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CMA letter to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. Bill C-32 (An Act to amend the Criminal Code (Impaired driving) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts)

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy8789

Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2007-06-11
Topics
Health care and patient safety
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2007-06-11
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) welcomes the opportunity to provide comments to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights of the House of Commons concerning the study of Bill C-32 (An Act to amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts). The CMA supports measures aimed at reducing the incidence of drug-impaired driving. We believe impaired driving, whether by alcohol or another drug, to be an important public health issue for Canadians that requires action by all governments and other concerned groups. The CMA has, on several occasions, provided detailed recommendations on legislative changes concerning impaired driving. In 1999, the CMA presented a brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights during its review of the impaired driving provisions of the Criminal Code (attached). While our 1999 brief focuses primarily on driving under the influence of alcohol, many of the recommendations are also relevant to the issue of driving under the influence of drugs. Recently, the CMA has published the 7th edition of its guide, Determining Medical Fitness to Operate Motor Vehicles (attached). It includes chapters on the importance of screening for alcohol or drug dependency and states that the abuse of such substances is incompatible with the safe operation of a vehicle. This publication is widely viewed by clinical and medical-legal practitioners as the authoritative Canadian source on the topic of driver competence. While changing the Criminal Code is an important step, the CMA believes further actions are also warranted. In our 2002 presentation to the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs (attached), the CMA put forth our long standing position regarding the need for a comprehensive long-term effort that incorporates both deterrent legislation and public awareness and education campaigns. We believe such an approach, together with comprehensive treatment and cessation programs, constitutes the most effective policy in attempting to reduce the number of lives lost and injuries suffered in crashes involving impaired drivers. Drug-impaired drivers may be occasional users of drugs or they may also suffer from substance dependence, a well-recognized form of disease. Physicians should be assisted to screen for drug dependency, when indicated, using validated instruments. Government must create and fund appropriate assessment and treatment interventions. Physicians can assist in establishing programs in the community aimed at the recognition of the early signs of dependency. These programs should recognize the chronic, relapsing nature of drug addiction as a disease, as opposed to simply viewing it as criminal behaviour. While supporting the intent of the proposed legislation, the CMA urges caution on several significant issues. With regard to Clause 4 that amends the act as follows: 254.1 (1) The Governor in Council may make regulations (a) respecting the qualifications and training of evaluating officers; (b) prescribing the physical coordination tests to be conducted under paragraph 254(2)(a); and (c) prescribing the tests to be conducted and procedures to be followed during an evaluation under subsection 254(3.1). CMA contends that it is important that medical professionals and addiction medicine specialists in particular, should be consulted regarding the training offered to officers to conduct roadside assessment and sample collection. Provisions in the Act conferring upon police the power to compel roadside examination raises the important issue of security of the person and health information privacy. As well, information obtained at the roadside is personal medical information and regulations must ensure that it be treated with the same degree of confidentiality as any other element of an individual's medical record. Thus, the CMA would respectfully submit that Clause 9 of Bill-32 on the issue of unauthorized use or disclosure of the results needs to be strengthened because the wording is too broad, unduly infringes privacy and shows insufficient respect for the health information privacy interests at stake. For instance, clause 9(2) would permit the use, or allow the disclosure of the results "for the purpose of the administration or enforcement of the law of a province". This latter phrase needs to be narrowed in its scope so that it would not, on its face, encompass such a broad category of laws. Moreover, clause 9(4) would allow the disclosure of the results "to any other person, if the results are made anonymous and the disclosure is made for statistical or other research purposes" CMA would expect the federal government to exercise great caution in this instance, particularly since the results could be of individuals who are not actually convicted of an offence. One should query whether the Clause 9(4) should even exist in a Criminal Code as it would not appear to be a matter required to be addressed. If it is, then CMA would ask the government to conduct a rigorous privacy impact assessment on these components of the Bill, studying in particular, such matters as sample size, degree of anonymity, and other issues, especially given the highly sensitive nature of the material. CMA would ask whether clause 9(5) should specify that the offence for improper use or disclosure should be more serious than a summary conviction. Finally, it is important to base any roadside testing methods and threshold decisions on robust biological and clinical research. CMA also notes with interest Clause 5, specifically the creation of a new offence of being "over 80" (referring to 80mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood, or a .08 blood alcohol concentration level or BAC) and causing an accident that results in bodily harm which will carry a maximum sentence of 10 years and life imprisonment for causing an accident resulting in death. (Clause 5) We would also urge the Committee to take the opportunity that the review of this proposed legislation provides to recommend to Parliament a lower BAC level. Since 1988 the CMA has supported 50 mg% as the general legal limit. Studies suggest that a BAC limit of 50 mg% could translate into a 6% to 18% reduction in total motor vehicle fatalities or 185 to 555 fewer fatalities per year in Canada.1 A lower limit would recognize the significant detrimental effects on driving-related skills that occur below the current legal BAC.2 In our 1999 response to this Committee's issue paper on impaired driving3 and again in 2002 when we joined forces with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), CMA has consistently called for the federal government to reduce Canada's legal BAC to .05. Canada continues to lag behind countries such as Austria, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France and Germany, which have set a lower legal limit. 4 CMA expressed the opinion that injuries and deaths resulting from impaired driving must be recognized as a major public health concern. Therefore we once again recommend lowering the legal BAC limit to 50 mg%. or .05%. Finally, CMA believes that comprehensive long-term efforts that incorporate deterrent legislation, such as Bill C-32, must be accompanied by public awareness and education strategy. This constitutes the most effective approach to reducing the number of lives lost and injuries suffered in crashes involving impaired drivers. The CMA supports this multidimensional approach to the issue of the operation of a motor vehicle regardless of whether impairment is cause by alcohol or drugs. Again, the CMA appreciates the opportunity to provide input into the legislative proposal on drug-impaired driving. We stress that these legislative changes alone would not adequately address the issue of reducing injuries and fatalities due to drug-impaired driving, but support their intent as a partial, but important measure. Yours sincerely, Colin J. McMillan, MD, CM, FRCPC, FACP President Attachments (3) 1 Mann, Robert E., Scott Macdonald, Gina Stoduto, Abdul Shaikh and Susan Bondy (1998) Assessing the Potential Impact of Lowering the Blood Alcohol Limit to 50 MG % in Canada. Ottawa: Transport Canada, TP 13321 E. 2 Moskowitz, H. and Robinson, C.D. (1988). Effects of Low Doses of Alcohol on Driving Skills: A Review of the Evidence. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, DOT-HS-800-599 as cited in Mann, et al., note 8 at page 12-13 3 Proposed Amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada (Impaired Driving): Response to Issue Paper of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. March 5, 1999 4 Mann et al

