a glance. Paris, France: OECD; 2001. 7 CMF membership includes: CMA, Association of Canadian Medical Colleges, College of Family Physicians of Canada, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, Canadian Federation of Medical Students, Canadian Association of Internes and Residents, Federation of Medical Licensing Authorities of Canada, Medical Council of Canada, and Association of Canadian Academic Healthcare Organizations. 8 See for example the Melbourne Manifesto: A Code of Practice for the International Recruitment of Health Care Professionals, which was adopted at the 5th Wonca World Conference on Rural Health in May 2002. It puts the onus on every country to train enough health professionals to meet their own needs (www.wonca.org). 9 Canadian Resident Matching Service. PGY-1 Match Report 2002. History of family medicine as a career choice of Canadian graduates. [http:// http://www.carms.ca/stats/stats_index.htm]. Ottawa: CaRMS; 2002. 10 College of Family Physicians of Canada. Shaping the Future of Health Care. Submission to the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada. Ottawa: CFPC; 25 Oct. 2001. 11 Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. Health care renewal through knowledge, collaboration, and commitment. Ottawa: RCPSC; 31 Oct. 2002. 12 Hutchison B, Abelson J, Lavis J. Primary care in Canada: so much innovation, so little change. Health Aff 2001 May/Jun; 20(3):116-31.
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A Public Health Perspective on Cannabis and Other Illegal Drugs : CMA Submission to the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1968
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2002-03-11
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
  2 documents  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2002-03-11
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Text
Cannabis has adverse effects on the personal health of Canadians and the well-being of society. In making this submission to the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) wishes to make it clear that any change to the criminal status of cannabis must be done so with the recognition that cannabis is an addictive substance and that addiction is a disease. The CMA believes that the government must take a broad public health policy approach to address cannabis use. Focusing on the decriminalization issue alone is inadequate to deal with the complexity of the problem. Changes to the criminal law affecting cannabis must not promote normalization of its use, and must be tied to a national drug strategy that promotes awareness and prevention, and provides for comprehensive treatment. Under such a multidimensional approach the CMA would endorse decriminalization. In this document, we primarily focus on the health effects of cannabis use. However, we also present information and recommendations on the use of other illegal drugs. While we understand that this goes beyond the intended scope of the Senate Committee's study, this information is important to the development of comprehensive policy, which we believe is required. We also recognize and welcome the fact that many of the CMA's recommendations will require a closer working relationship among health providers, justice officials and law enforcement. The CMA's recommendations are: Section 1: Illegal Drugs 1. A National Drug Strategy: The federal government develop, in cooperation with the provinces and territories and the appropriate stakeholder groups, a comprehensive national drug strategy on the non-medical use of drugs. 2. Redistribution of Resources: The vast majority of resources dedicated to combating illegal drugs are directed towards law enforcement activities. Government needs to re-balance this distribution and allocate a greater proportion of these resources to drug treatment, prevention, and harm reduction programs. Law enforcement activities should target the distribution and production of illegal drugs. 3. Addiction is a Disease: Addiction should be regarded as a disease and therefore, individuals suffering with drug dependency should be diverted, whenever possible, from the criminal justice system to treatment and rehabilitation. Additionally, the stigma associated with addiction needs to be addressed as part of a comprehensive education strategy. 4. Increased Research: All governments commit to more research on the cause, effects and treatment of addiction. Further research on the long- term health effects associated with chronic cannabis use is specifically required. Section 2: Cannabis 1. National Cannabis Cessation Program: The federal government develop, in cooperation with the provinces and territories and the appropriate stakeholder groups, a comprehensive program to minimize cannabis use. This should include, but not be limited to: * Education and awareness raising of the potential harms of cannabis use including risks associated with use in pregnancy; use by those with mental illness; chronic respiratory problems; and chronic heavy use; * Strategies to prevent early use in adolescence; and, * Availability of assessment, counselling and treatment services for those experiencing adverse effects of heavy use or dependence. 2. Driving Under the Influence Prevention Policy: The CMA believes that comprehensive long-term efforts that incorporate both deterrent legislation and public awareness and education constitute the most effective approach to reducing the number of lives lost and injuries suffered in crashes involving impaired drivers. The CMA supports a similar multidimensional approach to the issue of the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of cannabis. 3. Decriminalization: The severity of punishment for simple possession and personal use of cannabis should be reduced with the removal of criminal sanctions. The CMA believes that resources currently devoted to combating simple marijuana possession through the criminal law could be diverted to public health strategies, particularly for youth. To the degree that having a criminal record limits employment prospects the impact on health status is profound. Poorer employment prospects lead to poorer health. Use of a civil violation, such as a fine, is a potential alternative. However, decriminalization should only be pursued as part of a comprehensive national illegal drug strategy that would include a cannabis cessation program. 4. Monitoring and Evaluation: Any changes need to be gradual to protect against any potential harm. In addition, changes to the criminal law in connection with cannabis, should be rigorously monitored and evaluated for their impact. This document also contains the policies and recommendations of the CMA affiliated association that has specific expertise in the field of substance use disorders the, Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine (CSAM). In addition, for an even broader health-sector perspective, the CMA has attached information on the policy positions of other key medical organizations from Canada and the United States in regard to decriminalization of cannabis. A PUBLIC HEALTH PERSPECTIVE ON CANNABIS AND OTHER ILLEGAL DRUGS INTRODUCTION The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) welcomes the opportunity to participate in the deliberations of the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs. This document was developed by the CMA's new Office for Public Health in consultation with our Affiliate Societies, in particular the Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine, and our 12 provincial and territorial divisions. The use of illegal drugs and relevant policies is an extremely broad, multi-disciplinary and at times, controversial subject. Considering the breadth of this subject, the limited time-lines and the areas of particular interest of the Committee, this document will focus on the following: * What are the known health effects of cannabis and other illegal drugs? * What experience has there been with the decriminalization of cannabis? * What has been the impact of law enforcement on illegal drug use? * What changes need to be considered in Canada's approach to illegal drug use including the potential decriminalization of drugs? In addition to the above, this document will provide an overview of the relevant policy position statements and recommendations regarding cannabis and drug policy from other key medical organizations from both Canada and the United States. PUBLIC HEALTH PERSPECTIVE ON DRUG USE There are many different perspectives on the use of drugs including ethical and moral frameworks. This paper is prepared from a public health perspective where minimizing any harms associated with use is of primary concern. 1 This requires consideration of health issues related not only to the individual user and the drug being used, but also the key social factors associated with use. Drug use is a complex behaviour that is influenced by many factors. It is not possible to identify a single cause for drug use, nor will the set of contributing factors be the same among different drug users and populations. Public health objectives will vary depending upon the circumstances: preventing drug use in those who have not initiated use (e.g. pre-teens); avoiding use in circumstances associated with a risk of adverse outcomes (e.g. drug use and driving motor vehicle); assisting those who wish to stop using the drug (e.g. treatment, rehabilitation); and assisting those who intend to continue to use the drug to do so in such a manner as to reduce the risk of adverse effects (e.g. needle exchange program to reduce risk of HIV). To address this complexity, what is required is a public health strategy to combat drug use utilizing a comprehensive, multi-component approach. Public health strategies focus on the various predisposing, enabling, and re-enforcing factors that influence healthy behaviours and choices. 2 These sets of factors recognize the many influences upon individual behaviour including: individual and social attitudes, beliefs and values; skills; support, self-efficacy and re-enforcement. Public health actions can be grouped into the following major categories: 3 * Developing Personal Skills - education and skill-building (e.g. mass media, skill development to resist peer pressure, thinking skills); * Healthy Public Policy - policies, formal and informal that support health (e.g. school policy, substance use and driving, harm reduction initiatives); * Creating Supportive Environments - social and physical environments (e.g. adequate housing and food, community safety, non-chemical coping mechanisms); * Strengthen Community Action - community involvement in finding solutions (e.g. self-help, social support, community participation); * Health Services - range of services to meet needs (e.g. prevention, assessment, early intervention, treatment, rehabilitation, harm-reduction initiatives). This framework is useful in identifying the range of program components that need to be considered. Relative emphasis between components and the specific interventions selected will vary depending upon the target population (e.g. school students vs. injection drug users). The key is a balanced approach that will influence the factors contributing to less healthy behaviours with support for behaviour change and maintenance. CANNABIS Several commissions and task forces, in Canada and elsewhere, have addressed the issue of how to deal with cannabis use, although frequently their recommendations have not been implemented. 4, 5, 6 It has been suggested that "cannabis is a political football that governments continually duck...(but that) like a football, it bounces back." 7 This section of the paper will review current Canadian levels of use, health effects, law enforcement issues, and experience with decriminalization in other jurisdictions. Current Use The Ontario Student Drug Use Survey is conducted every two years in grades 7, 9, 11, and 13, although in 1999 all grades from 7-13 were surveyed. Use of cannabis within the preceding year increased from 11.7% of students in 1991, to 29.2% in 1999. 8 Increases were also observed for several other drugs during the same time period (tobacco, alcohol, glue, other solvents, hallucinogens, cocaine, PCP, and ecstasy). Increases in adolescent drug use have also been observed in the US, Europe and Australia through the 1990s. Compared with earlier cohorts, fewer students in 1999 reported early onset of cannabis use (before grade 7) compared with similarly aged students in 1997 and 1981. Past year drug use of cannabis, alcohol and tobacco by grade year is shown in Table 1. The proportion of students who have used one of these drugs increases with increasing grade level. [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Table 1 - Past Year Drug Use (%) by Grade Level, Ontario Students, 1999 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 Alcohol 39.7 53.7 63.1 74.9 82.0 84.6 83.0 Tobacco 7.4 17.8 27.8 37.4 41.7 38.6 38.0 Cannabis 3.6 14.9 25.5 36.4 48.1 39.4 43.3 1999 Ontario Student Drug Use Survey 9 [TABLE END] The last national survey of illicit drug use in Canada was conducted in 1994. 10 At that time, 23% of Canadians, aged 15 and over, reported having used cannabis more than once during their lifetime with 7% having used it within the preceding year. Current use is much more common in those under the age of 25 and diminishes significantly with age, (Table 2). Most cannabis use is sporadic with the majority of adult and adolescent users using it less than once a week. 11 [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Table 2 - Lifetime and Current Use of Cannabis in Canada, 1994 Age Lifetime Use (%) Current Use (%) (past 12 months) 15-17 30 24.0 18-19 32.9 23.8 20-24 37.7 19.0 25-34 38.2 9.6 35-44 32.9 5.7 45-54 14.8 1.4 55-64 3.7 - 65+ 0.8 - Canada's Alcohol and Other Drugs Survey: 1994 [TABLE END] Health Effects Our understanding of the health effects of cannabis continues to evolve. Hall summarizes the effects into acute and chronic effects and whether these are probable or possible (Table 3). 12 [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Table 3 - Summary of Probable and Possible Health Effects of Cannabis Use Pattern of Use Acute Chronic Probable anxiety, dysphoria, panic, cognitive impairment, psychomotor impairment; chronic bronchitis, lung cancer, dependence, mild cognitive impairment, exacerbation of psychosis; Possible (possible but uncertain, confirmation required in controlled studies) increased risk of traffic accident, psychosis, low-birth-weight babies; cancers in offspring, impaired immunity From CMAJ 2000; 162: 1690-1692. [TABLE END] Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the main psychoactive substance in cannabis. THC is inhaled in the mainstream smoke and absorbed through the lungs, rapidly entering the bloodstream. Effects are perceptible within seconds and fully apparent in a few minutes. Cannabis combines many of the properties of alcohol, tranquilizers, opiates and hallucinogens; it has anxiolytic, sedative, analgesic and psychedelic properties. 13 Its acute toxicity is extremely low, as no deaths directly due to acute cannabis use have ever been reported. The main feature of its use is that it produces a feeling of euphoria (or 'high'). Toxic dose-related effects include anxiety, panic, depression or psychosis.14 It should also be noted that a significant incident of co-morbid addiction occurs in those with physical and mental diseases. People with major mental illnesses such as schizophrenia are especially vulnerable in that cannabis use can provoke relapse and aggravate existing symptoms. A chronic lack of energy and drive to work in chronic users has been referred to as an "amotivational syndrome," which is currently believed to represent an ongoing intoxication in frequent users. 14 Cannabis slows reaction times, impairs motor coordination and concentration as well as the completion of complex tasks. 13 Due to the extended presence of metabolites in the bloodstream, it is difficult to correlate blood levels with acute impairment making interpretation of crash data difficult. However, it is generally accepted that cannabis use is associated with an increased risk of motor vehicle and aircraft crashes. Impairments of attention, memory and the ability to process complex information can last for prolonged periods of time, even years, after cessation of heavy, chronic cannabis use. A cannabis withdrawal syndrome similar to alcohol, opiate and benzodiazepine withdrawal symptoms exist. 14 Cannabis use increases heart rate and causes blood vessels to dilate. These present a risk for those with pre-existing cardiac disease. Smoke from cannabis preparations contains many of the same compounds as tobacco cigarettes including increased levels of tar. Chronic cannabis smoking is associated with bronchitis and emphysema. Chronic cannabis use may have risks of chronic lung disease and lung cancer comparable to cigarette smoking. With increasing study and experience, it is clear that cannabis, like other substances such as tobacco or alcohol, can have a number of adverse physical and psychological effects. 15 Law Enforcement The 1997 data is the latest year with national drug offences' data for possession, cultivation, trafficking and importation (Figure 1). 16 The proportion of drug incidents is heavily skewed towards cannabis. This is intriguing since the health concerns of cannabis are substantially less than those of heroin or cocaine. [FIGURE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Figure 1: Proportion of All Drug Incidents by Drug Type, Canada, 1997 [FIGURE END] Of the 66,500 drug incidents in Canada in 1997, over 70% (47,908) were cannabis related. Of these, over two thirds (32,682) were for possession. The rate of cannabis offences has increased 34% since 1991 with cannabis-possession rates increasing steadily from 1991-1996 with a slight drop in 1997. Most (86%) of those charged with cannabis offences were under 25 years of age. It has been estimated that about 2,000 Canadians are sent to jail every year for cannabis possession.17 Despite the current level of enforcement, cannabis use has been increasing with over 40% of grade 11, 12 and 13 students having used cannabis in the preceding year. While it is obvious that only a small percentage of users are being charged, thousands of teens and young adults are being charged every year, receiving criminal records that can impact future employment, future interactions with the justice system, and be a barrier to acquiring citizenship. 11 Findings from several studies indicate that perceived health risk and social disapproval were much more important disincentives to cannabis use than legal threats. 18 Experience with Decriminalization in Other Jurisdictions A number of other jurisdictions have implemented alternative enforcement approaches to the personal use of cannabis. While none of these experiences directly predict what would happen in Canada, they do provide information to address some of the issues raised when decriminalization is considered. Despite the obvious interest in the impact of these policy changes, there is a paucity of well-designed evaluations (i.e. evaluations which were designed and implemented prior to policy change, rather than post-hoc analyses on available data). United States In the 1970s, several US states reduced the legal sanctions for possession of small amounts of cannabis to a maximum penalty of a fine. Despite the substantial potential interest in the effects of such policy changes, evaluative studies were relatively sparse. The available data, though based upon national high school student survey data as well as evaluations in two states, indicated that there was no apparent increase in cannabis use that could be attributed to decriminalization. 19 The high school student national survey data showed that while use of cannabis had increased in those states that had decriminalized possession, the rates of use had increased by a greater amount with stricter laws. California was one of the states which decriminalized possession, and similar to other states, experienced a decrease in cannabis use during the 1980s which based upon student surveys appeared to be due to changing perceptions of health risks rather than changes in the legal status of the drug. 19 Netherlands The Netherlands is the most frequently identified example of a country that altered its approach to marijuana. The Dutch impose no penalties for the possession of small amounts of cannabis and allow a number of coffee shops to openly sell the drug. 20 This policy therefore is not simply removing the potential for criminal records and imprisonment with possession, but actually partially legalized cannabis sales. This process began in 1976 and coffee shops were not allowed to advertise, could not sell hard drugs, no sales to minors, no public disturbances, and no sales transactions exceeding certain quantity thresholds. Initially this threshold was set at 30 gm of cannabis, a rather large amount which was reduced to 5 gm in 1995. Attempts have been made to compare the prevalence of cannabis use in the Netherlands with other countries. Since cannabis use changes dramatically with age and over different time periods, surveys need to be of similar populations during similar time periods to be comparable. Differences in the wording of questions between surveys also make comparison difficult. A recent review by MacCouin et al makes 28 comparisons between the Netherlands and the US, Denmark, West Germany, Sweden, Finland, France and the UK.21 Overall, it appears that Dutch rates are lower than rates of use in the US but somewhat higher than those of some of its European neighbours. Cannabis use is higher in Amsterdam compared to other Dutch cities and is comparable to use in the US. A limited number of surveys appear to show that from 1984 to 1992, there was a substantial increase in adolescent (aged 16 - 20) use of cannabis that did not occur in other countries. The increases observed from 1992 to 1998 however, were similar to the increases observed in other countries including Canada. Overall, it appears that while the increases in Dutch adolescent use started earlier than other countries, their prevalence of use was much lower than comparison countries so that by the late 1990s they had comparable rates of use to the US and Canada. Australia From 1987 to 1995, three Australian states decriminalized the possession and cultivation of cannabis for personal use by replacing penal sanctions with fines. 22 The courts in other states have tended to utilize non-penal sanctions such as a fine or a suspended sentence with a criminal record. The limited number of surveys conducted in Australia has failed to find evidence of any large impact on cannabis use (some of the surveys had small sample sizes and the trend in usage has been upwards in Australian states which did not decriminalize as well as in other countries that continue to prohibit cannabis use). Interestingly, despite the decriminalization, the number of notices issued by police exceeds the number of cannabis offences prior to the change in law. Summary The preceding sections have suggested that cannabis use is relatively common (particularly in teens and young adults); most use is sporadic; its use is increasing; and it is not harmless. Because of these potential harms, one would not wish to encourage its use. There is however, no necessary connection between adverse health effects of any drug or human behaviour and its prohibition by law. 22 The issue is therefore whether there are less coercive ways to discourage its use. Despite the current criminal justice approach where the bulk of all illegal drug charges are cannabis-related and the majority of these are for possession, use is increasing with thousands of teens and young adults receiving criminal records for possession each year. The available evidence from other jurisdictions suggests that decriminalization would not result in a substantial increase in use beyond baseline trends. Considering current trends, a comprehensive approach to discourage current usage is required. OTHER ILLEGAL DRUGS Illegal drugs other than cannabis present a different set of issues and concerns. While these drugs are not the primary focus of the Special Senate Committee's study, we have included a few key issues to better put the cannabis issue in proper context. Current Use The Ontario Student Drug Use Survey of students in grades 7, 9, 11 and 13 has shown that following a lengthy period of decline in drug use during the 1980s, there has been a steady increase in adolescent drug use. 8 Past year drug use in 1999 was reported as follows: ecstasy (4.8%); PCP (3.2%); hallucinogens (13.8%), and cocaine (4.1%). By comparison, tobacco, alcohol and cannabis were 28.3%, 65.7%, and 29.2% respectively. Canadian survey data of those aged 15 and over in 1994 found that about one in twenty reported any lifetime use of LSD, speed or heroin, or cocaine. 10 Rates of use of these drugs within the preceding year were 1% and 0.7% respectively. Health Effects The adverse effects of drugs such as heroin and cocaine are related not just to the drugs themselves, but also increasingly to their method of intake, which is predominantly by injection. Injection drug use (IDU) is an efficient delivery mechanism of drugs, but is also an extremely effective means of transmitting bloodborne viruses such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV. The proportion of HIV infections attributable to IDU has increased from 9% prior to 1985 to over 25% by 1995. 23 IDU is also the predominant means of hepatitis C transmission responsible for 70% of cases. 24 The increasing use of cocaine, which tends to be injected on a more frequent basis, increases the subsequent exposure to infection. It has been estimated that up to 100,000 Canadians inject drugs (not counting steroids). 25 Transmission of bloodborne pathogens is not limited to injection drug users as the disease can then be further spread to sexual contacts, including the sex trade, and vertical transmission from infected mother to child. An epidemic of overdose deaths among injection drug users has been experienced in British Columbia with over 2000 such deaths in Vancouver since 1991. 