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Aligning health and economic policy in the interest of Canadians : CMA’s 2004 Pre-Budget Submission to the Standing Committee on Finance

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1949
Last Reviewed
2012-03-03
Date
2004-11-18
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
  2 documents  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2012-03-03
Date
2004-11-18
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
For the past several years, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) has been delivering two overall messages to the Standing Committee on Finance. First, we believe that Canadians’ health and their health care system must be recognized as ongoing priorities. Second, we have been making the case that economic policy, including tax policy, must be better aligned with national health policy. This year’s brief provides specific examples of how the federal government can take action to address both of these issues. We begin with an assessment or a “check up” of the health of our health system. We then provide constructive suggestions on how to successfully implement the health agreement reached at the September 13-15, 2004 meeting of First Ministers. Finally, we draw attention to the need for continued investments in public health and healthy public policy. Canadians remain increasingly concerned about the future state of their health care system, particularly in terms of accessing essential care. While their health status has improved over the past decades, international comparisons suggest there is considerable room for improvement. The significant announcements made over the past year related to reinvestments in health care and public health are a welcomed start to support health stakeholders in facing these challenges. The next steps must build on this progress. INVESTING IN HEALTH CARE Build on The First Ministers Meeting Agreement In terms of health care, we must begin by noting that the First Ministers Meeting Agreement (FMM Agreement) was a significant achievement. It represents a positive policy framework to run with, but it must now receive the necessary fiscal, political and legislative follow-through. Legislation should be enacted that specifies the accountability framework for the Agreement. The Wait Times Reduction Fund should be subject to contribution agreements that specify how provinces and territories will use their share of this fund to reduce wait times. Critical to future success is the need for health care stakeholders to be actively involved with all facets of the Agreement, particularly in developing clinically derived wait time benchmarks. Make Health Human Resources a Priority At the same time, the federal government can do more to address accessibility to health care services by making a stronger commitment to increasing Canada’s health human resources capacity. Several strategies are outlined in this brief, beginning with the need to ensure that the Wait Times Reduction Fund in the FMM Agreement is used immediately to address the crisis in health human resources rather than in the last four years of the ten-year Agreement as currently projected. One specific health human resources strategy that the federal government should pursue is providing greater support for the training of students in health care professions as part of an overall health human resources strategy. High student debt is a key health human resource issue. It is estimated that, by the time medical students enter their pre-practice postgraduate training period, many are doing so with a debt of at least $120,000 or more. This high debt load is affecting both the kind of specialty that physicians-in-training choose, and ultimately where they decide to practice. As a result, the CMA calls upon the federal government to implement a national strategy to extend the Canada Student Loans interest payment benefit to eligible health professional students pursuing postgraduate training. Such action would provide a fairer approach and would alleviate some of the problems associated with our current training system of health professionals. ALIGNING TAX POLICY WITH HEALTH POLICY The CMA has highlighted the need to better align tax policy with national health policy goals for some time and we believe this challenge remains a priority. One example of where tax policy and health policy can be better aligned is how the GST is currently applied to the health care sector and to physicians—something the Finance Committee has acknowledged in previous reports. Hospitals in Canada must still pay a portion of the GST on their purchase of goods and services siphoning away millions of dollars that would otherwise be used for patient care. The federal government recognized in the 2004 budget the need to provide a full GST rebate to municipalities, one of the four sectors covered by the so-called “MUSH” formula (Municipalities, Universities, Schools and Hospitals). We call on the government to apply the same logic and provide a full GST rebate to the health care sector. Another problem exists with how the GST is applied to independent health professionals, such as physicians, providing care to Canada’s publicly funded system. By virtue of being “tax exempt” under The Excise Act, physicians cannot claim any input tax credits to offset the GST costs they pay on their purchases of equipment, rent and utilities. Unlike other self-employed people, physicians cannot pass on any of these additional costs. This is a fundamental issue of tax fairness. It can be resolved by zero rating the GST on publicly funded health services provided by independent health providers thereby making them eligible to receive input tax credits. INVESTING IN HEALTH This past year saw many positive developments made to Canada’s public health system. The CMA was pleased to see the creation of the position of Minister of State, Public Health. We commend the Government of Canada for its establishment of the Public Health Agency of Canada and for its selection of Dr. David Butler-Jones as the new Chief Public Health Officer of Canada. However, the government must continue to reinvest in public health to ensure that the country has a system that earns the trust of Canadians. Investing in public health also makes good economic policy. We have seen in recent years the incredible economic impact that public health outbreaks can have on a country’s economy. Close the Naylor Gap in Public Health 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. While representing an important reinvestment in this country’s public health system, the funding announced in the 2004 Budget falls well short of this basic requirement. Accordingly, the CMA calls on the federal government to address the $450 million “Naylor Gap” as soon as possible. Establish National Health Goals Guiding this country’s efforts to improve the health of Canadians should be the establishment and monitoring of national health goals. Thus, the CMA fully supports the First Ministers’ call to establish a Pan-Canadian Public Health Strategy that includes the setting of health goals that are independently monitored. These goals should also cover environmental health goals given their direct implication on Canadians’ health status. Invest in Health Not Tobacco Another key area for the CMA where current economic policy is not aligned with national health policy is the Canada Pension Plan’s investment in tobacco stocks. Despite the fact that tobacco continues to kill approximately 45,000 Canadians a year and costs Canadian society approximately $11 billion per year in net cost, the Canada Pension Plan continues to invest millions ($94 million) in the tobacco industry. We strongly believe that the CPP Investment Board should be prohibited from investing in the tobacco industry and that it divest its current tobacco holdings. Other major pension and investment plans have successfully executed this policy including the MD Funds held for Canada’s physicians at MD Management Ltd. a wholly-owned subsidiary of CMA. Accordingly, we call on the Standing Committee on Finance along with the Standing Committee on Health to jointly review the CPP investment policy as it relates to investments in tobacco. The FMM Agreement and last year’s funding announcements for public health must be seen as for what they are—first steps to sustaining Canada’s health care system and its public health infrastructure. Canada’s physicians and the CMA are committed to working with governments and other health care stakeholders to ensure that these financial investments lead to positive and enduring change, and ultimately improved health for all Canadians. RECOMMENDATIONS Recommendation 1 The federal government move quickly to enact legislation to implement the funding and accountability provisions of the First Ministers’ Agreement. The legislation should specify that the $4.5 billion Wait Times Reduction Fund be subject to contribution agreements with the provinces and territories. Recommendation 2 The federal government work with relevant stakeholders to extend interest free status on Canada Student Loans for all eligible health professional students pursuing postgraduate training. Recommendation 3 As part of an effort to ensure that its tax policy is consistent with the goals of its health policy and the sustainability of Canada’s health care system, the federal government should: - increase the GST rebate for publicly funded health care institutions and clinics to 100% ($90 million annually for hospitals) - zero rate GST on publicly funded health services provided by independent health care providers ($75 million annually for medical services). Recommendation 4 The Standing Committees on Finance and Health hold a joint review of the CPP policy as it relates to investments in tobacco (both current and potential) by the CPP Investment Board. II. CMA’S ANNUAL CHECKUP Much has happened over the past year in regards to Canada’s health and health care systems. First, we witnessed the creation of the Health Council of Canada, an institution that can play a significant role in improving the accountability of Canada’s health system. Second, we saw several announcements aimed at rebuilding Canada’s public health system including the establishment of the Public Health Agency of Canada and the subsequent appointment of Canada’s first Chief Public Health Officer. And in September, federal, provincial and territorial First Ministers reached a historic agreement on a 10-year plan to strengthen health care. Canadians no doubt welcome these developments. They have made it known to governments and health care providers alike that access to health care has become their top public policy issue. Not surprisingly, health was the top issue during the recent federal election campaign. For four years, the CMA has been tracking Canadians’ assessment of our health care system through our National Report Card on the Sustainability of Health Care. We are sad to report that the number of Canadians giving the nation's health care system a grade of C or F this year increased by a dramatic 9% over last year. While Canadians still give the system an overall B grade, the percentage of C and F grades was the highest since Ipsos-Reid began conducting the survey on behalf of the CMA in 2001. Moreover, our survey results found that 97% agreed that any discussion to make the system more sustainable needs to guarantee timely access for essential health services. As our fact sheet on Canadians’ health and their health care system illustrates (see Appendix A), improving access remains a major challenge for our health care system. Canada has one of the poorest physician-to-population ratios among all OECD countries. It is therefore not surprising that in 2003, 14% of Canadians reported not having a regular family physician (25% in Quebec). A recent Statistics Canada survey on wait times found that the proportion of patients who considered their wait time unacceptable was 17% for non-emergency surgery, 21% for diagnostic tests and 29% for specialist visits. 1 Over the past year, CMA has been very active in bringing attention to the issue of access and wait times. The CMA co-sponsored a colloquium on managing wait times last April that culminated in the recently released report, The Taming of the Queue: Toward a Cure for Health Care Wait Times. 2 But what about the state of Canadians’ health itself? Certainly our health status has improved greatly over the past decades. However, while Canadians are among the healthiest people in the world, citizens in several industrialized countries are enjoying better health status. For example, disability-free life expectancy, that is quality of life years lived, for Canadian males is 18th among the 30 OECD countries and 16th for Canadian females. Canada’s rate of infant mortality—deaths during the first year of life—is among the highest in the OECD. But we need not compare ourselves to other countries to find differences in levels of health status. Significant discrepancies in health status also exist among Canadians, be it between provinces, between regions, between communities or between neighbourhoods. For example, there remain significant inequities in health status between Aboriginal Canadians and non-Aboriginal Canadians—the incidence of hepatitis and tuberculosis among Aboriginal Canadians are five and ten times higher respectively than for other Canadians. It has now been over a year since the Report of the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health or the “Naylor Report” was released. The report has lead to some positive developments in rebuilding Canada’s public health system. It will be needed as some serious public health issues continue to face the country including: * the spread of infectious diseases (e.g., C. difficile bacterium); * the rise in the number of Canadians with unhealthy body weights including rising levels of obesity; * high levels of physical inactivity; * smoking, particularly among youth; * relatively low rates of immunization; and * threats to environmental health including those that threaten our clean air, and safe food and drinking water. In summary, notwithstanding all that has transpired this year, Canadians’ health and their health care system remain high public priorities. While their health status has improved over the past decades, there is considerable room for improvement, some of which can be addressed through public health measures and better access to care. The significant announcements made over the past year related to health system and public health financing are a welcomed start to support health stakeholders in facing these challenges. III. THE FIRST MINISTERS’ MEETING AGREEMENT The CMA closely followed the September 13-15, 2004 First Ministers Meeting on the Future of Health Care. In fact, we worked with our health care colleagues leading up to the meeting to identify possible strategies for improving the system. 3 For instance, we recommended the development and adoption of pan-Canadian benchmarks for wait times based on clinical evidence and the creation of a special Canada Health Access Fund to support Canadians’ access to medically necessary care in other regions. While not all of our proposals were accepted, the September First Ministers’ Meeting Agreement (herein referred to as the FMM Agreement) features many aspects that the CMA has been championing for some time and is certainly a positive achievement. In particular, we are happy to see a desire “to make timely access to quality care a reality for all Canadians.” We applaud the leadership shown by the government in this regard. We also believe that the Agreement provides an opportunity for a new era of cooperative medicare by engaging physicians and other providers meaningfully. Contrary to belief, health care providers have not been offered many opportunities to participate at federal, provincial and territorial planning tables. We therefore welcome the opportunity to work collaboratively on identifying clinically derived wait time benchmarks. Canada’s physicians can and desire to play a significant role in this regard. We therefore believe the FMM Agreement is a necessary first step or “a framework to go with” towards strengthening our health care system. But as we said in September following the release of the Agreement, “the real heavy lifting begins now.” Accordingly, we believe that a number of requirements are necessary to ensure this Agreement fulfills its objectives. We see these requirements as putting words to actions for realizing the full potential of the FMM Agreement. Enact Legislation to Confirm Financial Support and Accountability Provisions The CMA supports enacting federal legislation to confirm the budgetary allocations in the Agreement ($18 billion over 6 years and $41 billion over 10 years). This includes a 6% escalator to the Canada Health Transfer (CHT) that will provide predictable funding for provincial and territorial health care systems. This is a provision that we have been recommending for many years. While $41 billion is a lot of money, we must remind ourselves that this amounts to little more than a 3% increase over 10 years of provincial government health expenditures based on projections of current government spending. Moreover, we estimate that the Agreement will add only .2% to Canada’s spending levels per GDP during this period. In other words, the FMM Agreement, while necessary and appreciated, will not propel Canada into the top echelon of health care spenders among the leading industrialized countries. As health care has become a dominant public policy issue, we expect to see future high level discussions in coming years on both future funding levels and on the direction of health care reform efforts. We are also pleased to see a new Equalization agreement that will complement the FMM Agreement. The Equalization program plays a key role in ensuring that all provinces have adequate and comparable levels of health care and other social services. The issue of Equalization payments to the provinces was identified in discussions leading up to the September First Ministers Meeting over concern that increased federal transfers to health care could be offset by decreases in Equalization payments. The subsequent agreement on Equalization will therefore serve to support the FMM Agreement given that increases in health care transfers to provinces will not be offset by decreases in equalization payments while providing predictable multi-year funding. A strong accountability framework also needs to be included in the legislation. The FMM Agreement specifies several process accountabilities such as a commitment by governments to report on access indicators and establish wait time benchmarks by December 31, 2005. The CMA believes that the Wait Times Reduction Fund should be subject to contribution agreements that specify how provinces and territories will use their share of this fund to reduce wait times. For the Agreement to mean something commitments have to backed up—financial and/or political consequences must follow if commitments are not met. It will be important to have an independent, third party organization assess progress in an open and transparent manner. The Health Council of Canada, identified in the FMM Agreement, could be the body to undertake an annual independent assessment, providing it receives the necessary resources to do so. The Canadian Institute for health Information also has an important role to play in ensuring comparable indicators are used to measure progress. It is essential to involve practicing physicians throughout the implementation of the FMM Agreement, particularly in the development of clinically derived wait time benchmarks. The determination of clinically derived wait time benchmarks means just that—they must be clinically derived and must not be based on political or financial considerations. To this end, the CMA will play a leadership role in developing consensus with physicians and other expert organizations on acceptable wait-time standards and protocols based on the best available clinical evidence. RECOMMENDATION 1 The federal government move quickly to enact legislation to implement the funding and accountability provisions of the First Ministers’ Agreement. The legislation should specify that the $4.5 billion Wait Times Reduction Fund be subject to contribution agreements with the provinces and territories. Improve Access by Addressing Health Human Resources The CMA is pleased to see the First Ministers acknowledge for the first time the current and worsening shortage of health human resources (HHR) in this country. However, the FMM Agreement does not adequately provide a strategy for addressing this crisis beyond the development of health human resources action plans and support for an Aboriginal Health Human Resources Initiative. The CMA believes that the lack of immediate action on HHR is one area where the Agreement falls short. As noted in our fact sheet, Canada is currently experiencing a shortage in health human resources. Canada’s ratio of 2.1 physicians per 1,000 population remains one of the lowest among OECD countries and below the OECD average of 2.9. Initial results from the 2004 National Physician Survey—the largest census survey of physicians ever conducted in Canada—find that up to 3,800 physicians will retire in the next two years, more than double the existing rate. Furthermore, 26% of physicians intend to reduce the number of hours they work. 4 One must remember that timely access to health care services is first and foremost about the people who provide quality care and the tools and infrastructure they need to meet the growing demand for medical services in Canada. In order for the FMM Agreement to be successful in improving access to care, governments must make health human resources a major priority beginning by ensuring that the Wait Times Reduction Fund is used immediately to address the crisis in health human resources rather than in the last four years of the ten-year Agreement as currently projected. 5 Given the current shortages in health human resources, action on HHR must begin now—not in 2010. In addition, 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. Specifically, we need a three pronged pan-Canadian HHR strategy that would address: (1) HHR planning; (2) increasing the supply of health professionals; and, (3) retention issues. Planning Despite the large sum of funding that governments invest in health care, they do so without having the benefit of a national long-term health human resources strategy. Canada has 14 provincial/territorial and federal health care systems in operation. Yet, our immigration policies are largely conducted on a national basis and there is a high degree of labour mobility between provinces. Presently, there is no overall national coordinating committee 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. We believe a National Coordinating Committee for Health Human Resources involving representation from health care professions should be established for such purposes—something both the Romanow and Senator Kirby reports recommended. Research is required to support long-term planning in HHR. The CMA has previously proposed the creation of an arm’s length Health Institute for Human Resources (HIHuR) that would promote collaboration and the sharing of HHR research among the well-known university-based centres of excellence as well as research communities within professional associations and governments. Supply Canada’s HHR policy goal should be to ensure Canada is self-sufficient in the supply of physicians and other health care professionals. Several strategies are required to fulfill this goal. They include: * Dedicating a specific fund to increase enrollment in undergraduate and postgraduate medical education (especially re-entry positions). Medical school enrollment should be increased to a minimum of 2,500 positions by 2007. * Expanding the post-MD system to accommodate the increase in graduates for training including the several hundred international medical graduates (IMGs) in Canada who have been deemed eligible for post-MD training here. The goal should be to increase the number of first-year residency training positions to a level of 120% of the graduates produced annually by Canadian medical schools. See Appendix B for how this can be implemented. The estimated cost of adding 500 positions is $75 million over five years. In fact, this government’s election platform included a commitment to provide funding to top-up training for 1,000 foreign trained medical professionals. * Expediting the integration of international medical graduates by funding a fast-track on-line assessment program administered by the Medical Council of Canada. It would determine the suitability and eligibility of IMGs for completion of post-MD training (estimated cost $20 million over 5 years). * Implementing a national strategy to extend the Canada Student Loans interest payment benefit to postgraduate trainees in medicine. High student debt impacts both the kind of specialty that physicians-in-training choose, and ultimately where they decide to practice—making it a key health human resource issue (see box below). 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 FMM Agreement. Did you know? Becoming a full-fledged, practicing physician is an arduous and expensive endeavor. It requires a minimum of 9 years (6) of post-secondary education and training that is often financed through sizeable government and private loan debt, such as lines of credit. It is estimated that, by the time medical students enter their pre-practice postgraduate training period, many are doing so with a debt of at least $120,000 (7) or more. RECOMMENDATION 2 The federal government work with relevant stakeholders to extend interest free status on Canada Student Loans for all eligible health professional students pursuing postgraduate training. Retention Retention remains a major concern for the health care workforce including physicians. We speak not only in terms of losing physicians to other countries but to other professional pursuits as well (i.e., opportunities away from the front line delivery of care). There is little point in recruiting new physicians at the front end if we lose sight of how to keep them once they are highly skilled and are in their most productive years. Retention issues are crosscutting. Indeed, a major frustration for physicians today are the difficulties faced trying to access other types of care for their patients such as diagnostic testing, specialty care or community services. Thus, improving access to a comprehensive range of health care providers and services and reducing wait times—as previously addressed—can help. We also believe that investments in information technologies (IT) can help improve the coordination of health care and allow physicians to spend more time with their patients to provide quality care. There is currently limited connectivity among community-based physicians, community based services, specialists, hospitals and diagnostic facilities. IT investments can improve the integration of care, improve patient safety and improve the management of wait times. They can link regional and provincial wait time management systems while supporting more comprehensive scheduling systems. Prescriptions can be sent electronically to the local pharmacist while public health warnings can be sent electronically to physicians’ offices. We recognize that investments in IT are already occurring and systems will be put in place over the next decade. However, we believe that by accelerating IT investments today, system efficiencies and savings can be achieved sooner along with improvements to health care delivery and coordination. The application of tax policy to the health care sector is another retention issue that greatly frustrates physicians. This issue is discussed in the next section. Align Tax Policy With Health Policy The CMA continues to advocate for a review of the relationship between federal tax policy and health care policy in Canada. Taxation is a powerful instrument of public policy. Good tax policy should reinforce and support good health care policy. Yet, it has been 40 years since the federal government last undertook an overarching review of Canada’s tax system (the 1962-1966 Royal Commission on Taxation -the Carter Commission). Standard public finance theory suggests that two objectives of effective tax policy are distributive equity and correcting inefficiencies in the private sector. 8 For some time, the CMA has expressed concern over inequities in tax policy and inconsistencies between national health policy goals and tax policy. We are aware that the committee is looking for ideas on tax changes that can lead to a more productive economy. At the same time, we recognize that the government is committed to improving Canadians’ access to health care. Ensuring this country’s tax policy is supporting our health care system is a good way to achieve both objectives. Specifically, the CMA calls on the federal government to remove the application of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) to the health care sector. Currently, not-for-profit hospital services receive an 83% rebate on the GST they pay on goods and services, while not-for-profit health organizations receive a rebate of 50%. Health care professionals working in free-standing clinics do not qualify for any GST relief (discussed below). The estimated portion of funding paid by hospitals alone back to the federal government in the form of GST revenue is estimated to be $90 million per year. That is the equivalent of the purchase cost of almost 40 MRI machines! The CMA believes that all publicly funded health care services should be spared from having to use scarce health care resources to remit GST and should receive the full GST rebate. Would this be setting a precedent? The answer is “no”. Prescription drugs, a significant proportion of total health care costs, have been zero-rated since 1996. Furthermore, 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. As part of the “MUSH” sector (municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals), we believe the time has come to extend the full rebate to the health care sector. The federal government must stop taxing publicly funded health care. The uneven application of the GST rebate to different health services is also impeding efforts to renew and reorient the delivery of health services. Currently, community-based services such as clinics and nursing homes receive a GST rebate of only 50% while hospitals receive a rebate of 83%. Does it make sense that a nursing home or a home care service should pay more for GST than a hospital, particularly when trying to move to a more accessible community-based system? The variability of GST rebates makes no sense for organizations such as regional health authorities that oversee a range of health services but which pay differing rates. The government acknowledged in its 2003 Budget that there was a need to review how the GST is applied to care settings outside of hospitals. We await this review. Such inconsistencies distort the efficiency of the health care sector yet are relatively simple to address. 9 Physician services, on the other hand, are deemed “tax exempt” under The Excise Act. This means that physicians cannot claim any input tax credits despite the fact they must pay GST on their purchases of equipment, rent and utilities. And unlike other self-employed individuals or small businesses, physicians cannot pass on any of these additional costs as approximately 98% of physician compensation is from government health insurance plans. To date, provincial governments have been unwilling to provide funding to reflect the additional costs associated with the GST (insisting that it is a federal matter). Physicians are not asking for special treatment. They are looking for fairness within the tax system. If physicians, as self-employed individuals, are considered small businesses for tax purposes, then it only seems reasonable that they should have the same tax rules extended to them that apply to other small businesses (i.e., eligibility to receive input tax credits). This is a fundamental issue of tax fairness. In fact, this committee has twice before acknowledged the need to reassess the application of the GST on physician services. 10 The unfair manner in which the GST is applied to the health care sector has been an on-going source of major frustration to the physician community and remains unresolved. We believe that addressing this matter would be helpful in the country’s efforts to retain its physicians. Other self-employed health care providers that provide publicly funded services face a similar problem. RECOMMENDATION 3 As part of an effort to ensure that its tax policy is consistent with the goals of its health policy and the sustainability of Canada’s health care system, the federal government should: - increase the GST rebate for publicly funded health care institutions and clinics to 100% ($90 million annually for hospitals) - zero rate GST on publicly funded health services provided by independent health care providers ($75 million annually for medical services). IV PUBLIC HEALTH: HEALTHY PUBLIC As previously noted, much has happened over the past year with respect to Canada’s public health system. The CMA was pleased to see the creation of the position of Minister of State, Public Health. We commend the Government of Canada for its establishment of the Public Health Agency of Canada and for its selection of Dr. David Butler-Jones as the new Chief Public Health Officer of Canada. The 2004 Budget’s commitment to approximately $665 million for investments for public health over the next 3 years was also a welcomed announcement. The CMA will provide its full support to work with Dr. Butler-Jones and the Public Health Agency of Canada, Ministers Bennett and Dosanjh to develop a coordinated and integrated plan to manage and improve public health in Canada. These developments certainly represent a good step towards rebuilding the country’s public health system. Address the “Naylor Gap” In spite of these initiatives, it remains essential to remind this government and Canadians that further attention to public health is necessary. As a member of the Canadian Coalition for Public Health in the 21st Century (CCPH21), the CMA calls on the federal government to enhance its financial commitment to the renewal of Canada’s public health system The public health system is a vital component of a sustainable health system by reducing pressures on the health care system and providing a net benefit to society. 11 Two thirds of total deaths in Canada are due to chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, lung disease and diabetes (Type II melitus)—many of which are preventable. Investing in public health also makes good economic policy. We have seen in recent years the incredible economic impact that public health outbreaks can have on a country’s economy. For instance, it has been estimated that the SARS outbreak cost the Canadian economy over $1.5 billion in 2003 alone with its impact still being felt. 12 As stated in the Report of the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health (the Naylor Report), “we are constantly a short flight away from serious epidemics.” 