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CMA Pre-budget Submission

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy14259

Date
2020-08-07
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Health information and e-health
Health care and patient safety
Health systems, system funding and performance
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2020-08-07
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Health information and e-health
Health care and patient safety
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
RECOMMENDATION 1 That the government create a one-time Health Care and Innovation Fund to resume health care services, bolster public health capacity and expand primary care teams, allowing Canadians wide-ranging access to health care. RECOMMENDATION 2 That the government recognize and support the continued adoption of virtual care and address the inequitable access to digital health services by creating a Digi-Health Knowledge Bank and by expediting broadband access to all Canadians. RECOMMENDATION 3 That the government act on our collective learned lessons regarding our approach to seniors care and create a national demographic top-up to the Canada Health Transfer and establish a Seniors Care Benefit. RECOMMENDATION 4 That the government recognize the unique risks and financial burden experienced by physicians and front line health care workers by implementing the Frontline Gratitude Tax Deduction, by extending eligibility of the Memorial Grant and by addressing remaining administrative barriers to physician practices accessing critical federal economic relief programs. RECOMMENDATIONS 3 Five months ago COVID-19 hit our shores. We were unprepared and unprotected. We were fallible and vulnerable. But, we responded swiftly.
The federal government initiated Canadians into a new routine rooted in public health guidance.
It struggled to outfit the front line workers. It anchored quick measures to ensure some financial stability.
Canadians tuned in to daily updates on the health crisis and the battle against its wrath.
Together, we flattened the curve… For now. We have experienced the impact of the first wave of the pandemic. The initial wake has left Canadians, and those who care for them, feeling the insecurities in our health care system. While the economy is opening in varied phases – an exhaustive list including patios, stores, office spaces, and schools – the health care system that struggled to care for those most impacted by the pandemic remains feeble, susceptible not only to the insurgence of the virus, but ill-prepared to equally defend the daily health needs of our citizens. The window to maintain momentum and to accelerate solutions to existing systemic ailments that have challenged us for years is short. We cannot allow it to pass. The urgency is written on the faces of tomorrow’s patients. Before the onset of the pandemic, the government announced intentions to ensure all Canadians would be able to access a primary care family doctor. We knew then that the health care system was failing. The pandemic has highlighted the criticality of these recommendations brought forward by the Canadian Medical Association. They bolster our collective efforts to ensure that Canadians get timely access to the care and services they need. Too many patients are succumbing to the gaps in our abilities to care for them. Patients have signaled their thirst for a model of virtual care. The magnitude of our failure to meet the needs of our aging population is now blindingly obvious. Many of the front line health care workers, the very individuals who put themselves and their families at risk to care for the nation, are being stretched to the breaking point to compensate for a crumbling system. The health of the country’s economy cannot exist without the health of Canadians. INTRODUCTION 4 Long wait times have strangled our nation’s health care system for too long. It was chronic before COVID-19. Now, for far too many, it has turned tragic. At the beginning of the pandemic, a significant proportion of health care services came to a halt. As health services are resuming, health care systems are left to grapple with a significant spike in wait times. Facilities will need to adopt new guidance to adhere to physical distancing, increasing staff levels, and planning and executing infrastructure changes. Canada’s already financially atrophied health systems will face significant funding challenges at a time when provincial/territorial governments are concerned with resuscitating economies. The CMA is strongly supportive of new federal funding to ensure Canada’s health systems are resourced to meet the care needs of Canadians as the pandemic and life continues. We need to invigorate our health care system’s fitness to ensure that all Canadians are confident that it can and will serve them. Creating a new Health Care and Innovation Fund would focus on resuming the health care system, addressing the backlog, and bringing primary care, the backbone of our health care system, back to centre stage. The CMA will provide the budget costing in follow-up as an addendum to this submission. RECOMMENDATION 1 Creating a one-time Health Care and Innovation Fund 5 It took a global pandemic to accelerate a digital economy and spark a digital health revolution in Canada. In our efforts to seek medical advice while in isolation, Canadians prompted a punctuated shift in how we can access care, regardless of our location or socio-economic situation. We redefined the need for virtual care. During the pandemic, nearly half of Canadians have used virtual care. An incredible 91% were satisfied with their experience. The CMA has learned that 43% of Canadians would prefer that their first point of medical contact be virtual. The CMA welcomes the $240 million federal investment in virtual care and encourages the government to ensure it is linked to a model that ensures equitable access. A gaping deficit remains in using virtual care. Recently the CMA, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and the College of Family Physicians of Canada established a Virtual Care Task Force to identify digital opportunities to improve health care delivery, including what regulatory changes are required across provincial/territorial boundaries. To take full advantage of digital health capabilities, it will be essential for the entire population, to have a functional level of digital health literacy and access to the internet. The continued adoption of virtual care is reliant on our ability to educate patients on how to access it. It will be further contingent on consistent and equitable access to broadband internet service. Create a Digi-Health Knowledge Bank Virtual care can’t just happen. It requires knowledge on how to access and effectively deliver it, from patients and health care providers respectively. It is crucial to understand and promote digital health literacy across Canada. What the federal government has done for financial literacy, with the appointment of the Financial Literacy Leader within the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, can serve as a template for digital health literacy. We recommend that the federal government establish a Digi-Health Knowledge Bank to develop indicators and measure the digital health of Canadians, create tools patients and health care providers can use to enhance digital health literacy, continually monitor the changing digital divide that exists among some population segments. Pan-Canadian broadband expansion It is critical to bridge the broadband divide by ensuring all those in Canada have equitable access to affordable, reliable and sustainable internet connectivity. Those in rural, remote, Northern and Indigenous communities are presently seriously disadvantaged in this way. With the rise in virtual care, a lack of access to broadband exacerbates inequalities in access to care. This issue needs to be expedited before we can have pride in any other achievement. RECOMMENDATION 2 Embedding virtual care in our nation’s health care system 6 Some groups have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Woefully inadequate care of seniors and residents of long-term care homes has left a shameful and intensely painful mark on our record. Our health care system has failed to meet the needs of our aging population for too long. The following two recommendations, combined with a focus on improving access to health care services, will make a critical difference for Canadian seniors. A demographic top-up to the Canada Health Transfer The Canada Health Transfer (CHT) is the single largest federal transfer to the provinces and territories. It is critical in supporting provincial and territorial health programs in Canada. As an equal per-capita-based transfer, it does not currently address the imbalance in population segments like seniors. The CMA, hand-in-hand with the Organizations for Health Action (HEAL), recommends that a demographic top-up be transferred to provinces and territories based on the projected increase in health care spending associated with an aging population, with the federal contribution set to the current share of the CHT as a percentage of provincial-territorial health spending. A top-up has been calculated at 1.7 billion for 2021. Additional funding would be worth a total of $21.1 billion to the provinces and territories over the next decade. Seniors care benefit Rising out-of-pocket expenses associated with seniors care could extend from 9 billion to 23 billion by 2035. A Seniors Care Benefits program would directly support seniors and those who care for them. Like the Child Care Benefit program, it would offset the high out-of-pocket health costs that burden caregivers and patients. RECOMMENDATION 3 Ensuring that better care is secured for our seniors 7 The federal government has made great strides to mitigate the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. Amidst the task of providing stability, there has been a grand oversight: measures to support our front line health care workers and their financial burden have fallen short. The CMA recommends the following measures: 1. Despite the significant contribution of physicians’ offices to Canada’s GDP, many physician practices have not been eligible for critical economic programs. The CMA welcomes the remedies implemented by Bill C-20 and recommends the federal government address remaining administrative barriers to physicians accessing federal economic relief program. 2. We recommend that the government implement the Frontline Gratitude Tax Deduction, an income tax deduction for frontline health care workers put at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. In person patient care providers would be eligible to deduct a predetermined amount against income earned during the pandemic. The Canadian Armed Forces already employs this model for its members serving in hazardous missions. 3. It is a devastating reality that front line health care workers have died as a result of COVID-19. Extending eligibility for the Memorial Grant to families of front line health care workers who mourn the loss of a family member because of COVID-19, as a direct result of responding to the pandemic or as a result of an occupational illness or psychological impairment related to their work will relieve any unnecessary additional hardship experienced. The same grant should extend to cases in which their work contributes to the death of a family member. RECOMMENDATION 4 Cementing financial stabilization measures for our front line health care workers 8 Those impacted by COVID-19 deserve our care. The health of our nation’s economy is contingent on the health standards for its people. We must assert the right to decent quality of life for those who are most vulnerable: those whose incomes have been dramatically impacted by the pandemic, those living in poverty, those living in marginalized communities, and those doubly plagued by experiencing racism and the pandemic. We are not speaking solely for physicians. This is about equitable care for every Canadian impacted by the pandemic. Public awareness and support have never been stronger. We are not facing the end of the pandemic; we are confronting an ebb in our journey. Hope and optimism will remain elusive until we can be confident in our health care system. CONCLUSION