17 Despite the seriousness of the potential adverse effects of illegal drug use and the potential for this situation to worsen with increasing transmission of bloodborne diseases, on a population basis, legal drugs (alcohol and tobacco) are responsible for substantially more deaths, potential years of life lost and hospitalizations. 26 [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Table 4 - The Number of Deaths, Premature Mortality and Hospital Separations for Illicit Drugs, Alcohol and Tobacco, Canada, 1995. Deaths Potential Years of Life Lost Hospital Separations Illicit Drugs 805 33,662 6,940 Alcohol 123,734 172,126 82,014 Tobacco 34,728 500,350 193,772 From: Single et al. CMAJ 2000: 162: 1669-1675 [TABLE END] Expenditures on Illegal Drugs The direct costs associated with illicit drugs based on 1992 Canadian data are shown in the figure below: [FIGURE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] [FIGURE END] The vast majority of expenditures related to illegal drugs are on law enforcement. Considering the distribution of drug incidents, a substantial proportion of these are related to cannabis offences although health and other costs will predominantly be associated with other drugs. A substantial proportion of drug charges are for possession as compared with trafficking or importation (cocaine 42%; heroin 42%; other drugs 56%). 16 Despite illegal drug use being primarily a health and social issue, current expenditures do not reflect this and are heavily skewed towards a criminal justice approach. Unfortunately, prisons are not an ideal setting for treating addictions with the potential for continued transmission of bloodborne viruses. RECOMMENDATIONS The Need for Balanced, Comprehensive Approaches Reasons for drug use, particularly "hard drugs," are complex. It is not clear how a predominantly law enforcement approach is going to address the determinants of drug use, treat addictions, or reduce the harms associated with drug use including overdoses and the transmission of bloodborne viruses including HIV. Costs of incarceration are substantially more than the use of effective drug treatment. 27 It appears that there is an over dependence on the law when other models might be more effective in achieving the desired objective of preventing or reducing harm from drug use. 18 Aggressive law enforcement at the user level could exacerbate these harms by encouraging the use of the most dangerous and addictive drugs in the most concentrated forms, 28 because these are easier to conceal and the efficacy of injecting is greater than that of inhaling as drug costs increase in response to prohibition and enforcement. 29 There have been several recent sets of recommendations from expert groups regarding the need for a comprehensive set of approaches to address the public health challenges due to drug use, particularly those associated with injection drug use (IDU). 17, 25, 30, 31 Recommendations include the following components: * address prevention; * treatment and rehabilitation; * research; * surveillance and knowledge dissemination; * national leadership and coordination. Many of the recommendations will require close working relationships with justice/enforcement officials. Drug abuse and dependency is a chronic, relapsing disease for which there are effective treatments.32 A criminal justice approach to a disease is inappropriate particularly when there is increasing consensus that it is ineffective and exacerbates harms.33 The CMA's recommendations have been separated into two separate sections. The first set of recommendations is focused on policies affecting illegal drugs in general. While this goes beyond the intended scope of the Senate Committee's study, in our opinion, these recommendations are equally important for the Committee to consider. The second set of recommendations is specifically focused on cannabis. Our recommendations in this section take into consideration the health impact profile of cannabis, current levels of use, extent and impact of law enforcement activities and experience from other jurisdictions. Section 1: Illegal Drugs The CMA recommends: 1. A National Drug Strategy: The federal government develop, in cooperation with the provinces and territories and the appropriate stakeholder groups, a comprehensive national drug strategy on the non-medical use of drugs. 2. Redistribution of Resources: The vast majority of resources dedicated to combating illegal drugs are directed towards law enforcement activities. Government needs to re-balance this distribution and allocate a greater proportion of these resources to drug treatment, prevention, and harm reduction programs. Law enforcement activities should target the distribution and production of illegal drugs. 3. Addiction is a Disease: Addiction should be regarded as a disease and therefore, individuals suffering with drug dependency should be diverted, whenever possible, from the criminal justice system to treatment and rehabilitation. Additionally, the stigma associated with addiction needs to be addressed as part of a comprehensive education strategy. 4. Increased Research: All governments commit to more research on the cause, effects and treatment of addiction. Further research on the long- term health effects associated with chronic cannabis use is specifically required. Section 2: Cannabis The CMA recommends: 1. National Cannabis Cessation Program: The federal government develop, in cooperation with the provinces and territories and the appropriate stakeholder groups, a comprehensive program to minimize cannabis use. This should include, but not be limited to: * Education and awareness raising of the potential harms of cannabis use including risks associated with use in pregnancy; use by those with mental illness; chronic respiratory problems; and chronic heavy use; * Strategies to prevent early use in adolescence; and, * Availability of assessment, counselling and treatment services for those experiencing adverse effects of heavy use or dependence. 2. Driving Under the Influence Prevention Policy: The CMA believes that comprehensive long-term efforts that incorporate both deterrent legislation and public awareness and education constitute the most effective approach to reducing the number of lives lost and injuries suffered in crashes involving impaired drivers. The CMA supports a similar multidimensional approach to the issue of the operation of a motor vehicle while under the influence of cannabis. 3. Decriminalization: The severity of punishment for simple possession and personal use of cannabis should be reduced with the removal of criminal sanctions. The CMA believes that resources currently devoted to combating simple marijuana possession through the criminal law could be diverted to public health strategies, particularly for youth. To the degree that having a criminal record limits employment prospects the impact on health status is profound. Poorer employment prospects lead to poorer health. Use of a civil violation, such as a fine, is a potential alternative. However, decriminalization should only be pursued as part of a comprehensive national illegal drug strategy that would include a cannabis cessation program. 4. Monitoring and Evaluation: Any changes need to be gradual to protect against any potential harm. In addition, changes to the criminal law in connection with cannabis, should be rigorously monitored and evaluated for their impact. CANADIAN SOCIETY OF ADDICTION MEDICINE The Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine (CSAM), which was formed in 1989, is a national organization of medical professionals and other scientists interested in the field of substance use disorders. Vision The Society shares its overall goals with many other organizations and groups in Canada; namely, the prevention of problems arising from the use of alcohol and other psychoactive substances, and the cure; improvement or stabilization of the adverse consequences associated with the use of these drugs. This Society aims to achieve these goals through the fostering and promotion of medical sciences and clinical practice in this field in Canada, particularly by: * fostering and promotion of the roles of physicians in the prevention and treatment of alcohol and drug related problems; * improvement in the quality of medical practice in the drug and alcohol field through: establishment and promotion of standards of clinical practice; fostering and promotion of research; and fostering and promotion of medical education; * promotion of professional and public awareness of the roles that physicians can play in the prevention and treatment of alcohol and drug related problems; * fostering and promotion of further development of programs for the prevention and treatment of problems of alcohol and drug use in physicians; and * contributing to professional and public examination and discussion of important issues in the drug and alcohol field. Policy Statement The CSAM National Drug Policy statement requires that: Canada must have a clear strategy for dealing with the cultivation, manufacture, importation, distribution, advertising, sale, possession and use of psychoactive substances regardless of whether they are classified as legal or illegal. Drug possession for personal use must be decriminalized and distinguished from the trafficking or illegal sale/distribution of drugs to others that must carry appropriate criminal sanctions. The individual and public health impact of substance use, substance abuse and substance dependence must be taken into account at all times. An assessment to ascertain the extent of a substance use disorder and screening for addiction must be an essential part of dealing with someone identified as an illicit drug user or possessor. Appropriate funding must be made available for supply reduction and demand reduction of various psychoactive substances that carry an abuse or addiction liability. Recommendations 1. National policies and regulations must present a comprehensive and coordinated strategy aimed at reducing the harm done to individuals, families and society by the use of all drugs of dependence regardless of the classification of "legal" or "illegal" 2. Prevention programs need to be comprehensively designed to target the entire range of dependence-producing drugs to enhance public awareness and affect social attitudes with scientific information about the pharmacology of drugs and the effects of recreational and problem use on individuals, families, communities and society. 3. Outreach, identification, referral and treatment programs for all persons with addiction need to be increased in number and type until they are available and accessible in every part of the country to all in need of such services. 4. Law enforcement measures aimed at interrupting the distribution of illicit drugs need to be balanced with evidenced based treatment and prevention programs, as well as programs to ameliorate those social factors that exacerbate addiction and its related problems. 5. Any changes in laws that would affect access to dependence-producing drugs should be carefully thought out, implemented gradually and sequentially, and scientifically evaluated at each step of implementation, including evaluating the effects on: * access to young people and prevalence of use among youth; * prevalence of use in pregnancy and effects on offspring; * prevalence rates of alcoholism and other drug dependencies; * crime, violence and incarceration rates; * law enforcement and criminal justice costs; * industrial safety and productivity; * costs to the health care system; * family and social disruption; * other human, social and economic costs. 6. CSAM opposes * any changes in law and regulation that would lead to a sudden significant increase in the availability of any dependence-producing drug (outside of a medically-prescribed setting for therapeutic indications). All changes need to be gradual and carefully monitored. * any system of distribution of dependence-producing drugs that would involve physicians in the prescription of such drugs for other than therapeutic or rehabilitative purposes. 7. CSAM supports * public policies that would offer treatment and rehabilitation in place of criminal penalties for persons with psychoactive substance dependence and whose offense is possession of a dependence-producing drug for their own use. Those who are found guilty of an offense related to Addiction, proper assessment and treatment services must be offered as part of their sentence. This goal may be attained through a variety of sentencing options, depending upon the nature of the offense. * an increase in resources devoted to basic and applied research into the causes, extent and consequences of alcohol and other drug use, problems and dependence, and into methods of prevention and treatment. RELEVANT POSITION STATEMENTS OF OTHER MEDICAL HEALTH ORGANIZATIONS The purpose of this section is to provide the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs with information on the policy positions of other key medical organizations from Canada and the United States in regard to decriminalization of cannabis. Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health34 The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) does not encourage or promote cannabis use. CAMH emphasizes that the most effective way of avoiding cannabis-related harms is through not using cannabis, and encourages people to seek treatment where its use has become a problem. Cannabis is not a benign drug. Cannabis use, and in particular frequent and long-term cannabis use, has been associated with negative health and behavioural consequences, including respiratory damage, problems with physical coordination, difficulties with memory and cognition, pre- and post-natal development problems, psychiatric effects, hormone, immune and cardio-vascular system defects, as well as poor work and school performance. The consequences of use by youth and those with a mental disorder are of particular concern. However, most cannabis use is sporadic or experimental and hence not likely to be associated with serious negative consequences. CAMH thus holds the position that the criminal justice system in general, and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) specifically, under which cannabis possession is a criminal offence, has become an inappropriate control mechanism. This conclusion is based on the available scientific knowledge on the effects of cannabis use, the individual consequences of a criminal conviction, the costs of enforcement, and the limited effectiveness of the criminal control of cannabis use. CAMH thus concurs with similar recent calls from many other expert stakeholders who believe that the control of cannabis possession for personal use should be removed from the realm of the CDSA and the criminal law/criminal justice system. While harmful health consequences exist with extensive cannabis use, CAMH believes that the decriminalization of cannabis possession will not lead to its increased use, based on supporting evidence from other jurisdictions that have introduced similar controls. CAMH recommends that a more appropriate legal control framework for cannabis use be put into place that will result in a more effective and efficient control system, produce fewer negative social and individual consequences, and maintain public health and safety. An alternative legal control system for the Canadian context can be chosen from a number of options that have been tried and proven adequate in other jurisdictions. CAMH further recommends that such an alternative framework be explored on a temporary and rigorously evaluated trial basis, and that an appropriate level of funding be provided/maintained for prevention and treatment programs to minimize the prevalence of cannabis use and its associated harms. American Society of Addiction Medicine 35 The Society's 1994 policy which was updated September 2001 recommends the following: 1. National policy should present a comprehensive and coordinated strategy aimed at reducing the harm done to individuals, families and society by the use of all drugs of dependence. 2. Reliance on the distinction between "legal" and "illegal" drugs is a misleading one, since so-called "legal" drugs are illegal for persons under specified ages, or under certain circumstances. 3. Prevention programs should be comprehensively designed to target the entire range of dependence-producing drugs as well as to produce changes in social attitudes. (See ASAM Prevention Statement.) 4. Outreach, identification, referral and treatment programs for all persons suffering from drug dependencies, including alcoholism and nicotine dependence, should be increased in number and type until they are available and accessible in every part of the country to all in need of such services. 5. Persons suffering from the diseases of alcoholism and other drug dependence should be offered treatment rather than punished for their status of dependence. 6. The balance of resources devoted to combatting these problems should be shifted from a predominance of law enforcement to a greater emphasis on treatment and prevention programs, as well as programs to ameliorate those social factors that exacerbate drug dependence and its related problems. 7. Law enforcement measures aimed at interrupting the distribution of illicit drugs should be aimed with the greatest intensity at those causing the most serious acute problems to society. 8. Any changes in laws that would affect access to dependence-producing drugs should be carefully thought out, implemented gradually and sequentially, and scientifically evaluated at each step of implementation, including evaluating the effects on: a. prevalence of use in pregnancy and effects on offspring; b. prevalence rates of alcoholism and other drug dependencies; c. crime, violence and incarceration rates; d. law enforcement and criminal justice costs; e. industrial safety and productivity; f. costs to the health care system; g. family and social disruption; h. other human, social and economic costs. 9. ASAM opposes any changes in law and regulation that would lead to a sudden significant increase in the availability of any dependence-producing drug (outside of a medically-prescribed setting for therapeutic indications). Any changes should be gradual and carefully monitored. 10. ASAM opposes any system of distribution of dependence-producing drugs that would involve physicians in the prescription of such drugs for other than therapeutic or rehabilitative purposes. 11. ASAM supports public policies that would offer treatment and rehabilitation in place of criminal penalties for persons who are suffering from psychoactive substance dependence and whose only offense is possession of a dependence-producing drug for their own use. 12. ASAM supports public policies which offer appropriate treatment and rehabilitation to persons suffering from psychoactive substance dependence who are found guilty of an offense related to that dependence, as part of their sentence. This goal may be attained through a variety of sentencing options, depending upon the nature of the offense. 13. ASAM supports an increase in resources devoted to basic and applied research into the causes, extent and consequences of alcohol and other drug use, problems and dependence, and into methods of prevention and treatment. 14. In addition, scientifically sound research into public policy issues should receive increased support and be given a high priority as an aid in making such decisions. 15. Physicians and medical societies should remain active in the effort to shape national drug policy and should continue to promote a public health approach to alcoholism and other drug dependencies based on scientific understanding of the causes, development and treatment of these diseases. US Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy 32 The Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy (PLNDP) was started in 1997 when 37 senior physicians from virtually every medical society* met and agreed that the "current criminal justice driven approach is not reducing, let alone controlling drug abuse in America." Their extensive review of the literature found: * drug addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease, like diabetes or hypertension; * treatment for drug addiction works; * treating addiction saves money; * treating drug addiction restores families and communities; * prevention and education help deter youth from substance abuse, delinquency, crime and incarceration. In follow-up to an extensive review of the literature, their key policy recommendations are: * Reallocate resources toward drug treatment and prevention; * Parity in access to care, treatment benefits, and clinical outcomes; * Reduce the disabling regulation of addiction treatment programs; * Utilize effective criminal justice procedures to reduce supply and demand (e.g. community coalitions, community policing, drug courts); * Expand investments in research and training; * Eliminate the stigma associated with the diagnosis and treatment of drug problems; * Train physicians and (medical) students to be clinically competent in diagnosing and treating drug problems. REFERENCES 1 Mosher JF, Yanagisako KL. Public health, not social warfare: a public health approach to illegal drug policy. J Public Health Policy 1991; 12: 278-323. 2 Precede - proceed model of health promotion. Institute of Health Promotion Research. Available from: http://www.ihpr.ubc.ca/frameset/frset_publicat.htm. Accessed: Nov 27, 2001. 3 World Health Organization. Ottawa charter for health promotion. Ottawa: World Health Organization, 1986. 4 Dean M. UK government rejects advice to update drug laws. Lancet 2000; 355: 1341. 5 Curran WJ. Decriminalization, demythologizing, desymbolizing and deemphasizing marijuana. Am J Public Health. 1972; 62: 1151-1152. 6 Report of the Canadian Government Commission of Inquiry into the non-medical use of drugs. Ottawa, 1972. 7 Anonymous. Deglamorising cannabis. Lancet 1995; 346: 1241. (editorial) 8 Edlaf EM, Paglia A, Ivis FJ, Ialomiteanu A. Nonmedicinal drug use among adolescent students: highlights from the 1999 Ontario Student Drug Use Survey. CMAJ 2000; 162: 1677-1680. 9 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. The 1999 Ontario Student Drug Use Survey - executive summary. Available from: http://www.camh.net/addiction/ont_study_drug_use.html. Accessed: October 15, 2001. 10 MacNeil P, Webster I. Canada's alcohol and other drugs survey 1994: a discussion of the findings. Ottawa: Health Canada, 1997. 11 Single E, Fischer B, Room R, Poulin C, Sawka E, Thompson H, Topp J. Cannabis control in Canada: options regarding possession. Ottawa, Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, 1998. Available from: http://www.ccsa.ca/. 12 Hall W. The cannabis policy debate: finding a way forward. CMAJ 2000; 162: 1690-1692. 13 Ashton CH. Pharmacology and effects of cannabis: a brief review. Br J Psychiatr 2001; 178: 101-106. 14 Johns A. Psychiatric effects of cannabis. Br J Psychiatr 2001; 178: 116-122. 15 Farrell M, Ritson B. Br J Psychiatr 2001; 178: 98. 16 Tremblay S. Illicit drugs and crime in Canada. Juristat 1999; 19. 17 Riley D. Drugs and drug policy in Canada: a brief review and commentary. November, 1998. Available from: http://www.parl.gc.ca/37/1/parlbus/commbus/senate/com-e/ill-e/library-e/riley-e.htm. Accessed: October 15, 2001. 18 Erickson PG. The law, social control, and drug policy: models, factors, and processes. Int J Addiction 1993; 28: 1155-1176. 19 Single EW. The impact of marijuana decriminalization: an update. J Public Health Policy 1989; 10: 456-66. 20 MacCoun R. Interpreting Dutch cannabis policy: reasoning by analogy in the legalization debate. Science 1997; 278: 47-52. 21 MacCoun R, Reuter P. Evaluating alternative cannabis regimes. Br J Psychiat 2001; 178: 123-128. 22 Hall W. The recent Australian debate about the prohibition on cannabis use. Addiction 1997; 92: 1109-1115. 23 Centre for Infectious Disease Prevention and Control. HIV/AIDS among injecting drug users in Canada. May 2001. Available from: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hpb/lcdc/bah/epi/idus_e.html. Accessed Oct 17, 2001. 24 Hepatitis C - prevention and control : a public health consensus. Can Communic Dis Rep 1999; 25S2. Available from: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hpb/lcdc/publicat/ccdr/99vol25/25s2/index.html. Accessed: Oct 17, 2001. 25 F/P/T Advisory Committee on Population Health et al. Reducing the harm associated with injection drug use in Canada: working document for consultation. March 2001. Available from: http://www.aidslaw.ca/Maincontent/issues/druglaws.htm. Accessed: Oct 14, 2001. 26 Single E, Rehm J, Robson L, Van Truong M. The relative risks and etiologic fractions of different causes of death attributable to alcohol, tobacco and illicit drug use in Canada. CMAJ 2000: 162: 1669-1675. 27 Marwick C. Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy finds addiction treatment works. JAMA 1999; 279: 1149-1150. 28 Grinspoon L, Bakalar JB. The war on drugs - a peace proposal. N Eng J Med 1994: 330: 357-360. 29 Hankins C. Substance use: time for drug law reform. CMAJ 2000: 162: 1693-1694. 30 National Task Force on HIV, AIDS and Injection Drug Use. HIV/AIDS and injection drug use: a national action plan. Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse and Canadian Public Health Association. May 1997. Available from: http://www.ccsa.ca/docs/HIVAIDS.HTM. Accessed: Oct 15, 2001. 31 Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network. Injection drug use and HIV/AIDS: legal and ethical issues. Montreal: Network, 1999. 32 Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy. Position paper on drug policy. January 2000. Available from: http://center.butler.brown.edu/plndp/. Accessed: Nov 27, 2001. 33 The Fraser Institute. Sensible solutions to the urban drug problem. 2001. Available from: http://www.fraserinstitute.ca/publications/books/drug_papers/. Accessed: Nov 29, 2001. 34 Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. CAMH Position on the legal sanctions related to cannabis possession/use. April 2000. Available from: www.camh.net/position_papers/cannabis_42000.html. Accessed Oct 9, 2001. 35 American Society of Addiction Medicine. Public policy of ASAM. Adopted 1994. Updated Sept 29, 2001. Available from: www.asam.org. Accessed: Nov 27, 2001. ?? ?? ?? ?? A healthy population...a vibrant medical profession Une population en santé...une profession médicale dynamique A Public Health Perspective on Cannabis and Other Illegal Drugs Ottawa, March 11, 2002 Page 21 Canadian Medical Association