13 Accordingly, we were pleased to hear the government’s Speech from the Throne state that the government will proceed with the development of the Pan-Canadian Public Health Network. But we have to overcome several years of inattention to public health issues and the public health infrastructure—something that cannot be rectified in a year. Spending levels on public health in Canada are meager. International comparisons are difficult to find and to compare, but it appears that this is one instance where Canada could learn from its neighbour to the south with its higher level of spending on public health (see Box comparing public health spending between Canada and the United States). 14 While the role of public health was referred to in the FMM Agreement, no additional funding for public health was included. Comparing Levels of Public Health Spending: Canada vs. the United States Using data from CIHI and the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the CMA has developed the following comparative estimates of spending on public health in Canada versus the United States in 2002. [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY POPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Canada United States 1. Per capita spending on public health services ($CDN, PPP adjusted) $138 $207 2. Share of spending on public health as a % of public health care spending 5.5% 7.2% 3. Share of spending on public health as a % of total health care spending 3.9% 3.3% [TABLE END] The United States spends approximately 50% more on public health than Canada when comparing per capita payments. The United States also spends more on public health when considering public health spending as a percentage of all publicly funded services (due in part to a proportionately smaller publicly funded sector). Conversely, Canada spends more on public health if looking at the percentage of spending on public health as a percentage of total health care spending. This is due in part to a proportionately larger privately funded sector in the United States. Since public health is predominately a public good paid by governments, we believe it is most appropriate to compare the results from the first two indicators. The Naylor Report estimated that public health in Canada accounted for 2.6% to 3.5% of total publicly funded health expenditures in Canada and 1.8% to 2.5% of total health expenditures. While these estimates are lower than those provided above, they still support our observation that public health spending in Canada is lower than in the United States. The Naylor report provided a blue print for action and reinvestment in the public health system for the 21st century. It estimated that approximately $1 billion in annual funding would be required to implement and sustain the public health programs that Canada requires. In its submission to the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health, the CMA also identified an essential range of comprehensive public health programming and initiatives totaling an estimated $1.5 billion over 5 years. 15 The federal government has thus far committed approximately $665 million in new programming (one-time funding, over 2 years, and over 3 years), well short of Dr. Naylor’s $1 billion per year. This “Naylor Gap” of approximately $450 million per year is identified below in Table A. [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Table A: Estimating “The Naylor Gap” Naylor Funding Recommendations (by 2006-07) Budget 2004 Naylor Gap Public Health Agency of Canada Related Funding - $300 million per year core budget of PPHB and other related federal services to be transferred to new agency - core functions to be expanded by $200 million per year within 3-5 years - $404 million transferred from Health Canada to Agency - $165 million over 2 years to assist in setting up new agency, increase emergency response capacity, enhance surveillance, establish regional centres of excellence, expand laboratory capacity, strengthen international coordination and collaboration $117.5 million per year ($200 million by Naylor minus $82.5 million per year committed by the federal government averaged out). Moreover, nothing earmarked beyond 2005-06. System Funding 3 programs of transfers at a cost of $500 million per year: - $300 million for Public Health Partnerships Program to build capacity at local level - $100 million for communicable disease surveillance - $100 million to bolster national immunization strategy - $100 million (one-time) to Canada Health Infoway to pay for real-time public health surveillance system - $400 million over three years for: - $300 million for national immunization strategy - $100 million for provinces to address immediate gaps in capacity Approximately $333 million per year ($500 million per year request by Naylor less Budget 2004 commitments of $500 million over 3 years or $167 million per year averaged out.) Total: $1 billion per year $404 million annually plus $665 million in new programming (one-time funding, over 2 years, or over 3 years) Total “Naylor Gap”: $450.5 million per year [TABLE END} We acknowledge that the Public Health Agency of Canada is just being created. We also recognize that Budget 2004 noted that: “The Government of Canada expects to make further investments once the new Canada Public Health Agency is operational, the Chief Public Health Officer has developed a comprehensive public health plan, and the Government has had the opportunity to evaluate the need for additional resources.” 16 Nevertheless, it is critical that reinvestment in Canada’s public health system continue as soon as possible to protect and promote the health of Canadians. These additional investments are needed to fully implement Dr. Naylor’s recommendations. This includes operating costs for a real time communication system for front line public health providers during health emergencies. It would ensure a two-way flow of information between front-line health care providers and public health professionals at the local public health unit, the provincial public health department and the Public Health Agency of Canada. The CMA has recently submitted a proposal to Canada Health Infoway to develop a system (the Health Emergency Communication and Co-ordination Initiative) that would link Canada’s physicians with governmental authorities. The additional investments should also be used to help address the recruitment and retention of public health practitioners. 17 In contrast with other areas of health expenditures, we know very little about how public health dollars are allocated and with what results. Presently, public health expenditures are lumped together with some health system administration costs. We believe there is a need for a better tracking and public reporting of public health expenditures. Set and Meet National Health Goals The CMA was pleased to see support by First Ministers in the FMM Agreement to establish a Pan-Canadian Public Health Strategy and health goals that are independently monitored. We believe health goals are a key component in addressing the serious public health challenges that lie ahead. Goals stimulate action and improve system accountability. Unlike Canada, many other countries—including the United States, the UK and Australia—have set health goals for their populations at the national level. At the CMA’s August 2004 General Council meeting, physicians agreed on health goals for physical activity, healthy body weights and obesity (see box below). These goals are already having an effect. Recently, the BC Minister of Health, Colin Hansen, accepted the challenge from the President of the British Columbia Medical Association, Dr. Jack Burak, to increase fitness levels by 10 per cent by 2010. We also need to be more preoccupied with setting, meeting and monitoring environmental health goals. Let us look at drinking water for example. As hard as it may be for Canadians to believe, a safe supply of water is a key health concern for Canadians today just as it was at the turn of the 20th century. The polluting of our water supply—including the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria through the use of antibiotics in human and animal health—and a lack of adequate water treatment infrastructure systems have contributed to the problem. Above all, we as Canadians need to recognize that a large natural supply of water and other natural resources do not eliminate the need for strong environmental governance. Public health officials play an important role in this respect. But it is pointless to set goals without any intention of meeting them. Resources will be necessary to meet the selected health goals such as the training and hiring of public health workers, as well as funding to support public advertising and marketing campaigns. Physical Activity and Healthy Body Weight Goals for Canada (Endorsed at CMA General Council, August 2004, Toronto) The Canadian Medical Association urges all levels of government to commit to a comprehensive, integrated and collaborative national strategy for increasing the physical activity levels of all Canadians, with a target of a 10% increase in each province and territory by the year 2010. The Canadian Medical Association calls on all stakeholders to develop, as an urgent priority, an action plan to address the obesity epidemic in Canada, with a goal of increasing by 15% within ten years the proportion of Canadians who are at a healthy weight. Invest in Health Not in Tobacco Improving health status is more than promoting healthy lifestyle behaviour. A healthy society also requires public policy that supports health (e.g. adequate income and education, proper housing, adequate nutrition, a clean and safe environment.) Tobacco use is a good example of a health risk that has been significantly reduced with the help of public policy measures, such as higher tobacco taxes, continued restrictions on tobacco advertising and promotion, and restrictions on smoking in public places. But there remains inconsistency in Canada's public policies—in this case between the investment policies of the CPP Investment Board and Canada's health policy goals. Canadians are very proud of their public pension plan, the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). It is a well-supported social program that has been viewed as a best practice model by several countries. Yet, despite the fact that tobacco continues to kill approximately 45,000 Canadians a year and costs Canadian society approximately $11 billion per year in net cost, (18) the Canada Pension Plan holds $94 million worth of tobacco investments. Canada’s physicians see the toll that tobacco consumption creates. We see the physical and mental suffering that tobacco-caused diseases bring to patients and their families. Accordingly, the CMA has consistently recommended a wide range of measures to control tobacco use such as higher tobacco taxes, continued restrictions on tobacco advertising and promotion, restrictions on smoking in public places, enforcement of bans on sales to minors, reduction of the level of toxic ingredients in tobacco and the provision of smoking cessation programs. We are pleased with the efforts to date but we are by no means finished in our battle. As our fact sheet shows, there are still segments of the population, particularly among our youth, that have high rates of smoking. The federal government in recent years has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on a tobacco reduction strategy that, when combined with efforts being taken by the provinces and municipalities, is making a difference for Canadians. However, the CPP Investment Board is investing and voting as shareholders in a pattern that is inconsistent with both public health policy, and the tobacco reduction measures being implemented across Canada. It is inconsistent and illogical for one arm of government to expend many millions of dollars of public money in an effort to reduce tobacco use, while another arm invests many millions of dollars of money in tobacco companies and supports these companies in their drive to be profitable. Resolution of the Canadian Medical Association General Council, August 2004: …the government amend the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board Act so that CPP investments in the tobacco industry are prohibited and the CPP Investment Board divests itself of existing tobacco holdings. The CMA is prepared to back up what it is prescribing—MD Management Ltd’s “MD Funds” which are managed for Canada’s physicians has followed this policy for almost ten years. Other major pension and investment plans have successfully followed this policy as well including several US State retirement and pension funds and the American Medical Association Pension Fund. While the CMA clearly believes that the CPP Investment Board should not invest in the tobacco industry and that existing tobacco holdings should be divested, we recognize that this committee might want to look at the matter in greater context to assess its full impact. We suggest that this be done in conjunction with the Standing Committee on Health. RECOMMENDATION 4 The Standing Committees on Finance and Health hold a joint review of the CPP policy as it relates to investments in tobacco (both current and potential) by the CPP Investment Board. IV. CONCLUSION The Finance Committee’s last report on the pre-budget hearings noted that the CMA’s submission identified relatively small, one-time investments that can support the health care system. 19 This year’s submission once again puts forward strategic investments that we believe support Canada’s health policy goals and which serve to effectively implement the FMM Agreement. Our recommendations are also directed at improving the alignment of Canada’s economic policy with its health policy. It is natural to think of an agreement as an end point. But in reality, the FMM Agreement and last year’s funding announcements for public health must be seen as for what they are—first steps to sustaining Canada’s health care system and its public health system. Canada’s physicians and the CMA are committed to working with governments and other health care stakeholders to ensure the financial investments announced over the past year lead to positive and enduring change, and ultimately improved health for all Canadians. END NOTES 1 Claudia Sanmartin et al. Access to Health Care Services in Canada, 2003. Statistics Canada, 2004. 2 Canadian Medical Association. The Taming of the Queue: Toward a Cure for Health Care Wait Times. Discussion Paper. July 2004. Ottawa. 3 CMA, Better Access for Better Health, September 2004; Canadian Healthcare Association, Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Nurses Association, Canadian Pharmacists Association. “Common Vision for the Canadian Health System,” September, 2004. 4 National Physician Survey, “Initial Data Release of the 2004 Physician Survey”, October 2004. 5 A note listed under the funding schedule indicates that moneys flowing to the Wait Times Reduction Fund for health human resources ($250 million for four years) will come only during the final four years of the Agreement. 6 Average duration. Only 2/16 medical schools have a 3 (versus 4) year program. 7 This estimate is based on federal government actual and estimated costs as well as current actual national average tuition fees in undergraduate programs in medicine. Data sources: (1) Statistics Canada, The Daily, April 26, 2004, National Graduates Survey: Student Debt, p. 3. (2) Government of Canada, Canlearn. Saving for your child's education, The projected cost of your child's education. University Tuition. Typical 1996 university cost living away from home: $13,000 - $3,500 tuition = $9,500 x 24% (8 years x 3% inflation cited in reference above) = $11 780. see: http://www.canlearn.ca/financing/saving/guaranteefuture/clcos.cfm?langcanlearn=en (3) Association of Canadian Medical Colleges for tuition 8 For a further discussion of the role of taxation in public policy, refer to Musgrave, Richard A. and Peggy B. Musgrave’s Public Finance in Theory and Practices. 1973. New York: McGraw-Hill. 9 Canadian Medical Association, Tax and Health—Taking Another Look. Discussion Paper, May 2002. 10See Keeping the Balance, 1997 Report of the Standing Committee on Finance; Facing the Future: Challenges and Choices for a New Era, 1998 Report of the Standing Committee on Finance. 11 See for example, Laurie J. Goldsmith, Brian Hutchinson and Jeremiah Hurley, Economic Evaluation Across the Four Faces of Prevention: A Canadian Perspective. (Hamilton: Centre for Health Econoimcs and Policy Analysis, McMaster University), May 2004. 12 The Conference Board of Canada, “The Economic Impact of SARS”, Ottawa, May 2003. 13 Report of the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health, Learning From SARS: Renewal of Public Health in Canada, October 2003. 14 Based on data from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (http://www.cms.hhs.gov/statistics/nhe/). 15 Canadian Medical Association, Answering the Wake Up Call: CMA’s Public Health Action Plan. Submission to the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health, June 2003. 16Government of Canada, Department of Finance Canada, The Budget Plan 2004, p. 101. 2004. 17 See Answering the Wake-up Call: CMA’s Public Health Action Plan for other initiatives that should be funded to rebuild Canada’s public health system. 18 Adapted from estimates provided by Murray J. Kaiserman, “The Cost of Smoking in Canada, 1991”, Chronic Diseases in Canada, Vol. 18, No. 1, 1997. Available at http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/publicat/cdic-mcc/18-1/c_e.html. 19 Report of the Standing Committee on Finance, Canada: People, Places and Priorities, November 2002.
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Bill C-12: An Act to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable disease : CMA’s Submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1948
Last Reviewed
2012-03-03
Date
2004-11-23
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2012-03-03
Date
2004-11-23
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) appreciates the opportunity to appear before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health to provide our observations concerning Bill C-12, an Act to prevent the introduction and spread of communicable disease, which will repeal and replace the current Quarantine Act. Since our founding in 1867, the CMA has had a long tradition in the field of public health and infectious diseases. For example, in 1885 we worked with the federal government to prevent an outbreak of cholera in Canada, while in 1891 we began a long campaign to encourage governments to deal with tuberculosis. And fast forward to 2003 and SARS, CMA worked along with many levels of government to deal with this public health crisis. While the CMA is particularly interested in how the proposed legislation will impact the practices of our more than 58,000 members across the country, we have reviewed this legislation through the lens of what is in the best interest of patients and the public. 1) Comprehensive Approach to Public Health Our comments call for and are embedded in the broader context of a comprehensive approach to public health. They are also based on previous recommendations CMA has made to the federal government including: a) Response to the Health Protection Legislative Renewal initiative carried out by Health Canada (2004). In this submission, CMA identified the Quarantine Act as a piece of legislation the CMA believed merited urgent updating; b) Review of the World Health Organizations’ draft revised International Health Regulations (IHR), (2004); c) Submission to the Naylor Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health (2003); d) Submission to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology during its study of public health issues (2003); and e) Pre-budget submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance following September 11, 2001. These submissions are all available on request, or at www.cma.ca. The CMA is pleased that Parliament has identified revision of the Quarantine Act as a priority. The Act is more than a century old and the medical community and others have long called for it to be updated. Bill C-12 is an excellent start to modernizing the previous Act; however, we believe the proposed legislation does not go far enough in remedying its deficiencies. In this submission we present eight key recommendations for your consideration, along with questions about particulars in the implementation process, which we suggest Parliament address in subsequent review of the Act and its regulations. 2) Recommendations for Consideration in Review of Bill C-12 Recommendation 1: The Act should be part of a larger, comprehensive Emergency Health Measures Plan. In our brief to the Naylor Advisory Committee, CMA recommended the enactment of a comprehensive Emergency Health Measures Act, administered by the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada. This Act would consolidate and enhance existing legislation, allowing for a more rapid national response to health emergencies, in cooperation with the provinces and territories, based on a graduated, systematic approach. We also recommended that the Emergency Health Measures Act be part of a strong commitment, by all levels of government, to a public health strategy that also included a 5-year capacity enhancement program, development of research and surveillance capability; and funding for a communications initiative to improve technical capacity for real-time communication with front-line health providers during public health emergencies. Recommendation 2: The Chief Public Health Officer of Canada must have authority to enforce the Act The proposed legislation designates the Minister of Health as the person with ultimate responsibility for enforcing the Act; it grants the Minister sweeping powers including the power to overrule a health official’s quarantine. As medical professionals we believe that public health decisions should be made primarily on the basis of the best available medical and scientific evidence, and should be independent to the greatest extent possible of other considerations. Therefore we believe that responsibility for the implementation of the Act should rest with the Public Health Agency of Canada, and with the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, not with the Minister of Health. In the provinces and territories, Medical Officers of Health do not require approvals from their Ministers to exercise their functions as health professionals; the same should hold true at the federal level. We understand that responsibility has been placed with the Minister of Health due to a lack of existing legislation setting out the mandate, roles, responsibilities and powers of the recently created Public Health Agency of Canada, and the newly appointed Chief Public Health Officer of Canada. We are also aware that enabling legislation is currently being prepared; we urge that this legislation be enacted as soon as possible. On enactment of this enabling legislation, the powers now vested in the Minister should be ceded to the Chief Public Health Officer. Locating responsibility for administration of the Act within the Public Health Agency of Canada will also combine enforcement with other needed functions of surveillance, monitoring and linkage with international monitoring agencies. As we stressed in our previous recommendation, these must all be part of a comprehensive Canadian emergency response strategy. Recommendation 3: The Act must address interprovincial as well as international traffic. We are happy that the provisions of Bill C-12 apply to goods and travellers leaving as well as entering Canada. This was a deficiency identified in the previous Quarantine Act. However, the Act must also expressly address goods and travellers crossing provincial or territorial boundaries. Currently, there is tremendous variation in public health system capacity among provinces and territories and, more particularly, among municipalities and local authorities. Inconsistencies in provincial approaches to public health matters have resulted in significant weaknesses in the “emergency shield” between and across provinces. Unless the potential consequences of these disparities are remedied through federal legislation they must, as a priority, be remedied through federal/provincial/territorial agreements. The role of the Public Health Agency of Canada in facilitating, equalizing and monitoring the management of public health emergencies nationwide must be enshrined in the legislation that establishes the Agency. CMA also hopes that the development of a pan-Canadian Public Health Network, acknowledged in the 2004 Throne Speech, will facilitate the nationwide collaboration essential for adequate and appropriate response to health emergencies. The CMA supports those provisions in Bill C-12 that give the Minister (preferably the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada) the power to establish quarantine centres anywhere in the country. In times of threat to national health security, such bold leadership would be both warranted and expected. Recommendation 4: “Public Health Emergency” must be adequately defined. Bill C-12 contains no definition of “public health emergency” or “public health emergency of international concern.” We believe these should be defined.1 Bill C-12 includes a schedule of specific communicable diseases to which its provisions would apply. We are concerned that this Schedule may limit Canada’s capacity to respond to emergencies. The next public health emergency may be a disease we have not heard of yet; or it may be a bio-terrorist attack, or a chemical or nuclear event. The Act must enable Canada to respond to new and emerging, as well as existing, threats to health. The World Health Organizations’ draft International Health Regulations (IHR) has proposed a set of criteria for assessing emergencies; these include: * Is the event serious? * Is the event unexpected? * Is there a significant risk of international spread? The CMA urges the Canadian government to consider a hybrid approach incorporating both known disease states and criteria such as the ones used by the IHR, for assessing new diseases or other public health emergencies. Recommendation 5: The Act, or its regulations, must clarify the roles, responsibilities and training requirements of emergency response personnel. Some provisions of Bill C-12 have raised questions in our minds about the scope of practice of personnel involved in disease screening, and we would appreciate clarification on these points. For example: Screening officers, the first point of contact for travelers entering or leaving Canada, are customs officers and others designated by the Minister. Their primary role under Section 14 of the Act is to use “non-invasive” screening technology to detect travelers entering and exiting Canada with communicable disease vectors, etc. According to Section 15 (3) screening officers, who are not health professionals, will have the power to “order any reasonable measure to prevent spread of a communicable disease”. Of what might these “reasonable measures” consist? Quarantine officers, by definition in Section 5(2) are medical practitioners or other health professionals or anyone else in this “class of persons”. Since the quarantine officer’s job description includes physical assessment of travellers to determine whether they should be detained – a function that requires the expertise of a health professional - we would appreciate clarification of the phrase “in this class”. Similarly, under Section 26, the quarantine officer has the power to order the traveler “to comply with treatment”. Which officer—screening/quarantine or medical—might actually prescribe the course of treatment? This function must be specifically delegated to medical officers. Bill C-12 gives authorities the powers to restrict personal movement and temporarily impound or seize property. The CMA believes that the government should also provide adequate resources and powers to allow for tracking down apparently well people who cross borders and are subsequently diagnosed with infectious diseases. The Act or its regulations should also address factors that hinder deployment of qualified health professionals, such as portability of licensure and coverage for malpractice and disability insurance. CMA has previously called for the establishment of a Canadian Public Health Emergency Response Service that would maintain a “reserve” of public health professionals who could be deployed to areas of need during times of crisis, and which would co-ordinate the logistics of the issues above mentioned. This would improve the capacity of health professionals to be deployed quickly in times of health emergency, to locations where they are most needed. Finally, CMA suggests that the Act or its regulations provide greater detail on training requirements for screening officers, to guarantee that they are appropriately trained. Recommendation 6: Privacy and confidentiality must be respected and safeguarded. Bill C-12 grants quarantine officers and the Minister some sweeping powers to arrest and detain people without warrants, including people who have refused to comply with testing. Though on rare occasions such measures may be required to protect the public, it is recognized that potential for their abuse may exist. In addition, Bill C-12 raises questions about the degree to which personal health information might be exposed to scrutiny. We note that Section 51 authorizes a quarantine officer to “order any person to provide any information or record…the officer might reasonably require.” This provision could include patient medical records in a doctor’s office, particularly if the Bill guarantees travellers the right to request a “second opinion” which we assume could be obtained from any practicing physician in Canada. Similarly, Sections 55 and 56 appear to give the Minister authority to “collect medical information in order to carry out the purposes of this Act” and to “disclose personal information obtained under the Act” to a host of entities. The CMA believes that the power to obtain and disclose information should be explicitly constrained and circumstances under which this power could be exercised must be outlined in the Act. Recommendation 7: The role of physicians and other health care workers must be respected. The health professional sector is on the front lines of response to health emergencies, as they were during the SARS outbreak. Therefore as a first principle the new Act should recognize the importance of health professionals having the power, subject to appropriate constraints, to make vital decisions in response to health emergencies. This is a legitimate delegation of power, because of the competencies of health professionals. During the SARS outbreak of 2003, physicians and other health care providers were not only partners in containing infection; many became ill or died as well. Since health care workers expose themselves to infection as they respond to health emergencies, protocols should ensure that care and attention is paid to their safety, through measures such as ensuring ready availability of proper masks The Act or regulations should address precautions required to protect quarantine officers and other health care workers from transmission of disease or the effects of becoming ill. For example, it should address compensation for quarantine officers who lose work because they become infected in the course of their duty. We would be remiss in our review of this act if we did not pursue with this Committee the issue of compensation and indemnification programs for physicians and trainees requiring quarantine because of exposure to a communicable disease while providing medical service, or who are required to close their offices for other public health reasons, or who cannot practice in hospitals because of closure of hospitals for public health reasons. Indeed, delegates to our annual general council meeting called on the CMA to do so. A number of these physicians were caught in such situations during the turmoil of the SARS outbreak. Recommendation 8: Decision-making should be evidence-based. At times, public perception and political considerations may widely influence the assessment and management of risk. While this is probably unavoidable, CMA believes that public policy should be founded first and foremost on the highest possible quality of scientific evidence. The Act should provide the requisite mechanisms to ensure that reviews of risk are independent and unbiased. We acknowledge, however, that this principle should not be rigidly applied; “we’re waiting for the evidence” must not be used as an excuse for inaction when action is urgently required. 3) Additional Comments In addition to the above recommendations, additional concerns remain regarding implementation of the Act. In particular we note that many crucial components, such as how physical examinations are to be carried out (section 62(1), medical practitioner’s review process (section 62(d), and the protection of personal information (62(g) are left to regulations. These regulations must be developed as soon as possible. We understand that the current Act constitutes “Phase I” of a longer-term strategy to enhance Canada’s capacity to respond to public health emergencies. Though we believe that the Quarantine Act merits attention at this time, we also believe that it should be looked at with a longer-term view. For instance, as we have already recommended, it should be incorporated into the broader legislative renewal of public health in Canada, with a view to enhancing this country’s ability to respond swiftly and effectively to public health emergencies, locally and nationwide. Above all, Canada must ensure a sustained and substantial commitment of resources to its public health emergency response program. Without this, the best-written laws will be inadequate. The Canadian Medical Association commends the Government of Canada for bringing this bill forward, and looks forward to working with the Government, and the Public Health Agency of Canada, to help keep Canadians safe in the event of a public health emergency. End Notes 1 A public health emergency has been defined by the US Model State Emergency Powers Act (http://www.publichealthlaw.net accessed July 7, 2003) as an occurrence or imminent threat of an illness or health condition of a temporary nature that is believed to be caused by: * the appearance of a novel or previously controlled or eradicated infectious agent or biological toxin; * a bioterrorist event; * a natural disaster * a chemical event or accidental release; or * a nuclear event or accident and that poses a high probability of any of the following harms: * a large number of deaths in the affected population; * a large number of serious or long-term disabilities in the affected population; or * widespread exposure to an infectious or toxic agent that poses a significant risk of substantial future harm to a large number of people in the affected population.