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CMA’s Recommendations for Bill S-5 An Act to amend the Tobacco Act and the Non-smokers’ Health Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy13918

Date
2018-02-15
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Health care and patient safety
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2018-02-15
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Health care and patient safety
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is pleased to provide this submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health for its study of Bill S-5, An Act to amend the Tobacco Act and the Non-Smokers Health Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. We support the government’s effort to implement a new legislative and regulatory framework to address vaping products and related matters. Vaping products, such as electronic cigarettes (or e-cigarettes) replicate the act and taste of smoking but do not contain tobacco. We also recognize that the federal government is attempting to find a balance between regulating vaping devices and making them available to adults. Canada’s physicians, who see the devastating effects of tobacco use every day in their practices, have been working for decades toward the goal of a smoke-free Canada. The CMA issued its first public warning concerning the hazards of tobacco in 1954 and has continued to advocate for the strongest possible measures to control its use. The CMA has always supported strong, comprehensive tobacco control legislation, enacted and enforced by all levels of government, and we continue to do so. Our most recent efforts centred on our participation in the 2016 Endgame Summit, held late last year in Kingston, Ontario. This brief will focus on three areas: supporting population health; the importance of protecting youth; and, the promotion of vaping products. Overview Tobacco is an addictive and hazardous product, and a leading cause of preventable disease and death in Canada. Smoking has been on the decline in Canada the most recent Canadian Community Health Survey reports that 17.7% of the population aged 12 and older were current daily or occasional smokers in 2015 (5.3 million smokers); that is down from 18.1% in 2014.1 Many strong laws and regulations have already been enacted but some areas remain to be addressed and strengthened especially as the 1 Statistics Canada. Smoking, 2015. Health Fact Sheets. Statistics Canada Cat. 82-625-X. Ottawa: Statistics Canada; 2016. Available: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-625-x/2017001/article/14770-eng.htm (accessed 2018 Feb 1). 2 Czoli CD, Hammond D, White CM. Electronic cigarettes in Canada: Prevalence of use and perceptions among youth and young adults. Can J Public Health. 2014;105(2):e97-e102. 3 Filippos FT, Laverty AA, Gerovasili V, et al. Two-year trends and predictors of e-cigarette use in 27 European Union member states. Tob Control. 2017;26:98-104. 4 Malas M, van der Tempel J, Schwartz R, Minichiello A, Lightfoot C, Noormohamed A, et al. Electronic cigarettes for smoking cessation: A systematic review. Nicotine Tob Res. 2016;18(10):1926–36. 5 O’Leary R, MacDonald M, Stockwell T, Reist D. Clearing the air: A systematic review on the harms and benefits of e-cigarettes and vapour devices. Victoria, BC: Centre for Addictions Research of BC; 2017. Available: http://ectaofcanada.com/clearing-the-air-a-systematic-review-on-the-harms-and-benefits-of-e-cigarettes-and-vapour-devices/ (accessed 2018 Feb 1). 6 El Dib R, Suzumura EA, Akl EA, Gomaa H, Agarwal A, Chang Y, et al. Electronic nicotine delivery systems and/or electronic non-nicotine delivery systems for tobacco smoking cessation or reduction: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ Open. 2017 23;7:e012680. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5337697/pdf/bmjopen-2016-012680.pdf (accessed 2018 Feb 1). 7 Shahab L, Goniewicz M, Blount B, et al. Nicotine, carcinogen, and toxin exposure in long-term e- cigarette and nicotine replacement therapy users: A cross sectional study. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2017;166(6):390-400. 8 Collier R. E-cigs have lower levels of harmful toxins. CMAJ. 2017 Feb 27;189:E331. 9 Sleiman M, Logue J, Montesinos VN, et al. Emissions from electronic cigarettes: Key parameters affecting the release of harmful chemicals. Environmental Science and Technology. 2016 Jul 27;50(17):9644-9651. 10 England LJ, Bunnell RE, Pechacek TF, Tong VT, McAfee TA. Nicotine and the developing human: A neglected element in the electronic cigarette debate. Am J Prev Med. 2015 Aug;49(2):286-93. 11 Foulds J. Use of Electronic Cigarettes by Adolescents. J Adolesc Health. 2015 Dec;57(6):569-70. 12 Khoury M, Manlhiot C, Fan CP, Gibson D, Stearne K, Chahal N, et al. Reported electronic cigarette use among adolescents in the Niagara region of Ontario. CMAJ. 2016 Aug 9;188(11):794-800. 13 U.S. National Cancer Institute and World Health Organization. The Economics of Tobacco and Tobacco Control. National Cancer Institute Tobacco Control Monograph 21. NIH Publication No. 16-CA- 8029A. Bethesda, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute; and Geneva, CH: World Health Organization; 2016. 14 Miech R, Patrick ME, O’Malley PM, Johnston LD. E-cigarette use as a predictor of cigarette smoking: results from a 1-year follow-up of a national sample of 12th grade students. Tob Control. 2017 Dec;26(e2):e106–11. 15 Primack BA, Soneji S, Stoolmiller M, Fine MJ, Sargent JD. Progression to traditional cigarette smoking after electronic cigarette use among US adolescents and young adults. JAMA Pediatr. 2015 Nov;169(11):1018–23. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4800740/pdf/nihms768746.pdf (accessed 2018 Feb 1). 16 Hoe J, Thrul J, Ling P. Qualitative analysis of young adult ENDS users’ expectations and experiences. BMJ Open. 2017;7:e014990. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5353280/pdf/bmjopen-2016-014990.pdf (accessed 2018 Feb 1). 17 Fairchild AL, Bayer R, Colgrove J. The renormalization of smoking? E-cigarettes and the tobacco “endgame.” N Engl J Med. 2014 Jan 23;370:4 Available: http://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJMp1313940 (accessed 2018 Feb 1). 18 Choi K, Grana R, Bernat D. Electronic nicotine delivery systems and acceptability of adult cigarette smoking among Florida youth: Renormalization of smoking? J Adolesc Health. 2017 May;60(5):592–8. tobacco industry continues to evolve. Electronic cigarettes and vaping represents the next step in that evolution. While Canada is to be congratulated on its success to date, it needs to maintain an environment that encourages Canadians to remain tobacco-free if smoking prevalence is to be reduced further in Canada. The CMA believes it is incumbent on all levels of government in Canada to keep working on comprehensive, coordinated and effective tobacco control strategies, including vaping products, to achieve that goal. Supporting Population Health The arrival of vaping products in Canada placed them in a “grey zone” with respect to legislation and regulation. Clarification of their status is crucial from a public health perspective because of their growing popularity, particularly among youth.2 E-cigarettes have both defenders and opponents. Proponents say they are safer than tobacco cigarettes since they do not contain the tar and other toxic ingredients that are the cause of tobacco related disease. Indeed, some believe they serve a useful purpose as a harm reduction tool or cessation aid (though it is forbidden to market them as such since that claim has never been approved by Health Canada). Opponents are concerned that the nicotine delivered via e-cigarettes is addictive and that the cigarettes may contain other toxic ingredients such as nitrosamines. Also, they worry that acceptance of e-cigarettes will undermine efforts to de-normalize smoking, and that they may be a gateway to the use of tobacco by people who might otherwise have remained smoke-free. This issue will be addressed later in this brief. This difference of opinion certainly highlights the need for more research into the harms and benefits of vaping products and the factors that cause people to use them.3 Encouraging smokers to move from combustible tobacco products to a less harmful form of nicotine may be a positive step. However the current available evidence is not yet sufficient to establish them as a reliable cessation method. A systematic review published by M. Malas et al. (2016) concluded that while “a majority of studies demonstrate a positive relationship between e-cigarette use and smoking cessation, the evidence remains inconclusive due to the low quality of the research published to date.”4 Indeed, some are helped by these devices to quit smoking but “more carefully designed and scientifically sound studies are urgently needed to establish unequivocally the long-term cessation effects of e-cigarettes and to better understand how and when e-cigarettes may be helpful.”4 The authors found that the evidence examining e-cigarettes as an aid to quitting smoking was determined to be “very low to low.”4 A similar result was found for their use in reducing smoking; the quality of the evidence was revealed as being “very low to moderate.”4 This conclusion is supported by another review conducted by the University of Victoria (2017). It too indicates that there are not enough studies available to fully determine the efficacy of vaping devices as a tobacco cessation device.5 This review also noted that there is “encouraging evidence that vapour devices can be at least as effective as other nicotine replacements.”5 Another review by R. El Dib et al. (2017) reinforces these findings. Limited evidence was also found with respect to the impact of electronic devices to aide cessation. They also noted that the data available from randomized control trials are of “low certainty” and the “observational studies are of very low certainty.”6 The wide range of devices available makes it very difficult to test which are the most effective in helping cessation efforts. Many of the studies are on older devices so it is possible that as second-generation technology becomes available they will prove to be more successful. In view of this uncertainty, the CMA calls for more scientific research into the potential effectiveness and value of these devices as cessation aids. Physicians need to be confident that if they recommend such therapy to their patients it will have the desired outcome. To that end, we are pleased that Health Canada will continue to require manufacturers to apply for authorization under the Food and Drugs Act to sell products containing nicotine and make therapeutic claims. Risk and Safety In addition to the discussion concerning the usefulness of vaping devices as cessation devices, concerns from a public health standpoint involve the aerosol or vapour produced by heating the liquids used in these devices, and the nicotine some may contain. The tube of an e-cigarette contains heat-producing batteries and a chamber holding liquid. When heated, the liquid is turned into vapour which is drawn into the lungs. Ingredients vary by brand but many contain nicotine and/or flavourings that are intended to boost their appeal to young people. The CMA is concerned that not enough is known about the safety of the ingredients in the liquids being used in vaping devices. While it is the case that because e-cigarettes heat rather than burn the key constituent, they produce less harmful toxins and are much safer than conventional cigarettes. Research in the UK suggested that “long-term Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT)-only and e-cigarette-only use, but not dual-use of NRTs or e-cigarettes with combustible cigarettes, is associated with substantially reduced levels of measured carcinogens and toxins relative to smoking only combustible cigarettes.”7 However, this study has been criticized because “it only looked at a few toxins and didn’t test for any toxins that could be produced by e- cigarettes.”8 The variety of flavourings and delivery systems available make it imperative that the risks associated with these products be fully understood. As one study noted “analysis of e-liquids and vapours emitted by e-cigarettes led to the identification of several compounds of concern due to their potentially harmful effects on users and passively exposed non-users.”9 The study found that the emissions were associated with both cancer and non-cancer health impacts and required further study.9 There is another aspect of the public health question surrounding vaping devices. There is data to support the idea that “nicotine exposure during periods of developmental vulnerability (e.g., fetal through adolescent stages) has multiple adverse health consequences, including impaired fetal brain and lung development.”10 Therefore it is imperative that pregnant women and youth be protected. There is not enough known about the effects of long-term exposure to the nicotine inhaled through vaping devices at this time.11 Recommendations: 1) Given the scarcity of research on e-cigarettes the Canadian Medical Association calls for ongoing research into the potential harms of electronic cigarette use, including the use of flavourings and nicotine. 