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Disability Tax Credit Program : CMA Submission to the Sub-Committee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities (House of Commons)

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1972
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2002-01-29
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health systems, system funding and performance
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2002-01-29
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) welcomes the opportunity to appear before the Sub-Committee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities to discuss issues related to the Disability Tax Credit (DTC). This tax measure, which is recognition by the federal government that persons with a severe disability may be affected by having reduced incomes, increased expenses or both, compared to those who are not disabled i, helps to account for the intangible costs associated with a severe and prolonged impairment. It also takes into account disability-related expenses that are not listed in the medical expense deduction or which are excluded by the 3% threshold in the Medical Expense Tax Credit. Physicians are a key point of contact for applicants of the DTC and, given the way the program is structured, a vital participant in its administration. It is for these reasons that we come before you today to address specific concerns related to the program’s performance. In addition, we would like to discuss the broader issue of developing a coherent set of tax policies in support of health and social policy. The Integration of Tax Policy with Health Policy and Social Policy The federal government, through a variety of policy levers such as taxation, spending, regulation and information, has played a key role in the development of our health care and social systems. To date however, discussion about the federal role in these areas has centered largely on federal transfers to the provinces and territories and the Canada Health Act. However, in looking at how to renew Canada’s health and social programs, we should not limit ourselves to these traditional instruments. Today we have a health system that is facing a number of pressures that will challenge its sustainability. These pressures range from 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. These are only some of the more immediate reasons alternative avenues of funding health care, and thus ensuring the health and well-being of our citizens, must be explored. In our pre-budget consultation document to the Standing Committee on Finance ii, the CMA recommended that the federal government establish a blue ribbon National Task Force to study the development of innovative tax-based mechanisms to synchronize tax policy with health policy. Such a review has not been undertaken in over 25 years since the Royal Commission on Taxation in 1966 (Carter Commission). The CMA is echoing its call for a National Task Force to develop new and innovative ways to synchronize tax policy with health policy and social policy. A study of this nature would look at all aspects of the taxation system, including the personal income tax system, in which the DTC is a component. The remainder of our brief addresses issues specific to the DTC. Physician Involvement in the DTC Program The CMA has in the past provided input with respect to the DTC program. Our working relationship on the DTC program with the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (CCRA) has been issue-specific, time-limited and constructive. Our first substantive contact in regard to the DTC program was in 1993 when the CMA provided Revenue Canada with a brief review of the program and the T2201form. It is interesting to note what our observations were in 1993 with regard to this program because many of them still hold true today. Here are just some of the issues raised by the CMA in 1993 during our initial review of the program: * The tax credit program may not address the needs of the disabled, it is too hit and miss. The DTC program should be evaluated in a comprehensive way to measure its overall effectiveness in meeting the needs of persons with disabilities. * The program should be called the “Severe Disability Tax Credit Program” – or something equivalent to indicate that not everyone with a disability is eligible. * The program puts physicians in a potential conflict with patients—the responsibility of the physician to advocate for the patient vs. gate-keeper need for Revenue Canada. The physician role should be to attest to legitimate claims on the patients’ behalf. * Revenue Canada should clarify the multiplicity of programs. There are numerous different federal programs and all appear to have varying processes and forms. These overlapping efforts are difficult for patients and professionals. * A major education effort for potential claimants, tax advisers and physicians should be introduced. * A suitable evaluation of claimant and medical components of the process should be undertaken. The CMA does not have a standardized consultative relationship with the CCRA in regard to this program. An example of this spotty relationship is the recent letter sent by the CCRA Minister asking current DTC recipients to re-qualify for the credit. The CMA was not advised or consulted about this letter. If we had been advised we would have highlighted the financial and time implications of sending 75 to 100 thousand individuals to their family physician for re-certification. We also would have worked with the CCRA on alternative options for updating DTC records. Unfortunately, we cannot change what has happened, but we can learn from it. This clearly speaks to the need to establish open and ongoing dialogue between our two organizations. Policy Measure: The CMA would like established a senior level advisory group to continually monitor and appraise the performance of the DTC program to ensure it is meeting its stated purpose and objectives. Representation on this advisory group would include, at a minimum, senior program officials preferably at the ADM level; those professional groups qualified to complete the T2201 Certificate; various disability organizations; and patients’ advocacy groups. We would now like to draw the Sub-committee’s attention to three areas that, at present, negatively impact on the medical profession participation in the program, namely program integrity, program standardization (e.g., consistency in terminology and out-of-pocket costs faced by persons with disabilities) and tax advisor referrals to health care providers. Program Integrity A primary concern and irritation for physicians working with this program is that it puts an undue strain on the patient-physician relationship. This strain may also have another possible side effect, a failure in the integrity of the DTC program process. Under the current structure of the DTC program, physicians evaluate the patient, provide this evaluation back to the patient and then ask the patient for remuneration. This process is problematic for two reasons. First, since the patient will receive the form back immediately following the evaluation, physicians might receive the blame for denying their patient the tax credit—not the DTC program adjudicators. Second, physicians do not feel comfortable asking for payment when he or she knows the applicant will not qualify for the tax credit. For the integrity of the DTC program, physicians need to be free to reach independent assessment of the patient’s condition. However, due to the pressure placed by this program on the patient-physician relationship, the physician’s moral and legal obligation to provide an objective assessment may conflict with the physician’s ethical duty to “Consider first the well-being of the patient. There is a solution to this problem it’s a model already in use by government, the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP) Disability Program. Under the CPP Disability Program, the evaluation from the physician is not given to the patient but, it is sent to the government and the cost to have the eligibility form completed by a physician is subsumed under the program itself. Under this system, the integrity of patient-physician relationship is maintained and the integrity of the program is not compromised. Policy Measure: The CMA recommends that the CCRA take the necessary steps to separate the evaluation process from the determination process. The CMA recommends the CPP Disability Program model to achieve this result. Fairness and Equity The federal government has several programs for people with disabilities. Some deal with income security (e.g., Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefits), some with employment issues (e.g., Employability Assistance for People with Disabilities), and some through tax measures (e.g., Disability Tax Credit). These government transfers and tax benefits help to provide the means for persons with disabilities to become active members in Canadian society. However, these programs are not consistent in terms of their terminology, eligibility criteria, reimbursement protocols, benefits, etc. CMA recommends that standards of fairness and equity be applied across federal disability benefit programs, particularly in two areas: the definition of the concept of “disability”, and standards for remuneration to the physician. These are discussed in greater detail below. 1) Defining “disability” One of the problems with assessing disability is that the concept itself is difficult to define. In most standard definitions the word “disability” is defined in very general and subjective terms. One widely used definition comes from the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Impairments, Disabilities and Handicaps (ICIDH) which defines disability as “any restriction or inability (resulting from an impairment) to perform an activity in the manner or within the range considered normal for a human being.” The DTC and other disability program application forms do not use a standard definition of “disability”. In addition to the inconsistency in terminology, the criteria for qualification for these programs differ because they are targeted to meet the different needs of those persons with disabilities. To qualify for DTC, a disability must be “prolonged” (over a period of at least 12 months) and “severe” i.e. “markedly (restrict) any of the basic activities of daily living” which are defined. Though CPP criteria use the same words “severe” and “prolonged” they are defined differently (i.e., “severe” means “prevents applicant from working regularly at any job” and “prolonged” means “long term or may result in death”). Other programs, such as the Veterans Affairs Canada, have entirely different criteria. This is confusing for physicians, patients and others (e.g., tax preparers/advisors) involved in the application process. This can lead to physicians spending more time than is necessary completing the form because of the need to verify terms. As a result if the terms, criteria and the information about the programs are not as clear as possible this could result in errors on the part of physicians when completing the forms. This could then inadvertently disadvantage those who, in fact, qualify for benefits. Policy Measures: The CMA would like to see some consistency in definitions across the various government programs. This does not mean that eligibility criteria must become uniform. In addition, the CMA would like to see the development of a comprehensive information package for health care providers that provides a description of each program, its eligibility criteria, the full range of benefits available, copies of sample forms, physical assessment and form completion payment information, etc. 2) Remuneration The remuneration for assessment and form completion is another area where standardization among the various government programs would eliminate the difficulties that some individuals with disabilities currently face. For example, applicants who present the DTC Certificate Form T2201 to their physicians must bear any costs associated with its completion out of their own pockets. On the other hand, if an individual is applying to the CPP Disability Program, the cost to have the eligibility form completed by a physician is subsumed under the program itself. Assessing a patient’s disabilities is a complex and time-consuming endeavour on the part of any health professional. Our members tell us that the DTC Certificate Form T2201 can take as much time and effort to complete as the information requested for CPP Disability Program forms depending, of course, on the patient and the nature of the disability. In spite of this fact, some programs acknowledge the time and expertise needed to conduct a proper assessment while other programs do not. Although physicians have the option of approaching the applicant for remuneration for the completion of the DTC form, they are reluctant to do so because these individuals are usually of limited means and in very complex cases, the cost for a physician’s time for completing the DTC Form T2201 can reach as much as $150. In addition, physicians do not feel comfortable asking for payment when he/she knows the applicant will not qualify for the tax credit. Synchronizing funding between all programs would be of substantial benefit to all persons with disabilities, those professionals completing the forms and the programs’ administrators. Policy Measure: We strongly urge the federal government to place disability tax credit programs on the same footing when it comes to reimbursement of the examining health care provider. Tax Advisor Referrals With the complexity of the income tax system today, many individuals seek out the assistance of professional tax advisors to ensure the forms are properly completed and they have received all the benefits they are entitled to. Tax advisors will very often refer individuals to health professionals so that they can be assessed for potential eligibility for the DTC. The intention of the tax advisors may be laudable, but often, inappropriate referrals are made to health professionals. This not only wastes the valuable time of health care professionals, already in short supply, but may create unrealistic expectations on the part of the patient seeking the tax credit. The first principle of the CMA’s Code of Ethics is “consider first the well-being of the patient.” One of the key roles of the physician is to act as a patient’s advocate and support within the health care system. The DTC application form makes the physician a mediator between the patient and a third party with whom the patient is applying for financial support. This “policing” role can place a strain on the physician-patient relationship – particularly if the patient is denied a disability tax credit as a result a third-party adjudicator’s interpretation of the physician’s recommendations contained within the medical report. Physicians and other health professionals are not only left with having to tell the patient that they are not eligible but in addition advising the patient that there may be a personal financial cost for the physician providing this assessment. Policy Measure: Better preparation of tax advisors would be a benefit to both patients and their health care providers. The CMA would like CCRA to develop, in co-operation with the community of health care providers, a detailed guide for tax preparers and their clients outlining program eligibility criteria and preliminary steps towards undertaking a personal assessment of disability. This would provide some guidance as to whether it is worth the time, effort and expense to see a health professional for a professional assessment. As raised in a previous meeting with CCRA, the CMA is once again making available a physician representative to accompany DTC representatives when they meet the various tax preparation agencies, prior to each tax season, to review the detailed guide on program eligibility criteria and initial assessment, and to highlight the implications of inappropriate referral. Conclusion The DTC is a deserving benefit to those Canadians living with a disability. However, there needs to be some standardization among the various programs to ensure that they are effective and meet their stated purpose. Namely, the CMA would like to make the following suggestions: 1. The CMA would like established a senior level advisory group to continually monitor and appraise the performance of the DTC program to ensure it is meeting its stated purpose and objectives. Representation on this advisory group would include, at a minimum, senior program officials preferably at the ADM level; those professional groups qualified to complete the T2201 Certificate; various disability organizations; and patient advocacy groups. 2. The CMA recommends that the CCRA take the necessary steps to separate the evaluation process from the determination process. The CMA recommends the CPP Disability Program model to achieve this result. 3. That there be some consistency in definitions across the various government programs. This does not circumvent differences in eligibility criteria. 4. That a comprehensive information package be developed, for health care providers, that provides a description of each program, its eligibility criteria, the full range of benefits available, copies of sample forms, physical assessment and form completion payment information, etc. 5. That the federal government applies these social programs on the same footing when it comes to their funding and administration. 6. That CCRA develop, in co-operation with the community of health care providers, a detailed guide for tax advisors and their clients outlining program eligibility criteria and preliminary steps towards undertaking a personal assessment of disability. 7. That CCRA employ health care providers to accompany CCRA representatives when they meet the various tax preparation agencies to review the detailed guide on program eligibility criteria and personal assessment of disability, and to highlight the implications of inappropriate referral. These recommendations would certainly be helpful to all involved - the patient, health care providers and the programs’ administrators, in the short term. However what would be truly beneficial in the longer term would be an overall review of the taxation system from a health care perspective. This could provide tangible benefits not only for persons with disabilities but for all Canadians as well as demonstrating the federal government’s leadership towards ensuring the health and well being of our population. i Health Canada, The Role for the Tax System in Advancing the Health Agenda, Applied Research and Analysis Directorate, Analysis and Connectivity Branch, September 21, 2001 ii Canadian Medical Association, Securing Our Future… Balancing Urgent Health Care Needs of Today With The Important Challenges of Tomorrow”, Presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance Pre-Budget Consultations, November 1, 2001.
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Notes for an address by Dr. Peter Barrett, Past-President, Canadian Medical Association : Public hearings on primary care reform : Presentation to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy2011
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2002-05-22
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Health human resources
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2002-05-22
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Health human resources
Text
On behalf of the 53,000 physician members of the CMA, we appreciate the opportunity to offer our thoughts on the issue of primary care reform and the recommendations made recently in your April 2002 report. I am very pleased to be presenting today with my CMA colleague, Dr. Susan Hutchison, Chair of our GP Forum along with Dr. Elliot Halparin and Dr. Kenneth Sky from the Ontario Medical Association. Before I begin presenting the CMA’s recommendations, I believe it’s important to make a few points clear in regard to primary care: * First, is that Canada has one of the best primary care systems in the world. (Just ask Canadians, we have. Our 2001 Report Card showed that 60% of Canadians believe that we have one of the best health care systems in the world and gave high marks for both quality of service and system access). * Second, is that primary care reform is not the panacea for all that ails Medicare. * And finally, primary care and specialty care are inextricably linked. I like to expand a bit on the last point because I think it’s an important consideration. There is a tendency to separate medical care into two areas; primary care and specialty care. However, we need to recognize that medical and health care encompasses a broad spectrum of services ranging from primary prevention to highly specialized quaternary care. Primary care and specialty care are so critically interdependent that we need to adapt an integrated approach to patient care. Now, in respect to the CMA’s recommendations on implementing changes for the delivery of primary care, we believe that government must respect the following four policy premises: 1. All Canadians should have access to a family physician. 2. To ensure comprehensive and integrated care, family physicians should remain as the central provider and coordinator of timely access to publicly-funded medical services. 3. There is no single model that will meet the primary care needs of all communities in all regions of the country. 4. Scopes of practice should be determined in a manner that serves the interests of patients and the public safely, efficiently, and competently. Access to Family Physicians A successful renewal of primary health care delivery cannot be accomplished without addressing the shortage of family physicians and general practitioners. The effects of an aging practitioners population, changes in lifestyle and productivity, along with the declining popularity of this field as the career choice of medical school graduates are all having an impact on the supply of family physician. Physician as Central Coordinator While multistakeholder teams offer the potential for providing a broader array of services to meet patients’ health care needs, it is also clear that for most Canadians, having a family doctor as the central provider for all primary medical care services is a core value. As the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) indicated in its submission to the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada, research shows that over 90% of Canadians seek advice from a family physician as their first resource in the health care system. The CFPC also noted that a recent Ontario College of Family Physicians Decima public opinion survey found that 94% agree that it is important to have a family physician who provides the majority of care and co-ordinates the care delivered by others. i A family physician as the central coordinator of medical services ensures efficient and effective use of system resources as it allows for only one entry point into the health care system. This facilitates a continuity of care, as the family physician generally has developed an ongoing relationship with his or her patients and as a result is able to direct the patient through the system such that the patient receives the appropriate care from the appropriate provider. No Single Model for Reform In recent years, several government task force and commission reports, including the report of this Committee, have called for primary care reform. Common themes that have emerged include; 24/7 coverage; alternatives to fee-for-service payment of physicians; nurse practitioners and health promotion and disease prevention. Governments across the country have launched pilot projects of various models of primary care delivery. It is critical that these projects are evaluated before they are adopted on a grander scale. Moreover, we must take into account the range of geographical settings across the country, from isolated rural communities to the highly urbanized communities with advanced medical science centres. Scopes of Practice There is a prevailing myth that physicians are a barrier to change when in fact the progressive changes in the health care system have been more often than not physician lead. Canadian physicians are willing to work in teams and the CMA has developed a “Scopes of Practice” policy that clearly supports a collaborative and cooperative approach. A policy that has been supported in principle by the Canadian Nurses Association and the Canadian Pharmacists Association. Because of the growing complexity of care, the exponential growth of knowledge, and an increased emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention, primary care delivery will increasingly rely on multi-stakeholder teams. This is a positive development. However, expanding the primary care team to include nurses, pharmacists, dieticians, and others, while desirable, will cost the system more, not less. Therefore, we need to change our way of thinking about primary care reform. We need to think of it as an investment. We need to think of it not in terms of cost savings but as a cost-effective way to meet the emerging unmet needs of Canadians. Conclusion To conclude, there is no question that primary care delivery needs to evolve to ensure it continues to meet the needs of Canadians. But we see this as making a good system better, not fundamental reform. Thank you. i College of Family Physicians of Canada. Shaping The Future of Health Care: Submission to the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada. Ottawa: CFPC; Oct 25, 2001.