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Health Protection and a Canadian Public Health Strategy: A Comprehensive Approach To Public Health: Submission to Health Canada

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1958
Last Reviewed
2011-03-05
Date
2004-04-12
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  2 documents  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2011-03-05
Date
2004-04-12
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
This submission is the response of the Canadian Medical Association to Health Canada's request for feedback on its detailed "Health Protection Legislative Renewal" legislative proposal released in June 2003. Our submission calls for and is embedded in the broader context of a comprehensive approach to public health. The Canadian Medical Association is committed to working with others to realize the vision of a comprehensive, robust public health strategy as a vital component of Canada's health care system. This strategy should rest upon three pillars: * Emergency Response Empowering rapid and effective response to health emergencies, e.g. communicable disease outbreaks, water contamination, bio-terrorist attacks. * Health Protection: Ensuring that Canadians are protected from health risks in their daily environment; for example, risks associated with the use of health or consumer products, or with the potential spread of infectious disease. * Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Instituting programs to encourage healthy behaviour and advocating for public policy and fiscal policy that supports health. Though these three pillars have different foci and different legislative instruments, they must all be part of a strategy to enhance public health and public health service delivery in Canada. With specific reference to health protection, CMA believes that legislation should rest on the following principles: a) Commitment to the primacy of health and safety. b) Commitment to evidence-based decision making. c) A thorough risk-analysis procedure based on the relative risk of products or services. d) Support for informed patient decision-making. e) Accountability vested in the Government of Canada. f) A comprehensive, effective post-marketing surveillance system. g) Enforcement through effective, meaningful penalties for noncompliance. h) Flexibility to quickly and efficiently accommodate new technologies. i) Openness and transparency. j) Encouragement of collaboration and co-operation with other stakeholders, while respecting existing jurisdictions and legislative mechanisms. Recommendations A Canadian Public Health Strategy 1) That the federal government ensure that legislative and administrative measures related to public health complement one another in function and are connected through communications and co-ordination mechanisms. The Drug Review Process 2) That the federal government implement a timely and efficient drug review process to reduce review times to the fastest level consistent with ensuring improved health outcomes and the safety of the drug supply. 3) That the federal government consider co-operative agreements for drug review with comparable agencies in Europe, the United States and Australia, while retaining final authority as to whether a new product should be allowed on the Canadian market. 4) That the drug review and approval process be open and transparent, providing updates on review status and the opportunity for stakeholder input. 5) That Health Canada apply a priority review process to "breakthrough" drugs, i.e. those that demonstrate a substantial improvement over products already on the market. Patient Safety and Post-Marketing Surveillance 6) That Health Canada work in partnership with stakeholders including CMA and other national medical and health professional associations, to develop a rigourous post-marketing surveillance system to monitor the ongoing safety of marketed drugs. 7) That government accelerate activities to establish the Patient Safety Institute using a systems approach to support a culture of safety. 8) That all stakeholders join in supporting and encouraging outcome-based research to ascertain best practices in prescribing. 9) That the federal government invest in measures such as electronic communications networks, to increase physicians' capacity to report medication incidents and to improve the timeliness of adverse event reporting. Drug Information and Advertising 10) That all stakeholders work to ensure that Canadians have ready access to a source of comprehensive, reliable information on health products and their uses, and that governments fund development and dissemination of validated information to physicians and to the public. 11) That the legislation define "promotion" and "advertising" so as to clearly distinguish them from unbiased health information, and from counselling by health professionals. 12) That the current safeguards against deception be strengthened in order to * Forbid fraudulent or misleading health claims in advertisements, on labels or in any other promotional or descriptive material pertaining to the product; * ensure pre-clearance and ongoing review of all health claims by an objective agency; * provide meaningful penalties for infraction. 13) That Health Canada maintain the current ban on advertising health products for treatment, prevention and cure of conditions or disease states to be identified in a regulatory schedule or administrative list; the inclusion of conditions in this list should be determined through a set of criteria that are written into the Act or regulations. 14) That the existing ban on direct to consumer advertising of prescription drugs be maintained and enforced to the full extent of the law, and that the loophole that currently permits advertising the name, price and quantity of a prescription drug be closed. 15) That all stakeholders, including medical associations and industry groups, work together toward effective regulation of drug promotion to health practitioners. Safeguarding the Privacy of Health Information 16) That the Health Protection Act respect the provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Federal Privacy Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). 17) That the privacy provisions in the Health Protection Act meet the legislative test outlined in Section 3.6 of CMA's Health Information Privacy Code. Other Issues 18) That the Health Protection Act give Health Canada a clear mandate to develop guidance documents to address health and safety issues raised by new technologies. 19) That Natural Health Products be regulated on a strict framework that ensures their safety, quality and efficacy as well as the provision of complete and unbiased information to the public. 20) That the Act provide Health Canada with a clear mandate to collaborate with provincial/territorial and local governments across Canada in reviewing legislation governing all aspects of drinking water from source to consumption to ensure that comprehensive programs are in place and being properly implemented. 21) That Health Canada urgently review the Quarantine Act and modernize its provisions. 1. Introduction This submission is the response of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) to Health Canada's request for feedback on its detailed "Health Protection Legislative Renewal" legislative proposal released in June 2003. Our submission calls for and is embedded in the broader context of a comprehensive approach to public health. It also includes recommendations dealing with selected specific issues raised in the proposal, particularly those that have a potential major impact on physicians and other health professionals, and on the practice of medicine. The Canadian Medical Association supports the government's efforts to update and revitalize health protection legislation. Physicians are committed to working with others to realize the vision of a comprehensive, robust public health strategy as a vital component of Canada's health care system, in order to realize Canada's potential as a healthy nation. Recent headlines illustrate the diversity of public health challenges facing Canadians: * The spread of avian flu across Asia, and the reappearance of SARS in China; * Reports linking the use of Selective Serotonin Reutake Inhibitor antidepressants to increased suicide and other behavioural disorders in children and adolescents, which led to a public warning against their use in this population; * The rapidly rising rates of obesity in Canada and other developed countries. To deal with these problems and others, a comprehensive public health strategy is required. This strategy should rest upon three pillars: emergency response, health protection and health promotion (Figure 1). Each of these pillars is discussed in greater detail in the following section. 2. Three Pillars of a Canadian Public Health Strategy a) Pillar #1: Emergency Response The 2003 SARS outbreak shone a merciless light on the difficulties that Canada's stretched public health system can encounter when it needs to respond to health emergencies. The 21st century has brought a disturbing array of new public health risks (such as avian flu) and old risks revisited (such as contamination of water supplies). A comprehensive public health strategy should be able address these risks by: * Empowering rapid and effective response to health emergencies, e.g. communicable disease outbreaks, water contamination, bio-terrorist attacks. * Supporting health surveillance, screening and research, to identify potential health risks. [FIGURE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Figure 1. The Three Pillars of Public Health [FIGURE END] CMA Position: CMA's 2003 submission to the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health (the Executive Summary is attached as Appendix I) recommended a number of measures to strengthen Canada's capacity to respond to health emergencies. These included: * The enactment of a Canada Emergency Health Measures Act to allow for a more rapid national response to emergencies that pose an acute and imminent threat to human health and safety in Canada. * The creation of an independent Canada Public Health Agency, headed by a Chief Public Health Officer of Canada who would work with provinces and territories to develop and implement a pan-Canadian public health action plan. * Enhancements to the current system of disease surveillance and response, so that it remains privacy sensitive and ensures a two-way flow of information between public health experts and front-line clinicians. In 2004 CMA reiterated these recommendations to the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of State for Public Health, in response to her request for consultation on a Canada Public Health Agency. b) Pillar #2: Health Protection The Health Protection function ensures that Canadians are protected from health risks in their daily environment; for example, risks associated with the use of health or consumer products, or with the potential spread of infectious disease. Specific health protection functions include: * Ensuring that Canadians have access to the right pharmaceutical drugs, which have been proven safe and efficacious, at the right times, for the right prices. Our policy in this area is further discussed in our 2003 submission to the House Standing Committee on Health's review of prescription drugs, an executive summary of which is attached (Appendix II). * Monitoring Canada's pharmaceutical drug supply to ensure its safety, effectiveness and continued availability. * Ensuring the safety of natural health products, medical devices, hazardous products and other consumer products. This should include the regulation of toxic substances, including tobacco. * Regulating health claims for consumer products. * Monitoring the advertising and promotion of health products to the public. * Administering quarantine procedures. * Developing regulatory frameworks to ensure the safety and effectiveness of new technologies such as gene therapy and genetically modified foods. CMA Position: The principles that CMA believes should guide review of health protection legislation are discussed in Section 3. c) Pillar #3: Health Promotion and Disease Prevention For more than 30 years the federal government has incorporated the promotion of health, as well as the treatment of disease, into its mandate. Activities undertaken in pursuit of this function include: * Programs to encourage healthy behaviours, e.g. physical activity strategies. * Advocating for or implementing public policy that supports health e.g. bans on tobacco advertising and sponsorship, and fiscal policies, such as high tobacco taxes. * Research strategies to increase our understanding of the determinants of health. CMA Position: The CMA has called on the federal government to commit to the goal of establishing Canada as the top country in the world with regard to the health status of its citizens. Canada remains one of the few countries in the industrialized world without a clear statement of national health goals, targets and strategies. All levels of government should enable the Health Council of Canada to monitor and report on defined health goals and priorities. In addition, the CMA has developed policies and statements urging action on specific health promotion issues including: obesity control; injury prevention; physical activity; tobacco control; mental health; and many others. Though these three pillars have different foci and different legislative instruments, they must all be part of a comprehensive legislative agenda and strategy to renew and enhance public health and public health service delivery in Canada. Addressing issues under one pillar without reference to the other pillars or to a comprehensive public health framework and strategy fails to address the overall public health needs of Canadians. Recommendation 1. That the federal government ensure that legislative and administrative measures related to public health complement one another in function and are connected through communications and co-ordination mechanisms. 3. A Policy Framework for Health Protection Legislation This submission is a response to a legislative proposal regarding health protection; consequently the rest of this document will focus on the second of the three pillars described above, the "health protection" pillar. This section discusses the overall policy framework that the CMA believes should govern health protection in Canada. The CMA holds that health protection legislation should rest on the following principles: i) Primacy of Health and Safety. Legislation should commit to protection of public health and safety as its primary objective. ii) Core Values. Legislation should recognize the core values of Canadians, such as privacy of health and personal information, freedom of choice, and protection of vulnerable citizens, and be sensitive to cultural, gender, socio-economic and other factors where relevant. Where there is a conflict between Principle (i) and other values, this conflict and the grounds on which to resolve it should be explicitly stated. iii) Evidence-based Decision Making. Legislation should reflect a commitment to scientific, evidence-based decision making. It should provide for the requisite mechanisms to ensure that reviews of risk are independent and unbiased. iv) The Risk Assessment Process. Legislation should reflect a thorough risk-analysis procedure including risk assessment and evaluation. The pre-approval scrutiny to which a product1 is subjected should be based on its relative risk: regulatory requirements should be greater for products with greater risk and lower for those with less risk. Risk assessment should take into account risk to the community as well as to individuals. While the risk assessment process should be science-based, it should also recognize that public perception might influence the management and communication of risk. In areas of risk uncertainty, application of the precautionary principle could be considered on a case-by-case basis. v) General Safety Requirement. The CMA supports the proposal to include in the legislation a General Safety Requirement that would make it illegal for anyone to manufacture, promote or market a product that may present an undue risk to health, under reasonably foreseeable conditions of use. However, this overall requirement should not be used as a substitute for enacting regulations to cover specific products if evidence indicates that such regulations are necessary to protect public health. Nor should it be used as a rationale for relaxing regulatory regimes currently in place. vi) Support for Informed Patient Decision-Making. Legislation should ensure that Canadians have access to reliable, evidence-based information to support them in making decisions regarding their own health, and should ensure that the information they receive is not misleading or deceptive. vii) Accountability. Legislation should ensure that there is clear accountability for decision-making, and that this is vested in the Government of Canada. viii) Surveillance. Legislation should ensure comprehensive, effective post-marketing surveillance of drugs and other health products. This should be co-coordinated with surveillance and research programs governed by related public health acts such as the proposed Canada Emergency Health Measures Act. ix) Enforcement. Legislation should provide and enforce effective, meaningful penalties for noncompliance. x) Flexibility. Legislation should allow for flexibility in product approval, consistent with Principle i, in order to quickly and efficiently accommodate emerging issues (such as new technologies) developed in Canada and internationally. xi) Openness and Transparency. Legislation should operate transparently, incorporating ongoing, two-way communication with stakeholders, including health professionals and the public. xii) Working with Others. Legislation should encourage collaboration and co-operation with other federal departments, with provinces and territories, and with non-governmental and international organizations. At the same time it should respect existing jurisdictions and existing legislative and administrative mechanisms. 4. Impact of Health Protection Legislation on Medical Practice Physicians, along with other health professionals, play an important role in maintaining high health standards and communicating appropriate health information to Canadians. Some of the proposals included in the legislative proposal could have a significant positive or negative impact on medical practice. These include: a) The Drug Review Process Stakeholders have repeatedly drawn attention to the slowness and secrecy of Canada's drug approval process. Between 1996 and 1998 Canadian approval times (median 518 days) were significantly longer than Sweden (median 371 days), the UK (median 308 days) and the United States (median 369 days). These have not improved significantly even after Health Canada implemented a cost-recovery approach to funding drug reviews. In addition, the review process may not distinguish genuinely new and innovative "breakthrough" drugs from imitations of products already on the market. The legislative proposal discusses possible means of modernizing the drug review process, including co-operative agreements with comparable drug review agencies in other jurisdictions, and establishment of a mechanism for public comments. The CMA approves both these suggestions. To ensure that Canadians have access to the right drugs for their conditions as quickly as is consistent with safety, the CMA recommends: Recommendations 2. That the federal government implement a timely and efficient drug review process to reduce review times to the fastest level consistent with ensuring improved health outcomes and the safety of the drug supply. 3. That the federal government consider co-operative agreements for drug review with comparable agencies in Europe, the United States and Australia, while retaining final authority as to whether a new product should be allowed on the Canadian market. 4. That the drug review and approval process be open and transparent, providing updates on review status and the opportunity for stakeholder input. 5. That Health Canada apply a priority review process to "breakthrough" drugs, i.e. those that demonstrate a substantial improvement over products already on the market. b) Patient Safety and Post-marketing surveillance Recent reports have drawn public attention to the need for a rigourous, well-resourced post-marketing surveillance system to monitor the ongoing safety of marketed drugs and other health products in Canada. CMA strongly recommends that Health Canada work in partnership with stakeholders to develop such a system. The system should be non-punitive, supporting a "culture of safety" rather than one of blame, and should respect the privacy of patients and physicians. In this context the CMA supports the establishment of the Patient Safety Institute. In developing its post-marketing surveillance capacity, Health Canada should ensure that sufficient resources are in place to enable the system to: * Facilitate the reporting of adverse reactions by health professionals and others. The CMA supports activities that encourage the voluntary reporting of adverse reactions by physicians and others. For example, to facilitate timely and comprehensive reporting, forms should be easily accessible and the reporting process should be computerized, simple and transparent. * Collect and analyze data and produce information that health care professionals and policy makers can use in decision-making at the population level. With appropriate privacy safeguards, this information could also be used for a number of research purposes, e.g. monitoring the importation and use of drugs not yet licensed in Canada; ascertaining best practices in prescribing. * Communicate this information back to the provider in real time. The importance of real-time two-way communication with front-line practitioners and institutions cannot be overstated. The CMA has repeatedly called for sustained and substantial investment in a Health Communications and Coordination Initiative to improve the technical capacity of front-line health providers to communicate in real time with one another and with the rest of the health care system. This is a critical endeavour and should be undertaken immediately, using funds established for health surveillance in the March 2004 Federal Budget, and implemented within the next 6 months. This network could form the cornerstone of an adverse drug reaction reporting system. Recommendations: 6. That Health Canada work in partnership with stakeholders including CMA and other national medical and other health professional associations, to develop a rigourous post-marketing surveillance system to monitor the ongoing safety of marketed drugs. 7. That government accelerate activities to establish the Patient Safety Institute using a systems approach to support a culture of safety. 8. That all stakeholders join in supporting and encouraging outcome-based research to ascertain best practices in prescribing. 9. That the federal government invest in measures such as electronic communications networks, to increase physicians' capacity to report medication incidents and improve the timeliness of adverse event reporting. c) Drug Information and Advertising CMA believes that the public has a right to unbiased, accurate information on drugs and other therapeutic products. This information should be provided in accordance with CMA's "Principles for Providing Information about Prescription Drugs to Consumers" (Appendix III). Brand-specific product advertising is a less than optimal way of providing this information, and should be carefully monitored to discourage fraudulent or misleading claims. In particular, direct to consumer advertising of prescription drugs should not be permitted in Canada. Physicians and their associations are willing to work with Health Canada and other stakeholders in developing and disseminating accurate, unbiased information to the public and to health professionals about drugs and other health products. Recommendations: 10. That all stakeholders work to ensure that Canadians have ready access to a source of comprehensive, reliable information on health products and their uses, and that governments fund development and dissemination of validated information to physicians and to the public. 11. That the legislation define "promotion" and "advertising" so as to clearly distinguish them from unbiased health information, and from counselling by health professionals. 12. That the current safeguards against deception in advertising be strengthened in order to * Forbid fraudulent or misleading health claims in advertisements, on labels or in any other promotional or descriptive material pertaining to the product; * Ensure pre-clearance and ongoing review of all health claims by an objective agency; * Provide meaningful penalties for infraction. 13. That Health Canada maintain the current ban on advertising health products for treatment, prevention and cure of conditions or disease states to be identified in a regulatory schedule or administrative list; the inclusion of conditions in this list should be determined through a set of criteria that are written into the Act or regulations. 14. That the existing ban on direct to consumer advertising of prescription drugs be maintained and enforced to the full extent of the law, and that the loophole that currently permits advertising the name, price and quantity of a prescription drug be closed. 15. That all stakeholders, including medical associations and industry groups, work together toward effective regulation of drug promotion to health practitioners. d) Safeguarding the privacy of health information Patients must be able to feel assured that anything they tell their physicians will remain confidential, imparted to others only to the extent necessary to ensure optimal care. Accordingly, the privacy and confidentiality of patient-specific and physician-specific information should be safeguarded to the fullest extent possible. New technologies, e.g. electronic health records, have made the transfer of information simpler and more efficient. They have also made it more vulnerable to infringements on a patient's right to privacy. Several important pieces of legislation to safeguard privacy have already been enacted. In addition, the CMA has developed a Privacy Code (Appendix IV) that discusses confidentiality issues specific to health information. Section 3.6 of this Code contains a legislative test to which all proposed legislation, including the Health Protection Act, should be submitted. Recommendations 16. That the Health Protection Act respect the provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Federal Privacy Act and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). 17. That the privacy provisions in the Health Protection Act meet the legislative test outlined in Section 3.6 of CMA's Health Information Privacy Code. e) Other Issues The legislative proposal discusses giving Health Canada the power to develop guidelines or regulatory frameworks for specific circumstances, e.g. for new products and technologies such as genetically modified foods; or for situations in which the health of the public may otherwise be at risk, such as contamination of drinking water. In addition, the proposal discusses the possibility of modernizing existing laws that have become outdated. The CMA supports the direction of these proposals. The Quarantine Act, for example, is a piece of legislation the CMA believe merits urgent updating; new legislation should incorporate quarantine provisions for possible vectors leaving as well as entering Canada, and for inter-provincial as well as international traffic. With regard to specific issues not addressed elsewhere in this submission, the CMA recommends: Recommendations 18. That the Health Protection Act give Health Canada a clear mandate to develop guidance documents to address health and safety issues raised by new technologies. 19. That Natural Health Products be regulated on a strict framework that ensures their safety, quality and efficacy as well as the provision of complete and unbiased information to the public. 20. That the Act provide Health Canada with a clear mandate to collaborate with provincial/ territorial and local governments across Canada in reviewing legislation governing all aspects of drinking water from source to consumption to ensure that comprehensive programs are in place and being properly implemented. 21. That Health Canada urgently review the Quarantine Act and modernize its provisions. 5. Conclusion Health protection is one of three pillars of an effective public health system, along with rapid and effective emergency response, and programs and policies to maintain health and prevent disease. The CMA is pleased to have been able to advise governments on all of these pillars, in order to establish the health of Canadians on a strong foundation. We look forward to continued consultation with Health Canada on the proposed Health Protection Act, both on its overall framework and on specific issues of concern to the medical profession. We trust that the result will be strong legislation, founded on fair and enduring principles, to safeguard the health and security of Canadians. APPENDIX I Answering the Wake-up Call: CMA's Public Health Action Plan CMA Submission to Naylor Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health (Executive Summary) The public health system in Canada lies at the heart of our community values. It is the quintessential "public good" and is central to the continued good health of our population. When the public health system is working well, few are even aware that it is at work! Only when something goes terribly wrong - like the Walkerton tragedy or when we are faced with a new threat like SARS - is the integral, ongoing role of public health really recognized. The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) has been warning that our public health system is stretched to capacity in dealing with everyday demands, let alone responding to the latest crises. Canada's physicians have repeatedly called for governments to enhance public health capacity and strengthen the public health infrastructure throughout Canada. Our public health system is the first - and often the only - line of defence against emerging and ongoing infectious and noninfectious threats to the health of Canadians. But we are only as strong as the weakest link in the emergency response chain of survival. As most health threats know no boundaries, our public health armaments must be in a constant state of "battle readiness." In today's climate of SARS, West Nile Virus, mad cow disease and monkey pox, even the thought that the public health system may be stretched beyond capacity strikes fear into the hearts of Canadians. Physicians have always been an integral part of the public health system serving as medical officers of health, community health specialists and other related roles. Indeed public health cannot successfully fulfill its mandate without the cooperation and commitment of front-line clinicians. In this submission, we reflect on the lessons to be learned from our recent experience with SARS and reflect on the longer-term needs of the public health system as a whole. The objectives of the pan-Canadian Public Health Action Plan proposed by the CMA are, first to realize a clearer alignment of authority and accountability in times of extraordinary health emergencies; and, second, to enhance the system's capacity to respond to public health threats across the country (see recommendations, below). To achieve these twin objectives, three broad strategies are presented for immediate attention. They are legislative reform; capacity enhancement; and research, surveillance and communications. Legislative reform (see recommendations 1-3) The country's response to SARS has brought into stark relief the urgent need for national leadership and coordination of public health activity across the country, especially during a health crisis. The apparent reluctance to act quickly to institute screening at airports, the delay in unifying the practice community for a concerted response and the appalling communications confusion worked against optimum handling of the outbreak - despite the best efforts of health care professionals. This is a wake-up call that highlights the need for comprehensive legislative reform to clarify the roles of governments with respect to the management of public health threats. A renewed and enhanced national commitment to public health should be anchored in new federal legislation to be negotiated with the provinces and territories. Specifically, the CMA recommends an Emergency Health Measures Act, to deal with emergent situations in tandem with the creation of a Canadian public health agency headed by a Chief Public Health Officer of Canada. Capacity enhancement (see recommendations 4-7) The SARS crisis has demonstrated the diminished capacity within the public health system. The Greater Toronto Area (GTA), with one of Canada's most sophisticated public and acute health systems, has not been able to manage the SARS crisis adequately and carry on other health programs. The acute care system virtually ground to a halt in dealing with SARS. There was little or no surge capacity in Canada's largest city. We should be grateful that SARS did not first strike a smaller centre in a far less-advantaged region of Canada. A critical element of the public health system is its workforce and the health professionals within the acute care system, such as hospital-based infectious disease specialists and emergency physicians who are the front-line interface. Let there be no doubt that the ongoing efforts of the GTA front-line providers are nothing short of heroic. However, the lack of coordinated contingency planning of hospital and community-based disease control efforts was striking. The overall shortage of critical care professionals and the inability of governments to quickly deploy the required professionals to areas of need contributed to the enormous strain on the public and health care system. Considering the importance of the public health system and its clearly limited capacity to protect and promote the health of Canadians, it is incomprehensible that we do not know how much is actually spent on the system. It is imperative that public health expenditures and capacity, in terms of both physical and human resources, be tracked and reported publicly. The CMA recommends a $1-billion, 5-year capacity-enhancement program to be coordinated with and through the new Canadian public health agency. Research, surveillance and communications (see recommendations 8-10) Canada's ability to respond to public health threats and acute events, such as SARS, and to maintain its effective public health planning and program development depends on sound research, surveillance and rapid, real-time communications. A concerted pan-Canadian effort is required to take full advantage of our capacity for interdisciplinary research on public health, including infectious disease prevention and control measures. New-millennium challenges require moving beyond old-millennium responses. Enhanced surveillance is an overdue and integral part of public health, performing an essential function in early detection and response to threats of infectious diseases. Mandatory national reporting of identified diseases by all provinces and territories is critical for national and international surveillance. During times of crisis, rapid communication to the public, public health staff and front-line clinicians is of critical importance, but in many jurisdictions impossible. We tested our systems during the SARS outbreak and they came up short. The CMA recommends a one-time federal investment to enhance technical capacity to allow for real-time communication. Conclusion The CMA believes that its proposed three-pronged strategy, as set out in the attached recommendations, will go a long way toward addressing shortfalls of the Canadian public health system. Action now will help to ensure that Canadians can once again be confident that they are protected from any future threat of new infectious diseases. Action now will help Canada regain its position as a leader in public health. We wish the advisory committee well in its deliberations and offer the CMA's assistance at any time in clarifying the strategies set out in our submission. Recommendations to the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health Legislative reform ($20 million / 5 years*) 1. The enactment of a Canada Emergency Health Measures Act that would consolidate and enhance existing legislation, allowing for a more rapid national response, in cooperation with the provinces and territories, based on a graduated, systematic approach, to health emergencies that pose an acute and imminent threat to human health and safety across Canada. 