2) The CMA calls for more scientific research into the potential effectiveness and value of these devices as cessation aids. 3) The Canadian Medical Association supports efforts to expand smoke-free policies to include a ban on the use of electronic cigarettes in areas where smoking is prohibited. Protecting Youth The CMA is encouraged by the government’s desire to protect youth from developing nicotine addiction and inducements to use tobacco products. Young people are particularly vulnerable to peer pressure, and to tobacco industry marketing tactics. The CMA supports continued health promotion and social marketing programs aimed at addressing the reasons why young people use tobacco and have been drawn to vaping devices, discouraging them from starting to use them and persuading them to quit, and raising their awareness of tobacco industry marketing tactics so that they can recognize and counteract them. These programs should be available continuously in schools and should begin in the earliest grades. The “cool/fun/new” factor that seems to have developed around vaping devices among youth make such programs all the more imperative.12 The CMA recommends a ban on the sale of all electronic cigarettes to Canadians younger than the minimum age for tobacco consumption in their province or territory. We are pleased to see that Bill S-5 aims to restrict access to youth, including prohibiting the sale of both tobacco and vaping products in vending machines as well as prohibiting sales of quantities that do not comply with the regulations. In fact, the CMA recommends tightening the licensing system to limit the number of outlets where tobacco products, including vaping devices, can be purchased. The more restricted is availability, the easier it is to regulate. The CMA considers prohibiting the promotion of flavours in vaping products that may appeal to youth, such as soft drinks and cannabis, to be a positive step. A recent report published by the World Health Organization and the US National Cancer Institute indicated that websites dedicated to retailing e-cigarettes “contain themes that may appeal to young people, including images or claims of modernity, enhanced social status or social activity, romance, and the use of e-cigarettes by celebrities.”13 We are therefore pleased that sales of vaping products via the internet will be restricted through prohibiting the sending and delivering of such products to someone under the age of 18. This will be critical to limiting the tobacco industry’s reach with respect to youth. There have also been arguments around whether vaping products will serve as gateways to the use of combusted tobacco products. The University of Victoria (2017) paper suggests this isn’t the case; it notes that “there is no evidence of any gateway effect whereby youth who experiment with vapour devices are, as a result, more likely to take up tobacco use.”5) They base this on the decline in youth smoking while rates of the use of vaping devices rise.Error! Bookmark not defined. Others contend that vaping is indeed a gateway, saying it acts as a “one-way bridge to cigarette smoking among youth. Vaping as a risk factor for future smoking is a strong, scientifically-based rationale for restricting access to e-cigarettes.”14 Further, in a “national sample of US adolescents and young adults, use of e-cigarettes at baseline was associated with progression to traditional cigarette smoking. These findings support regulations to limit sales and decrease the appeal of e- cigarettes to adolescents and young adults.”15 However, there may be a role for vaping products in relation to young users. A New Zealand study conducted among young adults that examined how electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) were used to recreate or replace smoking habits. It found that study participants “used ENDS to construct rituals that recreated or replaced smoking attributes, and that varied in the emphasis given to device appearance.”16 Further, it was suggested that ascertaining how “ENDS users create new rituals and the components they privilege within these could help promote full transition from smoking to ENDS and identify those at greatest risk of dual use or relapse to cigarette smoking.”16 The CMA believes that further research is needed on the question of the use of vaping products as a gateway for youth into combustible tobacco products. Recommendations: 4) The Canadian Medical Association recommends a ban on the sale of all electronic cigarettes to Canadians younger than the minimum age for tobacco consumption in their province or territory. 5) The Canadian Medical Association calls for ongoing research into the potential harms and benefits of electronic cigarette use among youth. 6) The Canadian Medical Association recommends tightening the licensing system to limit the number of outlets where tobacco products, including vaping devices, can be purchased. Promotion of Vaping Products The CMA has been a leader in advocating for plain and standardized packaging for tobacco products for many years. We established our position in 1986 when we passed a resolution at our General Council in Vancouver recommending to the federal government “that all tobacco products be sold in plain packages of standard size with the words “this product is injurious to your health” printed in the same size lettering as the brand name, and that no extraneous information be printed on the package.” The CMA would like to see the proposed plain packing provisions for tobacco be extended to vaping products as well. The inclusion of the health warning messages on vaping products is a good first step but efforts should be made to ensure that they are of similar size and type as those on tobacco as soon as possible. The restrictions being applied to the promotion of vaping products is a positive step, especially those that could be aimed at youth, but they do not go far enough. The CMA believes the restrictions on promotion should be the same as those for tobacco products. As the WHO/U.S. National Cancer Institute has already demonstrated, e- cigarette retailers are very good at using social media to promote their products, relying on appeals to lifestyle changes to encourage the use of their products. The CMA is also concerned that e-cigarette advertising could appear in locations and on mediums popular with children and youth if they are not prohibited explicitly in the regulations. This would include television and radio advertisements during times and programs popular with children and youth, billboards near schools, hockey arenas, and on promotional products such as t-shirts and ball caps. As efforts continue to reduce the use of combustible tobacco products there is growing concern that the rising popularity of vaping products will lead to a “renormalization” of smoking. In fact, worry has been expressed that the manner they have been promoted “threaten(s) to reverse the successful, decades-long public health campaign to de- normalize smoking.”17 A recent US study indicated that students that use vaping products themselves, exposure to advertising of these devices, and living with other users of vaping products is “associated with acceptability of cigarette smoking, particularly among never smokers.”18 Further research is needed to explore these findings. Recommendations: 7) The Canadian Medical Association recommends similar plain packaging provisions proposed for tobacco be extended to vaping products. 8) Health warning messages on vaping products should be of similar size and type as those on tobacco as soon as possible 9) The Canadian Medical Association believes the restrictions on promotion of vaping products and devices should be the same as those for tobacco products. Conclusion Tobacco is an addictive and hazardous product, and a leading cause of preventable disease and death in Canada. Our members see the devastating effects of tobacco use every day in their practices and to that end the CMA has been working for decades toward the goal of a smoke-free Canada. The tobacco industry continues to evolve and vaping represents the next step in that evolution. The CMA believes it is incumbent on all levels of government in Canada to keep working on comprehensive, coordinated and effective tobacco control strategies, including vaping products, to achieve that goal. Bill S-5 is another step in that journey. Researchers have identified potential benefits as well as harms associated with these products that require much more scrutiny. The association of the tobacco industry with these products means that strong regulations, enforcement, and oversight are needed. Recommendations: 1) Given the scarcity of research on e-cigarettes the Canadian Medical Association calls for ongoing research into the potential harms of electronic cigarette use, including the use of flavourings and nicotine. 2) The CMA calls for more scientific research into the potential effectiveness and value of these devices as cessation aids.. 3) The Canadian Medical Association supports efforts to expand smoke-free policies to include a ban on the use of electronic cigarettes in areas where smoking is prohibited. 4) The Canadian Medical Association recommends a ban on the sale of all electronic cigarettes to Canadians younger than the minimum age for tobacco consumption in their province or territory. 5) The Canadian Medical Association calls for ongoing research into the potential harms and benefits of electronic cigarette use among youth. 6) The Canadian Medical Association recommends tightening the licensing system to limit the number of outlets where tobacco products, including vaping devices, can be purchased. 7) The Canadian Medical Association recommends similar plain packaging provisions proposed for tobacco be extended to vaping products. 8) Health warning messages on vaping products should be of similar size and type as those on tobacco as soon as possible 9) The Canadian Medical Association believes the restrictions on promotion of vaping products and devices should be the same as those for tobacco products.