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Study on Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction in Canada : Supplementary Submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1945
Last Reviewed
2013-03-02
Date
2005-10-11
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2013-03-02
Date
2005-10-11
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Text
The Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Paediatric Society, Canadian Psychiatric Association, Canadian Society of Addiction Medicine and College of Family Physicians of Canada are pleased to provide a joint supplementary submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology study on mental health, mental illness and addiction in Canada. This submission provides advice on the areas that we believe require the most immediate attention from the federal government over the short term, and that will have the most direct benefit for those affected by mental illness, poor mental health and addiction. The four areas are: 1. Federal Leadership &Capacity 2. Access Benchmarks and Surveillance Information 3. Best practices in mental illness, mental health and addiction 4. Human resource planning This submission also provides recommendations for specific “priority tasks” under each of these four general areas. 1. Federal Leadership & Capacity Federal leadership and capacity must be rapidly and significantly enhanced in order to address the existing deficiencies in the mental health system. This will signal and institutionalize a renewed commitment by the federal government and will ultimately provide support for Canadians impacted by mental illness, poor mental health and addictions. Federal capacity can be enhanced through one of 3 models: a unit in an existing federal department, a federal arm’s length agency, or a pan-Canadian arm’s length agency. Model 1: Unit within an existing federal department Under this option, a new Branch led by an assistant deputy minister (ADM) would be created within Health Canada to provide policy leadership and deliver federal programs and services in the area of mental health, mental illness and addiction. The ADM would have general authority for its management and direction, be answerable to the deputy minister, and work with all other federal departments and agencies to develop and coordinate policies, programs and services in this area. Model 2: Creation of a federal arm’s length Centre for Mental Illness, Mental Health and Addiction This option would entail the creation of a more independent organization within the purview of the federal government. The ‘Centre for Mental Illness, Mental Health and Addiction’ would be structured as a federal agency in which decision-making powers are vested in a Board of Directors with a CEO responsible for the daily operations. This Board would be representative of all relevant stakeholders including health providers, health researchers, governments and affected populations. The Centre would remain under the health portfolio, with accountability through the Minister of Health. The Centre’s main function would be to deliver federal programs and services, working closely with Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, Department of Justice and other organizations such as the Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse. While the Centre would provide advice, the responsibility for federal policy development with respect to mental illness and mental health would continue to reside within Health Canada. Model 3: Pan-Canadian arm’s length institute This option consists of incorporating an Institute as a not-for-profit entity with the federal and provincial governments as shareholders. This model has been used in other areas where federal-provincial collaboration is essential, such as the Canadian Institute for Health Information. As in the previous model, the Institute for Mental Illness, Mental Health and Addiction would have a board, and a CEO. However, instead of direct accountability to the Minister of Health, the institute would be accountable to the Conference of F-P-T Ministers of Health. It would be responsible for delivering pan-Canadian programs and services that are complementary to provincial and territorial mental health/illness programs and services. Policy development responsibilities for mental health, mental illness and addiction would continue to reside with federal and provincial/territorial governments. Each of the models outlined above has strengths and weakness. It is also possible that we could move from one model to another over time once the system is stabilized. However, for the short term, we contend that Model 1, a dedicated unit within Health Canada, would be the best fit with our objective of enhancing federal leadership and capacity to address mental illness, mental health and addiction issues. The strength of Model 1 is that by elevating responsibility for mental health /illness issues to the branch level it raises the profile and importance of these issues. This would reinstate and indeed increase the capacity that had existed within Health Canada but was lost through numerous reorganizations and resource reallocations. In addition intra-departmental and inter-departmental synergies can be maximized with this model. Should this model be chosen, it is important that the federal government demonstrate the kind of collaborative leadership that it has shown in the area of primary care through initiatives funded via the Primary Health Care Transition Fund. 1 The same leadership principles apply to reform of the mental health system in that while there are common problems and solutions across Canada there are also the needs of specific communities which must be addressed individually. Of immediate priority for this unit are initiatives to reduce stigma and to address the mental health needs of First Nations and Inuit Peoples. Stigma Reduction A stigma reduction strategy is an on-going function that must be core to the activities of the federal government. Stigma involves thoughts, emotions and behaviours, thus a comprehensive approach includes interventions to target each of these dimensions at both the individual and population level. The strategy should include aspects of: * Public awareness and education to facilitate understanding about the importance of early diagnosis, treatment, recovery and prevention; * Enhanced provider/student education and support; * Policy analysis and modification of discriminatory legislation; * Support for a strong voluntary sector to voice the concerns of patients and their families; * Exposure to positive spokespeople (e.g. prominent Canadians) who have mental illness and/or addiction in order to highlight success stories; * Researching stigma. The stigma associated with mental illness in children can hinder early identification and intervention and places them on a damaging path of suffering and pain. The effective treatment and community reintegration of people with mental illness and/or addiction will not only improve the lives of those directly affected but will also work to reduce stigma in the long term. First Nations and Inuit Peoples All people with mental illness and/or addiction have a right to programs and services that facilitate recovery and/or improve their quality of life. It is clear that the First Nations and Inuit peoples of Canada experience mental illness, addiction and poor mental health at rates exceeding that of other Canadians. Individual, community and population level factors contribute to this including socioeconomic status, social environment, child development, nutrition, maternal health, culture and access to health services. The urgent need to work with these communities, and identify the structures and interventions to reduce the burden of mental illness and addiction is critical to the health and wellness and future of First Nations and Inuit peoples. Enhanced federal capacity should be created through First Nations and Inuit Health that will provide increased funding and support for First Nations and Inuit community mental health strategies. The establishment of a First Nations and Inuit Mental Health Working Group that is comprised of First Nations and Inuit mental health experts and accountable to First Nations and Inuit leadership is essential for the success of this initiative. Both expert and resource supports are integral elements to facilitate and encourage culturally appropriate mental health strategies and programming in these communities. We believe that as a population, the First Nations and Inuit peoples should be the priority for the federal government in the provision of much need treatment and support. Priority tasks: A. Establish a Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction Branch at Health Canada. B. Implement a Stigma Reduction Strategy C. Improve the capacity of First Nations and Inuit peoples to address the mental health needs of their communities in a culturally appropriate manner. 2. Access Benchmarks and Surveillance Information Access to services, both public and private, currently acts as a barrier to treatment and recovery from mental illness, poor mental health and addiction. Promotion of collaborative care models along with better coordination of services would greatly improve the quality of care received. Governments must facilitate integration and access to these services. Recently, the Supreme Court decision in the case of Chaoulli and Zeliotis vs Quebec struck down two provisions in Quebec’s health insurance legislation that prohibit Quebec residents from purchasing private insurance for insured health services. This decision suggests that if Canadians wish to keep their “single-tier” system of universal, first dollar public coverage for health care, then governments must ensure that needed services are available to all Canadians at the time and to the extent of need, including mental health services. Governments must provide timely access to essential services within the public system in order to maximize potential for recovery and quality of life. With the support of the federal government, and on behalf of the medical community, we (CMA, CPA, CPS, CSAM, CFPC) can coordinate and implement a process to develop medically acceptable wait time benchmarks for access to mental illness and addiction care for children and adults. The outcome of this process would be to provide all governments with performance goals to strive for in providing timely access to mental illness and addiction services. With the establishment of benchmarks we will be able to measure how the system is performing. A basic mental illness surveillance system exists and the primary dissemination product is “A Report on Mental Illness in Canada”. However, there is agreement that the current information is limited for several reasons: * There is limited data in the system regarding mental health, addiction and many mental illnesses; * The quality of the data in the system has not been validated for many mental illnesses and addictions; * Not all data sources have been accessed for the surveillance system; * Since many supports and services for mental illness and addictions lie outside the formal health system, the collection of these data has not been possible with current constraints; * There is a need for a broader dissemination system. An expanded mental illness surveillance system should work closely with other chronic disease surveillance initiatives to ensure that indicators of common interest are obtained collaboratively and in an efficient manner. Priority Tasks: A. Federal government financially support the coordination and implementation of a process to develop wait time benchmarks for accessing mental illness and addiction services developed by the CMA, CPA, CPS, CSAM, CFPC. B. Creation of an enhanced mental illness surveillance system to produce: * Information about the prevalence and incidence of mental illnesses, addiction and risk factors at the national, provincial/territorial and regional level. * Progress on improving the availability and accessibility to services. * The availability and accessibility of community resources to support people with mental illness and addiction. * Progress on improving the availability and accessibility to community resources. * Information about the cost of mental illness, poor mental health and addiction to people with the conditions, their families and the health system. * Wait list information for mental health services. 3. Best practices in mental illness, mental health and addiction There are numerous interventions that are effective for various mental illnesses and addiction but ensuring optimal use of effective interventions in the real world has been a challenge. Several factors including lack of use by physicians, failure to prescribe or implement in the recommended manner, costs associated with treatment, and undesirable side effects limit the effectiveness of proven therapies for individual patients. A key element in our capacity to prevent and offer treatment for mental illness and addiction rests with the application of evidence or the promotion of best practices. Therefore we are proposing a pan-Canadian program that can facilitate knowledge exchange across disciplines to optimize outcomes for this population. We are aware that there is currently an initiative led by the Public Health Agency of Canada to establish a Consortium of Best Practices for Chronic Disease prevention. The goal of the Consortium is to create a Pan-Canadian forum for knowledge exchange between governments, researchers, non-governmental organizations and consumers. This initiative is a positive step and should be closely aligned with our proposed program for mental illness, mental health and addiction. The program we are proposing would go further than just prevention, to include treatment and policy alternatives, both within and outside the health domain. The program would serve to enhance best practice approaches through activities such as: * Development of a clearing house to hold evidence-based information for mental illness, mental health and addiction by searching, reviewing and summarizing the current literature and web resources; * Identification of gaps in knowledge, and gaps between evidence and practice; * Development of tools to promote best practices relating to mental illness, mental health and addiction, such as the Canadian Collaborative Mental Health Initiative Tool Kit. Priority Task: A. Establish a program to specifically promote inter-disciplinary best practices in prevention, treatment, community interventions and social supports across the continuum of research, policy, to support practice for evidence-based decision making in the area of mental health, mental illness and addiction. 4. Human resource planning Improving access to specialized and primary mental health diagnostic and treatment services with psychosocial community services that support early intervention, prevention of further disability, rehabilitation, improvement of quality of life and recovery should be considered a fundamental underlying goal of a pan-Canadian action plan. Several initiatives are currently under way in various parts of the country to enhance collaborative approaches to care among health care providers and to better integrate primary and secondary health care services. However, these efforts are taking place in a context of relative shortage of addiction specialists, psychiatrists, paediatricians, family physicians and other mental health care professionals. Family doctor and specialist shortages and changing practice patterns have created serious gaps in the availability of mental health services for many Canadians. Health human resource planning needs to consider and address functionally sub-specialized areas of practice as growing numbers of family doctors are moving into these areas, for example general practice psychotherapy and addiction medicine. Health human resource planning must also continue to ensure sustainability of current initiatives and continued access to care. Early interventions in general and with children specifically are critical to preventing long term disability and minimizing the devastating impact of mental illness. There are far too few mental health professionals to help children, insufficient resources allocated to support their mental health needs, and inadequate research being conducted to fill the gaps in knowledge which exist in this area. We believe that improving the mental health of Canada’s children, including strategies that increase the amount of health providers with expertise in this area must be a priority for the federal government. Priority Tasks: * Establish a pan-Canadian mental health human resource infrastructure responsible for collecting data, monitoring, conducting research, reporting, and making recommendations related to Canada’s ongoing mental health human resources needs, with a priority focus on children’s services, in order to ensure a sustainable supply of health human resources; * Introduce toolkits to assist health practitioners and consumers to implement best practices in collaborative care and develop new models of care in the area of mental health; * Support the evaluation of new models of care in achieving patient centred objectives and improving outcomes; * Increasing research capacity and resources in the area of children’s mental health. Conclusion: Again, our organizations, representing the medical community, appreciate the opportunity to submit to the Committee further elaboration on key initiatives to ensure federal leadership is taken. We want to thank the committee not only for seeking our advice but also for bringing national attention to issues related to mental illness, mental health and addiction. End Notes 1 The Primary Health Care Transition fund supported provinces and territories in their efforts to reform the primary health care system in addition to supporting various pan-Canadian initiatives to address common barriers. Although the Primary Health Care Transition Fund itself was time-limited, the changes which it supported were intended to have a lasting and sustainable impact on the health care system.
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A Prescription for Productivity: Toward a more efficient, equitable and effective health system : CMA’s 2005 Pre-Budget Submission to the Standing Committee on Finance

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1946
Last Reviewed
2013-03-02
Date
2005-10-24
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
  2 documents  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2013-03-02
Date
2005-10-24
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
Introduction This pre-budget submission makes the case that healthier Canadians are more productive Canadians. It also recognizes that the delivery of quality health care, in a timely manner, is paramount and is not mutually exclusive to any productivity agenda. As Emerson once said, “the first wealth is health.” 1 Last fall, the First Ministers recognized this by agreeing on a plan that will, over the next 10-years, add an additional $41 billion federal dollars into our health care system. The Canadian Medical Association applauds the government for spearheading this renaissance in federal health care funding. But like the human body, that is always evolving, the health care system needs to be monitored and trained for optimal performance. The consequences of under investing in health care in the past are haunting us today. Better health … better Canada Canada, which at one time was the most attractive place on earth to live, is falling behind. According to the Conference Board of Canada, Canada’s overall economic performance has fallen from 3rd best in the world, to 6th and now to 12th. One of the drivers of this precipitous fall is – according to the Conference Board’s analysis – the weakened state of our health care system. For example, our infant mortality rates are rising, not falling, in relative terms. We have tumbled from our top-five ranking in the 1980s — to where we are today in the 22nd spot out of 27 countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). That is why, now more than ever, Canada’s economy is in need of strategic federal direct investments in health care as part of an overall productivity enhancing package. The CMA is not alone in linking health care investments to better economic performance. According to the latest economic research, “There is now strong empirical evidence to suggest a two-way relationship: improved health significantly enhances economic productivity and growth. 2 ” Furthermore, the Royal Institute of International Affairs states that, “…improved health supports labour productivity; by augmenting life expectancy, it encourages savings and private investment. Health expenditures are an investment not a cost. It is crucial that governments develop a long-term perspective.” The health care sector in Canada employs over a million people or 7.5% of the labour force. In 2004, Canada invested $130 billion in health care representing 10% of our GDP. The benefits of the health care investments not only accrue to a higher quality of life for all Canadians, but the economic multiplier effect of the initial investment is estimated to create an additional $65 billion in economic activity. 3 The CMA has identified a number of key issues related to health human resources and infrastructure that require immediate attention if the Canadian economy is to retain its competitive position in the global economy. We will make the case that, by making strategic federal direct investments in health human resources and public health, the federal government can make a great leap forward in reinforcing a critical foundation for a healthier more productive Canadian economy. These initiatives involve investments in physical, human and entrepreneurial capital, which if sustained over the long-term, will pay dividends in terms of improved population health. The competition for world class health care labour is becoming more global and will intensify. Unless Canada can provide excellent training, tools and working conditions international demand threatens to undermine the foundations of our system. For example, if Canada were to move today to cap working hours on physicians to 48 hours per week as the European Union has done, Canada would be short a whopping 12,780 physicians. Not only is there international demand for world class medical professionals, but also the stock of these professionals especially in Canada is aging. The United States is expected to be short by 200,000 physicians by 2020. They have looked to Canada before to fill the gap, and they may again. This is why the federal government must play a leadership role in supporting health human resources (HHR) while at the same time sustaining Canadian health care industries. When investments in health are aligned with technology at the right time, they can, as Federal Reserve Chairman Allan Greenspan suggests, “provide key insights into clinical best practices and substantially reduce administrative costs.” One of the key health infrastructure investments that has to be made is the electronic medical record (EMR). For too long Canada has lagged all major industrialized countries in adopting an EMR. A pan-Canadian EMR would deliver higher quality care, faster and at a higher value. An EMR would also allow Canada’s health care system to dramatically increase communication between jurisdictions. Communication and coordination of resources are keys to dealing with natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina which devastated New Orleans. We need these investments sooner rather than later to avoid making the mistakes (e.g. in the case of SARS) as pointed out by the Naylor Report 4 . One of the key areas where the federal government can make a difference is the creation of a secure communications network linking up public health authorities and health providers across the country. According to Dr. Klaus Stöhr, project leader of the Global Pandemic Project at the World Health Organization, “Once a pandemic virus emerges, it is too late to begin planning or to begin collaboration.” 5 In spite of the imminent threat of a pandemic influenza, there are $34.3 millions in planned cuts to the Public Health Agency of Canada, over the next two years, as a result of program review. We need only look as far as New Orleans to see what an under-funded federal emergency preparedness system can reap. The loss of life in New Orleans was tragic and many agree unnecessary. In Canada we had SARS. Canada did squelch SARS and learned a lot about our capacities, yet we still have not lived up to the potential of being better prepared. Looking ahead, “In the event of a pandemic, the economic effects could be severe, affecting virtually all sectors and regions,” according to Dr. Sherry Cooper Chief Economist, BMO Nesbitt Burns. Dr. Cooper goes on to say that “Awareness is key to preparedness and proper surveillance, planning and preparation are essential to effective response and containment.” 