2. The creation of a Canadian Office for Disease Surveillance and Control (CODSC) as the lead Canadian agency in public health, operating at arm's length from government. 3. The appointment of a Chief Public Health Officer of Canada to act as the lead scientific voice for public health in Canada; to head the Canadian Office for Disease Surveillance and Control; and to work with provinces and territories to develop and implement a pan-Canadian public health action plan. Capacity enhancement ( $1.2 billion / 5 years*) 4. The creation of a Canadian Centre of Excellence for Public Health, under the auspices of the CODSC, to invest in multidisciplinary training programs in public health, establish and disseminate best practices among public health professionals. 5. The establishment of a Canadian Public Health Emergency Response Service, under the auspices of the CODSC, to provide for the rapid deployment of human resources (e.g., emergency pan-Canadian locum programs) during health emergencies. 6. Tracking and public reporting of public health expenditures and capacity (both physical and human resources) by the Canadian Institute for Health Information and Statistics Canada, on behalf of the proposed Canadian Office for Disease Surveillance and Control. 7. Federal government funding in the amount of $1 Billion over 5 years to build adequate and consistent surge capacity across Canada and improve coordination among federal, provincial/territorial and municipal authorities to fulfill essential public health functions. Research, surveillance and communications ($310 million / 5 years*) 8. An immediate, sequestered grant of $200 million over 5 years to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to initiate an enhanced conjoint program of research with the Institute of Population and Public Health and the Institute of Infection and Immunity that will expand capacity for interdisciplinary research on public health, including infectious disease prevention and control measures. 9. The mandatory reporting by provinces and territories of identified infectious diseases to the newly established Chief Public Health Officer of Canada to enable appropriate communications, analyses and intervention. 10. The one-time infusion of $100 million, with an additional $2 million a year, for a "REAL" (rapid, effective, accessible and linked) Health Communication and Coordination Initiative to improve technical capacity to communicate with front line public health providers in real time during health emergencies. APPENDIX II The Right Drugs, at the Right Times, for the Right Prices: Toward a Prescription Drug Policy for Canada CMA Submission to House of Commons Standing Committee on Health Every year, three hundred million prescriptions - about 10 for every man, woman and child - are filled in Canada. Prescription drugs have benefited both the health of Canadians, and the health care system itself; they have meant dramatically improved quality of life for many Canadians, and have saved the country a great deal in hospitalization, social benefits and other expenses. However, it could be questioned whether all of Canada's prescription drug use is appropriate; patients may be receiving too few medications, too many medications or suboptimal medications for their conditions. In addition, prescription drugs carry a price tag of their own. Since 1975, expenditures on prescription medication have risen faster than any other category in the health sector in Canada, and more is now spent on prescription drugs than on physician services. Governments, health care providers, drug manufacturers and the public must constantly strive to ensure that Canadians receive optimal and appropriate prescription drug therapy: the right drugs, at the right times, for the right prices. A considered, coherent, comprehensive, "made in Canada" approach to prescription drug policy should: * Put the health of the patient first; * Promote and enhance quality prescribing; * Respect, sustain and enhance the therapeutic relationship between patients and health professionals; * Promote patient compliance with drug therapy; * Respect the principles of patient confidentiality and the privacy of patient and prescriber information. Prescription drug policy in Canada should address: Access: to * efficacious new drugs within an appropriate time; * coverage for medically necessary drugs for catastrophic care; * generic drugs at reasonable prices; * a patient/physician consultation as part of the prescribing process; * continued research and development capacity in Canada. Information for health care providers and the public that is balanced and accurate. Safety: through mechanisms for the systematic monitoring of prescription drugs and their effects. Canada's doctors are committed to working with others to ensure that Canadians receive the right drugs, at the right times, for the right prices. Summary of CMA Recommendations: 1. That the federal government implement a timely and efficient drug review process to reduce review times to a level at or better than that in other OECD countries. 2. That the pharmaceutical industry give priority to research and development on drugs and delivery mechanisms that demonstrate a substantial improvement over products already on the market. 3. That Health Canada apply a priority review process to all drugs that demonstrate a substantial improvement over products already on the market. 4. That governments and insurance providers conduct research to identify the current gaps in prescription drug coverage for all Canadians, and develop policy options for providing this coverage, including consideration of the roles of public and private payers. 5. That the federal government monitor and, if necessary, regulate the export of prescription medications to ensure their continued availability to Canadians. 6. That prescribing of medication be done within the context of the therapeutic relationship which exists between the patient and the physician. 7. That brand-specific direct to consumer prescription drug advertising (DTCA) not be permitted in Canada, 8. That the federal government enforce the existing restrictions on DTCA found in the Food and Drug Act to the full extent of the law. 9. That the federal government develop and fund a comprehensive program to provide accurate, unbiased prescription drug information to patients. 10. That all stakeholders join in supporting and encouraging outcome-based research to ascertain best practices in prescribing. 11. That government accelerate activities to establish the Patient Safety Institute using a systems approach to support a culture of safety. 12. That a post-marketing surveillance system be implemented to monitor the ongoing safety of marketed drugs. APPENDIX III CMA POLICY Principles for Providing Information about Prescription Drugs to Consumers Approved by the CMA Board of Directors, March 2003 Since the late 1990's expenditures on direct to consumer advertising (DTCA) of prescription drugs in the United States have increased many-fold. Though U.S.-style DTCA is not legal in Canada 2 , it reaches Canadians through cross-border transmission of print and broadcast media, and through the Internet. It is believed to have affected drug sales and patient behaviour in Canada. Other therapeutic products, such as vaccines and diagnostic tests, are also being marketed directly to the public. Proponents of DTCA argue that they are providing consumers with much-needed information on drugs and the conditions they treat. Others argue that the underlying intent of such advertising is to increase revenue or market share, and that it therefore cannot be interpreted as unbiased information. The CMA believes that consumers have a right to accurate information on prescription medications and other therapeutic interventions, to enable them to make informed decisions about their own health. This information is especially necessary as more and more Canadians live with chronic conditions, and as we anticipate the availability of new products that may accompany the "biological revolution", e.g. gene therapies. The CMA recommends a review of current mechanisms, including mass media communications, for providing this information to the public. CMA believes that consumer information on prescription drugs should be provided according to the following principles. 3 Principle #1: The Goal is Good Health The ultimate measure of the effectiveness of consumer drug information should be its impact on the health and well-being of Canadians and the quality of health care. Principle #2: Ready Access Canadians should have ready access to credible, high-quality information about prescription drugs. The primary purpose of this information should be education; sales of drugs must not be a concern to the originator. Principle #3: Patient Involvement Consumer drug information should help Canadians make informed decisions regarding management of their health, and facilitate informed discussion with their physicians and other health professionals. CMA encourages Canadians to become educated about their own health and health care, and to appraise health information critically. Principle #4: Evidence-Based Content Consumer drug information should be evidence based, using generally accepted prescribing guidelines as a source where available. Principle #5: Appropriate Information Consumer drug information should be based as much as possible on drug classes and use of generic names; if discussing brand-name drugs the discussion should not be limited to a single specific brand, and brand names should always be preceded by generic names. It should provide information on the following: * indications for use of the drug * contraindications * side effects * relative cost. In addition, consumer drug information should discuss the drug in the context of overall management of the condition for which it is indicated (for example, information about other therapies, lifestyle management and coping strategies). Principle #6: Objectivity of Information Sources Consumer drug information should be provided in such a way as to minimize the impact of vested commercial interests on the information content. Possible sources include health care providers, or independent research agencies. Pharmaceutical manufacturers and patient or consumer groups can be valuable partners in this process but must not be the sole providers of information. Federal and provincial/territorial governments should provide appropriate sustaining support for the development and maintenance of up-to-date consumer drug information. Principle #7: Endorsement/ Accreditation Consumer drug information should be endorsed or accredited by a reputable and unbiased body. Information that is provided to the public through mass media channels should be pre-cleared by an independent board. Principle #8: Monitoring and Revision Consumer drug information should be continually monitored to ensure that it correctly reflects current evidence, and updated when research findings dictate. Principle #9: Physicians as Partners Consumer drug information should support and encourage open patient-physician communication, so that the resulting plan of care, including drug therapy, is mutually satisfactory. Physicians play a vital role in working with patients and other health-care providers to achieve optimal drug therapy, not only through writing prescriptions but through discussing proposed drugs and their use in the context of the overall management of the patient's condition. In addition, physicians and other health care providers, and their associations, can play a valuable part in disseminating drug and other health information to the public. Principle #10: Research and Evaluation Ongoing research should be conducted into the impact of drug information and DTCA on the health care system, with particular emphasis on its effect on appropriateness of prescribing, and on health outcomes. APPENDIX VI CMA POLICY HEALTH INFORMATION PRIVACY CODE This Code articulates principles for protecting the privacy of patients, the confidentiality and security of their health information and the trust and integrity of the therapeutic relationship. Its provisions are more exacting than those currently in place in the Canadian health care system. Although a patchwork of laws across Canada permit or require health information collection, use, disclosure and access without patient consent, or even knowledge, this Code would require that all of these laws and any proposed laws be reviewed for consistency with its provisions. Moreover, existing practices and initiatives concerning health information collection, use, disclosure and access, including health information systems or networks, may be contrary to patient expectations and the physician's duty of confidentiality. These practices and initiatives must also be reviewed for consistency with this Code. Many laws, practices and initiatives may not withstand the kind of scrutiny deemed necessary and reasonable for the protection of privacy and the trust and integrity of the therapeutic relationship. CMA issues this Code in recognition that its implementation raises numerous issues and challenges, and that the changes it envisions will require time and the expenditure of resources. CMA appreciates that, given the complexity of the health care system, agreement and cooperation among a wide range of users and collectors of health information will be essential to the successful implementation of this Code. In view of these challenges, CMA issues this Code to the Canadian health care community at this time as an ideal to strive for, to guide and coordinate the efforts that need to be made to protect the privacy of patients, the confidentiality and security of their health information and the trust and integrity of the therapeutic relationship. Moreover, this Code is issued in the understanding that those to whom it applies will not be able to achieve full compliance with its provisions until such time as numerous implementation issues have been clarified and resolved through cooperation and the coordinated efforts of many different stakeholders. Consequently, companion implementation documents are being developed that provide for a gradual implementation of the Code's provisions over a five-year span and outline work that needs to be done to achieve the ideal it envisions. Section A: Scope This Health Information Privacy Code ("Code") has been produced by physicians to protect the privacy of their patients, the confidentiality and security of their health information and the trust and integrity of the therapeutic relationship. This Code is based on the Canadian Standards Association's Model Code for the Protection of Personal Information ("CSA Code") as a sectoral code of the CSA Code. This Code provides instruction and guidance respecting health information collection, use, disclosure and access. 1. This Code describes the minimum requirements to protect the privacy of patients and the security and confidentiality of their health information. 2. This Code has been developed by physicians in their capacity as clinicians and in recognition of their principal obligation to patients. 3. This Code recognizes the potential benefits of the use of health information for secondary purposes, including teaching, research and system planning, and contains provisions to permit such use under clearly defined terms and conditions. 4. This Code has been developed as a sectoral code of the Canadian Standards Association's Model Code for the Protection of Personal Information and consequently adopts the minimum standards contained in the CSA Code and augments them to meet the special circumstances of health information. 5. The development of this Code has been inspired by the report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, entitled Privacy: Where Do We Draw The Line? 6. The Code applies to all health information and to all individuals, groups or organizations that collect, use, disclose or access such information. Its objective is to instruct in the development and implementation of policies, practices, health information systems or networks and legislation. 7. The principles that make up this Code are interrelated. Health information custodians adopting this Code shall adhere to these principles as a whole. 8. Health information custodians must subscribe to the principles contained in this Code and agree to uphold them, but may tailor this Code by modifying or adding principles provided the changes afford no less protection to the privacy of patients and the confidentiality and security of their health information. 9. Statements containing "shall" or "must" indicate requirements that must be met by any health information custodian who wishes to adopt this Code and be recognized for having done so. The use of "should" indicates a recommendation or aspiration. Section B: Definitions The following definitions apply in this Code: "Access" means the ability to acquire or possess health information in any information format. "Accountability" means having clearly defined and understood responsibilities in connection with health information, agreeing to accept those responsibilities and being subject to appropriate sanctions for failing to fulfil accepted responsibilities. "Authorized" means that which occurs with patient consent or within the provisions of this Code and applies to purposes, collection, use and disclosure of, or access to, health information. "Authorized user" is someone permitted to collect, use, disclose or access health information under the provisions of this Code, who is properly instructed on his or her limits and responsibilities, and who can be held accountable for his or her compliance. "Collection" means the act of accessing, receiving, compiling, gathering, acquiring or obtaining health information from any source, including third parties, and by any means. It includes information collected from the patient, as well as secondary collection of this information in whole or in part by another provider or user. "Confide" and "confided" mean the revelation of information by a patient within the therapeutic context. "Confidentiality" and "confidential" mean that health information that is confided by a patient is to be kept secret and not disclosed or made accessible to others unless authorized by patient consent. A breach of confidentiality occurs whenever a health professional discloses or makes health information available to others without or inconsistent with the patient's consent. "Consent" means a patient's informed and voluntary agreement to confide or permit access to or the collection, use or disclosure of his or her health information for specific purposes. Express consent is given explicitly, either orally or in writing. Express consent is unequivocal and does not require any inference on the part of the provider seeking consent. Implied consent arises where agreement may reasonably be inferred from the action or inaction of the individual and there is good reason to believe that the patient has knowledge relevant to this agreement and would give express consent were it sought. "Disclosure" means the provision of health information to a third party for any reason, or making health information available for a third party to collect. It includes any transfer or migration of health information from one provider or user to another. "Duty of confidentiality" means the duty of physicians and other health professionals in a fiduciary relationship with patients to ensure that health information is kept secret and not disclosed or made accessible to others unless authorized by patient consent. "Emergency situations" mean those instances when health care must be provided to preserve life or prevent severe harm to a patient who is unable, owing to the circumstances, to be cognizant of the context and whose surrogate is not immediately available to make decisions on the patient's behalf. "Fiduciary duty" means the obligation to act with the utmost good faith for the benefit of another. "Health information" means any information about a patient that is confided or collected in the therapeutic context, including information created or generated from this information and information that is not directly or indirectly linked to the provision of health care. It includes all information formats. "Health information custodian" means any organization or institution that has custody, care or control of health information, and includes hospitals, regional boards, governments, corporations and solo or group medical practices. "Information format" means any form containing or recording health information, including: (a) a form that identifies or could identify a specific patient, either directly or indirectly; (b) a form that removes the link between the patient and information about him or her and which could, either directly or indirectly, be manipulated to reconnect the link between the patient and information about him or her ("deidentified-relinkable"); (c) a form that removes the link between the patient and information about him or her with the intent of preventing any reconnection of the link between the patient and information about him or her in accordance with recognized standards ("anonymous"); or (d) the composite form produced when health information is linked to any information about the patient from any other source, whether or not it is also health information. "Integrity of health information" means the preservation of its content throughout storage, use, transfer and retrieval so that there is confidence that the information has not been tampered with or modified other than as authorized. "Health professional" is any person having a fiduciary duty to patients who is registered and entitled by provincial or territorial law to practise or provide health care in that province or territory. "Knowledge" means the patient's awareness of what can or must happen with the health information he or she confides or permits to be collected. "Linkage" is the joining together of health information with information from any other source or database, in whatever form. When health information is linked to any other information, the composite is also health information. "Nonconsensual" collection, use, disclosure or access, whether justified or not, occurs without a patient's consent and contravenes the patient's right of privacy. "Patient" means the person about whom health information is collected and, for the purposes of this Code, may also mean a surrogate or guardian acting on behalf of this person. "Physician" means a person who is registered and entitled under the laws of a province or territory to practise medicine in that province or territory. "Primary" means that which occurs for the therapeutic benefit of a particular patient. Secondary means not directly related to the therapeutic benefit of the particular patient from whom the information has originated. "Purpose" means an end or aim for which health information is collected, used, disclosed or accessed. A description of purpose can be general enough to incorporate a range of like information uses provided that the generic description is sufficiently narrow and limited so as to communicate to the ordinary person a clear understanding of the potential information uses that could reasonably be expected to be relevant to their consent. The primary therapeutic purpose is the delivery of health care to a particular patient with respect to a particular and immediate health need or problem. It encompasses consultation with and referral to other providers on a need-to-know basis. A primary longitudinal purpose concerns developing composite health information about a particular patient, such as a detailed medical history, beyond direct application to any particular and immediate health need or problem, in order to enhance ongoing care to that person. Secondary legislated purposes have been subjected to the legislative test specified in this Code and have subsequently been written in law. Secondary nonlegislated purposes are any other purposes, such as education or research not governed by legislation, that meet the provisions of this Code and the secondary nonlegislative test provided by this Code. "Provider" means a health professional or institution that delivers health care services or products in the therapeutic context. "Right of privacy" includes a patient's right to determine with whom he or she will share information and to know of and exercise control over use, disclosure and access concerning any information collected about him or her; it entails the right of consent. Nonconsensual collection, use, disclosure or access violates the right of privacy, even if it is justified. "Security" means reasonable precautions, including physical and technical protocols, to protect health information from unauthorized collection, use, disclosure and access, and to ensure that the integrity of the information is properly safeguarded. A breach of security occurs whenever health information is collected, used, disclosed or accessed other than as authorized, or its integrity compromised. "Sensitivity" of health information refers to the patient's interest in keeping the information secret. It varies according to the nature of the information, its form, and the potential negative repercussions of its collection, use or disclosure on the patient's interests. "Therapeutic context" means a setting in which information is confided by or collected from, about or on behalf of a patient who: (a) is in a therapeutic relationship with or under the care of a physician or health professional; (b) is resident in or seeking health care within a facility or institution whose principal purpose is the provision of health care, including physicians' offices, hospitals and other health care facilities; (c) confides information within a fiduciary relationship to a health care professional and with the belief that the health care professional will maintain its confidentiality, subject to very limited exceptions; or (d) confides information in the belief that it is necessary for the safe, timely and effective delivery of health care. "Transparency and openness" are the characteristics of policies, procedures and practices that seek to ensure that patients know what can or must happen with the health information they confide or permit to be collected, used, accessed or disclosed. "Use of health information" means any processing of health information including storage, retention, retrieval, manipulation, connection or linkage to other sources of information in any format. Section C: Principles Principle 1: The Right of Privacy The right of privacy is fundamental in a free and democratic society. It includes a patient's right to determine with whom he or she will share information and to know of and exercise control over use, disclosure and access concerning any information collected about him or her. The right of privacy and consent are essential to the trust and integrity of the patient-physician relationship. Nonconsensual collection, use, access or disclosure violates the patient's right of privacy. The right of privacy is important and worthy of protection, not just for the good of individuals in society but also for the good of society as a whole. 1.1 Canadians are entitled to expect and enjoy fundamental privacy rights and guarantees, which include: (a) physical, bodily and psychological integrity and privacy; (b) privacy of personal information; (c) freedom from surveillance; (d) privacy of personal communications; and (e) privacy of personal space. 1.2 The basic duties owed to others to ensure that their privacy rights are adequately respected include: (a) the duty to ensure consent; (b) the duty to take all the steps necessary to respect adequately others' privacy rights or, if their rights must be infringed, to interfere with privacy as little as possible; (c) the duty to be accountable; (d) the duty to be transparent; and (e) the duty to build privacy protection features into technological systems and designs. 1.3 The specific duties related to the protection of the patient's right of privacy in health information include: (a) the duty to hold health care information in trust; (b) the duty to limit information collection to what is necessary and justifiable for the benefit of the patient; (c) the duty to ensure that patients are informed by reasonable means about purposes for collection, use, disclosure or access at or before the time of collection, including the potential for such to occur nonconsensually; (d) the duty to ensure that the information is accurately recorded; (e) the duty to ensure consent by reasonable means, except in limited circumstances where the right of privacy and of consent are justifiably infringed by some compelling right, good or duty; (f) the duty to ensure that the right of privacy and the right to consent are infringed no more than is necessary by the compelling right, good or duty; (g) the duty to use and disclose health information only as consistent with the purposes identified at or before the time it was collected; (h) the duty to keep health information only for as long as necessary to fulfil identified purposes; (i) the duty not to disadvantage people because they elect to exercise their right of privacy; and (j) the duty of physicians and other health professionals to hold information in confidence. 