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Committee Appearance – Justice and Human Rights: Bill C-7 – Amending the Criminal Code Regarding Medical Assistance in Dying

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy14374

Date
2020-11-05
Topics
Health care and patient safety
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2020-11-05
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Text
Committee Appearance – Justice and Human Rights: Bill C-7 – Amending the Criminal Code Regarding Medical Assistance in Dying November 5, 2020 Dr. E. Ann Collins President of the Canadian Medical Association Committee Appearance – Justice and Human Rights Bill C-7 – Amending the Criminal Code Regarding Medical Assistance in Dying ____________________________________________________________ Thank you, Madam Chair. It’s my honour to appear before you today. I’m Dr. Ann Collins. Over the past three decades practising medicine, I have taught family medicine, run a family practice, served with the Canadian Armed Forces and worked in nursing home care. Today, in my capacity as President of the Canadian Medical Association, I represent our 80,000 physician members. In studying Bill C-7, it is incumbent upon us now to consider the effects on patients that the passing of this bill will have, but also the effects on the medical professionals who provide medical assistance in dying - MAiD. When the original MAiD legislation was developed as Bill C-14, the CMA was a leading stakeholder. We have continued that commitment with Bill C-7. Having examined Bill C-7, we know that, in a myriad of ways, the results of our extensive consultations with our members align with the findings of the government’s roundtables. Fundamentally, the CMA supports the government’s prudent and measured approach to responding to the Truchon-Gladu decision. This thoughtful and staged process undertaken by the government is consistent with the CMA’s position for a balanced approach to MAiD. Nicole Gladu, whose name is now inextricably tied to the decision, spoke as pointedly as perhaps anyone could when she affirmed that it is up to people like her, and I quote, “To decide if we prefer the quality of life to the quantity of life." Not everyone may agree with this sentiment, but few can argue that it is a powerful reminder of the real stakeholders when it comes to considerations of this bill. This applies just as critically to those who are currently MAiD providers and those who will become providers. They are our members, but we can’t lose sight of the fact that we must all support both patients and providers. Through our consultations, we learned that many physicians felt that clarity was lacking. Recent federal efforts to provide greater clarity for physicians are exceedingly welcome. The CMA is pleased to see new non-legislative measures lending more consistency to the delivery of MAiD across the country. The quality and availability of palliative care, mental health care, care for those suffering from chronic illness, and persons with disabilities, to ensure that patients have access to other, appropriate health care services is crucial. The CMA holds firm on our convictions on MAiD from Bill C-14 to C-7. We believe firstly that the choice of those Canadians who are eligible should be respected. Secondly, we must protect the rights of vulnerable Canadians. This demands strict attention to safeguards. And lastly, an environment must exist that insists practitioners abide by their moral commitments. These three tenants remain equally valid. Our consultations with members demonstrate strong support for allowing advance requests by eligible patients who may lose capacity before MAiD can be provided. The CMA believes in the importance of safeguards to protect the rights of vulnerable Canadians and those who are eligible to seek MAiD. The CMA also supports expanding data collection to provide a more thorough account of MAiD in Canada, however, this effort must not create an undue administrative burden on physicians. The CMA views the language in the bill, which explicitly excludes mental illness from being considered an “illness, disease or disability,” problematic and has the potential to be stigmatizing to those living with a mental illness. We trust that Parliament will carefully consider the specific language used in the bill. Finally, the CMA endorses the government’s staged approach to carefully examine more complex issues. However, we must move forward to ensure practitioners are given the tools that will be required to safely administer MAiD on a wider spectrum, such as support for developing clinical practice guidelines which aid physicians in exercising sound clinical judgment. Such guidance would also serve to reinforce consistency in the application of the legal criteria. In conclusion, Madam Chair, allow me to thank the committee for the invitation to participate in today’s proceedings and to share the perspective of Canada’s physicians. The pursuit of a painless and dignified end-of-life is a noble one. The assurance that the providers of this privilege are supported is an ethical imperative.