6 Over the last several years, the CMA raised serious concerns about the ability of Canada’s public health system to respond to disasters and made a number of recommendations to address national preparedness in terms of security, health and capacity of the system. The CMA firmly believes that there remain significant shortcomings in our capacity to respond to health care emergencies. As we look to the future it is critical that the federal government make a stronger commitment to public health. Public health programming is too important to be sacrificed in the short-term expenditure review exercises. The continued application of the GST on physician practices is an unfair tax on health. Because physicians cannot recapture the GST paid on goods and services for their practices in the same way most other businesses can, the GST distorts resource allocation for the provision of medical care. As a result, physicians end up investing less than they otherwise could on goods and services that could improve patient care and enhance health care productivity such as information management and information technology systems. Zero-rating the GST on physician practices would remove an unfair tax on health and allow for greater investment in technologies that would result in better care. Summary The CMA’s pre-budget submission has presented the facts on how investments in physical, human and entrepreneurial capital can enhance our health care system and, in turn, make our economy more productive. As our health care system efficiencies improve, the benefits not only accrue to health care workers, but also the ultimate dividend is better patient care and improved population health. Improvements in the quality of care, and especially speed of care, enable the Canadian labour force to increase its performance and fully reach its potential. These health care investments ultimately translate into a stronger, more competitive and more productive economy. CMA’s 10 point productivity plan (with estimated investment) Efficiency Recommendation #1: That Health Canada, in collaboration with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, provincial and territorial governments and Canada’s medical schools, provide funding for 600 postgraduate training positions to enable qualified international medical graduates who are Canadian citizens or landed immigrants to complete medical training requirements. Investment: $45 million per year for 3 years. [600 x $75k (approximate annual training cost per resident]. Recommendation #2: That Health Canada, in collaboration with Foreign Affairs Canada and provincial and territorial governments, carry out a direct ad campaign in the United States to encourage expatriate Canadian physicians and other health professionals to return to practice in Canada. Investment: A one-time investment of $10 million. Recommendation #3: That the Minister of Finance in collaboration with the Minister of Health allocate $1 billion over 5 years to a Health Human Resource Reinvestment Fund. This fund would be used to implement a needs-based, pan-Canadian, integrated health human resources plan based on the principle of self-sufficiency for Canada. Investment: $1 billion over 5 years. Recommendation #4: That Health Canada, in collaboration with the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development and the provincial and territorial governments, create the Canadian Coordinating Office for Health Human Resources to facilitate pan-Canadian planning of health human resource needs. Investment: $3 million per year. Equity Recommendation #5: That the Minister of Finance introduces legislation to amend the federal Excise Tax Act to zero-rate the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on physician practices. Investment: $84 million per year or 0.27 % of total $31.5 billion GST revenues in 2005/06. Recommendation #6 That the Minister of Finance in collaboration with the Minister of Health provide additional financial support to Canada Health Infoway, to realize the vision of a secure interoperable pan-Canadian electronic medical record, with a targeted investment toward physician office automation. Investment: $1.5 billion over 10 years. Recommendation #7: That the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development introduce changes to the Canada Student Loans Program to extend the interest free status on Canada student loans for medical residents pursuing postgraduate training. Investment: $5 million per year. Recommendation #8: That the Minister of Finance in collaboration with the Minister of Health increase the base budget of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to enhance research efforts in the area of population health and public health as well as significantly accelerating the pace of knowledge transfer. Investment: $600 million over 3 years. Effectiveness Recommendation #9: In order to ensure that adequate emergency preparedness and public health capacity is built at both federal and provincial levels, the federal government should provide sustained additional funding, to the Public Health Agency of Canada, and exempt it from expenditure review contributions. Investment: $684.3 million over 3 years (details in Appendix 1). Recommendation #10: That Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada provide a one-time infusion of $100 million, to improve technical capacity to communicate with front-line public health providers in real-time during health emergencies. Investment: A one time investment of $ 100 million. The first wealth is health Canada, which at one time was the most attractive place on Earth to live, is falling behind. According to the Conference Board of Canada, Canada’s overall economic performance has fallen from 3rd best in the world, to 6th and now to 12th. One of the drivers of this precipitous fall is – according to the Conference Board’s analysis – the weakened state of our health care system. For example, our infant mortality rates are rising, not falling, in relative and absolute terms. We have tumbled from our top-five ranking in the 1980s — to where we are today; in the 22nd spot out of 27 OECD countries. That is why, now more than ever, Canada’s economy is in need of strategic federal direct investments in health care as part of an overall productivity enhancing package. According to the latest economic research, “There is now strong empirical evidence to suggest a two-way relationship: improved health significantly enhances economic productivity and growth. 7 ” The health care sector in Canada employs over a million people or 7.5% of the labour force. In 2004, Canada invested $130 billion in health care, representing 10% of our GDP. The benefits of the health care investments not only accrue to a higher quality of life for all Canadians, but the economic multiplier effect of the initial investment is estimated to create an additional $65 billion in economic activity. 8 I. Efficiency – providing tools to improve patient care and productivity A healthy and productive health workforce is the key to a well performing health care system and sets the foundation for a productive labour force. That is the ideal. However, there is a shortage of physicians across Canada. This shortage is creating a tremendous amount of pressure on the health care system. As demand for health care increases and the supply of health care workers is fixed, the pressure on these workers to do “more with less” is enormous. That is why Canadian physicians need the federal government’s support to have the tools and time to build on their productivity. Making human capital investments in physicians (value centres) Federal Health Minister Ujjal Dosanjh acknowledged the value of physicians in his speech to the Canadian Medical Association’s General Council this August 2005 by saying, “I want you to know that our government sees physicians … not as cost centres but as value centres”. It is in this spirit that we urge the government to invest in HHR. In order for the First Ministers Meeting (FMM) Agreement to be successful in improving access to care, governments must make the health workforce a major priority. In particular, the $1 billion in HHR funding in the Wait Times Reduction Fund should be made available immediately to address the crisis in health human resources rather than in the last 4 years of the 10-year agreement as currently projected. Given the current shortages in health human resources, action on HHR must begin now — not in 2010. Investing in physicians, or as Minister Dosanjh eloquently put, “value centres” will have real dividends for Canadians and the health care system. Accordingly, the CMA calls upon the federal government to play a key role in improving the availability of health human resources by developing a pan-Canadian HHR strategy that includes the involvement of health care providers. 9 For as Minister Dosanjh acknowledged, "It is clear to me that, if we are going to achieve the kind of solutions that have the support of Canadians, that our physicians must be engaged as active and valued partners.” The cost of under-investing in health human resources The pressures on human capital within the health care system are clear. Since the cutbacks in medical school admissions in the early 1990s, the gap between the growing demand for medical care and physician supply has widened. Canada’s ratio of 2.1 physicians per 1,000 population remains one of the lowest among the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries and below the OECD average of 2.9. With this ratio, Canada ranks 24th out of 30 OECD countries. In addition, as more doctors enter retirement age the shortage of physicians is becoming acute. The cost to patients — and their employers — is manifested in wait times, increasing difficulty to access primary care. In spite of these pressures Canada still does not educate enough doctors to replace those about to retire. The status quo threatens capital stock within the health sector, the general labour force, and even the world. “In the face of a global shortage of health care workers … can a country in which 24% of practicing doctors were educated outside its own borders continue to rely on physicians from countries that can least afford to lose them?” — Dr. Peter Barrett, CMA past president, August 2005 CMA annual meeting. Social and economic dividends of investing in HHR The CMA recommends that Canada’s long-term objective should be to increase enrolments in health disciplines to achieve greater self-sufficiency. The dividend of investing in HHR is a better, more efficient health care workforce who will deliver higher quality care in a timely manner. A well funded public health care system makes all Canadians healthier and more productive in their economic and social roles. In addition, becoming HHR self-sufficient also has the potential benefit of eventually exporting made-in-Canada health sector goods and services. But beyond re-stocking the pool of HHR for the future, attention also needs to be paid to the current stock of physicians. The issue of retention, or keeping physicians interested in working, is especially important now considering that a record number of physicians are about to retire. (i) Maximizing our existing health human capital — providing more training opportunities for international medical graduates As noted earlier, Canada ranks at the bottom among OECD countries in physicians per capita. As blunt an indicator as this may be the recent Supreme Court ruling in the Zeliotis case is a poignant reminder that there is an imbalance in the system between supply (HHR) and demand. We need more health care workers to protect, or save from burnout, the health care human capital investments that Canada has made already. We also need to ensure that Canada’s labour force — our macro human capital — has access to quality care without reasonable delays. Since it takes anywhere from 7 to 10 years to train a new physician, there are limits to how much can be done in the short term to address shortages. One short-term response would be to facilitate the training of qualified international medical graduates (IMGs) who are already in Canada. The CMA has welcomed the federal government’s recent investment of $75 million in the 2005 budget for the integration of internationally trained health workers, and notes that federal funding has already produced tangible results as some medical schools have increased the number of postgraduate training positions available to IMGs. However, there is an issue of clinical training capacity at Canada’s medical schools; consequently this initial investment is insufficient to provide training opportunities for over 600 IMGs and countless other qualified internationally trained health workers who are already in Canada. Accordingly, the CMA recommends that the federal government provide sufficient funding to provide additional training positions to train the existing supply of IMGs who would be eligible to begin a post-MD residency training immediately. The capacity to train these Canadian citizens or landed immigrants exists in Canadian medical schools. Currently, Canadian medical schools are providing postgraduate training opportunities to close to 900 visa trainees from abroad, largely from Persian Gulf countries. The federal government helps redeploy some of this capacity by offering medical schools, on a time-limited basis, to purchase some of these visa trainee positions to train IMGs that can then be deployed in Canada’s health care system. Such funding could also provide for the comprehensive assessments of IMGs that have been developed in several jurisdictions. The CMA also strongly supports the initiative of the Medical Council of Canada (MCC) in developing a pilot for the off-shore electronic administration of the MCC’s evaluation exams. Recommendation #1: That Health Canada, in collaboration with Citizenship and Immigration Canada, provincial and territorial governments and Canada’s medical schools, provide funding for 600 postgraduate training positions to enable qualified international medical graduates who are Canadian citizens or landed immigrants to complete medical training requirements. Investment: $45 million per year for 3 years. [600 x $75k (approximate annual training cost per resident]. (ii) Repatriating human capital - getting our Canadian physicians back home from the US Canada has been a net exporter of physicians to the United States for a generation. As government funding for health care fell in the 1990s exports of Canadian physicians to the US rose. Last year was the first year in which Canada gained more physicians than it sent to the US. There is a window of opportunity to repatriate Canadian physicians from the United States. The quality of Canadian life, competitive remuneration packages and a practice commitment that is characterized by greater physician autonomy are many of the chief drawing points for such a campaign. As the Canadian dollar approaches US $0.90 advertising in the US has also become much more affordable. Recommendation #2: That Health Canada, in collaboration with Foreign Affairs Canada and provincial and territorial governments, carry out a direct ad campaign in the United States to encourage expatriate Canadian physicians and other health professionals to return to practice in Canada. Investment: A one-time investment of $10 million. (iii) Diligence on HHR As Canada’s population ages and as health care technology improves, demand for health care will increase. Health care in economic terms is a superior good: as the population’s standard of living improves, so does the demand for superior goods. But will this increased demand be met with an adequate supply of physicians to provide the kind of care Canadians need in a timely manner? Not likely, but we don’t know for sure because Canada does not currently have a way to assess the ability of our medical schools to meet these future needs across the country. An inadequate physician supply has important implications for human, physical and entrepreneurial capital in Canada’s economy. If the physician supply is not properly aligned with the demographic needs of the population the result is a loss (calculations vary and depend on the individual) in potential human capital as patients postpone treatment or wait too long for treatment. Investments in future physical capital investments may also be misallocated or not made at all if the proper health human resources are not in place. In addition, entrepreneurial capital may also very well flow to places where the optimal health human resources are in place. Why we need a Health Human Resources Reinvestment fund Canada lags behind other countries in the education and training of physicians. For example, as of 2002-2003 there were 12.2 first-year medical school places per 100,000 population in England compared with only 6.5 per 100,000 in Canada. It should be added that the United Kingdom has aggressively expanded medical enrolment since the late 1990s by opening 4 new medical schools and increasing medical school intake by some 2,300 places (60%) between 1997 and 2004. The CMA and other major national medical organizations have called on governments to increase medical school capacity to 3,000 first-year training positions per year in order to stabilize Canada’s physician supply. With recent increases in positions at a number of medical schools, current indications suggest that we have reached about 2,300 positions per year. However, given the growing demand for health services and changing patterns of medical practice, it is likely that medical school capacity will have to be increased much more significantly. For example, if Canada were to move today to cap working hours on physicians to 48 hours per week as the European Union has done, Canada would be short a whopping 12,780 physicians. Accordingly, as was done in the 1960s when the federal government introduced the Health Resources Fund, the CMA urges the federal government to create a Health Human Resource Reinvestment Fund in order to implement a needs-based, pan-Canadian, integrated health human resources plan based on the principle of self-sufficiency for Canada. Recommendation #3: That the Minister of Finance in collaboration with the Minister of Health allocate $1 billion over 5 years to a Health Human Resource Reinvestment Fund. This fund would be used to implement a needs-based, pan-Canadian, integrated health human resources plan based on the principle of self-sufficiency for Canada. Investment: $1 billion over 5 years. (iv) Creation of the Canadian Coordinating Office for Health Human Resources At a broader level, there is also a need for continued coordination of pan-Canadian HHR needs for today and the future. Governments are investing very large sums of funding in health care without having the benefit of a national long-term health human resources strategy. Since health human resources are increasingly mobile in the global economy, it is essential that Canada’s 14 provincial, territorial and federal health care systems devise a coordinated approach to training, recruiting and retaining health human resources. The Canadian Coordinating Office for Health Human Resources would be modeled along the same lines as the Canadian Coordinating Office for Health Technology Assessment (CCOHTA) created in 1989. Presently, there is no overall national coordinating body to assist provinces and territories in the planning of health human resources, particularly one that includes all pertinent stakeholders including physicians and other health care professionals. Building on previous federal investments in health sector studies across a number of health disciplines, the CMA urges the federal government to establish a Canadian Coordinating Office for Health Human Resources involving representation from health care professions — something both the Romanow and Senator Kirby reports recommended. Recommendation #4: That Health Canada, in collaboration with the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development and the provincial and territorial governments, create the Canadian Coordinating Office for Health Human Resources to facilitate pan-Canadian planning of health human resource needs. Investment: $3 million per year. II. Equity: improving health infrastructure and technology to provide better care (v) Freeing-up entrepreneurial capital and retaining physicians Why the GST should not apply to physician practices The CMA is calling on the federal government to remove an insidious tax on health by zero-rating (10 ) the GST on physician practices. The introduction of the GST was never intended to fall onto the human and physical capital used to produce goods and services. The GST is a value-added tax on consumption that was put into place to remove the distorting impact that the federal manufacturers sales tax was having on business decisions. However, the GST was applied to physician practices in a way that does exactly the opposite. The federal government must rectify the situation once and for all. Based on estimates by KPMG, physicians have paid $1.1 billion in GST related to their medical practice. This is $1.1 billion that could have been invested in better technology to increase care and productivity. Re-investing the zero-rating of the GST for physician practices Zero-rating the GST would initially cost the federal government $84 million (11) or 0.27% of total GST revenues for 2005/06. However, as physicians across Canada re-invest the zero-rated GST tax back into their practices — and especially in their patients — there would be considerable dividend back to the federal government in terms of healthier Canadians and a more efficient economy. Zero-rating the GST for physician practices is about properly calibrating the tax system with the health care delivery system, in order to help meet our national health and economic goals. Dispelling the myth of a GST precedent Some bureaucrats and politicians believe that zero-rating the GST for physician practices may set a precedent. In fact, the precedent has already been set: significant elements of publicly-funded health care are already zero-rated or qualify for a rebate on GST. For example, prescription drugs, a significant and growing driver of total health care costs, have been zero-rated since 1996. Hospitals have benefited from an 83% rebate since the inception of the GST, and the 2005 budget extended the reach of this rebate to not-for-profit organizations delivering services that were previously delivered in the hospital setting. In addition to hospitals, rebates have been extended to other public and para-public sectors such as municipalities, universities and schools (the so-called “MUSH” sector). The 2004 federal budget confirmed that municipalities would be able to recover 100% of the GST and the federal component of the harmonized sales tax (HST) immediately. Recommendation #5: That the Minister of Finance introduces legislation to amend the federal Excise Tax Act to zero-rate the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on physician practices. Investment: $84 million per year or 0.27 % of total $31.5 billion GST revenues in 2005/06. (vi) Electronic Medical Record — increasing health and productivity In the words of Finance Minister Goodale, “Top-notch physical infrastructure is essential to a successful economy and a rising quality of life.” To be sure, Canada needs better highways, bridges and sewer systems. We need this basic infrastructure to enjoy a basic quality of life. But we want more than a basic life. To achieve a higher quality of life and to ensure international competitiveness, Canada needs to invest in the infrastructure of the 21st century, this is e-infrastructure. A pan-Canadian Electronic Medical Record (EMR) would deliver higher quality care, faster and at higher value. An EMR will save lives and improve efficiencies When investments in health are aligned with technology at the right time, they can as Federal Reserve Chairman Allan Greenspan suggest, “provide key insights into clinical best practices and substantially reduce administrative costs.” Health care delivery in Canada is a $130 billion industry. It represents more than 10% of our country’s gross domestic product. And it continues to grow. Yet we are managing the system with technology that would have been unacceptable to the banking industry even 20 years ago. Studies show (12) that the sooner we have a pan-Canadian EMR in place, the sooner the quality of health care will improve. For too long Canada has lagged all major industrialized countries in adopting an EMR (see Table 2). [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Table 2 Canada has fallen behind in EMR investments Percent of physicians using electronic records and prescriptions Country Records Prescriptions Britain 59% 87% New Zealand 52% 52% Australia 25% 44% United States 17% 9% Canada 14% 8% Harris Interactive Survey (2001) conducted for Harvard School of Public Health and the Commonwealth Fund's International Health Care Symposium. [TABLE END] An adequate health information infrastructure with pan-Canadian connectivity With an initial investment of $1.2 billion, Canada Health Infoway (CHI) has been working with provincial and territorial governments to put in place key components of a pan-Canadian health information infrastructure. While significant investments have been made in provincial and territorial health information systems, two key concerns have emerged. First, the $1.2 billion investment in CHI, while significant, is only 15% of the estimated cost of implementing a fully interoperable electronic medical record system in Canada. Second, CHI has made very limited progress in building