1.4 Although the patient's interests and concerns about health information may vary depending on the sensitivity of the information, the right of privacy extends to all health information in whatever format. Principle 2: Special Nature of Health Information Governing principles and rules for health information must recognize the patient's right of privacy in health information, its highly sensitive nature, the circumstances of vulnerability and trust under which it is confided or collected, and the fiduciary duties of health professionals in relation to this information. The patient-physician relationship as defined by trust and a professional promise of confidentiality is a societal good worthy of protection. 2.1 Principles and rules governing health information must recognize: (a) its high level of sensitivity and protect the patient's right of privacy accordingly; (b) that the principal purpose for confiding and collecting this information is to benefit the patient; (c) that in the therapeutic context patients may be vulnerable and under duress, and must not be subjected to manipulation, coercion or exploitation; (d) that patients confide information to physicians and other health professionals under a very special trust, and that physicians and other health professionals have fiduciary duties to patients, including a duty to hold information in confidence. 2.2 Principles and rules governing health information must ensure that physicians and other health professionals can discharge their fiduciary duties and therefore shall take into account that: (a) patients may be in a situation of vulnerability owing to infirmity or incapacity, urgent need, lack of knowledge and power, or simply because they have needs and have to rely or depend upon providers to meet those needs; (b) patients confide information that is ordinarily considered by them to be private because they have certain needs that require the care of a provider and believe the information is required by the provider to help meet those needs; (c) were it not for those needs, and the expectation that the provider can help patients meet them, the occasion for the collection of the health information would not exist and the information would remain private; (d) were it not for the reputation of health professionals for trustworthiness and the expectation that information disclosed to them will be held in confidence, patients would be less willing to confide health information fully and truthfully in the therapeutic context; and (e) to the extent that provisions for health information inhibit patients from confiding health information fully and truthfully, their health care will be adversely affected. Principle 3: Constraints on Purposes and Limitation on Collection, Use, Disclosure and Access The principal purpose for the collection of health information is to benefit the patient who confides or permits information to be collected for a therapeutic purpose. Secondary purposes for the use of the information shall not be pursued if they inhibit patients from confiding information for the primary purpose, exploit patients' vulnerability, compromise the ability of physicians to discharge their fiduciary duties to patients or borrow on the trust patients invest in physicians for the primary therapeutic purpose. Collection, use, disclosure or access for secondary purposes shall be restricted to what is necessary for those purposes and shall not impede the confiding or collection of information for primary purposes. Nonconsensual access to and collection, use or disclosure of health information is a violation of a patient's right of privacy, compromises the physician's duty of confidentiality and is potentially disruptive of the trust and integrity of the therapeutic relationship. Therefore, it must only occur in very limited circumstances - namely emergency situations, in accordance with legislation that meets the requirements of this Code, or in response to a court decision or order. Even consensual collection, use, disclosure or access may erode the right of privacy and the trust and integrity of the therapeutic relationship. Therefore, it must only occur with due consideration of possible negative impacts and with measures designed to maximize privacy protection. 3.1 Provided that the principles contained in this Code are adhered to, and in particular that the principles related to patient consent are rigorously applied, health information may be collected, used, disclosed or accessed for the following purposes: (a) Primary purposes: (i) Primary therapeutic purpose is the initial reason for a patient seeking or receiving care in the therapeutic context, and pertains to the delivery of health care to a particular patient with respect to the presenting health need or problem. It encompasses consultation with and referral to other providers on a need-to-know basis. (ii) Primary longitudinal purpose concerns developing composite health information about a particular patient, such as a detailed medical history, beyond direct application to the presenting health need or problem, in order to enhance ongoing care to that person. (b) Secondary purposes: (i) Secondary legislated purpose refers to health information collection, use, disclosure or access required or permitted by legislation or regulation that meets the provisions of this Code and the legislative test provided by this Code. (ii) Secondary nonlegislated purpose is any other purpose, such as education or research not governed by legislation, that meets the provisions of this Code and the secondary nonlegislative test provided by this Code. 3.2 Health information collection, use, disclosure or access for the primary therapeutic and longitudinal purposes may be as extensive as necessary to fulfil these purposes and reflect the high level of trustworthiness and accountability of health professionals in the therapeutic context. 3.3 Health information collection, use, disclosure or access for any secondary purposes shall be as minimal as necessary in recognition of the need to protect the patient's right of privacy in the therapeutic context. 3.4 Health information collection, use, disclosure or access without patient consent shall only occur in the limited circumstances provided by this clause. Nonconsensual health information collection, use, disclosure or access, including the conversion of health information from one information format to another, is a violation of a patient's right of privacy, may compromise the physician's duty of confidentiality, and is potentially disruptive of the trust and integrity of the therapeutic relationship. Therefore, it must only occur under strict conditions and in these very limited circumstances: (a) when permitted or required by legislation or regulation that meets the requirements of this Code; or (b) when ordered or decided by a court of law. 3.5 Any existing or proposed secondary purpose for health information collection, use, disclosure or access, including health information systems or networks, shall be subjected to a patient privacy impact analysis that shall include an evaluation of: (a) the likely impact of the proposed measures on the right of privacy of patients; (b) the likely impact of the proposed measures on the relationship between patients and their physicians, and in particular on the duty of confidentiality and the trust within this relationship; (c) the likely impact of the proposed measures on the willingness of patients to disclose health information; (d) the likely impact of the proposed measures on the ability of patients to receive health care; and (e) compelling evidence to demonstrate broad public support for the proposed measures. 3.6 Any proposed or existing legislation or regulation made under legislative authority that permits or requires health information collection, use, disclosure or access shall be subjected to the following legislative test: (a) There must be demonstration that: (i) a patient privacy impact assessment has been conducted, the analysis has been made public and has been duly considered prior to the introduction of legislation; (ii) collection, use, disclosure and access will be limited to the greatest degree possible to ensure that - the collection of health information by persons external to the therapeutic context will neither trade on nor compromise the trust of the patient-physician relationship; - patients are not likely to be inhibited from confiding information for primary purposes; - the ability of physicians to discharge their fiduciary duties to patients will not be compromised; and - patient vulnerability will not be exploited; (iii) collection, use, disclosure and access will be restricted to what is necessary for the identified purpose(s) and will not impede the confiding or collection of information for primary purposes; (iv) provisions exist for ensuring that patients are provided with knowledge about the purpose(s) and that, subject to 3.6(b), patient consent is clearly voluntary; (v) the means used are proportionate and the collection will be limited to purposes consented to or made known to the patient; (vi) the patient's privacy will be intruded upon to the most limited degree possible in light of the purpose(s) consented to or made known to the patient; (vii) linkage of the health information will be limited; and (viii) unless clear and compelling reasons exist, - all reasonable steps will be taken to make health information anonymous; and - if it has been demonstrated that making health information anonymous would render it inadequate for legitimate uses, the information will be collected and stored in a deidentified-relinkable format. (b) When nonconsensual collection, use, disclosure or access is permitted or required by legislation or regulation that meets the requirements of this Code, the following conditions must also be met: (i) the right of privacy has to be violated because the purpose(s) could not be met adequately if patient consent is required; and (ii) the importance of the purpose(s) must be demonstrated to justify the infringement of the patient's right of privacy in a free and democratic society. (c) Any legislative provision or regulation that permits or requires health information collection, use, disclosure or access nonconsensually shall not, without compelling reasons, be applied retroactively to existing health information. 3.7 Any proposed or existing secondary nonlegislated purpose shall be subjected to the following nonlegislative test: (a) Before a health information custodian uses health information in its custody for secondary nonlegislated purposes, or before it releases or makes health information accessible to an external third party for secondary nonlegislated purposes, it must demonstrate or require the third party to demonstrate that: (i) a patient privacy impact assessment has been conducted, the analysis has been made public, the results have been duly considered and uses for that purpose will not be pursued if there is an adverse effect on privacy; (ii) collection of health information by persons beyond the therapeutic context will not exploit or compromise the trust of the patient-physician relationship; (iii) patients are not likely to be inhibited from confiding information for primary purposes; (iv) the ability of physicians to discharge their fiduciary duties to patients will not be compromised; (v) patient vulnerability will not be exploited; (vi) collection will be restricted to what is necessary for the identified purpose(s) and will not intrude upon primary purposes; (vii) patients will be fully informed of the purpose(s) and patient consent will be clearly voluntary; (viii) patient privacy will be intruded upon to the most limited degree possible in light of the purpose(s) consented to; (ix) linkage of health information will be restricted and consented to by the patient; (x) unless clear and compelling reasons exist, - all reasonable steps will be taken to make health information anonymous; - if it has been demonstrated that making health information anonymous will render it inadequate for legitimate uses, then the information will be collected and stored in a deidentified-relinkable format; (xi) any third party to whom health information is released has adopted this Code or has equivalent provisions in place; and (xii) the purpose(s) will not be applied retroactively to existing health information unless patient consent is given. 3.8 Health information shall not be collected by means that are unlawful, unfair or exploit the patient's vulnerability, nor shall any of the patient's beliefs or potentially false expectations about subsequent collection, use, disclosure or access be exploited. 3.9 Courts of law should respect the provisions of this Code when issuing orders or decisions. 3.10 Health information shall be retained only as long as it is necessary to fulfil authorized purposes. Once the authorized purposes are fulfilled it shall be securely destroyed, unless some issue or decision related to the patient and pertinent to the patient's health information is pending. Principle 4: Knowledge and Specification of Purpose, Collection, Use, Disclosure and Access In the therapeutic context, health information is confided by or collected from patients under the patient's presumption that it is necessary to meet his or her therapeutic needs. The potential that health information, in whole or in part, may be subsequently collected, used, disclosed or accessed for other purposes without their consent, and what those purposes might be, must be made known to the patient by reasonable means before it is confided or collected for primary purposes. It is not acceptable to withhold such knowledge from patients deliberately out of concern that knowledge could inhibit them from confiding important information fully and truthfully. 4.1 A health information custodian must have documentation that lists all purposes for which it uses or discloses the health information it collects, including to whom it permits access to what information, in what format and whether consent is required. 4.2 Within the therapeutic context health information is confided or provided by patients in the knowledge or with the belief that it is necessary to achieve therapeutic purposes. Patients must be explicitly informed about any other purposes. 4.3 Health information must not be used for purposes not identified to the patient at or before the time it is confided or collected, unless patient consent is subsequently sought and obtained. 4.4 Patients must either have or be provided by reasonable means with knowledge about what can or must happen with their health information. The degree of detail or specificity of this knowledge is what could be presumed germane to the decision of a reasonable person in the circumstances of the patient. 4.5. Unless a particular patient has given indication to the contrary, the conveyance of generic information is a reasonable means of providing knowledge. When the preferences of a particular patient for being informed are known or can be reasonably inferred given his or her circumstances, the provision of knowledge should as much as possible be tailored to these known preferences. 4.6 The goal of providing knowledge to patients is to ensure that before they confide information or permit information to be collected they actually understand what can or must subsequently happen with their information, particularly without their consent. Principle 5: Consent The patient's ability to decide with whom he or she will share information is crucial for the protection of the right of privacy and for the preservation of trust in the therapeutic context. Only the patient's consent to health information collection, use, disclosure and access for the primary therapeutic purpose can be inferred. Except for the very limited nonconsensual purposes addressed in this Code, any other collection, use, disclosure or access requires express consent. Nonconsensual collection, use, disclosure or access infringes the right of privacy and compromises the trust of the fiduciary relationship. To satisfy the requirement that consent be informed, the patient must have, or by reasonable means be provided with, knowledge about the potential for subsequent nonconsensual collection, use, disclosure or access before he or she confides any information. 5.1 Except for the very limited conditions set out in 3.4 concerning nonconsensual collection, use, disclosure or access, consent is required for health information collection, use, disclosure or access for any purpose. 5.2 For the purposes of this Code, consent for health information collection, use, disclosure or access in emergency situations is deemed to have been given to the extent necessary to allay the emergency as consistent with legal principles governing emergency medical care. The protection accorded this information shall be consistent with the provisions of this Code. 5.3 Consent to health information collection, use, disclosure and access for the primary therapeutic purpose may be inferred. Consent to subsequent collection, use, disclosure and access on a need-to-know basis by or to other physicians or health providers for this purpose, and for this purpose alone, may be inferred, as long as there is no evidence that the patient would not give express consent to share the information. 5.4 Interpretation of "need-to-know" shall be guided by consideration of what the reasonable person in similar circumstances would expect, or otherwise authorize by his or her consent. If expectations are unclear or ambiguous, care should be taken to ascertain those expectations and to make the flow of information among providers in the therapeutic context consistent with those expectations. 5.5 Consent to collection, use, disclosure and access for longitudinal primary purposes must be express unless the provider has good reason to infer consent. 5.6 For the purposes of this Code, disclosure of health information to the patient's relatives or significant others is recognized as assisting in primary purposes. Consent to this disclosure must be express unless the provider has good reason to imply patient consent. 5.7 Consent can only be inferred in the case of primary purposes, and for primary purposes alone; collection, use, disclosure or access thus authorized must be limited either to the known expectations of a particular patient or to what the reasonable person in similar circumstances would likely believe necessary to receive health care. 5.8 Implied consent does not deprive the patient of the right to refuse consent or the right to challenge the provider's finding of implied consent. 5.9 Patient consent for secondary nonlegislated purposes shall be express, voluntary and fully informed. 5.10 Where express consent is required, patients must be informed of their right to refuse consent. It is not acceptable to compromise care deliberately as a consequence of the patient's refusal to provide express consent or to exploit any fear the patient might have that this could occur. 5.11 Consent shall not be obtained by coercion, deception or manipulation. Failure to inform the patient by reasonable means of relevant information pertinent to consent invalidates this consent. 5.12 Although all health information is sensitive and should be treated as such, the more sensitive the health information is likely to be, given what is known about the circumstances or preferences of the patient, the more important it is to ensure that consent is voluntary and informed. Principle 6: Individual Access Patients have the right of access to their health information. In rare and limited circumstances, health information may be withheld from a patient if there is a significant likelihood of a substantial adverse effect on the physical, mental or emotional health of the patient or substantial harm to a third party. The onus lies on the provider to justify a denial of access. 6.1 The patient is entitled to know about, and subject to 6.5 to have access to, any information about himself or herself under the custody of the health information custodian. 6.2 Patients should be informed that they have the right to access their health information, to read it and to have copies of it. 6.3 Patients who wish to access their information should be given the opportunity to do so with explanation from a health professional who is knowledgeable about this information and capable of interpreting it for the patient. 6.4 Patients must be able to receive copies of their health information at a reasonable cost that does not exceed the cost of providing the information. 6.5 Providers may, in rare and limited circumstances, withhold health information from a patient if there is a significant likelihood of a substantial adverse effect on the physical, mental or emotional health of the patient or substantial harm to a third party. The onus is on the provider to justify a denial of access. 6.6 Patients are entitled to know who has gained access to their health information and for what purposes. Principle 7: Accurate Recording of Information Accurate recording is important to protect the patient's right of privacy and to meet the purposes for its collection, use, disclosure or access. 7.1 Health information shall be recorded as accurately as possible, and shall be as complete and current as necessary for authorized purposes. 7.2. The recording of statements of fact, clinical judgements and determinations or assessments should reflect as nearly as possible what has been confided by the patient and what has been ascertained, hypothesized or determined to be true using professional judgement. 7.3 Patients who have reviewed their information and believe it to be inaccurately recorded or false have the right to suggest amendments and to have their amendments appended to the health information. 7.4 Whenever possible, health information should be recorded in a form that allows for authorized secondary purposes consented to by the patient. Any standardization of recording requirements relevant to subsequent secondary purposes shall not impede recording of information for primary purposes. Principle 8: Security Security safeguards must be in place to ensure that only authorized collection, use, disclosure or access occurs. Such safeguards must also assure the integrity of the available information. 8.1 Health information, regardless of the information format, shall be protected by security safeguards to ensure compliance with the provisions of this Code. 8.2 The development of security safeguards with respect to levels of access for various users shall recognize the differences in the sensitivity of health information and permit access accordingly. 8.3 Security safeguards shall impede as little as possible health information collection, use, access and disclosure for primary purposes. 8.4 A health information custodian shall ensure that persons are able to collect, use, disclose or access health information in its control only as authorized. Persons thus authorized must have a clear understanding of the authority, parameters, purposes and responsibilities of their access, and of the consequences of failing to fulfil their responsibilities. 8.5 An authorized person's access to health information, including persons or groups external to the health information custodian, shall be limited to only the information needed for the authorized purpose(s), in the least intrusive format. 8.6 Security safeguards shall include both physical and human resource safeguards to prevent unauthorized health information collection, use, disclosure and access. Physical security measures include such safeguards as locked filing cabinets, restricted access to certain offices or areas, and the use of passwords, encryption and lock-boxes. Human resource security measures include security clearances, sanctions, training and contracts. 8.7. Health information custodians must protect health information in their custody so as to ensure its integrity and have assurance that the integrity of information received from other health information custodians has been similarly safeguarded. 8.8 Security safeguards should incorporate identification, authentication, information integrity/availability and non-repudiation, as appropriate. Principle 9: Accountability Accountability is owed first and foremost to the patient. Health information custodians must have in place policies and procedures that recognize this principal accountability and health professionals' duty of confidentiality to the patient. Anyone a health information custodian authorizes to have access to health information must be capable of being held accountable for his or her actions. In addition, health information custodians must designate a qualified person responsible and accountable for monitoring and ensuring internal compliance with this Code. 9.1 Health information custodians are responsible for the security of health information they collect, use, disclose or permit access to. 9.2 Health information custodians must ensure that persons, including administrative and technical support staff, receive authorization to access health information only as necessary to fulfil authorized purposes. 9.3 A health information custodian must ensure that anyone permitted to have access to health information has clearly defined and understood responsibilities in connection with health information, agrees to accept those responsibilities, and is subject to appropriate sanctions for failing to fulfil the accepted responsibilities. 9.4 Health information custodians must designate a qualified person responsible and accountable for monitoring and ensuring internal compliance with this Code. The designated accountable person shall have the autonomy, authority, and resources necessary to ensure the health information custodian's adherence to the Code. In the case of small private practices, practitioners may designate themselves. 9.5 Policies and procedures to ensure compliance with this Code must consider the special, direct accountability of health professionals to their patients. The high level of trust vested in health professionals is crucial to the initial confiding of health information for the therapeutic purpose. 9.6 Health information custodians must ensure that third parties privy to health information have adopted this Code or are bound by equivalent provisions. Provided that this has been determined before health information is disclosed or made accessible, health information custodians are not accountable for the actions of third parties or for what subsequently happens to the information. 9.7 Although it is the responsibility of the health information custodian to ensure that patients are appropriately informed, secondary users whose information requirements impose a burden upon the health information custodian are responsible for covering their share of any related costs or resource requirements (e.g., preparation of brochures). Health information custodians may reasonably require secondary users to cover their own costs as a condition of making health information available to them as authorized. Principle 10: Transparency and Openness Policies, procedures and practices relating to health information must be transparent so that patients can clearly understand the extent and circumstances of health information collection, use, disclosure and access. They must be explicit enough that patients are adequately informed and able to acquire knowledge germane to their confiding of information, and must be open to scrutiny and challenge. 10.1 Health information custodians must have transparent, explicit and open policies, procedures and practices, tailored to their practice setting, that seek to ensure that patients are provided with information about what can or must happen with their health information without their consent. 10.2 Policies, procedures and practices shall be as explicit as necessary to ensure that patients are aware of any considerations that could be relevant to deciding what information they elect to freely confide or consent to be collected, used, disclosed or accessed. Nothing must be left implicit that, if made explicit, could reasonably be expected to alter a patient's decision to freely confide information. Information about nonconsensual collection, use, disclosure and access must be made explicit. 10.3 Patients should be able to discuss the health information custodian's policies, procedures and practices concerning health information with a knowledgeable person and have specific questions about their own health information answered in a timely fashion. 10.4 A health information custodian's policies, procedures and practices shall ensure that patients can understand what might, can or must happen to their health information, that consent is sought as required by this Code and that nothing is left implicit or unknown to patients that if known or made explicit could reasonably be expected to alter a patient's decision to freely confide information. 10.5 Patients shall be able to challenge the health information custodian's compliance with the provisions of this Code by addressing their concerns to the designated accountable person. 10.6 Procedures shall be in place to receive and respond to complaints or inquiries about policies, procedures and practices relating to health information collection, use, disclosure and access. The complaint process must be easily accessible and simple to use. 10.7 Patients who make inquiries or lodge complaints shall be informed of the existence of relevant complaint mechanisms. 10.8 All complaints shall be investigated. If a complaint is found to be justified, appropriate remedial measures shall be taken such as amending policies, procedures or practices. Section D: Health Information Policies Health information custodians must have in place and implement policies, procedures and practices that give effect to the principles of this Code. 1.1 Health information policies, procedures and practices should be tailored to the specific health care setting of the custodian and shall address and provide for: (a) complying with and giving effect to the principles of this Code; (b) protecting the security of health information; (c) ensuring the accurate recording and integrity of health information; (d) documentation of all purposes for which the health information custodian uses or discloses the health information it collects, including to whom it permits access to what information, in what format and whether consent is required; (e) documentation of what health information may be linked to other pieces of information; (f) documentation of what health information is made available to third parties; (g) allowing access only to authorized users in the appropriate format and for the limited purposes for which they are authorized; (h) identification of the person who is accountable for the policies, procedures and practices and to whom complaints or inquiries can be made; (i) receiving and responding to complaints and inquiries; (j) ensuring that persons who collect, use, disclose or access health information can be held accountable and are under an enforceable duty to keep information secure; (k) ensuring that persons who work for or in the health institution know and receive sufficient training about this Code and related institutional policies, procedures and practices to ensure accountability; (l) the means of gaining access to one's own health information held by the health institution; (m) making available information that a particular patient specifically requests or reasonably can be presumed to wish to know; (n) ensuring that patients have, or by reasonable means are provided with, knowledge about their health information and that consent is sought and obtained as appropriate; and (o) specification of minimum and maximum retention periods and rules for the succession, transfer and destruction of health information. 1.2 The health information custodian's policies must be readily available to patients and should include information about practices and procedures. 1 Though this submission uses the word "product" in this context, it is understood that services, e.g. therapeutic procedures, may also be covered by the Health Protection Act. 2 DTCA is not legal in Canada, except for notification of price, quantity and the name of the drug. However, "information-seeking" advertisements for prescription drugs, which may provide the name of the drug without mentioning its indications, or announce that treatments are available for specific indications without mentioning drugs by name, have appeared in Canadian mass media. 3 Though the paper applies primarily to prescription drug information, its principles are also applicable to health information in general.