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Committee Appearance – Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee: Bill C-7 – An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying)

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy14380

Date
2020-11-23
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2020-11-23
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Text
Committee Appearance – Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee: Bill C-7 – An Act to Amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying) November 23, 2020 Dr. Sandy Buchman Past President of the Canadian Medical Association Monday, November 23, 2020 Speaking Remarks ____________________________________________________________ Thank you, Madam Chair. I appear before the committee today as the past president of the Canadian Medical Association with the honour and responsibility of speaking for all our members - the frontline physicians. My name is Dr. Sandy Buchman. I am a palliative care physician in Toronto. I am also a MAiD Assessor and Provider. It is incumbent upon us now to consider the effects that the passing of Bill C-7 will have on patients, but also the effects on the medical professionals who provide medical assistance in dying - MAiD. When the original MAiD legislation was developed as Bill C-14, the CMA was a leading stakeholder. We have continued that commitment with Bill C-7. Having examined Bill C-7, we know that, in a myriad of ways, the results of our extensive consultations with our members align with the findings of the government’s roundtables. Nicole Gladu, whose name is now inextricably tied to the government’s decision on MAiD, spoke as unequivocally as perhaps anyone could when she affirmed that it is up to people like her, and I quote, “To decide if we prefer the quality of life to the quantity of life." Perhaps not everyone agrees with this sentiment. Few can argue, though, that it is a powerful reminder of the real stakeholders when it comes to considerations of this bill. This applies no less critically to those who are currently MAiD providers or those who will become providers. These practitioners are our members. But we can’t overlook the fact that there must be complete support of both patients and providers. Fundamentally, the CMA supports the government’s prudent and measured approach to responding to the Truchon-Gladu decision. This thoughtful and staged process undertaken by the government is consistent with the CMA’s position for a balanced approach to MAiD. Through our consultations however, we learned that many physicians felt there is a lack of overall clarity. Recent federal efforts to provide precision for physicians are exceedingly welcome. The CMA is pleased to see new non-legislative measures lending more consistency to the delivery of MAiD across the country. The quality and availability of palliative care, mental health care, and care and resources for those suffering from chronic illness, and for persons with disabilities, to ensure that all patients have access to other, appropriate health care services is crucial. The CMA remains firm on our convictions on MAiD from Bill C-14 to C-7. We believe that the choice of those Canadians who are eligible should be respected. We also believe that the rights of vulnerable Canadians must be protected. This demands strict attention to safeguards. And we believe that an environment must exist that fosters the insistence that practitioners abide by their moral commitments. Each of these three tenants is equally unassailable. Our members are in strong support of allowing advance requests by eligible patients who may lose capacity before MAiD can be provided. The CMA believes in the importance of safeguards to protect the rights of vulnerable Canadians and those who are eligible to seek MAiD. Expanding data collection to provide a more thorough account of MAiD in Canada is important. However, this effort must not create an undue administrative burden on physicians. The CMA views some of the language in the bill as precarious. The CMA recommends amending the language in section 2.1 which states “mental illness is not considered to be an illness, disease or disability” to avoid the unintended consequence of having a stigmatizing effect. The legislation should also clearly indicate that the exclusion is for mental illness as a sole underlying medical condition, not mental illness as a comorbidity. To be clear, the CMA is not recommending a revision to the legislative intent. We trust that Parliament will carefully consider the specific language used in the bill. Finally, the CMA endorses the government’s staged approach to carefully examine more complex issues. We must move forward, though, by ensuring that practitioners are given the tools that will be required to safely administer MAiD on a wider spectrum. Support for developing clinical practice guidelines that aid physicians in exercising sound clinical judgment are a prime example. Such guidance would also serve to reinforce consistency in the application of the legal criteria. In conclusion, Madam Chair, allow me to thank the committee for the invitation to participate in today’s proceedings. Sharing the perspective of Canada’s physicians is a privilege. That together we pursue a painless and dignified end-of-life is noble. The assurance that the providers of this practice are supported is an ethical imperative.

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Emergency federal measures to care for and protect Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy14132