a common, secure and interoperable platform - the backbone of a pan-Canadian system. Accordingly the CMA endorses the recommendations put forward by the Association of Canadian Academic Healthcare Organizations (ACAHO), the Canadian Nurses Association and the Canadian Healthcare Association to provide CHI with significant funding so that it may fulfill its core mission. Empowering investments in e-entrepreneurship for better health One of the gaps in the pan-Canadian EMR is the lack of attention paid to health information infrastructure on the front lines of health care delivery. While medical services across the country are largely publicly – funded, most physicians run their own practices. As entrepreneurs doctors take on the responsibility and risk of investing in new capital equipment from diagnostics to EMRs. Like any other business, doctors must calculate the return on investment for any capital equipment that they buy. In the case of the EMR, most of the return benefits the government, according to a Center for Information Technology Leadership in the United States 13 . A physical capital investment in an EMR improves care and deepens entrepreneurial capital By making all relevant patient information immediately available at the time of any encounter, and by providing equally rapid access to general medical information that assists in clinical decision-making, an EMR significantly enhances a clinician's ability to make good decisions, which will reduce medical errors and their associated costs. The timeliness of information also means that diagnoses are made more quickly, which significantly reduces the amount of time that patients need to spend using costly hospital beds or emergency room resources. Further cost reductions come from diminished duplication: all too often, time is lost and money is spent repeating diagnostic tests that were recently done but whose results are unavailable. Recovery of health information technology investments is almost immediate A Booz, Allan, Hamilton study on the Canadian health care system estimates that the benefits of an EMR could provide annual system-wide savings of $6.1 billion, due to a reduction in duplicate testing, transcription savings, fewer chart pulls and filing time, reduction in office supplies and reduced expenditures due to fewer adverse drug reactions. The study went on to state that the benefits to health care outcomes would equal or surpass these annual savings. Mobilizing physicians to operationalize a pan-Canadian EMR The physician community can play a pivotal role in helping the federal governments make a connected health care system a realizable goal in the years to come. Through a multi stakeholder process encompassing the entire health care team, the CMA will work toward achieving cooperation and buy-in. This will require a true partnership between provincial medical associations, provincial and territorial governments and CHI. The CMA is urging the federal government to allocate an additional investment of $1.5 billion to Canada Health Infoway. Criteria would be set for the fund that would restrict investment to automating physician offices through an agreement between the medical division and the appropriate province or territory. The $1.5 billion federal investment would be leveraged on the basis of a 75:25 sharing with physicians to generate $1.5 billion in physician office automation investment over the next 10 years. Specific modalities of disbursements of these funds would be set up by agreements with the provincial medical associations. CHI already has stringent financial controls and processes in place and can extend them to manage this program. Recommendation #6: That the Minister of Finance in collaboration with the Minister of Health provides additional financial support to Canada Health Infoway, to realize the vision of a secure interoperable pan-Canadian electronic medical record, with a targeted investment toward physician office automation. Investment: $1.5 billion over 10 years. (vii) Alleviating medical resident debt ? extend the interest relief on Canada student loans for medical residents Medical students are accumulating unprecedented levels of debt as tuition fees for medical school continue to sky rocket. The increase in debt influences the kind of practice young physicians pursue as well as where they practice. The Canadian Medical Association commends the federal government for its commitment to reduce the financial burden on students in health care professions as announced in the 2004 FMM Agreement and encourages it to act on this promise by extending the interest relief on Canada student loans for medical residents. Extending the interest relief on Canada student loans for medical residents would avoid distorting medical students’ career choices and encourage new graduates to stay in Canada. Deregulation of tuition => increased debt burden => drag on entrepreneurship It wasn’t always this way. The deregulation of medical school tuition fees in some provinces dramatically increased the debt burden of medical students. It is important to note that medical residents are in a unique situation not faced by other students who graduate from university programs. Once students graduate from medical school, they earn the right to be called physicians. However, they cannot practice until they complete a residency program. The program, which takes between 2-10 years to complete, certifies them as a specialist in a number of disciplines ranging from family medicine to radiology to rheumatology. During the compulsory residency program they must act as both student and employee. Table 1 includes the annual salary of medical residents and fellow hospital employees. Medical residents are not paid by the hour; otherwise their wages would be higher as there is no limit on the hours (80+) they work. [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Table 1. Medical residents learn a lot but don’t earn a lot Resident stipend versus fully qualified health care employees Status, Ottawa, Ontario Annual Stipend or Fulltime Salary (as applicable) Minimum Postsecondary Education Requirement Minimum Related Experience Requirement Ontario Resident, PGY-1 (national average is $42,862) $ 44,230 7 + years 7+ years related clinical and other experience acquired through undergraduate medical education and pre-professional experiences, including clerkships, electives, etc. Locksmith/Door Mechanic, Ottawa Hospital $44,051 None. High school diploma required and a course or certificate in locksmithing 5-years relevant experience Supervisor of Housekeeping, Ottawa Hospital $ 41,165 - $48,000 2 years OR certified member of the OHHA CAHA, or related 3-years general supervisory experience [TABLE END] The Cost of under-investing in medical residents hits rural Canada hard As medical debt increases more physicians are choosing to go into some specialties (remunerated at a much higher rate) as opposed to family medicine. This has an impact on the accessibility, quality and overall cost of the health care system. Family practitioners are on the front-lines of medical care, and they treat and prevent millions of illnesses across Canada every year. The fall in demand for family practice in general, and rural family practice in particular, is now having a significant impact on health care and economic performance. The lack of a local family physician is often a determining factor in a company’s decision to make a direct investment in a community. For example, a multi-national company would likely not invest in a multi-billion dollar ski hill if there were no doctors available to treat ski related accidents. Improving access to medical education Canada’s future depends on ensuring that all Canadians have access to our medical schools. This sentiment was recently echoed by Finance Minister Ralph Goodale, “...but such skills are still confined to a minority of our population. We must do better. Canada’s future depends upon it.” Extending the interest-free status on Canada student loans would be an important signal to young Canadians from all socio-economic backgrounds that want to become a doctor. Drawing from a smaller portion of the population limits the experience and variety of community contact. Specific knowledge of a patient group allows a future physician adapt their care for that group. Thus, we should be graduating residents from all across the country from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. This is not unlike an entrepreneur who by tailoring services to a clients need that were previously unmet delivers better service and captures market share. Recommendation #7: That the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development introduce changes to the Canada Student Loans Program to extend the interest free status on Canada student loans for medical residents pursuing postgraduate training. Investment: $5 million per year. (viii) Making medical research investments count – supporting knowledge transfer The Canada Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) was created to be Canada's premier health research funding agency. One of the most successful aspects of the CIHR is its promotion of inter-disciplinary research across the four pillars of biomedical, clinical, health systems and services as well as population health. This has made Canada a world leader in new ways of conducting health research. However, with its current level of funding, Canada is significantly lagging other industrialized countries in its commitment to health research. Knowledge transfer is one of the areas where additional resources would be most usefully invested. Knowledge Translation (KT), a prominent and innovative feature of the CIHR mandate, has the potential to: * Significantly increase and accelerate the benefits flowing to Canadians from their investments in health research; and  * Establish Canada as an innovative and authoritative contributor to health-related knowledge translation. Population and public health research is another area where increased funding commitments would yield long-term dividends. For example, “Researchers (and research funders) should create more opportunities for interactions with the potential users of their research. They should consider such activities as part of the 'real' world of research, not a superfluous add-on.”(Lavis et al., 2001) 14 Recommendation #8: That the Minister of Finance in collaboration with the Minister of Health increase the base budget of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to enhance research efforts in the area of population health and public health as well as significantly accelerating the pace of knowledge transfer. Investment: $600 million over 3 years. III. Effective - an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure A little preparation before a crisis occurs is preferable to a lot of fixing up afterward. According to the World Health Organization and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) an influenza pandemic is inevitable. The consequences of not being adequately prepared will result in more lost lives and a multi-billion dollar hole in our economy, as was the experience in Toronto as a result of SARS in 2003. Looking ahead, PHAC estimates that the impact of pandemic influenza in Canada, if vaccines are not available, is between 11,000 and 58,000 deaths and economic costs of $5 to $38 billion. (ix) Protecting our capital infrastructure through emergency preparedness When SARS hit Canada in the spring of 2003 people got very sick and died. There was public confusion that quickly spilled into the economy. Internal and external trade in Canada was disrupted. According to the Conference Board of Canada the economic impact of the outbreak of SARS in the Greater Toronto Area equaled $1.5 billion. Investments in public health and emergency preparedness will allow the system to function more effectively and alleviate the impact of novel infectious diseases. We have expert advice how to do it – the Naylor Report. Reduce the economic burden of pandemics — close the Naylor Gap The National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health (the Naylor Report) estimated that approximately $1 billion in annual funding is required to implement and sustain the public health programming that Canada requires. Although representing an important reinvestment in this country’s public health system, the funding announced in the 2005 budget falls well short of this basic requirement. Dr. Jeffrey Koplan 15 , the past Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laid out 7 areas for building capacity and preparedness within a public health system: 1. A well trained, well staffed public health workforce. 2. Laboratory capacity to produce timely and accurate results for diagnosis and investigation. 3. Epidemiology and surveillance to rapidly detect health threats. 4. Secure accessible information systems to help analyze and interpret health data. 5. Solid communication to ensure a secure two-way flow of information. 6. Effective policy evaluation capability. 7. A preparedness and response capability that includes a response plan and testing and maintaining a high state of preparedness. These points apply for both the day-to-day functioning of the public health system and its ability to respond to threats whether it is a new infectious disease, a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. Public health must be ready for all such threats. It is crucial, that the federal government build and maintain its stockpile of supplies for emergency use, its public health laboratories for early detection, its capacity to rapidly train and inform front-line health workers of emerging threats, its ability to assist the provinces and territories, and coordinate provincial responses in the event of overwhelming or multiple simultaneous threats. Vaccination is the most cost-effective health intervention available When a pandemic hits Canada vaccinations are a key component in reducing the impact. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) vaccination against childhood diseases is one of the most cost effective health interventions available. For example the measles-mumps-rubella vaccination saves $16.34 in direct medical costs for every dollar spent. The CMA urges the federal government to continue to support the National Immunization Strategy and the consistent availability of National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommended vaccines in all provinces and territories. A clear role for federal leadership – protecting our future The idea that public health is a federal responsibility “is based on the premise that public health matters - particularly emergencies - are so important that the federal government should simply use its powers for ”peace, order and good government” to unilaterally direct how public health matters should be addressed, and to ensure they are fully addressed.” 16 Consequently, the CMA recommends the enactment of a Canada Emergency Health Measures Act that would consolidate and enhance existing legislation to allow for a more rapid national response in cooperation with the provinces and territories, based on a graduated systematic approach to emergencies that pose an acute an imminent threat to human health and safety across Canada. Regardless of how well prepared any municipality is, under certain circumstances public health officials will need to turn to the provincial, territorial or the federal government for help. The success of such a multi-jurisdictional approach is contingent upon good planning beforehand between the federal, provincial and territorial and local-level governments. There is an important role for the federal government to urgently improve the coordination among authorities and reduce the variability between various response plans in cooperation with provincial authorities. Public health investments take time Public health must be funded consistently in order to reap the full benefit of the initial investment. Investments in public health will produce healthier Canadians and a more productivity workforce for the Canadian economy. But this takes time. By the same token, neglect of the public health system will cost lives and hit the Canadian economy hard. As the federal government examines ways of achieving efficiencies and cost savings in federal programs through the Cabinet Committee on Expenditure Review it is critical that the Public Health Agency of Canada be protected from any cuts. Recommendation #9: In order to ensure that adequate emergency preparedness and public health capacity is built at both federal and provincial levels, the federal government should provide sustained additional funding, to the Public Health Agency of Canada, and exempt it from expenditure review contributions. Investment: $684.3 million over 3 years (details in Appendix 1). (x) Investments in effective public health communication are crucial The effectiveness of the public health system is dependent, in large part, on its capacity to communicate authoritative information in a timely way. A two-way flow of information between public health experts and the practicing community is necessary at all times. It becomes essential during emergency situations. The rapid, effective, accessible and linked (REAL) health communication and coordination initiative improves the ability of the public health system to communicate in a rapid fashion by: * Providing a focal point for inter-jurisdictional communication and coordination to improve preparedness in times of emergency. * Developing a seamless communication system leveraging formal and informal networks. * Researching the best way to disseminate emergency information and health alerts to targeted health professionals and public health officials in a rapid, effective and accessible fashion. Recommendation #10: That Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada provide a one-time infusion of $100 million, to improve technical capacity to communicate with front-line public health providers in real-time during health emergencies. A one time investment of $100 million. Conclusion — the economic impact of investments in health care The CMA’s pre-budget submission has presented the facts on how investments in physical, human and entrepreneurial capital can enhance our health care system and, in turn, make our economy more productive. Improvements in the quality of care, and especially speed of care, enable the Canadian labour increase their performance and reach their potential. The 2004 First Minister Health Accord is a positive step in renewing the federal government’s commitment to publicly funded health care, more needs to be done. Like the human body, that is always evolving, the health care system needs to be calibrated for optimal performance. Targeted investments in health human resources as well as health care infrastructure will result in an optimal allocation of resources, better health and a stronger economy. Appendix 1 [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY]  CMA’s 10 point productivity plan    (in millions of dollars) 3-year 2006/07 2007/08 2008/09 Total   Efficiency i. Improving access -opening-up training positions for International Medical Graduates 45.0 45.0 45.0 135.0   ii. Repatriating our human capital -getting Canadian physicians home from the U.S. 10.0 0.0 0.0 10.0   iii. Health Human Resource Reinvestment Fund* 100.0 200.0 300.0 600.0   iv. Creating the Canadian Coordinating Office for Health Human Resources 3.0 3.1 3.2 9.3   Efficiency total 158.0 248.1 348.2 754.3   Equity v. Freeing-up entrepreneurial capital -zero-rating the GST on physician practices 84.0 86.1 88.3 258.4 vi. Investing in physical and human capital through physician office automation (CHI transfer)** 1,463.7 0.0 0.0 1,463.7   vii. Providing debt-relief to medical residents - an investment in human capital 5.0 5.1 5.3 15.4   viii. Making health research investments count -supporting knowledge transfer 100.0 200.0 300.0 600.0   Equity total 1,652.7 291.2 393.6 2,337.5   Effectiveness ix. Planning for the worst -pandemic preparation 25.0 25.0 25.0 75.0   Closing the Naylor Gap 75.0 150.0 250.0 475.0   Protection from expenditure review committee reductions*** 16.4 17.9 0.0 34.3   x. Ensuring effective public health communication 100.0 0.0 0.0 100.0   Effectiveness total 216.4 192.9 275.0 684.3   Total 2,027.1 732.2 1,016.8 3,776.1 * Note: additional 2 years of funding at $200 million per year. ** Note: the physician office automation financing plan is a 1-time transfer to Canada Health Infoway (CHI). CHI would deliver funding directly. Estimates are based on information from CHI (October 2005). *** Working Group on a Public Health Agency for Canada In Report: A Public Health Agency of Canada Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada; Apr 2004. Available: www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/rpp-2005-06/index.html#2b (accessed Oct 2005). [TABLE END] Appendix 2 10 year Costing of the Physician Automation [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] [TABLE END] 1. There are approximately 60,000 licensed physicians in Canada. It is estimated that 20% already have an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) in their clinical office. Therefore this costing analysis is to support the other 48,000 physicians to automate their offices. 2. The cost to automate an office is based on the work carried out by the Alberta government and the Alberta Medical Association through the Physician Office Support Program (POSP).They have used a four year cost of $41,000 which covers capital, installation, training and operational costs over the four years. First year costs are $26,000 with $5,000 over the remaining three years. References 1 Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882), essayist, poet, philosopher. “Power,” The Conduct of Life (1860). 2 According to the Royal Institute of International Affairs who also quote two Nobel Laureates in Economics. In, Health Expenditure and Investment Rather than a Cost? International Economics Program, Chatham House. 07/05. Available: www.chathamhouse.org.uk/index.php?id=189&pid=245 (accessed Oct 2005). 3 The additional economic activity generated by the health care sector is based on a conservative 1.5 multiplier. The CMA is pursuing precise estimates of the benefits of health care investments in Canada. 4 Learning from SARS - Renewal of Public Health in Canada A report of the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health. Ottawa: Health Canada; Oct 2003. Available: www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/sars-sras/naylor/(accessed October 2005) 5 5 Cooper S. Don’t fear fear or panic panic an economist’s view of pandemic flu Toronto: BMO Nesbitt Burns; October 2005. Avalable www2.bmo.com/news/article/0,1257,contentCode-5047_divId-4_langId-1_navCode-112,00.html 6 ibid 7 According to the Royal Institute of International Affairs who also quote two Nobel Laureates in Economics. In, Health Expenditure and Investment Rather than a Cost? International Economics Program, Chatham House. 07/05. Available: www.chathamhouse.org.uk/index.php?id=189&pid=245 (accessed Oct 2005). 8 The additional economic activity generated by the health care sector is based on a conservative 1.5 multiplier. The CMA is currently pursuing precise economic multiplier estimates of the benefits of health care investments in Canada. 9 The CMA and the Canadian Nurse Association go into greater depth concerning the pressures on a strategy for HHR in, “Planning Framework for Health Human Resources. A Green Paper. June 2005 Available: www.cna-nurses.ca/CNA/documents/ pdf/publications/CMA_CNA_Green_Paper_e.pdf. 10 Zero-rated supplies refer to a limited number of goods and services that are taxable at the rate of 0%. This means there is no GST/HST charged on the supply of these goods and services, but GST/HST registrants can claim an input tax credit (ITC) for the GST/HST they pay or owe on purchases and expenses made to provide them. Available: www.cra-arc.gc.ca/tax/business/topics/gst/glossary-e.html (accessed September 2005) 11 An independent study by KPMG estimated that physicians have “overcontributed” in terms of unclaimed ITCs by approximately $57.2 million in 1992. In 2005, this comes to an inflation adjusted figure of $84 million. 12 Booz, Allan, Hamilton Study, Pan-Canadian Electronic Health Record, Canada’s Health Infoway’s 10-Year Investment Strategy, March 2005-09-06 13 The Center for Information Technology Leadership (www.citl.org) is non-profit research organization established in 2002 to guide the health care community in making more informed strategic IT investment decisions. 14 Lavis, J., Ross, S., Hurley, J., Hohenadel, J., Stoddart, G., Woodward, C., Abelson, J. Reflections on the Role of Health-Services Research in Public Policy-Making. Paper 01-06. 15 Koplan JP. Building Infrastructure to Protect the Public’s Health. Public Health Training Network Broadcast Available: www.phppo.cdc.gov/documents/KoplanASTHO.pdf (accessed Oct 2005). 16 Report: A Public Health Agency for Canada Building a Foundation for Intergovernmental Harmony and Cooperation Available: www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/phawg-aspgt-noseworthy/2_e.html (accessed Oct 2005)
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Mental Health, Mental Illness & Addiction : CMA Submission to the Standing Committee on Social affairs, Science and Technology