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The impact of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the proposed Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) on Canadian physicians : Brief submitted to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy2023
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
1997-01-21
Topics
Health human resources
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
1997-01-21
Topics
Health human resources
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) commends the federal government for its clear and open process, and for encouraging a dialogue in areas of tax policy and economics. Canadians from all walks of life look to the government for strong and constructive leadership in this area. The CMA therefore appreciates the opportunity to present its views to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance as it considers Bill C-70 "An Act to amend the Excise Tax Act, the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act, the Income Tax Act, the Debt Servicing and Reduction Account Act and related Acts." The CMA has appeared before the Committee on several occasions when it has considered matters pertaining to federal tax policy in Canada. In addition to our submissions, as part of the government's pre-budget consultation process, the CMA appeared before the Committee when it examined a number of tax policy alternatives to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in 1994. 1 At that time, the CMA clearly articulated the medical profession's concerns about the need to implement a federal sales tax system that is simplified, fair and equitable for all. The CMA remains strongly committed to the principles that underpin an efficient and effective sales tax system. However, it is of the strong view that there is, on the one hand, a need to review the relationship between sales tax policy and health care policy in Canada, and between the sales tax policy and the physicians as providers of services, on the other. Canada's health care system is a defining characteristic of what makes Canada special. It is no secret that funding for the health care system is under stress and all providers, including physicians, are being asked to shoulder their responsibility in controlling costs and responding to this fiscal challenge. However, physicians have had their costs of providing medical services increased by the federal government through the introduction of the GST. Specifically, the introduction of the GST as it applies to physicians serves as a constant reminder that there still remain some tax policy anomalies - that, without amendment, their consequences will be significantly magnified with the introduction of a proposed harmonized sales tax (HST) on April 1, 1997, as was the case with the introduction of the Quebec Sales Tax (QST) on July 1, 1992. The tax anomaly is a result of the current categorization of medical services as "tax exempt" under the Excise Tax Act. As a consequence, physicians are, on the one hand, in the unenviable position of being denied the ability to claim a GST tax refund (that is, denied the ability to claim input tax credits - ITCs), on the medical supplies (such as medical equipment, medical supplies, rent, utilities) necessary to deliver quality health care, and on the other, cannot pass the tax onto those who purchase such services (i.e., the provincial and territorial governments). Physicians, from coast to coast, are understandably angry that they have been singled out for unfair treatment under the GST, QST and the soon to be implemented HST. II. BACKGROUND The GST was designed to be a " consumer-based tax" where the tax charged for purchases during the "production process" would be refunded - with the consumer, not producer of a good or a service, bearing the full burden of the tax. As a result, self-employed individuals and small businesses are eligible to claim a tax refund of the GST from the federal government on purchases that are required in most commercial activities. It is important to understand that those who can claim a tax refund under the GST in most commercial activities will still be able to do so with the proposed introduction of a harmonized sales tax in Atlantic Canada. The rate is proposed to be set at 15% (7% federal tax, 8% provincial tax). In the case of medical services, the consumer (i.e., the one who purchases such services) is almost always the provincial and territorial governments. Since the provincial and territorial governments do not pay GST (due to their Constitutional exemption), one would have expected the cost of providing medical services to be free of GST. However, this is not the case. It is difficult to reconcile federal health care policies to preserve and protect publicly funded health care with tax policy which singles out and taxes the costs of medical services. Regrettably, physicians find themselves in an untenable situation of "double jeopardy". This is patently unfair and on the basis of the fundamental principles of administering a fair and equitable tax system should be amended accordingly. In an effort to document the impact of the federal government's decision to designate medical services as tax exempt, an independent study by the accounting firm KPMG estimated that physicians' costs increased by $60 million of GST per year. 2 Since 1991, this total is now in excess of $360 million. The recent agreement between the federal government and Atlantic provinces (except Prince Edward Island) to harmonize their sales taxes will make matters significantly worse for physicians as the HST broadens the provincial tax base to essentially that of the GST in those provinces. With no ability to claim a tax refund on the GST they currently pay (and the proposed HST effective April 1, 1997), physicians once again will have to absorb the additional costs associated with the practice of medicine. In assessing the impact of the proposed HST, KPMG has estimated that physicians in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland will be out-of-pocket an additional $4.7 million each year because they are not eligible for a tax refund for their purchases. 3 The medical profession, is not looking for special treatment. What we are asking for is to be treated no differently than other self-employed Canadians and small businesses who have the opportunity to claim ITCs, and to be placed on the same footing with other health care providers who have the ability to recoup GST costs. Physicians, as self-employed individuals are considered small businesses for tax purposes, therefore, it seems entirely reasonable that they should have the same tax rules that apply to other small businesses. This is a question of fundamental fairness. III. POLICY CONTEXT Prior to the introduction of the GST, the federal sales tax (FST) was included in the price of most goods (not services) that were produced in, or imported to, Canada. Therefore, when goods were purchased by consumers, the FST was built into the price. At that time, physicians, and other self-employed Canadians and small businesses, were essentially on a level sales tax playing field. Since 1991, however, the introduction of the GST has tilted the table against physicians. Unless this situation is rectified, with the introduction of the HST, physicians in Atlantic Canada will join those in Quebec who experience additional costs due to the GST and their provincial sales tax using the same rules. (i). The Impact of the GST on Good Tax Policy and Good Health Care Policy When it reviews Bill C-70, the Standing Committee on Finance should look for opportunities where tax policy and health care policy go hand-in-hand. The principle of aligning good health policy with sound tax policy is critical to managing change while serving to lay down a strong foundation for future growth and prosperity. Unfortunately, the current GST policy introduces a series of distortions that have tax policy and health policy working against one another. Tax policies that do not reinforce health policy are bad tax policies. Consider, for example: 1. Under the current system, hospitals (under the "MUSH" formula - Municipalities, Universities, Schools and Hospitals) have been afforded an 83% rebate on GST paid for purchases made while physicians must absorb the full GST cost on their supplies. At a time when health policy initiatives across Canada are attempting to expand community-based practices, the current GST policy (and now harmonized sales tax policy) which taxes supplies in a private clinic setting while rebating much of the tax in a hospital setting acts to discourage the shift in emphasis; 2. Prescription drugs are zero-rated. The objective was to ensure that pharmaceutical firms are no worse off than under the previous federal sales tax regime. Recognizing that medical services can play an equally important role as drugs, it appears inconsistent that the government would choose to have drugs as tax free, and medical services absorbing GST; 3. In the current fiscal climate, the current GST policy, and now the proposed harmonized sales tax in Atlantic Canada, is threatening to harm the important role when it comes to recruitment and retention of physicians across Canada, and in particular, the Atlantic provinces - where they are already experiencing difficulty; and, 4. It is estimated that the 55,000 physicians employ up to 100,000 Canadians. Physicians play an important role in job creation. The disproportionate effects of the GST policy could have an adverse effect on the number of individuals employed by physicians. With these issues at hand, it is apparent that good tax policy and good health policy are themselves not synchronized and are working at cross purposes. At this point, when the Standing Committee is reviewing Bill C-70, it is the time to address this situation based on the fundamental principle of fairness in the tax system, while ensuring that good tax policy reinforces good health care policy. (ii). Not All Health Care Services Are Created Equal under the GST/HST Physicians are not the only group of health care providers whose services are placed under the category of "tax exempt", with the result that they incur increased GST costs. For example, the services of dentists, nurses, physiotherapists, psychologists and chiropractors are categorized as "tax exempt". However, there is an important distinction between whether the services are government funded or not. Health care providers who deliver services privately and which are not publicly funded do have the opportunity to pass along the GST in their costs through their fee structures. For these services that are government funded there are no opportunities for physicians to recover the tax paid for purchases unless a specific rebate has been provided (e.g., hospitals). To date, in negotiations with the medical profession, no provincial/territorial government has agreed to provide funding to reflect the additional costs associated with the introduction of the GST. Their position has been that this is a "federal" matter. This becomes important when one considers that under the Canadian Constitution one level of government cannot tax another, and the provincial governments are not prepared to absorb the cost of the GST. It is critical to point out that since doctors receive 99% of their professional earnings from the government health insurance plans, 4 they have absolutely no other option when it comes to recovering the GST - they must absorb it! In summary, while a number of health care services are categorized as tax exempt, it must be emphasized that some providers "are more equal than others" under the GST - contrary to other health care providers, physicians do not have the ability to claim ITCs. This distinction becomes readily apparent when one considers the sources of (private and/or public) funding for such services. IV. THE SEARCH FOR A SOLUTION Like many others in Canadian society, physicians work hard to provide quality health care to their patients within what is almost exclusively a publicly-financed system for medical services. Physicians are no different from Canadians in that they, too, are consumers (and purchasers). As consumers, physicians pay their fair share of taxes to support the wide range of valued government services. By the same token, as providers of health care, physicians have not accepted, nor should they accept, a perpetuation of the fundamental injustices built into the current GST, QST and proposed HST arrangements. To date, the CMA has made representations to two Ministers of Finance and their Department Officials. We have discussed several ways to address a situation that is not sustainable, with no resolution to date. We look to this Committee and the federal government for a fair solution to this unresolved issue. V. RECOMMENDATION This unfair and discriminatory situation can be resolved. There is a solution that can serve to reinforce good economic policy with good health care policy in Canada. An amendment to the Excise Tax Act, the legislation which governs the GST (and proposed HST) can make an unfair situation fair to all Canadian physicians. In its recent submission to the Standing Committee as part of the 1997 pre-budget consultation process, the CMA recommended "that medical services be zero-rated, in order to achieve a fair and equitable GST policy for physicians." In order to achieve this objective all health care services, including medical services, funded by the provinces could be zero-rated. This recommendation serves to place physicians on a level playing field with other self-employed Canadians and small businesses. In addition, from a health care perspective, this would treat medical services in the same manner as that of prescription drugs. This is a reasonable proposition, as in many instances, medical treatments and drug regimens go hand-in-hand. Furthermore, this recommendation would ensure that medical services under the GST and proposed HST would be no worse off than other goods or services that provincial governments' purchase and where suppliers can claim a tax refund (i.e., ITCs). While the recommendation is an important statement in principle of what is required to address the current inequities under the GST, and soon to be HST, the CMA offers a more specific recommendation to the Standing Committee as to how the principles can be operationalized within the context of Bill C-70 and the Excise Tax Act. The CMA respectfully recommends the following: 1. "THAT HEALTH CARE SERVICES FUNDED BY THE PROVINCES BE ZERO-RATED." CMA has been advised that this would be accomplished by amending Bill C-70 as follows: (1). Section 5 of Part II of Schedule V to the Excise Tax Act is replaced by the following: 5. "A supply (other than a zero-rated supply) made by a medical practitioner of a consultative, diagnostic, treatment or other health care service rendered to an individual (other than a surgical or dental service that is performed for cosmetic purposes and not for medical or reconstructive purposes)." (2). Section 9 of Part II of Schedule V to the Excise Tax Act is repealed. (3). Part II of Schedule VI to the Excise Tax Act is amended by adding the following after section 40: 41. A supply of any property or service but only if, and to the extent that, the consideration for the supply is payable or reimbursed by the government under a plan established under an Act of the legislature of the province to provide for health care services for all insured persons of the province. VI. SUMMARY By adopting the recommendation above, the federal government would fulfil, at least two over-arching policy objectives, they are: 1. Strengthening the relationship between good economic policy and good health policy in Canada; and, 2. Applying the fundamental principles that underpin our taxation system (fairness, efficiency, effectiveness), in all cases. ________________________ 1 the Goods and Services Tax: Fairness for Physicians, Presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, Ottawa, Ontario, March 15, 1994. The Canadian Medical Association. 2 Review of the Impact of the Goods and Services Tax on Canadian Physicians, KPMG, June, 1992. 3 Review of the Impact of a Provincial Value Added Tax on Physicians in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador, KPMG, August, 1996. 4 National Health Expenditures, 1975-1994, Health Canada, January 1996.
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Letter to the Honourable Pierre Pettigrew on mandatory retirement

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy11701
Last Reviewed
2017-03-04
Date
2004-03-24
Topics
Health human resources
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2017-03-04
Date
2004-03-24
Topics
Health human resources
Text
Dear Minister: On behalf of the Canadian Medical Association, I am writing to highlight the concerns of our members regarding the issue of mandatory retirement for physicians practicing medicine in Canada. The sustained interest in this subject follows as a result of a resolution adopted by the CMA General Council on August 20, 2003. This resolution reads "that CMA, its divisions and affiliates advocate for the enactment of regulations and/or legislation that will prevent mandatory retirement of physicians based on age." Your predecessor, the Honourable Anne McLellan, requested further information from the CMA with regard to the aforementioned legislation, for the purposes of further discussion with provincial counterparts. Currently, rules governing mandatory retirement of physicians are complex and vary across jurisdictions. Nationally, the Canadian Human Rights Act governs mandatory retirement only insofar as physicians are considered employees of a federally regulated sector. The Act states that mandatory retirement is not discriminatory when a person has "reached the normal age of retirement for employees performing similar types of work." Provincially/territorially, human rights legislation varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In general, employers are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of age, although some provinces and territories only protect employees to the age of 65. Most physicians however, operate as self-employed business persons, billing provincial Medicare plans on a fee-for-service basis, according to tariffs agreed upon by provincial medical associations. This means that human rights legislation does not protect most physicians. Therefore, while physicians are still free to practice medicine after they reach the age of 65 (i.e. contract to provide medical care to patients, and bill the provincial insurer for insured services), renewal of their admitting privileges depends on the policies or regulations of individual hospitals. In light of the evidence supporting an existing shortage of physicians, federal and provincial/territorial decision makers should be acutely aware of the detrimental effect mandatory retirement has with regard to health human resource planning initiatives. Currently, 10.7% of practising Canadian physicians are over the age of 65. Many of these physicians practice quite actively. In 2003, a CMA survey indicated that physicians over 65 reported working on average 46 hours per week, excluding on-call responsibilities. To remove this experienced cohort of practitioners from the practice setting would be to further exacerbate the growing medical professional shortage. It is shortsighted to uphold restrictions on the practice of medicine by physicians, solely on the basis of age. Continuing professional development for practicing physicians throughout their medical careers is mandated by both the College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada as a requirement of maintenance of certification. In a system which self-regulates based on competency, barriers to practice that are age-based are both unnecessary and discriminatory. The CMA respectfully requests you to follow the lead of your predecessor and raise the issue of mandatory retirement with your provincial/territorial counterparts. There should be no disparity nation wide; age-based barriers to practicing medicine should not be tolerated for physician employees or independent contractors alike. In some cases, federal, provincial and territorial human rights legislation may need to be amended. Equally as important, these concerns must be factored into discussions around health human resource planning. Thank you for your time and interest in this very important matter. We look forward with anticipation to your response. For your information, a more detailed account of mandatory retirement follows in the addendum to this letter. Should you have any further questions, I would be pleased to discuss this issue in further detail with you and your staff. Sincerely, Dr. Sunil Patel President, Canadian Medical Association cc: Presidents, Provincial / Territorial Medical Associations BACKGROUNDER: MANDATORY RETIREMENT Preface: Since its introduction in 1884 by German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, the age of 65 has become firmly entrenched as "retirement age". Mandatory retirement can be considered a form of discrimination or bias, insofar as scientific data does not support the principle of retirement on the basis of attainment of a specific chronological age. While human rights legislation governs the mandatory age of retirement for employees (including some physicians) with variations from province to province, the extent to which provincial human rights legislation applies to the mandatory retirement of physicians varies, depending on whether the physician is an employee of the hospital or an independent contractor. Legislative and regulatory framework: Human Rights Legislation vis-à-vis Mandatory Retirement Federal and provincial/territorial human rights legislation govern mandatory retirement for physician employees, depending on whether their employers are under federal or provincial jurisdiction. As most health institutions are under provincial jurisdiction, the vast majority of physician employees are protected by provincial human rights legislation. Each province and territory has enacted human rights legislation that governs in their respective areas of jurisdiction. The legislation tends to be analogous from one province to the next, but there are differences worth noting. Mandatory retirement constitutes a discriminatory measure for employers under the jurisdiction of seven provinces and territories. Four provinces do not consider mandatory retirement to be discrimination if the employee is 65 years or older. In two provinces, if mandatory retirement is provided for in a retirement or pension plan, it does not amount to discrimination. Jurisdiction Provisions governing mandatory retirement age Canada Mandatory retirement is not a discriminatory practice when a person has reached the normal retirement age for employees performing the same type of work. Consequently, in that case, the Act allows for mandatory retirement. Alberta Mandatory retirement constitutes a discriminatory measure for employers under the jurisdiction of this province. British Columbia Older employees are protected until the age of 65 against discrimination based on age. Consequently, employees aged 65 or over cannot file a complaint if they are obliged to retire for that reason. Manitoba Mandatory retirement constitutes a discriminatory measure for employers under the jurisdiction of this province. New Brunswick Termination of employment provided for in a retirement or pension plan does not constitute a discriminatory measure. In the absence of such a plan, however, employees who are obliged to retire may file a complaint for discrimination based on age, under the legislation on human rights. Newfoundland and Labrador Termination of employment provided for in a retirement or pension plan does not constitute a discriminatory measure. In the absence of such a plan, however, employees who are obliged to retire may file a complaint for discrimination based on age. They may use this recourse until the age of 65. Jurisdiction Provisions governing mandatory retirement age Northwest Territories Mandatory retirement constitutes a discriminatory measure for employers under the jurisdiction of this territory. Nova Scotia Mandatory retirement at age 65 does not constitute a discriminatory measure if it is standard in the workplace in question. However, the Human Rights Commission of this province investigates when an employee aged 65 or over is not treated in the same manner as others of the same age where retirement is concerned. Nunavut Mandatory retirement constitutes a discriminatory measure for employers under the jurisdiction of this territory. Ontario Older employees are protected against age-based discrimination up to the age of 65. Consequently, employees aged 65 or over cannot file a complaint if they are obliged to retire for this reason. Prince Edward Island Mandatory retirement constitutes a discriminatory measure for employers under the jurisdiction of this province. Quebec Mandatory retirement constitutes a form of discrimination according to the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms and, more explicitly, is forbidden by the Act Respecting Labour Standards. Saskatchewan Older employees are protected against age-based discrimination up to the age of 65. Consequently, employees aged 65 or over cannot file a complaint if they are obliged to retire for this reason. Yukon Mandatory retirement constitutes a discriminatory measure for employers under the jurisdiction of this territory. Employment Status of Practicing Physicians Most physicians operate as independent contractors, billing provincial Medicare plans on a fee-for-service basis. Human rights legislation therefore does not protect the majority of physicians because the application of the legislation is limited to certain specific relationships, such as the traditional employment relationship. In other words, since physicians are more likely to be engaged by their patients to provide care than by the hospitals in which they provide it, the relationship between physicians and hospitals is more similar to a service contract than to a traditional employment contract. As a result, physicians who are independent contractors are free to practice medicine after they reach the age of 65. Depending on the hospital specific regulatory framework however, physicians may or may not be allowed to maintain their admitting privileges. Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons Regulatory bodies that license physicians do not place any restrictions on physician practice based solely on age. The Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons are not involved in administering hospital admitting privileges. None of the provincial or territorial colleges restrict licenses to practice medicine on the basis of a physician's age. Physicians who are employed in a traditional employment or master/servant relationship are covered by applicable human rights legislation, depending on whether their employers are federally or provincially/ territorially regulated. This means that some physicians can be forced into retirement at the age of 65, while others cannot. Policy Considerations: The Changing Physician Workforce Mandatory age-based retirement for health care workers has been a contested policy for almost 25 years. The issue assumes significant value for the CMA membership. Most physicians, operating as independent contractors, are not protected by human rights legislation in terms of retirement. Hospital admitting privileges are administered by the individual institutions, and renewal of such privileges may be subject to hospital policies on mandatory retirement. As more and more physicians choose to work in a traditional employment situation, the lack of human rights protection for physicians in private practice will be thrown in sharp relief. Health Human Resources Labour shortages challenge arguments for mandatory retirement. The health sector in particular has been hit hard by human resource shortages, which are predicted to increase as the baby-boom generation begins to retire in 2012. According to a study released by the Institute for Research on Public Policy (IRPP), challenges associated with the aging workforce in Canada will require greater flexibility, by way of removing barriers to labour force participation among individuals nearing retirement.1 Physician Health and Wellbeing For many people, employment provides a fundamental sense of dignity and self-worth. Practicing medicine promotes independence, security, self-esteem and a sense of participation in the community. Involuntary termination of employment can cause psychological and emotional distress. Physician malaise is a burgeoning concern and its address has become a strategic priority for the Canadian Medical Association. Protection of physicians, be they employees or independent contractors, from mandatory retirement is a strategy which would see one dimension of physician anxiety diminished and would therefore be supported by the CMA. Mandatory retirement can have a particularly serious financial impact on physicians. Employer pension plans are often not available in employment relationships which feature part-time or provisional employees. In order to secure or maintain their standard of living upon retirement, physicians must save extensively via RRSPs or private pension plans. Those physicians with family members to support, such as young adults in post secondary education, children with disabilities, or older family members fear that they will not be able to do so if forced to leave the practice of medicine. Liability Issues While the threat of malpractice may present as one logical argument in support of a mandatory retirement age, the statistics do not support such a claim. The Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA) maintains that there is no significant correlation between physicians' physical age and the corresponding number of lawsuits. Dr. Norman Brown of the CMPA notes that of the over 500 new lawsuits a year, there is not a significant number involving elderly physicians. Conclusion: The public interest is best served by ensuring that all competent physicians, regardless of age, are able to practice medicine. Artificial barriers to practice based on age are simply discriminatory and counter productive in an era of health human resource shortages. 1 Merette, Marcel. (2003) "The Bright Side: A Positive View on the Economics of Aging." Institute for Research on Public Policy. Nov 18/03.