Date
2020-03-16
Topics
Health care and patient safety
  2 documents  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2020-03-16
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Text
It is with a sense of urgency that the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) submits the recommendations herein for emergency federal measures that, taken together, will ensure Canadians receive appropriate care and that supportive measures are implemented for public health protection during the COVID-19 pandemic. While Canada has made significant strides since SARS to establish and implement effective public health infrastructure, resources and mechanisms, the significant resource constraints across our health systems present a major challenge in our current response. Federal emergency measures must be developed in the context of the current state of health resources: hospitals across the country are already at overcapacity, millions of Canadians lack access to a regular family doctor, countless communities are grappling with health care shortages, virtual care is in its infancy, and so on. Another core concern is the chronic underfunding and ongoing budget cuts of public health resources and programming. Public health capacity and leadership at all levels is fundamental to preparedness to respond to an infectious disease threat, particularly one of this magnitude. It is in this context that the Canadian Medical Association recommends that the following emergency measures be implemented by the federal government to support the domestic response to the COVID-19 pandemic: 1410, pl. des tours Blair / Blair Towers Place, bur. / Suite 500, Ottawa ON K1J 9B9 1) FEDERAL RECOMMENDATION AND SUPPORT FOR SOCIAL DISTANCING In this time of crisis, Canadians look to the federal government for leadership and guidance. The single most important measure that can be implemented at this time is a consistent national policy calling for social distancing. This recommendation by the federal government must be paired with the resources necessary to ensure that no Canadian will be forced to choose between financial hardship — whether by losing employment or not being able to pay rent — and protecting their health. The CMA strongly recommends that the federal government immediately communicate guidance to Canadians to implement social distancing measures. The CMA further recommends that the federal government deliver new financial support measures as well as employment protection measures to ensure that all Canadians may engage in social distancing. 2) NEW FEDERAL EMERGENCY FUNDING TO BOOST PROVINCIAL/ TERRITORIAL CAPACITY AND ENSURE CONSISTENCY It is the federal government’s role to ensure a coordinated and consistent national response across jurisdictions and regions. This is by far the most important role for the federal government in supporting an effective domestic response, that is, protecting the health and well-being of Canadians. The CMA strongly recommends that the federal government deliver substantial emergency funding to the provinces and territories to ensure health systems have the capacity to respond to the pandemic. Across the OECD, countries are rapidly stepping up investment in measures to respond to COVID-19, including significant investment targeting boosting health care capacity. In considering the appropriate level of federal emergency funding to boost capacity in our provincial/territorial systems, the CMA urges the federal government to recognize that our baseline is a position of deficit. New emergency federal funding to boost capacity in provincial/territorial health systems should be targeted to:
rapidly enabling the expansion and equitable delivery of virtual care;
establishing a centralized 24-hour national information hotline for health care workers to obtain clear, timely and practical information on clinical guidelines, etc.;
expanding the capacity of and resources for emergency departments and intensive care units;
coordinating and disseminating information, monitoring and guidance within and across jurisdictions; and
rapidly delivering income stabilization for individuals and families under quarantine. Finally, the inconsistencies in the provision and implementation of guidance and adoption of public health measures across and within and jurisdictions is highly concerning. The CMA strongly encourages the federal government enable consistent adoption of pan-Canadian guidance and measures to ensure the health and safety of all Canadians. 1410, pl. des tours Blair / Blair Towers Place, bur. / Suite 500, Ottawa ON K1J 9B9 3) ENSURING AN ADEQUATE SUPPLY OF PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT FOR CANADIAN HEALTH CARE WORKERS AND ENSURING APPROPRIATE USAGE The CMA is hearing significant concerns from front-line health care workers, including physicians, about the supply and appropriate usage of personal protective equipment. It is the CMA’s understanding that pan-Canadian efforts are underway to coordinate supply; however, additional measures by the federal government to ensure adequate supply and appropriate usage are required. Canada is at the outset of this public health crisis — supply issues at this stage may be exacerbated as the situation progresses. As such, the CMA strongly recommends that the federal government take additional measures to support the acquisition and distribution throughout health systems of personal protective equipment, including taking a leadership role in ensuring our domestic supply via international supply chains. 4) ESTABLISH EMERGENCY PAN-CANADIAN LICENSURE FOR HEALTH CARE WORKERS In this time of public health crisis, the federal government must ensure that regulatory barriers do not prevent health care providers from delivering care to patients when and where they need it. Many jurisdictions and regions in Canada are experiencing significant shortages in health care workers. The CMA urges the federal government to support piloting a national licensure program so that health care providers can opt to practice in regions experiencing higher infection rates or where there is a shortage of providers. This can be accomplished by amending the Canadian Free Trade Agreement (CFTA) to facilitate mobility of health care workers. Specifically, that the following language be added to Article 705(3) of the CFTA: (j) A regulatory authority of a Party* shall waive for a period of up to 100 days any condition of certification found in 705(3)(a) - (f) for any regulated health care worker to work directly or indirectly to address the Covid-19 pandemic or any health care emergency. Any disciplinary matter emanating from work in any province shall be the responsibility of the regulatory authority of the jurisdiction where the work is performed. Each Party shall instruct its regulatory authorities to set-up a rapid check-in/check-out process for the worker. *Party refers to a signatory of the CFTA To further enable this measure, the CMA recommends that the federal government deliver targeted funding to the regulatory colleges to implement this emergency measure as well as targeted funding to support the provinces/territories in delivering expanded patient care. 1410, pl. des tours Blair / Blair Towers Place, bur. / Suite 500, Ottawa ON K1J 9B9 5) ESTABLISH AN EMERGENCY NATIONAL MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT SERVICE FOR HEALTH PROVIDERS Health care providers may experience trauma and hardship in meeting the increasing health needs and concerns of Canadians in this time of crisis. The CMA strongly recommends that the federal government establish an emergency National Mental Health Support Services hotline for all health care providers who are at the front lines of patient care during the pandemic. This critical resource will ensure our health care providers have the help they may need as they care for patients, including helping them to deal with an increasing patient load. 6) IMPLEMENT A TARGETED TAX CREDIT FOR HEALTH PROVIDERS EXPERIENCING FINANCIAL LOSS DUE TO QUARANTINE In addition to supporting income stabilization measures for all Canadians who may benefit from support, the CMA recommends that the federal government establish a time-limited and targeted tax credit for health providers who may experience financial loss due to quarantine. Many health care providers operate independently and may face significant fixed expenses as part of their care model. As health care providers may have an increased risk of contracting COVID-19, this may result in significant financial loss. A time-limited tax credit to ease this loss may help ensure the continued viability of their care model. Further, the CMA supports extending the federal tax filing timeline in recognition of the fact that health care workers and all Canadians are focused on emergency matters. CLOSING The CMA’s recommendations align with the OECD’s call to action: “Governments need to ensure effective and well-resourced public health measures to prevent infection and contagion, and implement well-targeted policies to support health care systems and workers, and protect the incomes of vulnerable social groups and businesses during the virus outbreak.” Now is the time to ensure that appropriate leadership continues and that targeted investments are made to protect the health of Canadians.

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Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic: Federal measures to recognize the significant contributions of Canada’s front-line health care workers