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1950
Last Reviewed
2012-03-03
Date
2005-04-20
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2012-03-03
Date
2005-04-20
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) welcomes the opportunity to provide input to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology’s study of mental health, mental illness and addiction in Canada. The Committee is to be commended for their commitment to the examination of the state of mental health services and addiction treatment in Canada. The Interim Report Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction: Overview of Policies and Programs in Canada is a most comprehensive and thorough study. It highlights and reinforces the myriad of players, programs and services as well as the scope and breadth of concerns related to mental health/mental illness care. The Issues and Options paper cogently outlines all the major issues facing mental health, mental illness and addiction care today and provides a platform to stimulate an important public debate on the direction that should be taken to address mental health reform in Canada. The CMA was pleased to appear before the Committee during its deliberations in March of 2004 to speak to the issues facing mental health and mental illness care and put forward recommendations for action by the federal government. The CMA recommended: * developing legislative or regulatory amendments to ensure that psychiatric hospitals are subject to the five program criteria and the conditions of the Canada Health Act, * adjusting the Canada Health Transfer to provide net new federal cash for these additional insured services, * re-establishing an adequately resourced federal unit focussed on mental health, mental illness and addiction, * reviewing federal policies and programs to ensure that mental illness is on par, in terms of benefits, with other chronic diseases and disabilities, * mounting a national public awareness strategy to address the stigma associated with mental illness and addiction. The physicians of Canada continue to support these recommendations. While the Committee has asked for input on a number of important issues in its Issues and Options paper, CMA will focus on the role of the federal government in three areas: * national leadership and intergovernmental collaboration, * accessibility, * accountability. We understand that the Canadian Psychiatric Association, the College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Canadian Paediatric Society will, in their submissions to the Standing Committee, address specific issues of concern to the medical profession in the areas of primary care, child and adolescent mental health and mental illness services, and psychiatric care. The CMA supports the positions of these national specialty organizations. THE ROLE OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT The economic burden of mental health problems is estimated, at a minimum, at $14.4 billion annually. 1 Mental illness and addiction affects one in five Canadians during their lifetime. According to a 2003 Canadian Community Health Survey, 2.6 million Canadians over the age of 15 reported symptoms consistent with mental illness during the past year. Mental illness impacts people in the prime of their life. Estimates from 1998 indicates that 24% of all deaths among those aged 15-24 and 16% of all deaths among those aged 25- 44 are from suicide 2. In contrast, the 2003 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) that tragically, resulted in 483 cases and 44 deaths with an estimated economic impact in the Greater Toronto Area of 2 billion dollars served as the ‘wake-up call’ that galvanized the federal government into paying attention to public health in Canada. In the aftermath of SARS, the federal government appointed a Minister of State for Public Health, established the Public Health Agency of Canada and selected a Chief Public Health Officer for Canada. Nine hundred and sixty five million dollars has been invested by the federal government in public health in the two federal budgets following SARS and a new spirit of federal-provincial-territorial cooperation on public health issues has been spawned. The evidence of the enormous burden that mental illness and addiction places on Canadian society has been a clarion call to many concerned stakeholder organizations across the country to mobilize and search for solutions. It is astounding that the federal government has not heard the call. And it is hard to imagine just what more could constitute a ‘wake-up call’ for mental health care. In fact the federal government falls woefully short of fulfilling its responsibilities to the people of Canada. The Interim report of the Committee correctly outlines the state of fragmentation and gaps in services to those specific populations under direct federal jurisdiction. It also notes the ‘apparent ambivalence’ over the years by the federal government about the place of mental health services within publicly funded health care. This ambivalent approach also spills over to the broad national policies and programs of the federal government that can impact those suffering from mental illness, addiction or poor mental health. The federal government has systematically excluded mental health services since the earliest days of Medicare. Mental illness has been treated like a second class disease with little dedicated federal funding, and with programs and services not subject to national criteria or conditions as are set out in the Canada Health Act. In fact, the federal government could be seen as moving in reverse with the downgrading of mental health resources within Health Canada through the 1980s and 1990s. Leadership The CMA firmly believes that strong federal leadership is required to address the sometimes invisible epidemic of mental health problems and addiction in Canada.The government must lead by example and begin by ‘cleaning up its own backyard’ in terms of its direct role as service provider to those Canadians under its jurisdiction. It should take a ‘whole of government’ approach that recognizes the interplay of health services, education, housing, income, community and the justice system on mental health and mental illness care. Further, the federal government has a responsibility to ensure that there is equitable access to necessary services and supports across the county. This will require a strong degree of cooperation and collaboration among provinces and territories and the federal government. The federal, provincial and territorial governments must come together to develop a national action plan on mental health, mental illness and addiction modeled on the framework developed by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health in 2000. The CMA has noted the options put forward to elevate mental health, mental illness and addiction in government priorities: A Canada Mental Health Act or a Minister of State for mental health, mental illness and addiction. We continue to believe that an adequately resourced, dedicated federal centre focussed on mental health, mental illness and addiction must be established within Health Canada. This will ensure that mental health, mental illness and addiction are not seen as separate from the health care system but an integral component of acute care, chronic care and public health services. A centre with dedicated funding and leadership at the Associate Deputy Minister level is required to signal the intent of the government to seriously address mental health, mental illness and addiction in terms of both its direct and indirect roles. This centre must also have the authority to coordinate across all federal departments and lead F/P/T collaborations on mental health, mental illness and addiction. The responsibility of the provinces and territories for the delivery of services for mental illness and addiction within their jurisdictions is unquestioned. But, as CMA has noted in relation to the acute care and public health systems, we have a concern with the disparity of these services across the country. We believe that the federal government must take a lead role, working with the provinces and territories, in establishing mental health goals, standards for service delivery, disseminating best practices, coordinating surveillance and research, undertaking human resource planning and reducing stigma. It is unfortunate that the Council of Deputy Ministers of Health withdrew its support of the F/P/T Advisory Network on Mental Health in 1990. The lack of a credible and resourced F/P/T forum for information sharing, planning and policy formation has impeded inter-provincial cooperation and collaboration for over a decade. F/P/T collaboration is essential to ensure adequacy of services in all parts of the country and end the piecemeal approach to mental illness and addiction. It would also encourage pan Canadian research and knowledge transfer. The CMA therefore recommends: 1. That the federal government create and adequately resource a Centre for Mental Health within Health Canada led by an Associate Deputy Minister with a mandate to initiate and coordinate activity across all federal departments to address the federal government’s responsibilities to specific populations under its direct jurisdiction, to oversee national policies and programs that impact on mental health, mental illness and addiction and to support intergovernmental collaboration. 2. That the federal government re-establish and adequately resource the F/P/T Advisory Network on Mental Health with a broader mandate to encompass mental health, mental illness and addiction. 3. That the federal government work with the provinces, territories and the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health to establish a Pan Canadian Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction Network to develop a national mental health strategy, mental health goals and action plan; and serve as a forum for inter-provincial cooperation and collaboration on mental health, mental illness and addiction. Accessibility Accessibility leads the way as the number one concern regarding the health care system for patients and their families. This concern is in no way lessened when we look at access to mental health and addiction services and programs. The CMA has long identified accessibility as an essential issue that must be addressed to improve the health care system. In recent years, public concern over timely access has been growing. Recent polling for the CMA has shown that a significant majority of Canadians have suffered increased pain and anxiety while waiting for health care services. 3 The same polling clearly demonstrated that the vast majority of Canadians attributed long waits for health care services to a lack of available health providers and infrastructure. More recently, another opinion poll found that Canadians gave the health care system an overall grade of “C” in terms of their confidence that the system will provide the same level and quality of service to future generations. 4 The 2003 Hospital Waiting Lists in Canada report released by the Fraser Institute included a psychiatry waiting list survey which revealed that wait times from referral by a GP ranges from a Canadian average of 8.5 weeks to 20 weeks in New Brunswick. Patients then face a further delay as they wait for appropriate treatment after they have been seen by the specialist. This wait can be anywhere from 4 weeks to 19 weeks depending on the treatment or program. 5 The 2004 National Physician Survey, a collaboration between the CMA, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, and the College of Family Physicians of Canada, found that 65.6% of physicians rated accessibility to psychiatrists as fair or poor. 6 These statistics do not reflect those patients that do not make it on to lengthy waiting lists where access is effectively denied. In September 2004 the CMA released a national plan of action to address issues of accessibility, availability and sustainability across the health system 7 . Better Access Better Health lays out a number of recommendations designed to ensure that access exists at times of need, and to improve system capacity and the sustainability of the system. While Better Access Better Health speaks to the health care system writ large, the provision of mental health services and addiction treatment clearly falls under this umbrella. Specific recommendations detailed in the plan of action for pan-Canadian wait-time benchmarks, a health human resource reinvestment fund, expanding the continuum of care and an increase in federal “core’ funding commitments would all have a positive impact on the accessibility of mental health and addiction services. The review of mental health policies and programs in select countries (Report 2 of the Interim Report) is striking for the similarity of problems facing mental health care. In each of the four countries studied there is concern for the adequacy of resources as well as recognition of the need to coordinate and integrate service delivery. The CMA agrees with the Committee’s commentary that: “The means for achieving these objectives that stands out from our survey of four countries is to set actionable targets that engage the entire mental health community, and to establish measurable criteria for the ongoing monitoring of reform efforts. Comprehensive human resource planning in the mental health field, as well as adequate funding for research and its dissemination are also suggested as key elements of a national strategy to foster mental health and treat mental illness.” CMA strongly supports setting national standards and targets with regard to mental health services and addiction treatment, but it must be understood that standards and targets can not be established until we have a clear and accurate picture of the current situation in Canada. Pan-Canadian research is needed to determine the availability of services across the country. Surveillance of mental illness risk factors, outcomes and services is essential to guide appropriate development and delivery of programs. Research is also needed to determine ways of integrating the delivery of mental health services between institutional and community settings. The Health Transition Fund supported 24 projects between 1997 and 2001 that made a substantial contribution toward a practical knowledge base in mental health policy and practice. The 2000 Primary Health Care Transition Fund is also supporting projects in the mental health field. For those projects that are due to be completed in 2006, they should be encouraged to put in place a prospective evaluation framework to determine the feasibility and scalability of collaborative care initiatives. As noted in Better Access Better Health availability is first and foremost about the people who provide quality care and about the tools and infrastructure they need to provide it. The shortage of family practitioners, specialists, nurses, psychologists and other health care providers within the publicly funded health care system is certainly an impediment to timely access to care. A health human resources strategy for mental health, mental illness and addiction is a first step in finding a solution to the chronic shortage of health professionals. The CMA therefore recommends: 4. That the federal government, through the Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction, undertake a program of surveillance and research to determine actual availability of services for mental health, mental illness and addiction across the country. 5. That the federal government in consultation with provincial and territorial governments, health care providers and patients/clients establish national standards and targets for access to services. 6. That the Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction and the Institute of Health Services and Policy Research within Canadian Institutes of Health Research establish a joint competition for research on ways of integrating the delivery of mental health services between institutions and community settings. 7. That the federal government undertake an evaluation of those Health Transition Fund and Primary Health Care Transition Fund projects in the mental health, mental illness and addiction field to determine the feasibility and scalability of collaborative care initiatives. 8. That the federal government work with the provinces and territories to develop a health human resource strategy for the field of mental health, mental illness and addiction. Accountability In its presentation to the Committee in March of 2004, CMA recommended that the federal government make the legislative and/or regulatory amendments necessary to ensure that psychiatric hospital services are subject to the criteria and conditions of the Canada Health Act. This would accomplish two objectives. It would signal the federal government’s serious intent to address the historical imbalance in the treatment of mental health and illness care while at the same time increase the accountability of these institutions and services to the values espoused in the Canada Health Act. This would be a very positive step, but we must also develop accountability mechanisms that can measure the quality and effectiveness of the mental health services provided. Since 2000, First Ministers and their governments have committed to reporting on numerous comparable indicators on health status, health outcomes and quality of services. In September 2002, all 14 jurisdictions including the federal government, released reports covering some 67 comparable indicators. In November 2004, these governments released their second report covering 18 indicators with a focus on health system performance including primary health care and homecare. Unfortunately, mental illness--despite its magnitude--has received little attention in these reports. Of the now 70 indicators that have been developed, only 2 directly address mental illness (potential years of life lost due to suicide and prevalence of depression). Furthermore, no performance indicators related to mental health outcomes or wait times for mental health services have been included in these reports. This is one more example of the oversight of mental illness related issues and the vicious circle that exists since few indicators makes it difficult to present the case for greater attention. The lack of information on availability of services, wait times and health outcomes for mental health services compromises governments’ ability to establish a funding framework to allocate funding equitably. Research that will reveal gaps in service delivery, and the establishment of targets should allow governments to better calculate sustainable funding levels needed to build capacity in the mental health, mental illness and addiction fields. As important as it is to ensure that mental health and addiction services within the health system are available, accessible and adequately resourced we must not lose sight of the fact that to effectively address mental health, mental illness and addiction issues services from a broad range of government sectors are required. Therefore the proposed Associate Deputy Minister for Mental Health must be accountable to ensure collaboration across sectors within the federal government. As in public health in general, a clarification of the roles and responsibilities of the various levels and sectors of government and health providers involved in the provision of mental health, mental illness and addiction services would allow for greater accountability. The CMA therefore recommends: 9. That performance indicators for mental health services and support, based on the work of the F/P/T Advisory Network on Mental Health, are incorporated in the federal, provincial and territorial reporting of comparable indicators on health status, health outcomes and quality of services called for in the 2003 First Ministers’ Accord on Health Care Renewal. 10. The federal, provincial and territorial governments establish resource targets based on national standards for access to services and minimum wait times to determine and commit to sustainable funding levels. 11. That the Health Council of Canada report on the performance of the mental health, mental illness and addiction system. CONCLUSION The CMA welcomes the spotlight that the Committee has shone on the mental health, mental illness and addiction system in Canada and has been pleased to provide input on behalf of the physicians of Canada. The neglect of those impacted by mental illness and addiction must not be allowed to continue. It is unconscionable that millions of Canadians do not have access to the programs, treatments or supports that would ease their suffering. The federal government must recognize its responsibility towards these Canadians, embrace its leadership role and ensure that the mental health, mental illness and addiction system is placed on an equal footing within the health care system in Canada. Physicians are an integral part of the mental health, mental illness and addiction field. We are eager to work with governments and other concerned stakeholders to bring to fruition a national mental health strategy with mental health goals and an associated action plan that can effectively address the concerns of today and prepare the mental health, mental illness and addiction system for the future. CMA recommendations on Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction 1. That the federal government create and adequately resource a Centre for Mental Health within Health Canada led by an Associate Deputy Minister with a mandate to initiate and coordinate activity across all federal departments to address the federal government’s responsibilities to specific populations under its direct jurisdiction, to oversee national policies and programs that impact on mental health, mental illness and addiction, and to support intergovernmental collaboration. 2. That the federal government re-establish and adequately resource the F/P/T Advisory Network on Mental Health with a broader mandate to encompass mental health, mental illness and addiction. 3. That the federal government work with the provinces, territories and the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health to establish a Pan Canadian Mental Health, Mental Illness and Addiction Network to develop a national mental health strategy, mental health goals and action plan; and serve as a forum for inter-provincial cooperation and collaboration on mental health, mental illness and addiction. 4. That the federal government, through the Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction, undertake a program of surveillance and research to determine actual availability of services for mental health, mental illness and addiction across the country. 5. That the federal government in consultation with provincial and territorial governments, health care providers and patients/clients establish national standards and targets for access to services. 6. That the Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction and the Institute of Health Services and Policy Research within Canadian Institutes of Health Research establish a joint competition for research on ways of integrating the delivery of mental health services between institutions and community settings. 7. That the federal government undertakes an evaluation of those Health Transition Fund and Primary Health Care Transition Fund projects in the mental health, mental illness and addiction field to determine the feasibility and scalability of collaborative care initiatives. 8. That the federal government works with the provinces and territories to develop a health human resource strategy for the field of mental health, mental illness and addiction. 9. That performance indicators for mental health services and support, based on the work of the F/P/T Advisory Network on Mental Health, are incorporated in the federal, provincial and territorial reporting of comparable indicators on health status, health outcomes and quality of services called for in the 2003 First Ministers’ Accord on Health Care Renewal. 10. The federal, provincial and territorial governments establish resource targets based on national standards for access to services and minimum wait times to determine and commit to sustainable funding levels. 11. That the Health Council of Canada report on the performance of the mental health, mental illness and addiction system. 1 Stephens T and Joubert N, The Economic Burden of Mental Health Problems in Canada, Chronic Disease in Canada, 2001:22 (1) 18-23. 2 Health Canada. A Report on Mental Illnesses in Canada. Ottawa, Canada 2002. 3 Health Care Access and Canadians, Ipsos-Reid for the CMA, 2004. 4 2004 National Report Card on the Sustainability of Health Care, Ipsos-Reid for the CMA, 2004. 5 Hospital Waiting Lists in Canada (13th edition), Critical Issues Bulletin, The Fraser Institute, October 2003. 6 National Physician Survey, Canadian Medical Association, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, College of Family Physicians of Canada, 2004, (http://www.cfpc.ca/nps/English/home.asp), accessed April 6, 2005. 7 Better Access Better Health: Accessible, Available and Sustainable Health Care For Patients, CMA September 2004 , attached as Appendix I.