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Notes for an address by Dr. Eugene Bereza, Chair, Committee on Ethics, Canadian Medical Association : Bill C-6 (An act respecting assisted human reproduction) : Presentation to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy2007
Last Reviewed
2011-03-05
Date
2004-02-18
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2011-03-05
Date
2004-02-18
Topics
Ethics and medical professionalism
Text
My name is Dr. Eugene Bereza. I am a physician and clinical ethicist at McGill University Health Centre in Montreal and Chair of the Canadian Medical Association’s Committee on Ethics. I am accompanied today by Dr. Jeff Blackmer, our Director of Ethics. I am here today representing the CMA, but I would also like to advocate on behalf of those patients affected by infertility and those patients suffering, or who will suffer, from the myriad diseases for which medical science is searching out a cure. While there has been considerable debate over the past decade on the moral and ethical issues associated with assisted human reproduction, discussion of this as a health issue has been overlooked all to often. We must remember this is about the practice of medicine and above all, the health of Canadians. My remarks today will focus on the inappropriateness of using criminal sanctions to deal with medical and scientific activities. The Issue It is important to make it clear at the outset that the CMA does not oppose the prohibition of certain medical and scientific activities. Others here today are in a better position to address concerns regarding the specific prohibitions proposed under Bill C-6. Our issue is the means chosen to give effect to these prohibitions and their potential impact on the ability of a physician to ensure the welfare of his or her patients. Criminal law is a blunt instrument. As parliamentarians, you know how difficult it can be to change the law. For some activities prohibited under the criminal law, such as murder and theft, change is not an issue. However, the science of medicine evolves constantly, doubling every 18-24 months. Advances in science and medical practice, coupled with the difficulty of anticipating new developments, make it difficult to adjust the law to remove criminal prohibitions as science and society changes. In the context of prohibiting medical and scientific activities, it is the CMA’s position that the use of criminal law is inappropriate, as it would ultimately not serve our patient’s best interests. Prohibitions, specifically those listed as prohibited activities under Bill C-6, (formerly Bill C-13) could be secured through much less drastic means than criminalization. The CMA proposes that the determination of permissible activities, temporarily or for the longer-term, should be made by the proposed Regulatory Agency working with up-to-date scientific information while providing for public input and ethical review. The Regulatory Agency, as proposed in the Bill, would determine if and when changes in health and safety considerations, public attitudes and values might justify allowing certain formerly prohibited activities to take place under specific conditions. Questions to Consider Bill C-6 begins with the statement: “This enactment prohibits assisted reproduction procedures that are considered to be ethically unacceptable.” However, many Canadians, especially those who are infertile, do not consider some or all of these procedures to be ethically unacceptable nor do the many physicians charged with their care. The CMA questions whether criminal prohibitions are appropriate for dealing with activities about which there is considerable ethical disagreement among Canadians. Legislators in Canada have been justifiably reluctant to use criminal law to deal with medical and scientific issues such as abortion, withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment and the conduct of medical research. Why is an exception being made for assisted reproduction? What sort of precedent will this set for other controversial bioethical issues? What about the chilling effect criminalization will have on research in this important area? For the CMA, the most important question is: what about the patients? What about patients suffering from conditions for which research is banned but may lead to a cure? Should they be denied the opportunity to benefit from this research? Just as Bill C-6 unfairly targets patients, so too does the Bill’s penalties for infractions. Jail terms of up to 10 years and fines up to $500,000 will create a climate of fear and excessive caution for physicians and scientists working in this area. The chill created by these penalties will be such that scientists may well avoid any activity potentially covered by the bill even to the detriment of patient care. The CMA recognizes the good faith among parliamentarians in proposing statutory bans to prohibit certain activities. However, we are convinced in this case the potential for harm outweighs the potential benefits. There is a better way to prohibit these activities while still facilitating important research and necessary treatments. An Alternative Solution Instead of instituting criminal prohibitions within the legislation, the CMA suggest the Assisted Human Reproduction Agency of Canada manage procedures deemed permissible by moving the procedures listed under “Prohibited Activities” to “Controlled Activities.” We recommend that criminal sanctions apply to breaches of agency directives such as performing activities prohibited by the agency and performing controlled activities without a license. Such an approach would have the dual advantage of being able to both prohibit activities deemed unethical while still providing the flexibility to ensure legitimate medical and scientific progress in the treatment of infertility. The regulatory agency should be established as soon as possible and should build on the experience and expertise of existing assisted reproduction organizations and structures that deal with practice standards, education, certification and accreditation. Conclusion The CMA’s overriding concern in addressing this legislation is the well-being of patients, in this case patients who are infertile and patients afflicted by conditions for which medical research offers significant promise of treatment. We support government efforts to regulate assisted human reproduction and related activities, including the prohibition of certain practices temporarily or permanently where necessary. However, we do not believe that criminalization of medical and scientific activities named in the bill is an appropriate way to achieve those objectives. We believe we have advanced a workable alternative within the spirit of the Bill. Thank you.
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Notes for an address by Sunil V. Patel, MB, ChB, President, Canadian Medical Association : Presentation to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration of the House of Commons

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy2009
Last Reviewed
2011-03-05
Date
2004-04-19
Topics
Health human resources
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2011-03-05
Date
2004-04-19
Topics
Health human resources
Text
Good afternoon, as mentioned, I am Dr. Sunil Patel, President of the Canadian Medical Association and a family physician from Gimli Manitoba. With me today, is Mr. William Tholl, Secretary General and CEO of the CMA. I am pleased to be here with you today and as a foreign trained physician I believe that I can provide a personal perspective to your study of credentialing of international graduates in the medical profession. The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is the national voice of Canadian physicians. Founded in 1867, the CMA’s mission is to serve and unite the physicians of Canada and be the national advocate, in partnership with the people of Canada, for the highest standards of health and health care. The CMA is a voluntary professional organization representing the majority of Canada’s physicians and comprising 12 provincial and territorial divisions and 43 affiliated medical organizations. On behalf of its more than 57,000 members and the Canadian public, CMA performs a wide variety of functions, such as advocating for improved access to quality health care, facilitating change within the medical profession, and providing leadership and guidance to physicians to help them influence, manage and adapt to changes in health care delivery. I will preface my remarks by emphasizing that in the case of medicine, the recognition of the credentials of internationally trained physicians is only one part of a much larger issue – namely that of Canada’s continued inability to be self-sufficient in the production of physicians to meet the needs of our population. While we recognize the important contribution that International Medical Graduates (IMGs) have made, and continue to make to the health care system, we believe that Canada’s physician workforce policy must not continue to be one of “beggar thy neighbour”. I want to impress upon Members of the Committee that the CMA does not test, license or discipline physicians, nor is it empowered to act on complaints made by patients — this is the purview of the provincial/territorial licensing bodies. We are not directly involved in provincial or territorial benefit negotiations for physicians – this is the responsibility of our provincial/territorial Divisions. Nor do we control medical school enrolment or conduct medical research. What we do, is carry out research and advocacy on short, medium and long term health and health care issues to ensure we can meet the current and emergent needs of Canadians. The CMA was pleased to participate as a member of the Canadian Task Force on the Licensure of International Medical Graduates, and we congratulate Drs. Dale Dauphinee and Rodney Crutcher for their tireless work in co-chairing it. I understand that Dr. Dauphinee tabled with this Committee the Task Force’s recent report. As a matter of principle, the CMA supports the international exchange of teaching, research and practice that the mobility of physicians can provide for the betterment of medical practice, both in Canada and internationally. The Canadian health system has benefited tremendously from the contribution of IMGs and we expect it will continue to do so into the future. Canada has always relied on IMGs as a significant part of its medical workforce. Even after the addition of four new medical schools in the 1960s, it remains the case to this day that almost one of four practising physicians in Canada is an IMG. Although precise data are not available, our best guess is that some 300-400 IMGs new to Canada are licensed to practise each year. Boom to Bust Canada’s health workforce planning can aptly be described as a “boom to bust” cycle. In the case of physicians, the number of IMGs arriving in Canada exceeded 1,000 annually in the early 1970s and then diminished with the rising concern about health care costs in the 1980s and the fiscal crunch of the 1990s. In 1992 health Ministers unilaterally imposed a 10% cut in undergraduate medical school enrolment that took effect in 1993. This cut has contributed to smaller entry-to-practice cohorts over the past few years and we now face the prospect of a growing physician shortage – a prospect shared by most industrialized countries. Moreover, as is demonstrated in the attached chart, Canada continues to experience the net loss of some 200 physicians each year, mainly to the United States. In the past few years Canada has been criticized internationally for “poaching” physicians from countries that can ill afford to lose them, although this is no longer the result of systematic recruitment. We must recognize that Canada is still an attractive destination for many prospective migrants of all occupations. The CMA played a leadership role in working with the World Medical Association to develop a policy statement on ethical guidelines for the international recruitment of physicians that was adopted by the WMA General Assembly in Helsinki in the Fall, 2003 (copy attached). Need for a National Planning Process One thing that distinguishes medicine from other professions, both within and outside the health field, is that according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, more than 98% of physician professional earnings are publicly-funded; in this regard Canada’s physicians are unique among industrialized countries. In an era that calls for greater accountability for public expenditure, this underscores the need for a nationally coordinated plan and planning process that strives to ensure that Canada has enough physicians to meet the needs of its population. Such a plan has eluded Canada thus far. Indeed Canada’s health workforce policy might be described as one of “beggar thy neighbour”, both within Canada – between provinces/territories and communities - and internationally. In terms of how IMGs might be factored into such a plan, the CMA would recommend short, medium and longer-term approaches. A critical first step in moving ahead on such a plan would be to convene a table along the lines of the recent IMG Task Force that would tackle the full breadth of workforce issues with representation from the national medical organizations and the provincial, federal and territorial governments. Short-Term At present, IMGs are able to access postgraduate medical (post-MD) training by successfully completing the Medical Council of Canada Evaluating Exam (MCCEE) and than applying to the second iteration of the match conducted each year by the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS) or by applying to one of the special programs for IMGs that are offered at some Canadian medical schools. In the short-term the CMA would recommend that the federal government provide sufficient funding to provide additional training positions for a number of the some 700+ IMGs who would be eligible to begin a post-MD residency training immediately. 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 MCCEE. The March 1, 2004 announcement by Dr. Hedy Fry of $4 million in support of the Task Force recommendations is very welcome, but it is just a first installment on what is required. Medium-Term The CMA and other national medical organizations believe that the size of the postgraduate medical training system is a bottleneck, both for Canadian medical graduates and IMGs alike. The number of post-MD training positions funded by provincial governments has been flat-lined since the early 1990s, and is only barely sufficient for the graduating cohort, thus leaving virtually no room for either IMGs or for practising Canadian graduates wishing to retrain. Over the past few years the number of IMGs applying in the second iteration of the CaRMS match has more than doubled, rising from 294 in 2000 to the forecast 758 who will compete for the 177 positions in the 2nd round match on April 29th of this year. Among the 625 IMGs in the second round of the match in 2003 just under 11% (67) were matched. I would be remiss however in not acknowledging that several medical schools have special programs for IMGs. While 67 IMGs were matched to postgraduate year one (PGY-1) positions in 2003, according to the Canadian post-MD registry there were a total of 213 IMGs in PGY-1 as of November 2003. The CMA and other national medical organizations have been advocating for a minimum of 120 PGY-1 training positions for every 100 graduates. Action on this recommendation will become crucial in the next few years when the expanded undergraduate cohort (post-1999) graduates. More generally, we believe that the following components must be explicitly factored into the planning for the capacity of the post-MD training system: * all new graduates of Canadian medical schools who are permanent residents (including opportunities to switch training programs); * re-entry into postgraduate training among physicians in practice in Canada; * IMGs who are permanent residents or citizens of Canada; and * non-resident IMGs wishing to pursue postgraduate training in Canada as visa trainees. I would add that increased efforts and resources will be required to recruit additional community-based teachers to participate in both undergraduate medical education and post-MD training, and to support and retain those who are already doing so. As well, government funding for the infrastructure costs to medical schools as a result increased training will need to be forthcoming. Long-Term First, I am aware from reading the proceedings of earlier sessions that concerns have been raised about the multiplicity of licensing and credentialing standards among the provinces and territories. This is one area where I can think that medicine can be justifiably proud as, since 1992 there has been a national standard for portable eligibility for licensure – that is, successful completion of the two-part Qualifying Examination of the Medical Council of Canada plus certification either by the College of Family Physicians of Canada, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada or the Collège des Médecins du Québec. The regulatory authorities have flexibility in the application of this standard so that IMGs can receive provisional licensure to practise and ultimately attain full licensure. There are also a variety of means through which practising IMGs can achieve certification. This is something that the CMA strongly supports – that Canadians are served by a uniform standard for medical practice that applies both to Canadian medical graduates and IMGs alike. This national standard must continue to be the cornerstone of a long-term vision and plan for Canada’s physician workforce. In moving toward such a plan, the CMA believes Canada should adopt a policy of increased self-sufficiency in the production of physicians in Canada, that includes: * 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. The CMA believes that there are too few opportunities for Canadians to pursue medicine as a career in Canada. For example, in 2002 there were roughly 6.5 first year medical school places per 100,000 population – just over one-half of the comparable level of 12.2 per 100,000 for England. This shortfall is exacerbating the current situation by creating a new category of international graduates, namely the growing numbers of Canadians who are pursuing an international medical education as a result of the shortage of medical school places in Canada. The CMA has recommended a 2007 target of 2,500 first year medical positions. At best we are tracking toward 2,200 at present. Impact Assessment We would urge this committee to call on the government to conduct a detailed impact assessment of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. For example, at this point we have simply no idea if the numbers of qualified foreign workers arriving in Canada with medical credentials and without arranged employment agreements have increased or not, and we suspect that this may be true for other professionals and occupations. Conclusion In conclusion, as regards the medical profession, we believe it is crucial that the federal, provincial and territorial governments must make the high level policy commitment to a nationally coordinated plan for the physician workforce that I have outlined above. Such a commitment is long overdue. In the context of such a plan, in the short-term we believe that implementation of the recommendations of the Canadian Task Force on the Licensure of IMGs will contribute significantly and moreover will add a measure of transparency and fairness, particularly for those IMGs who are residents of Canada and who have not been able to access the post-MD system. For our part, the CMA is addressing Task Force recommendation 5b, which called for a recruitment database that will permit IMGs to post curricula vitae and employers to access this information. We have implemented a module on our national online career forum MedConnexions.ca that provides IMGs with electronic tools to create an online resume and to search and apply to medical and health-related employment opportunities. While we must increase our efforts to promote the integration of IMGs in the Canadian health care system it is imperative that this be done in the context of a national action plan to achieve a greater level of self-sufficiency than we have in the past. I look forward to your questions and I thank you for your attention.
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Restoring access to quality health care : Brief Submitted to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance 1998 pre-budget consultations

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1985
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
1997-11-07
Topics
Health human resources
Health systems, system funding and performance
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
1997-11-07
Topics
Health human resources
Health systems, system funding and performance
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
I. INTRODUCTION The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) commends the federal government, in its second mandate, for continuing the pre-budget consultation process. This open process encourages public dialogue in the finance and economics of the country and the CMA appreciates the opportunity to submit its views to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance. Many issues were raised by the CMA and other health organizations, with members of the Standing Committee, at the "health roundtable" held on October 28, 1997. This brief provides greater detail of those concerns that were discussed by the members of the CMA delegation. II. BACKGROUND "Good health is fundamental to the quality of life of every Canadian. In this century, we have learned a great deal about the effective treatment of illness and disease, which requires early access to appropriate and high-quality health care services." 1 Over the past year, Canadians, their physicians and the provincial/territorial governments have all been voicing their concerns about the state of the health care system across the country. In every instance it is a united voice that shares concerns about access to quality health care services as well as the sustainability of the health care system. A consistent theme is "will the health care system be there for me or my family when needed"? Canadians perceive that access to services has further deteriorated over the past year. CMA surveys undertaken by the Angus Reid Group between the spring of 1996 and 1997 clearly demonstrate that Canadians perceive a deterioration in many critical areas of the health care system. If one looks at indicators such as waiting times over the past two years it is quite clear that Canadians have felt the cutbacks in the health care sector: * in 1997 65% reported that waiting times in emergency departments had worsened, up from 54% in 1996, * 63% reported that waiting times for surgery had worsened, up from 53% in 1996, * 50% reported that waiting times for tests had worsened, up from 43% in 1996, * 49% reported that access to specialists had worsened, up from 40% in 1996, * 64% reported that availability of nurses in hospital had worsened, up from 58% in 1996. Physicians not only provide direct care to their patients but are also concerned about their patients' access to quality health care. In Ontario, more than 16,000 were reported to be waiting for placement in long-term care institutions 2. In Newfoundland patients requiring heart surgery have had to be sent to other provinces to alleviate growing waiting lists 3 . The Conference of Provincial/Territorial Ministers of Health has expressed concerns about the ability of provinces and territories to maintain current services. The Ministers state that "Federal reductions in transfer payments have created a critical revenue shortfall for the provinces and territories which has accelerated the need for system adjustments and has seriously challenged the ability of provinces and territories to maintain current services. Federal funding reductions are forcing the acceleration of change beyond the system's ability to absorb and sustain adjustments". 4 The concerns of the Provincial/Territorial Ministers of Health about the ability of the system to absorb and sustain adjustments are well founded as demonstrated by the anxieties expressed by the public and by physicians. The CMA has clearly stated and continues to state that "health cuts hurt everyone". III. FEDERAL HEALTH CARE FUNDING AND THE CANADA HEALTH AND SOCIAL TRANSFER (CHST) (i). Getting the facts straight Prior to April 1, 1996 the federal government's commitment to insured health services, post-secondary education and social assistance programs could be readily determined since the federal government made separate payments 5 to the provinces/territories in each of these areas. However, with the introduction of the Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST), on April 1, 1996, the federal government combined all of its payments into one transfer payment to the provinces and territories. The net result is that there are no separately identifiable contributions to health, post-secondary education or social assistance programs. The federal government's accountability and commitment to health care have been blurred. However, prior to the CHST, the federal government's diminishing commitment to health care could at least be documented. Under the Established Programs Financing (EPF) arrangements the federal government has unilaterally revised the EPF funding formula eight times over the past decade. During the period 1986/87 to 1995/96, it was estimated that $30 billion in cash transfers has been withheld from health care (and an additional $12.1 billion for post-secondary education - for a total of $42.1 billion) 6. Federal "offloading" has forced all provinces/territories to make do with significantly less resources for their health care systems. [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Table 1: Canada Health and Social Transfer (in $ billions) Year Total Entitlement (1) Tax Point Transfer (2) Cash Entitlement (3) Quebec Abatement (4) Cash Payments (5) Cumulative Reductions from 95/96 (6) 1997 Budget Health Items (7) 1995-96 29.7 11.2 18.5 1.9 16.6 0.0 1996-97 26.9 11.9 15.0 2.0 13.0 (3.6) 1997-98 25.1 12.6 12.5 2.1 10.4 (9.8) 0.1 1998-99 25.8 13.3 12.5 2.2 10.3 (16.1) 0.1 1999-00 26.5 14 12.5 2.3 10.2 (22.5) 0.1 2000-01 27.1 14.6 12.5 2.4 10.1 (29.0) 2001-02 27.8 15.3 12.5 2.5 10.0 (35.6) 2002-03 28.6 16.1 12.5 2.6 9.9 (42.3) [TABLE END] The September 1997 Throne Speech stated that the government "... will introduce legislation to increase to $12.5 billion a year the guaranteed annual cash payment to provinces and territories under the Canada Health and Social Transfer" 7. Table 1 illustrates what the $12.5 billion cash entitlement will mean in terms of actual cash payments in 2002-03. The important point to remember is that this so called "increase" in the cash entitlement (3) is merely a stop in cuts . For 1998-99 the previous cash entitlement would have dropped to $11.8 billion with a further drop in 1999-00 to $11.1 billion, whereas cash entitlements are now stabilized at $12.5 billion. However, cash payments will continue to drop into the foreseeable future. Cash payments (5) exclude the Quebec abatement which is comprised of tax points not cash payments. For Canadians the CHST has meant, and continues to mean, less federal government commitment to our health care system and has compromised the federal government's ability to preserve and enhance national standards. (ii). Implications for the future of health care in Canada The reduction in federal government funding has not only compromised the federal government's ability to preserve and enhance national standards but this continued policy of "under-funding" has compromised access to quality health care for Canadians. As previously mentioned, declining public sector resources allocated to health care has manifested itself in the form of longer waiting times in emergency departments, for surgery, for diagnostic tests and in decreased access to specialists and decreased availability of nurses in hospitals. In the federal government's 1997/98 budget released this past February much fanfare was made about sustaining and improving Canada's health care system. The government announced three health care initiatives 8 totalling $300 million in expenditures over 3 years, or $100 million per year. If, on the other hand, one looks at the accumulated reduction in CHST cash payments to the provinces/territories during the same 3 years when the federal government will spend this $300 million it can be seen that the accumulated reductions total $18.9 9 billion. Therefore, during the same 3-year period the "investment" in health care by the federal government represents 1.5% of the reductions to cash payments to the provinces and territories during the same period. For the longer term, the federal government can demonstrate its commitment to health care by linking growth in CHST cash payments to factors other than the economy. The factors that are becoming increasingly important are those such as technological change, population growth and aging. Such linkage of cash payments would be less subject to fluctuations in the economy and would be an acknowledgement of the impact of technological and population structure changes on the need for health care services. From Table 2, which shows 1994 per capita provincial government health expenditures by age group, it can be concluded that as the population of Canada ages the cost structure of health care increases reflecting the fact that as we age we make greater use of the health care system to maintain our health. The age group 65 and over continues to grow, in 1994 11.9% of the population was over the age of 65, in 2016 this is projected to increase to 16% and by 2041 to 23%. 10 [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Table 2: Per Capita Provincial Government Expenditures by Age Group, Canada 1994 11 Age Group $ per Capita Increase 0-14 514 15-44 914 77.8% 45-64 1446 58.2% 65+ 6,818 371.5% Total 1,642 [TABLE END] In other areas of health care the CMA commends the federal government for their recent commitments to applied health services research. On an international basis however, Canada does not fare very well. In fact, on a per capita basis Canada came in last out of the five G-7 countries for which recent data were available. Figure 1 shows the per capita health R&D expenditures for G7 countries for which 1994 data are available. Canada's per capita spending was $22 (U.S.), compared with $35 for Japan, $59 for the U.S., $63 for France and $78 for the U.K. 12 While applied health services research is important, it must be recognized that research is a continuum beginning with basic biomedical research, moving to clinical research and ending with applied health services research. The CMA is concerned with the governments plans to cut the annual budget of the Medical Research Council (MRC) from $238 million in 1997-98 to $219 million in 2000-01. In Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's reply to the Speech from the Throne on September 24, 1997 he states that there is " . . . no better role for government than to help young Canadians prepare for the knowledge-based society of the next century." He then makes a commitment to establish, ". . . at arms-length from government, a Canada Millennium Scholarship Endowment Fund." which is to reward academic excellence. The Government of Canada should also be reminded that a knowledge-based society and scholarship also requires a commitment to research funds. Therefore the CMA calls on the Federal Government to establish national targets for spending and an implementation plan for health care research. Such an approach would buttress the other initiatives as announced by the Prime Minister. To restore access to quality health care for all Canadians, the CMA respectfully recommends: 1. At a minimum, that the federal government restore CHST cash entitlements to 1996/97 levels. 2. That, beginning April 1, 1998, the federal government fully index CHST cash payments through the use of a combination of factors that would take into account: technology, economic growth, population growth and demographics. 