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy14211

Date
2020-05-28
Topics
Health care and patient safety
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2020-05-28
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Text
During these unprecedented times, Canada’s physicians, along with all front-line health care workers (FLHCWs), have not only put themselves at risk but have made enormous personal sacrifices while fulfilling a critical role in life-threatening circumstances. The CMA recognizes and strongly supports the measures the federal government has taken to date to mitigate the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 on Canadians. However, given the unique circumstances that Canada’s FLHCWs face, additional measures are required to acknowledge their role, the risks to themselves and their families, and the financial burden they have taken on through it all. To gain a better understanding of this issue, the CMA commissioned MNP LLP (MNP) to conduct a thorough economic impact study. They assessed the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on physician practices in Canada and identified policy options to mitigate these effects. This brief summarizes the findings, provides an overview of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on physician practices across the country and highlights targeted federal measures that can significantly mitigate the evident challenges physicians are experiencing. It is important to note that the recommended measured were developed through the lens of recognizing the important contribution of Canada’s FLHCWs. UNDERSTANDING HOW THE PANDEMIC IS IMPACTING PHYSICIAN PRACTICES Canada’s physicians are highly skilled professionals, providing an important public service and making a significant contribution to the health of Canadians, our nation’s health infrastructure and our knowledge economy. In light of the design of Canada’s health care system, the vast majority of physicians are self-employed professionals operating medical practices as small business owners. Like most small businesses in Canada, physician practices have been negatively impacted by the necessary measures governments have established to contain this pandemic. Under the circumstances of the pandemic, the provinces postponed non-emergent procedures and surgeries, indefinitely. According to data from the 2019 Physician Workforce Survey conducted by the CMA, approximately 75% of physicians reported practising in settings that would be expected to experience a reduction in patient volumes as a result of COVID-19 measures. This suggests “the vast majority of physicians in Canada anticipate declines in earnings as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.” Physician practices include a variety of structures, which relate to the practice setting or type. In their economic impact study, MNP estimates that across the range of practice settings, the after-tax monthly earnings of physician practices are estimated to decline between 15% and 100% in the low-impact scenario, and between 25% and 267% in the high-impact scenario. These two scenarios are in comparison to a baseline scenario, prior to the pandemic. The low-impact scenario is based on the reduction of physician services reported during the 2003 experience with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) while the high-impact scenario estimates more significant impacts, being approximately double those observed during SARS. Unlike salaried public sector professionals, such as teachers, nurses or public servants, most physicians operate as small business owners who are solely responsible for the management of their practices. They employ staff, rent office space and have numerous other overhead costs related to running a small business, which they are still responsible for regardless of decreased earnings. According to data published by Statistics Canada in 2019 there were 120,241 people employed in physician offices in Canada and an additional 28,054 employed in medical laboratories. Additionally, physicians manage significant overhead expenses that are unique to medical practice such as practice insurance, licence fees and continuing medical education. It’s important to understand that even hospital-based physicians may be responsible for significant overhead expenses, unlike other hospital staff. Like any small business owner grappling with drastic declines in revenue, physicians may be forced to reduce their staffing levels or even close their practices entirely in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. ADDRESSING THE GAPS: ENSURING THAT FEDERAL ECONOMIC PROGRAMS CAPTURE PHYSICIAN PRACTICES To reiterate, the CMA supports the federal government’s decisive and meaningful response to the pandemic, including delivering critical economic relief programs. However, more detailed analysis is revealing that segments of physician practices are not eligible for these critical economic programs, because of technicalities. At this time, the CMA has identified three key segments of physician practice models who may not currently be eligible for the economic relief programs because of technicalities. These are: 1. hospital-based specialists 2. physician practices that operate as a small business but may not meet technical criteria 3. physicians delivering locum medical care These technical factors reflect the complexity of the health system infrastructure in Canada. Although hospital-based specialists may receive some form of salary, they may still be structured as a small business and be responsible for paying overhead fees to the hospital. Many physicians may operate as a small business and remit a statement of self-employment, and they may not have a business number or a business bank account. As is common amongst other self-employed professionals, many physicians operate practices within cost-sharing structures. The CMA is deeply concerned that these structures are presently being excluded for the federal government’s critical economic relief programs. As a result, this exclusion is affecting the many employees of practices structured as cost-sharing arrangements. Finally, physicians providing care in other communities, known as locum practice, would also be responsible for overhead expenses. It is the CMA’s understanding that the federal government is seeking to be inclusive in delivering economic relief programs to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic, such as closures or unemployment. For physician practices, eligibility for federal economic relief programs would extend the reach of these mitigation measures to maintaining Canada’s critical health resources and services, as physician practices are responsible for a significant portion of health system infrastructure. As such, the CMA respectfully recommends that the federal government ensure that these critical economic programs be made available to all segments of physician practices. To this end, the CMA recommends that the federal government expand eligibility for the federal economic relief program to: 1. Include hospital-based specialists paying fees for overhead expenses to the hospitals (e.g., staff, equipment, space); 2. capture physician-owned medical practices using a “personal” banking account as well as those in cost-sharing structures to access programs; and, 3. include physicians who provide locum medical care. NEW FEDERAL TAX MEASURES TO SUPPORT AND RECOGNIZE FRONT-LINE HEALTH CARE WORKERS It is also important to note that the impact of COVID-19 on FLHCWs goes well beyond the financial impacts. All FLHCWs face numerous challenges trying to carry out their work during these difficult times. They put their health and the health of their families at risk. They make enormous sacrifices, sometimes separating themselves from their families to protect them. These risks and sacrifices can strain an individual’s mental health, especially when coupled with anxiety over the lack of proper personal protective equipment (PPE). A survey conducted by the CMA at the end of April showed that almost 75% of physicians who responded to the survey indicated feeling very or somewhat anxious about the lack of PPE. FLHCWs deserve to be recognized for their unique role during this pandemic. Given the enormous sacrifices and risks that FLHCWs are making every day, the federal government should enact measures to recognize their significant contributions during these unprecedented times. The CMA recommends that the federal government implement the following new measures for all FLHCWs: 1. An income tax deduction for FLHCWs put at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic, in recognition of their heroic efforts. All FLHCWs providing in-person patient care during the pandemic would be eligible to deduct a designated amount against their income earned. This would be modelled on the deduction provided to members of the Canadian Armed Forces serving in moderate- and high-risk missions. 2. A non-taxable grant to support the families of FLHCWs who die in the course of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic or who die as a result of an occupational illness or psychological impairment related to this work. The grant would also apply to cases in which the death of an FLHCW’s family member is attributable to the FLHCW’s work in responding to the pandemic. The CMA is recommending that access to the Memorial Grant program, or a similar measure, be granted to FLHCWs and their family member(s). 3. A temporary emergency accommodation tax deduction for FLHCWs who incur additional accommodation costs as well as a home renovation credit in recognition of the need for FLHCWs to adhere to social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to their family members. The CMA recommends all FLHCWs earning income while working at a health care facility or in a capacity related thereto (e.g., paramedics or janitorial staff) be eligible for the deduction and credit. 4. Provide additional child-care relief to FLHCWs by doubling the child-care deduction. The CMA recommends the individuals listed above be eligible for the enhanced deduction. It is important that any measures enacted be simple for the government to implement and administer as well as simple for FLHCWs to understand and access. The recommendations above will ensure that relief applies to a wide range of Canada’s FLHCWs who are battling COVID-19. More details on these recommendations are provided in Appendix A to this brief. INCREASING FEDERAL HEALTH FUNDING TO SUPPORT SYSTEM CAPACITY It is due to the action of the federal and provincial/territorial governments, together with Canadians, in adhering to public health guidance that our health systems have been able to manage the health needs of Canadians during the pandemic. However, as governments and public health experts consider how we may proceed in lifting certain restrictions, we are beginning to comprehend the enormity of the effort and investment required to resume health care services. During the pandemic, a significant proportion of health care services, such as surgeries, procedures and consults considered “non-essential” have been delayed. As health services begin to resume, health systems will be left to grapple with a significant spike in already lengthy waiting times. Further, all health care facilities will need to adopt new guidance to adhere to physical distancing, which may necessitate longer operating hours, increasing staff levels and/or physical renovations. Given these issues, the CMA is gravely concerned that Canada’s already financially struggling health systems will face significant funding challenges at a time when provincial/ territorial governments are grappling with recession economies. The CMA is strongly supportive of new federal funding to ensure Canada’s health systems are resourced to meet the care needs of Canadians as the pandemic continues. CONCLUSION As outlined in this brief, the overwhelming majority of Canada’s physician practices will be negatively impacted financially by COVID-19. The indefinite postponement of numerous medical procedures, coupled with restrictions related to physical distancing resulting in reduced patient visits, will have a material effect on physician practices, risking their future viability. As well, all FLHCWs will be severely impacted by COVID-19 personally, through risks to themselves and their families. Many families of FLHCWs will also be impacted financially, from increased child-care costs to, tragically, costs associated with the death of a loved one because of COVID-19. In light of these substantial risks and sacrifices, the CMA urges the adoption of the above-mentioned recommendations designed to recognize the special contribution of Canada’s FLHCWs during these extraordinary times.

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