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Building a Comprehensive Post-Market Surveillance System : Canadian Medical Association Response to Health Canada’s Discussion Paper “Designing a Mandatory System for Reporting Serious Adverse Reactions”

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1951
Last Reviewed
2012-03-03
Date
2005-07-28
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2012-03-03
Date
2005-07-28
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
Building a Comprehensive Post-Market Surveillance System Canadian Medical Association Response to Health Canada’s Discussion Paper “Designing a Mandatory System for Reporting Serious Adverse Reactions” Submitted to Health Canada July 28, 2005 Overview The CMA believes that all stakeholders should work together to improve adverse drug reaction (ADR) reporting, in the interests of improving patients’ safety and health. However, we believe that activity in pursuit of this end must be based on two fundamental premises: a) Reporting is only one part of a comprehensive post-market surveillance system. In order to effectively monitor the safety of Canada’s drug supply, this system should include: * a simple, comprehensive and user-friendly reporting process; * rigorous analysis of reports to identify significant threats to drug safety; * a communications system that produces useful information, distributed to health care providers and the public in a timely, easily understood manner. There is no point in enacting a mandatory reporting requirement until all of these elements are in place. We wonder why mandatory reporting has been singled out for discussion when a holistic approach to reforming Canada’s drug safety system is called for. b) Health care providers should be encouraged to participate willingly and voluntarily in the reporting process. To be successful, Canada’s post-market surveillance system will depend on the active participation of physicians and other health professionals. Experience with health system quality and safety improvement efforts over the past several years has demonstrated that meaningful acceptance is most effectively obtained when those involved are willing participants. If you build a comprehensive, efficient and effective post-market surveillance system, physicians will participate actively in it. Forcing them to participate before the system has been built will result in alienation, frustration and failure. Comments on Discussion Paper a) Is Mandatory Reporting Necessary? This is a fundamental question and the discussion paper does not satisfactorily address it. There are two reasons why we question the necessity for imposing an ADR reporting requirement on health professionals. First, as awareness of the drug-safety system’s importance has increased, the number of ADR reports has increased along with it - more than 10% in 2004, as the discussion paper notes - without a mandatory reporting requirement. Given this trend, it is highly probable that time, education, adequate resources and increasing familiarity with the surveillance system will raise reporting rates to the desired level (however defined) without mandatory reporting. Second, as the discussion paper points out, there is no evidence that mandatory reporting has been effective in other jurisdictions where it has been implemented. The paper offers no clear explanation for this lack of success. More importantly, it does not indicate how Health Canada plans to ensure that mandatory reporting will succeed in this country when it has proven ineffective elsewhere. A primary principle of any system change is that we should not repeat the mistakes of others. Before launching a program whose success has not been proven, other viable, and possibly more effective, alternatives should be examined. b) Addressing known barriers to reporting The CMA acknowledges that ADRs are under-reported, in Canada and worldwide. The discussion paper identifies a number of barriers to reporting, and its list mirrors the observations and experiences of our own members. We believe most of these barriers can, and should, be overcome. We also agree that it is necessary to raise health professionals’ awareness of the importance of, and process for, ADR reporting. But we question the curious assertion that “Mandatory reporting could raise awareness of the value of reporting simply by virtue of the public debate.” Surely there are more positive ways to raise awareness than publicly speculating about the punitive consequences of non-compliance. We suggest that instead, Health Canada work with physicians and other health professionals to address the existing barriers to reporting. Specifically, we recommend that Health Canada implement: * a well-funded and targeted awareness-raising campaign focused on provider education and positive messaging, * a user-friendly reporting system, including appropriate forms, efficient processes and adequate fees. These measures are within Health Canada’s purview in the existing policy and legislative environment. We believe they would increase reporting without the need for coercive measures. At a minimum, positive system improvements should be tried first before considering a mandatory-reporting requirement. With regard to specific questions posed in the discussion paper: Question 1: Health professionals should be explicitly protected from any liability as a result of reporting an adverse drug reaction. This should be the case regardless of whether reporting is voluntary or mandatory. Question 2: Professionals should be compensated for all meaningful work including the completion of forms and any follow-up required as a result of the information they have provided. We would be happy to expand further on this issue on request. Question 3: Issues of confidentiality should be covered in legislation. The CMA has developed an extensive and authoritative body of knowledge on privacy issues in health care, which we would be pleased to share with Health Canada. c) Improved report quality We agree that increasing the quality and richness of ADR reports is as important as increasing their number. Perhaps it is even more important, since high-quality reports allow for high-quality analysis. Mandatory reporting will not improve the quality of ADR reports; it will simply increase their quantity. It may even compromise the system’s efficiency and effectiveness by increasing the volume of clinically insignificant reports. Experience elsewhere has taught us that true quality cannot be legislated or imposed; any attempt to do so would be pointless. If ADR reports included the information listed in Table 4, this would improve their usefulness and the effectiveness of the overall surveillance process. However, it is unrealistic to expect all reports to contain this level of information. The treating physician may not be able to provide all of it, especially if he or she is not the patient’s regular primary care provider. Some of this information, particularly about outcomes, may not be available at the time of the reporting, and gathering it would require follow-up by Health Canada. Health Canada should consider measures other than mandatory reporting to improve the quality of ADR reports. The CMA suggests that consideration be given to: * Improving follow-up capacity. We agree that it should be made easier for Health Canada officials to contact reporters and request details on follow-up or outcomes. This should be considered as part of a comprehensive initiative to improve Health Canada’s capacity to analyze ADR reports. * Establishing a sentinel system. Another option for increasing high-quality reports would be to establish a “sentinel” group of practicing physicians who would contract to report all ADRs in detail. These physicians, because of their contractual obligation, would be committed to assiduous reporting. Sentinel systems could be established concurrently with efforts to increase voluntary ADR reporting by the broader health professional community. In addition to the current information provided, consideration should be given to including on reporting forms the option to allow Health Canada officials to act on information the physician provides; for example, in the reporting of sexually transmitted diseases physicians provide certain information and have the option to request that public health officials undertake follow-up and contact tracing. d) Minimize administrative burden We agree that Health Canada should give consideration to making the ADR reporting system user-friendly, non-complex and easy to integrate into the patient-care work stream. These reforms can and should be implemented regardless of whether a mandatory requirement is in place. They do not need mandatory reporting to make them work; in fact, they are more likely to encourage ADR reporting than any form of coercive legislation. Rather than making a mandatory reporting requirement “fit” with the traditional patient-care framework, we invite Health Canada to work with us to increase health professionals’ capacity to report ADRs voluntarily. We are already working with Health Canada to improve physicians’ access to drug safety material. Health Canada’s ADR reporting form can now be downloaded from the cma.ca web site, which also posts the latest drug alerts from Health Canada and from the Food and Drug Administration in the U.S. We have developed an on-line course in partnership with Health Canada, to teach physicians when and how to make ADR reports. We hope to build on this collaboration, with the goal of making it possible for physicians to report ADRs online via cma.ca. This will permit them to fit reporting more conveniently into their daily workflow. (Note: the “MedEffects” Web portal now being developed at Health Canada does not fit well into the workflow and therefore will not make reporting easier for health professionals.) In the future, we hope that ADR reporting can be built directly into the Electronic Medical Record (EMR). We think this will be a critical element in the bi-directional communicating that ADR reporting requires. It will also enable rapid integration of advisories into the EMR so that they can be available to physicians at the time they are writing a prescription. Before electronic ADR reporting can work, a standard for electronic data should be in place (at present it is not) and Health Canada should develop the capacity to accept data electronically. Health Canada’s discussion paper makes reference to cost-benefit analysis. We recommend that you take great care not to over-emphasize cost-benefit when it comes to enhancing patient safety. Meaningful improvements in the post-market surveillance system will be costly whatever solution Health Canada eventually embraces, and it is impossible to measure financially the value of safety. What is an acceptable cost for one life saved? e) Minimize Over-Reporting The discussion paper acknowledges that not all adverse reactions need be reported. We strongly agree that one of the dangers of mandatory reporting is its potential to overwhelm the system with an unmanageable flood of reports. There is no reason to require reports of minor side effects that are already known to be associated with given drugs. We agree that the reactions Health Canada most needs to know about are those which are severe and/or unexpected. If Health Canada insists on implementing a mandatory reporting system, it should be limited to these reactions (possibly with the corollary that well known serious ADRs would not need to be reported). However, the operating definitions may need clarification, and we recommend that Health Canada consult with health professionals and others on operational guidelines for defining “serious adverse reaction.” Health Canada’s desire to encourage reports on drugs approved within the last 5 years is understandable (though some drugs may be on the market for longer than this before their true risks are known). In practice, however, many physicians do not know which drugs these are, and seeking out this information may impose a heavy administrative burden. As we move toward an EMR-based reporting system, a tag on the Drug Identification Number to tell when the drug was approved will allow physicians to identify which medications require special vigilance. Appropriate reporting could be encouraged, and over-reporting discouraged, by clear guidelines as to what should be reported as well as appropriate compensation for reporting. f) Match Assessment Capacities In our opinion, this is one of the most important sections in the document. What happens once the reports have been received is crucial if we want to identify a serious drug risk as quickly as possible. Under the current system, one of the most significant barriers to physicians’ reporting is lack of confidence that anything meaningful will be done with their reports. Enhancements to the analysis function must be made concurrently with efforts to increase ADR reporting. ADR reports are only cyber-bytes or stacks of paper unless we can learn from them. This requires rigorous data analysis that can sort “signal from noise” – in other words, sift through thousands of reports, find the ones that indicate unusual events, investigate their cause, and isolate those that indicate a serious public health risk. This requires substantial resources, including an adequate number of staff with the expertise and sensitivity required for this demanding task. Unless Health Canada has this capacity, increasing the number of reports will only add to the backlog in analysts’ in-boxes. The CMA recommends that Health Canada allocate sufficient resources to enable it to effectively analyze and respond to ADR reports and other post-market surveillance information. g) Respect privacy Privacy of both patient and physician information is a significant concern. Physicians’ ethical obligation to maintain patient confidentially is central to the patient-physician relationship and must be protected. We acknowledge that issues of privacy and confidentiality must be resolved when designing an ADR reporting system, particularly as we work toward electronic communication of drug surveillance data and its incorporation into an EMR. For example, regulations should explicitly state that ADR reports are to be used only for the purpose for which they were submitted, i.e. for post-market drug surveillance. In addition, Health Canada should ensure that any privacy provisions it develops meet the legislative test outlined in Section 3.6 of CMA’s Health Information Privacy Code (Attachment I). Health Canada can be assured that physicians take their privacy obligations seriously. The CMA has been a strong and pro-active player in debate on this issue, and our Privacy Code lays the groundwork on which we believe any privacy policies involving ADR reporting should be based. h) Compliance through sanctions Physicians are motivated to report ADRs by their concern for public health and their patients’ well-being. In addition, they are guided by the CMA Code of Ethics and governed by regulatory authorities in every province. A clear ethical and professional obligation already exists to report anything that poses a serious threat to patient safety. If physicians do not comply with this obligation, sanctions are available to the provincial regulatory authorities. In fact, the most serious threat for physicians is loss of standing with the professional regulatory authority, not the courts or any external judicial system. It would be superfluous to add a second level of regulation or scrutiny when remedies already exist. The discussion paper presents few alternatives to the existing self-regulatory system. As the paper itself acknowledges, it is unrealistic to impose sanctions based on failure to report an ADR, since it is not always easy to determine whether an adverse effect is attributable to a health product. But the only suggested alternatives - requiring physicians to demonstrate knowledge, or to have the required reporting forms in their office - seem intrusive, crude and unreasonable; they are also meaningless since they have no direct relation to a physician’s failure to report. If Health Canada is considering a large outlay of taxpayers’ dollars for post-market surveillance, we suggest they target those funds to education and awareness raising, and to enhancing the system’s ability to generate and communicate meaningful signal data, rather than to enforcing a mandatory reporting system based on weak compliance measures, with no evidence of its effectiveness in other jurisdictions. Physicians who are in serious breach of their ethical and legal responsibility to report are subject to sanctions by provincial regulatory authorities. Most provincial colleges have policies or guidelines regarding timely reporting and appropriate enforcement mechanisms. Medicine’s tradition of self-regulation has served it well, and we recommend that Health Canada respect and support existing regulatory authorities as they maintain the standards for appropriate professional behaviour. As we have said before - the preferred quality improvement tools to enhance performance and encourage compliance are education and positive reinforcement, not legislation and the threat of sanctions. Conclusion In its discussion paper Health Canada has invited stakeholders to provide their input on how best to develop a mandatory system for reporting ADRs. The Canadian Medical Association believes that the best way to do this is not to develop one at all. Instead, we believe stakeholders should concentrate on building a sustainable, robust and effective post-market surveillance system which: * encourages and facilitates voluntary reporting, by designing a simple and efficient process that can be incorporated into a physician’s daily workflow; * effectively uses reporting data to identify major public health risks; * communicates drug safety information to providers and the public in a timely, meaningful and practical way. The CMA is committed to working, in partnership with Health Canada and other stakeholders, toward the ultimate goal of a responsive, efficient and effective post-market drug surveillance system. This is part of our long-standing commitment to optimizing Canadians’ safety and health, and achieving our vision of a healthy population and a vibrant medical profession.
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Letter to the International Joint Commission on the 2004 Progress Report addressing air quality

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1952
Last Reviewed
2012-03-03
Date
2005-02-11
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2012-03-03
Date
2005-02-11
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
On behalf of Canada’s physicians, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) would like to take this opportunity to provide comments to the International Joint Commission on the 2004 Progress Report addressing air quality. The Association, first founded in 1867, currently represents more than 59,000 physicians across the country. Our mission includes advocating for the highest standard of health and care for all Canadians and we are committed to activities that will result in healthy public policy which support health and the environment. The environment, as a determinant of health, is a major concern for the general public as well as health care providers. Air pollution affects the health of all Canadians, but particularly children, the elderly and those with respiratory and cardiac conditions. Poor air quality can provoke devastating health effects. Every day physicians come face to face with the reality of an unhealthy environment and its effects on our patients. The impact can be seen in terms of increased frequency of symptoms, medication use, physician visits, emergency room visits, hospitalizations and premature deaths. Canadians and Americans breathe the same air, drink the same water, and share a common responsibility to provide future generations with a healthy environment. This is why the Canada-U.S. agreement to address and resolve environmental issues is so important. The U.S.-Canada Air Quality Agreement established a formal and flexible method of addressing trans-boundary air pollution and laid the groundwork for cooperation between the United States and Canada on very important air quality issues. Under the Air Quality Agreement of 1991, both countries have made progress in coordinating and implementing their acid rain control programs and have focused activities on ground level ozone since 2000. The improvements, as described in the 2004 Progress Report are commendable. But while many of the parties’ emission reduction commitments are on-track, dangerous air pollution continues to blow both ways across our borders. This suggests that the measures included in this agreement are not sufficient to ensure that Canadians have clean air to breathe. In fact, we believe that future evaluations should describe air quality improvement as the outcome of interest, in addition to cataloguing emission reduction initiatives, as is done in the 2004 Progress Report. The 2004 Progress Report, prepared by Environment Canada and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, is the seventh biennial report compiled under the 1991 United States-Canada Air Quality Agreement. Ground level ozone, a primary component of smog, directly contributes to air quality and health. The commitment to reduce ground level ozone under the 2000 Agreement has the potential to improve air quality and the quality of life of literally millions of people. As indicated in the Progress Report 2004, Canada is “on track to implement all of its commitments for vehicles, engines and fuels” in order to reduce ground level ozone. However, the stationary emissions of NOx remain above target levels. An aggressive strategy to reduce NOx and VOC to lessen smog, and the adverse health impact on Canadians and Americans is urgently required. Smog and climate change are not distinct problems. In fact, a large proportion of the smog pollutants that cause serious cardiac and respiratory problems in Canada are emitted from the same tailpipes and industrial smokestacks as the greenhouse gases, which the Kyoto agreement aims to reduce. Canada’s commitment to the Kyoto Accord provides an opportunity to significantly reduce smog and achieve cleaner air for all Canadians to breathe. The purchasing of emission credits from foreign countries to make up for a shortfall in the reductions of greenhouse-gas emissions Canada agreed to in the Kyoto accord is clearly short-term thinking that does not address the long term goals outlined in the accord. Climate change measures under the Accord will yield additional benefits through improved local and regional air quality. But more can and needs to be done. Canada must bring air pollution down to safe levels and to cut greenhouse gas emissions to halt climate change. For these reasons, CMA recommended that the Prime Minister commit to choosing a climate change strategy that satisfies Canada’s international commitments while maximizing the clean air co-benefits and smog–reduction potential of any greenhouse gas reduction initiatives. Canada’s physicians are concerned about the pollutants that are affecting the health of Canadians, and believe that there should be appropriate mechanisms to warn those who are vulnerable and at risk, so that they can act to protect themselves from contaminants in the air, water, or food. We have called on the government of Canada to establish a national Air Quality Index so that real-time air quality information and predictive forecasting is made available to all Canadians. Health-based reporting about pollutants is a way to allow Canadians to partner in their own health protection, while such pollutants are being addressed by policies aimed at producing cleaner air. Environment Canada and Health Canada have long been developing a health-based Air Quality Index, which would incorporate the most recent health science and make air quality forecasts and current ambient conditions available across the nation. We contend this is a key initiative and we urge this work be expedited. CMA reaffirms our support for the Kyoto protocol and in the best interest of Canadians, urges the government to establish a national Air Quality Index. There is a fundamental role for governments in preventing and controlling smog and poor air quality through healthy public policy and regulations. There remains much work to be done. CMA’s vision of a healthy population for Canada underpins our commitment to advocate for clean air. I would like to thank you and the IJC for your continued commitment to improving air quality for Canadians and Americans. It is through efforts like this, that our mutual goal for a clean, healthy and safe environment may be realized. We look forward to your next report demonstrating even further gains in achieving high air quality. Yours truly, Albert J. Schumacher, MD President AJS/jns
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International Medical Graduates : Notes for an address by Dr. Albert J. Schumacher, President, Canadian Medical Association : Presentation to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy2006
Last Reviewed
2012-03-03
Date
2005-02-17
Topics
Health human resources
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2012-03-03
Date
2005-02-17
Topics
Health human resources
Text
Good afternoon, I am Dr. Albert Schumacher, President of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and a family physician from Windsor, Ontario. With me today is Dr. Todd Watkins, Director, Office of Professional Services at CMA and also a family physician. It is estimated that some 4.5 million Canadians have had trouble finding a family doctor, while more than 3 million Canadians do not have regular access to one. Long waiting lists for consultations and specialized diagnostic and therapeutic procedures suggest there is a shortage of specialists. Including time spent on call, Canada’s physicians worked an average of 70 to 80 hours a week. Of the 21,000 physicians surveyed in the recently released National Physicians’ Survey, over a quarter said they plan to reduce their work week within the next two years. 60% of family doctors either limit the number of new patients they see or have closed their practices. At the same time, the average age of physicians in Canada is 48 years with 32% 55 years of age or older. Almost 4000 physicians may retire in the next two years. There is a “perfect storm” brewing in terms of health human resource in Canada. The message I hope to leave with you today is that the valuable participation of International Medical Graduates (IMGs) in our medical workforce must be part of a coordinated pan-Canadian plan that strives to address the double imperatives of immigration policies that are fair and policies that in the short, medium and longer term will ensure greater self-sufficiency in the education and training of physicians in Canada. Today I am going to focus on three things: Number one: clarify some of the myths about IMGs in Canada; Number two: stress the need for greater capacity in Canada’s medical education and training infrastructure; and Lastly: emphasize the importance of a national standard for licensure. Myths There are a few myths that abound about IMGs in Canada. If you were to believe some of what you read or hear in the media you might gather that it is next to impossible for international medical graduates to enter the practice of medicine in Canada. Nothing could be further from the truth. As of last month, almost one quarter of the physicians working in our health care system received their medical degree in a country other than Canada. This proportion has declined by only 2% since the 1960s. Estimates peg the number of IMGs arriving in Canada with pre-arranged employment licensed to practice each year at 400. Quite simply, our health care system could not function without the critical contributions of qualified international medical graduates (IMGs). Also, many IMGs access the postgraduate training system in Canada. As of December 2004 there were 316 IMGs who were either Canadian citizens or permanent residents in their first year of postgraduate residency training – this represents 15% of the total number of first-year trainees. In the past few years only a few provinces have greatly expanded opportunities for assessing the clinical skills of IMGs and providing supplementary training and practice opportunities. Just two weekends ago some 550 IMG’s participated in the Ontario Provincial IMG Clinical Assessment which was offered at four medical schools across the province. This will lead to some 200 IMGs being licensed to practice in Ontario. Other provinces have similar programs. I would note that the initiatives of the federal government announced by the Honourable Hedy Fry in March 2004 have been very helpful in communicating information about and raising awareness of the requirements to practice medicine in Canada. Some $3 million announced at that time was provided to assist provinces and territories in assessing IMGs and will add at least 100 internationally trained physicians into the system. I am optimistic that her continued collaborative efforts with the medical community will result in positive changes. So, has Canada closed its borders to IMGs? Hardly. Can more be done to achieve fairness? Absolutely. Capacity I can not stress strongly enough the need to increase the capacity of Canada’s undergraduate medical education and postgraduate training system. There are some who think that the fastest and least expensive way of meeting our medical workforce requirements is to simply recruit medical graduates from other countries. In the short term this is a major part of the fix. It is, however, no substitute for a “made in Canada” solution for the long term. As a long-term policy it fails to recognize the fact that the countries from which we poach these IMGs can ill afford to lose them. We are simply not pulling our weight as a country in educating and training future physicians. As my predecessor, Dr. Sunil Patel told his Committee last April, in 2002 there were roughly 6.5 first year medical school places per 100,000 population in Canada – just over one-half of the UK’s rate of 12.2 per 100,000. The CMA has recommended a 2007 target of 2500 first year medical positions and at the moment we are tracking toward 2300. Over reliance on IMGs also fails to appreciate the critical role played by Canada’s academic health science centres. These institutions have a three-fold mission of teaching, research and the provision of a great deal of patient care and these three components are inextricably linked. Expanded capacity will work to the benefit of both Canadians aspiring to attain a medical education and IMGs. For example, in 2004 of the 657 IMGs entering second iteration of the residency match, just 87 or 13% were successful. We need to expand capacity not only within academic health sciences centres themselves, but we need to recruit and support clinical teachers out in the community. This is crucial, especially for the IMG assessment programs now being rolled out. But most importantly, an enhanced education and training infrastructure will help meet the future health needs of Canadians. The goal that had been identified in the 2004 First Minister’s Agreement, specified $250 million a year beginning in 2009-10 through 2013-14 “primarily for health human resources” training and hiring. However, Bill C-39, which was recently tabled to implement provisions of the 10-year plan by creating the Wait Times Reduction Fund, falls short of what Canadians deserve and expect. Specifically, it stipulates theses dollars may be used for multiple purposes. This failure to recognize the critical shortage of health care professionals by dedicating specific dollars to the issue now could mean the promised investments may never be made to enhance health human resources. The temptation will be to continue to rely on “beggar thy neighbour” policies. However, Canada can and must do better to pull its own weight. Importance of a National Standard As the national organization representing Canada’s physicians we have a direct interest in working with government to ensure Canadians have access to health care when they need it. The CMA has a role in medical and health education in the accreditation of undergraduate medical education and the accreditation of the training programs of some 15 health disciplines. However, the CMA is not a regulator. We do not grant credentials or license physicians. Regulation of medicine falls under the purview of the provincial and territorial colleges of physicians and credentials are granted by the College of Family Physicians of Canada, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and the College des Médecins du Quebec. If medicine has a lesson to offer other professions and occupations it is in the value of having a national standard. While health is the constitutional responsibility of the provinces and territories, medicine has been able to realize a national standard for portable eligibility for licensure across Canada. Beginning in 1992 the basis for licensure in all provinces/territories except Quebec has been the successful completion of the two-part Qualifying Examination of the Medical Council of Canada plus certification by either the College of Family Physicians of Canada or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. The procedures in place in Quebec are very similar. To be sure there can be interpretation around the application of the standard, but without a doubt it has provided a significant degree of transparency and uniformity about what is required to practice medicine in Canada. This not only promotes a concordance between the programs offered by our 16 (soon to be 17) medical schools but also provides a basis for the assessment of international programs. On this latter point, the Institute for International Medical Education has a database that contains information on more than 1,800 medical schools in 165 countries around the world. Conclusion During pre-budget hearings last fall, I submitted to the Standing Committee on Finance our plan to address health human resources shortages. As was the case then, IMGs are a critical part of the CMA plan. A plan that has as its core the belief that Canada must adopt a policy of increased self-sufficiency in the production of physicians in Canada. This involves: * increased opportunities for Canadians to pursue medical education in Canada; * enhanced opportunities for practising physicians to return for additional training; * strategies to retain physicians in practice and in Canada; and * increased opportunities for IMGs who are permanent residents or citizens of Canada to access post-MD training leading to licensure/certification and the practice of medicine in Canada. This set of imperatives needs to be balanced against a need for fairness. Fairness to ensure those who need to obtain further medical training are able to do so. And, fairness to young Canadians who deserve a chance to pursue a career in medicine. I appreciate the opportunity of entering into a dialogue with members of the Committee and look forward to your questions. Thank you.
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