3. That the federal government establish a national target (either in per capita terms or as a proportion of total health spending) and an implementation plan for health research and development spending including the full spectrum of basic biomedical to applied health services research, with the objective of improving Canada's position relative to other G-7 countries where we now rank last among the five G-7 countries for which recent data are available. IV. HEALTHY PUBLIC POLICY The federal role in funding health care is clearly important to physicians and to their patients given its influence on access to quality health care services. However, there are other important issues that the CMA would like to bring to the attention of the Standing Committee on Finance. (i). Tobacco Taxation Smoking is the leading preventable cause of premature mortality in Canada. The most recent estimates suggest that more than 45,000 deaths annually in Canadaaredirectlyattributable to tobacco use., The estimated economic cost to society from tobacco use in Canada has been estimated from $11 billion to $15 billion. Tobacco use directly costs the Canadian health care system $3 billion to $3.5 billion annually. These estimates do not consider intangible costs such as pain and suffering. CMA is concerned that the 1994 reduction in the federal cigarette tax has had a significant effect in slowing the decline in cigarette smoking in the Canadian population, particularly in the youngest age groups - where the number of young smokers (15-19) is in the 22% to 30% range and 14% for those age 10-14. A 1997 Canada Health Monitor Survey found that smoking among girls 15-19 is at 42%. A Quebec study found that smoking rates for high school students went from 19% to 38%, between 1991 and 1996. The CMA understands that tobacco tax strategies are extremely complex. Strategies need to consider the effects of tax increases on reduced consumption of tobacco products with increases in interprovincial/territorial and international smuggling. In order to tackle this issue, the government could consider a selective tax strategy. This strategy requires continuous stepwise increases to tobacco taxes in those selective areas with lower tobacco tax (i.e., Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada). The goal of selective increases in tobacco tax is to increase the price to the tobacco consumer over time (65-70% of tobacco products are sold in Ontario and Quebec). The selective stepwise tax increases will approach but may not achieve parity amongst all provinces however, the tobacco tax will attain a level such that inter-provincial/territorial smuggling would be unprofitable. The selective stepwise increases would need to be monitored so that the new tax level and US/Canadian exchange rates does not make international smuggling profitable. The objectives of this strategy are: * reduce tobacco consumption; * minimize interprovincial/territorial smuggling of tobacco products; and * minimize international smuggling of tobacco products. The selective stepwise increase in tobacco taxes can be combined with other tax strategies. The federal government should apply the export tax and remove the exemption available on shipments in accordance with each manufacturers historic levels. The objective of implementing the export tax would be to make cross-border smuggling unprofitable. The ultimate goals for implementing this strategy are: * reduce international smuggling of tobacco products; * reduce and/or minimize Canadian consumption of internationally smuggled tobacco products. The federal government should establish a dialogue with the US federal government. Canada and the US should hold discussions regarding harmonizing US tobacco taxes to Canadian levels at the factory gate. Alternatively, US tobacco taxes could be raised to a level that when offset with the US/Canada exchange rate differential renders international smuggling unprofitable. The objective of implementing the harmonizing US/Canadian tobacco tax levels (at or near the Canadian levels) would be to increase the price of internationally smuggled tobacco products to the Canadian and American consumers. The ultimate goals for implementing this strategy are: * reduce risk of international smuggling of tobacco products from both the Canadian and American perspective; * reduce and/or minimize Canadian/American consumption of internationally smuggled tobacco products. 4. The Canadian Medical Association is recommending that the federal government follow a comprehensive integrated tobacco tax policy: (a) That the federal government implement selective stepwise tobacco tax increases to achieve the following objectives: * reduce tobacco consumption, * minimize interprovincial/territorial smuggling of tobacco products, * minimize international smuggling of tobacco products; (b) That the federal government apply the export tax on tobacco products and remove the exemption available on tobacco shipments in accordance with each manufacturers historic levels; (c) That the federal government enter into discussions with the US federal government to explore options regarding tobacco tax policy, bringing US tobacco tax levels in line with or near Canadian levels, in order to minimize international smuggling. The Excise Act Review, A Proposal for a Revised Framework for the Taxation of Alcohol and Tobacco Products (1996), proposes that tobacco excise duties and taxes (Excise Act and Excise Tax Act) for domestically produced tobacco products be combined into a new excise duty and come under the jurisdiction of the Excise Act. The new excise duty is levied at the point of packaging where the products are produced. The Excise Act Review also proposes that the tobacco customs duty equivalent and the excise tax (Customs Tariff and Excise Tax Act) for imported tobacco products be combined into the new excise duty [equivalent tax to domestically produced tobacco products] and come under the jurisdiction of the Excise Act. The new excise duty will be levied at the time of importation. The CMA supports the proposal of the Excise Act Review. It is consistent with previous CMA recommendations calling for tobacco taxes at the point of production. (ii). Tobacco Control Taxation should be used in conjunction with other strategies for promoting healthy public policy, such as, programs for tobacco prevention and cessation. The Liberal party, recognising the importance of this type of strategy , promised: "...to double the funding for the Tobacco Demand Reduction Strategy from $50 million to $100 million over five years, investing the additional funds in smoking prevention and cessation programs for young people, to be delivered by community organizations that promote the health and well-being of Canadian children and youth". The CMA applauds the federal government's efforts in the area of tobacco prevention and cessation. However, a time limited investment is not enough. More money is required for investment in this area. Program funding is required for more efforts and programs in tobacco prevention and cessation. A possible source for this type of program investment could come from tobacco tax revenues or the tobacco surtax. 5. In the short term, the Canadian Medical Association calls upon the federal government to fulfil the its promise to invest $100 million, over five years, into the Tobacco Demand Reduction Strategy. In the longer term, the Canadian Medical Association calls upon the federal government to establish stable program funding for its comprehensive tobacco control strategy, including smoking prevention and cessation. (iii). Non-taxable health benefits The federal government is to be commended for its decision to maintain the non-taxable status of supplementary health benefits. This decision is an example of the federal governments' commitment to maintain good tax policy that supports good health policy (the current incentive fosters risk pooling). Approximately 70% or 20 million Canadians rely on full or partial private supplementary health care benefits (e.g., dental, drugs, vision care, private duty nursing, etc.). As governments reduce the level of public funding, the private component of health expenditures is expanding. Canadians are becoming increasingly reliant on the services of private insurance. In the context of funding those health care services that remain public benefits, the government cannot strike yet another blow to individual Canadians and to Canadian business by taxing the very benefits for which taxes were raised. In terms of fairness, it would seem unfair to "penalize" 70% of Canadians by taxing supplementary health benefits to put them on an equal basis with the remaining 30%. It would be preferable to develop incentives to allow the remaining 30% of Canadians to achieve similar benefits attributable to the tax status of supplementary health benefits. If supplementary health benefits were to become taxable, it is likely that young healthy people would opt for cash compensation instead of paying taxes on benefits they do not receive. These Canadians would become uninsured for supplementary health services. It follows that employer-paid premiums may increase as a result of this exodus in order to offset the additional costs of maintaining benefit levels due to diminishing ability to achieve risk pooling. In addition, 6. That the current federal government policy with respect to non-taxable health benefits be maintained. V. FAIR AND EQUITABLE TAX POLICY CMA has demonstrated that good economic policy reinforces good health policy in past submissions to the Standing Committee on Finance. The CMA again reiterated the important role that fair tax policy plays in supporting healthy public policy. (i). The Goods and Services Tax (GST)& the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) The CMA strongly believes in a tax system that is fair and equitable. This point has been made on several occasions to the Standing Committee on Finance. In particular, the point was stressed as part of the Standing Committee's consultation process leading to the report "Replacing the GST: Options for Canada". In the case of the GST, however, the reality is that physicians as self-employed Canadians are singled out and discriminated against by virtue of not being able to claim input tax credits (ITCs) since medical services are designated as "tax exempt". The CMA does not dispute the importance that the federal government has attached to medical services such that Canadians are not subject to GST/HST for having availed themselves of such medical services from their physician. However, the GST/HST are consumption taxes and as such are paid for by the end consumer. If, however, government determines that such a consumption tax should not be applied to the consumers (in this case physicians' patients) of a particular good or service it behooves government not to implement half measures that bring into question the equity and fairness of the Canadian tax system. While other self-employed professionals and small business claim ITCs, an independent (KPMG) study has estimated that physicians have "over contributed" in terms of unclaimed ITCs to the extend of $57.2 million per year. Since the inception of the GST and by the end of this calendar year, physicians will have been unfairly taxed in excess of $400 million. All this for providing a necessary service that has been deemed so important by government. Physicians are not asking for special treatment. What they are asking for, however, is to be treated in a fair and equitable manner like other self-employed Canadians and small businesses. Unlike other businesses and professionals, physicians cannot recoup the GST/HST by claiming ITCs or passing the GST/HST onto customers/patients. The federal government has acknowledged the inequitable impact of the GST/HST on other providers in the health care sector. Municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals have been given special consideration because they, like physicians, are not able to pass the GST/HST on to their clients. Hospitals have been afforded an 83% rebate for purchases made in providing patient care while physicians must absorb the full GST/HST costs on purchases also made in providing patient care. At a time when health policy measures are attempting to expand community-based practices, the current tax policy (and now harmonized tax policy) which taxes supplies in a clinical practice setting but not in a hospital setting acts to discourage this shift in emphasis. To complicate matters further, the recent agreement between the federal government and some Atlantic provinces to harmonize their sales taxes will make matters worse for physicians. With no ability to claim ITCs, physicians will, once again, have to absorb the additional costs associated with the practice of medicine. It has been estimated that harmonization will cost physicians in Atlantic Canada an additional $4.7 million each year (over and above the current GST inequity). In the current fiscal environment, this unresolved issue does not help matters when it comes to physician recruitment and retention across the country. Furthermore, for established physicians who have had to live with the current policy, the GST/HST serves as a constant reminder that the basic and fundamental principles of equity and fairness in the tax system is not being extended to the physicians of Canada. To date, the CMA has made representations to the Minister of Finance and Finance Department Officials but yet to no avail. We look to this Committee and to the federal government to not only ensure that the tax system is perceived to be fair and equitable but that it is in fact fair and equitable to all members of society. The unfairness of the GST/HST, as applied to medical services, has raised the ire of physicians and has made them question their sense of fair play in Canada's tax system. In the interests of fairness and equity, the CMA respectfully recommends the following: 7. The CMA recommends that health care services funded by the provinces and territories be zero-rated. The above recommendation could be accomplished by amending the Excise Tax Act as follows: (1). Section 5 part II of Schedule V to the Excise Tax Act is replaced by the following: 5. "A supply (other than a zero-rated supply) made by a medical practitioner of a consultative, diagnostic, treatment or other health care service rendered to an individual (other than a surgical or dental service that is performed for cosmetic purposes and not for medical or reconstructive purposes)." (2). Section 9 Part II of Schedule V to the Excise Tax Act is repealed. (3). Part II of Schedule VI to the Excise Tax Act is amended by adding the following after section 40: 41. A supply of any property or service but only if, and to the extent that, the consideration for the supply is payable or reimbursed by the government under a plan established under an Act of the legislature of the province to provide for health care services for all insured persons of the province. Our recommendation fulfils at least two over-arching policy objectives: 1) strengthening the relationship between good economic policy and good health policy in Canada; and 2) applying the fundamental principles that underpin our taxation system (fairness, efficiency, effectiveness), in all cases. (ii). Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) Experts have stated that there are (at least) two fundamental goals of retirement savings: (1) to guarantee a basic level of retirement income for all Canadians; and, (2) to assist Canadians in avoiding serious disruption of their pre-retirement living standards upon retirement. Looking at the demographic picture in Canada, we can see that an increasing portion of society is not only aging, but is living longer. Assuming that current demographic trends will continue and peak in the first quarter of the next century, it is important to recognize the role that private RRSPs savings will play in ensuring that Canadians may continue to live dignified lives well past their retirement from the labour force. This becomes even more critical when one considers that Canadians are not setting aside sufficient resources for their retirement. Specifically, according to Statistics Canada, it is estimated that 53% of men and 82% of women starting their career at age 25 will require financial aid at retirement age - only 8% of men and 2% women will be financially secure. The 1996 federal government policy changes with respect to RRSP contribution limits run counter to the White Paper released in 1983 (The Tax Treatment of Retirement Savings), where the House of Commons Special Committee on Pension Reform recommended that the limits on contributions to tax-assisted retirement savings plans be amended so that the same comprehensive limit would apply regardless of the retirement savings vehicle or combination of vehicles used. In short, the Liberal government endorsed the principle of "pension parity". According to three more recent papers released by the federal government, the principle of pension parity would have been achieved between money-purchase (MP) plans and defined benefit (DB) plans had RRSP contribution limits risen to $15,500 in 1988. The federal government postponed the scheduling of the $15,500 limit for seven years, that is achieving the goal pension parity was delayed until 1995. In its 1996 Budget Statement, the federal government altered its course of action and froze the dollar limit of RRSPs at $13,500 through to 2003/04, with increases to $14,500 and $15,500 in 2004/05 and 2005/06, respectively. As well, the maximum pension limit for defined benefit registered pension plans will be frozen at its current level of $1,722 per year of service through 2004/05. This is a de facto increase in tax payable. The CMA is frustrated that ten years of careful and deliberate government planning around pension reform has not come to fruition, in fact if the current policy remains in place will have taken more than 17 years to implement (from 1988 to 2005). As a consequence, the current policy of freezing RRSP contribution limits and RPP limits without making adjustments to RRSP limits to achieve pension parity serves to maintain inequities between the two plans until 2005/2006. This is patently unfair for self-employed Canadians who rely on RRSPs as their sole vehicle for retirement planning. CMA respectfully recommends to the Standing Committee: 8. That the dollar limit of RRSPs at $13,500 increase to $14,500 and $15,500 in 1998/1999 and 1999/2000, respectively. Subsequently, dollar limits increase at the growth in the yearly maximum pensionable earnings (YMPE). VI. SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS With the future access to quality health care for all Canadians at stake, the CMA strongly believes that the federal government must demonstrate that it is prepared to take a leadership role and re-invest in the health care of Canadians. The CMA therefore makes the following recommendations to the Standing Committee in its deliberations: Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST) 1. At a minimum, that the federal government restore CHST cash entitlements to 1996/97 levels. 2. That, beginning April 1, 1998, the federal government fully index CHST cash payments through the use of a combination of factors that would take into account: technology, economic growth, population growth and demographics. 3. That the federal government establish a national target (either in per capita terms or as a proportion of total health spending) and an implementation plan for health research and development spending including the full spectrum of basic biomedical to applied health services research, with the objective of improving Canada's position relative to other G-7 countries where we now rank last among the five G-7 countries for which recent data are available. Tobacco Taxation 4. The Canadian Medical Association is recommending that the federal government follow a comprehensive integrated tobacco tax policy: (a) That the federal government implement selective stepwise tobacco tax increases to achieve the following objectives: < reduce tobacco consumption, < minimize interprovincial/territorial smuggling of tobacco products, < minimize international smuggling of tobacco products; (b) That the federal government apply the export tax on tobacco products and remove the exemption available on tobacco shipments in accordance with each manufacturers historic levels; (c) That the federal government enter into discussions with the US federal government to explore options regarding tobacco tax policy, bringing US tobacco tax levels in line with or near Canadian levels, in order to minimize international smuggling. Tobacco Control 5. In the short term, the Canadian Medical Association calls upon the federal government to fulfil the its promise to invest $100 million, over five years, into the Tobacco Demand Reduction Strategy. In the longer term, the Canadian Medical Association calls upon the federal government to establish stable program funding for its comprehensive tobacco control strategy, including tobacco prevention and cessation. Non-Taxable Health Benefits 6. That the current federal government policy with respect to non-taxable health benefits be maintained. The Goods and Services Tax (GST)& the Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) 7. The CMA recommends that health care services funded by the provinces and territories be zero-rated. Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) 8. That the dollar limit of RRSPs at $13,500 increase to $14,500 and $15,500 in 1998/1999 and 1999/2000, respectively. Subsequently, dollar limits increase at the growth in the yearly maximum pensionable earnings (YMPE). 13 1 Liberal Party, Securing Our Future Together. The Liberal Party of Canada, , Ottawa, 1997. p. 71. 2 Lipovenko, D,1997: Seniors face shortage of care. Globe & Mail [Toronto]; Feb 26 Sect A:5 3 Joan Marie Aylward, Minister of Health, Newfoundland and Labrador, public statement, May 14, 1997 4 Conference of Provincial/Territorial Ministers of Health, A Renewed Vision for Canada's Health System. January 1997. p. 7. 5 Thomson, A., Diminishing Expectations - Implications of the CHST, [report] Canadian Medical Association, Ottawa. May, 1996. 6 Thomson A: Federal Support for Health Care: A Background Paper. Health Action Lobby, June 1991. 7 Speech from the Throne to Open the First Session Thirty-Sixth Parliament of Canada. Ottawa; 1997 Sept 23. 8 Health Transition Fund: $150 million over 3 years - to help provinces to test ways to improve their health system, for example, new approaches to home care, drug coverage, and other innovations. Canada Health Information System: $50 million over 3 years - to create a network for health care providers and planners for sharing information. Community Action Program for Children: $100 million over 3 years - for support of community groups for parent education for children at risk and for Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program to ensure the birth of healthy babies. 9 See Table 1: Cumulative reductions to 1999/00 of $22.5 billion subtracting $3.6 billion for 1996/97 gives a cumulative reduction during 1997/98 to 1999/00 of $18.9 billion. 10 Statistics Canada, Population Projections for Canada, Provinces and Territories 1993-2016. Ottawa: Statistics Canada; 1994. p. 73. Cat no 91-520 [occasional]. 11 Health Canada, National Health Expenditures in Canada, 1975-1994 [Full Report]. Ottawa: Health Canada; January 1996. p. 41. 12 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. OECD Health Data 97. Paris: OECD; 1997. 13 Cunningham R, Smoke and Mirrors: The Canadian War on Tobacco, International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada, 1996. p. 8. "Restoring Access to Quality Health Care" 1998 Pre-Budget Consultations Page " 1998 Pre-Budget Consultations Page
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Toward a National Strategy on Mental Illness and Mental Health : CMA Presentation to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy2008
Last Reviewed
2011-03-05
Date
2004-03-31
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2011-03-05
Date
2004-03-31
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
Thank you, honourable Senators, for the opportunity to speak on the critical need to address mental health and mental illness in Canada. In my remarks today I want to talk briefly about the dimensions of the issues, the instruments available to government to address them, and the CMA’s specific thoughts and recommendations on moving forward. Dimensions of the problem As the members of this committee know, the economic toll exacted by mental health disorders, including stress and distress topped 14 billion dollars in 1998. The human cost, however, extends far beyond dollars and cents. Estimates show that about one in five Canadians — close to six million people — will be affected by mental illness at some point in their life. This problem climbs still higher if one includes the serious problem of addiction to illicit drugs, alcohol, prescription drugs and the increasingly serious emerging problem of gambling addiction. Yet our society and health care system remains woefully inadequate in promoting mental health and in delivering care and treatment where and when needed. These systemic shortcomings have been exacerbated by the twin barriers of stigma and discrimination. These barriers have a detrimental effect on recovery from mental illness and addictions by hindering access to services, treatment and acceptance in the community. This is especially unfortunate because effective treatment exists for most mental illnesses and addictions. Poor mental health affects all aspects of a person’s life and requires a collaborative approach. Family physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, nurses and other counselors can be involved in one patient’s mental health care. While family physicians can deal with a number of mental illnesses, most are not trained in the complicated medical management of severe mental illness. Many family physicians’ offices are also not sufficiently resourced to deal with family counseling, or related issues such as housing, educational and occupational problems often associated with mental illness. As a family physician myself I should be assured that, when a patient’s mental health care requires additional expertise, the appropriate resources are available for my patients and their families. Physicians are striving to ensure that the care is provided by the appropriate caregiver at the appropriate time. For example the Shared Mental Health Care initiative of the College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Canadian Psychiatric Association is designed to lead to better outcomes for patients. I know the committee will hear more about this initiative from the Canadian Psychiatric Association. I mention it now simply as a reminder that progress is being made and even more could be gained with the establishment of a national strategy to address mental illness and mental health. Canada is the only G8 nation without such a national strategy. This oversight has contributed significantly to fragmented mental health services, chronic problems such as lengthy waiting lists for children’s mental health services and dire health human resource shortages. Case in point, there are no child psychiatrists in the northern territories, where such care is so desperately needed. Planning to correct the problem The fragmented state of mental health services in Canada did not develop overnight and it would be overly simplistic to say problems can be solved immediately. However, it is important to understand that there are means available to the federal government to better meet its obligations with respect to surveillance, prevention of mental illness and promotion of mental health. The way forward has been clearly described by the Canadian Alliance for Mental Illness and Mental Health, and the October 2002 National Summit on Mental Health and Mental Illness hosted by the CMA, and the Canadian Psychological and Psychiatric Associations. This gathering helped define the form that a national strategy should take. Participants recommended a focus on national mental health goals, a policy framework that includes research, surveillance, education, mental health promotion and a health resources plan, adequate and sustained funding; and an accountability mechanism. In addition to a national strategy, the CMA believes it is also important to recognize the deleterious effect of the exclusion of a “hospital or institution primarily for the mentally disordered” from the application of the Canada Health Act. Simply put, how are we to overcome stigma and discrimination if we validate these sentiments in our federal legislation? The CMA firmly believes that the development of a national strategy and action plan on mental health and mental illness is the single most important step that can be taken on this issue. The plan also requires support, wheels if you will, to overcome the inertia that has foiled attempts thus far. Those wheels come in the form of five specific actions that are listed at the back of the presentation. But, to summarize, they would include: * Amending the Canada Health Act to include psychiatric hospitals. * Adjusting the Canada Health Transfer to provide for these additional insured services. * Re-establishing an adequately-resourced federal organizational unit focused on Mental Illness and Mental Health and addictions. * The review of federal health policies and programs to ensure that mental illness is on par in terms of benefits with other chronic diseases and disabilities. * An effective national public awareness strategy to reduce the stigma associated with mental illnesses and addictions in Canadian society. Looking inward While my remarks have focused on the broad status of mental health initiatives in Canada, the mental health status of Canadian health care providers is also of concern to the CMA. In recent years, evidence has shown that physician stress and dissatisfaction is rising and morale is low. The CMA’s 2003 Physician Resource Questionnaire found that 45.7% of physicians are in an advanced state of burnout. Physicians, particularly women physicians, appear to be at a higher risk of suicide than the general population. The CMA has been involved in a number of activities to address this situation, including last year’s launch of the Centre for Physician Health and Well-Being. The Centre functions as a clearinghouse and coordinating body to support research and provide trusted information to physicians, physicians in training and their families. A first activity of the Centre was to provide, through partnership with the CIHR’s Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction, $100,000 in physician health research funding. This funding is currently supporting two research projects. One will develop a guide of common indicators for Canadian physician health programs. This will generate a national profile of the physicians who use the programs, the services provided, and their outcomes. The second will study the psychodynamics of physicians’ work to allow for a better understanding of the dynamics of problems such as stress, burnout, addiction and violence in the workplace. These efforts must be bolstered - other health providers are also impacted by mental illness and need support. The health care provider community needs help in terms of the reduction of stigma, access to resources and supportive environments. Conclusion I know some of what I have said today will have been familiar to members of the committee given the impressive list of roundtables, witness testimony and submissions you have reviewed already as part of your study on mental health. I only hope my comments will be of help in your important efforts and lead to real progress on addressing the largely unmet mental health and mental illness needs in Canada. Recommendations for Action CMA Submission to the Senate Social Affairs, Science and Technology 1. That the federal government make the legislative and/or regulatory amendments necessary to ensure that psychiatric hospital services are subject to the five program criteria of the Canada Health Act. 2. That, in conjunction with legislative and/or regulatory changes, funding to the provinces/territories through the Canada Health Transfer be adjusted to provide for federal cost sharing in both one-time investment and ongoing cost of these additional insured services. 3. That the federal government re-establishes an adequately resourced organizational unit focused on Mental Illness and Mental Health and addictions within Health Canada or the new Canadian Agency for Public Health. This new unit will coordinate mental health and mental illness program planning, policy coordination and delivery of mental health services in areas of federal jurisdiction. The unit would also work with provinces and territories, and the Canada Health Council to enact the National Action Plan endorsed at the National Summit on Mental Illness and Mental Health. Specific responsibilities would include fostering research through federal bodies such as the Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR), and disseminating best practices in the provision of mental health programs and services in Canada. 4. That the federal government review federal policies such as disability policy, tax policy, income support policy to ensure that mental illness is on par in terms of benefits with other chronic diseases and disabilities. 5. That the federal government work with the provinces and territories and the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health to develop an effective national public awareness strategy to reduce the stigma associated with mental illnesses and addictions in Canadian society.
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