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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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Building a Comprehensive Post-Market Surveillance System : Canadian Medical Association Response to Health Canada’s Discussion Paper “Designing a Mandatory System for Reporting Serious Adverse Reactions”

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

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1973
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2000-12-15
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
2000-12-15
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
The method a country chooses to fund and deliver health care demonstrates the values of its citizens and the type of nation that they wish to live in. Canadians, through their elected representatives, have placed a high value on a single-payer, tax-financed health care system with a delivery system that is essentially private and not-for-profit. The principles providing the underpinnings of the system are embodied in the Canada Health Act (CHA) and include the following: universality, comprehensiveness, access, portability and public administration. Since the passing of the CHA, Canadians have grown increasingly passionate about these principles and have demonstrated time and again that these principles are in close alignment with their values. Canadians have chosen tax-based financing for their health care system as it relates to hospital and physician services. The provincial and federal governments, through federal government transfers such as equalization payments and the Canada Health and Social Transfer and through provincial taxation, fund the various organizations and health care providers that deliver health care. Therefore the financing of the health care system has been socialized and publicly administered as opposed to privatized through compulsory private insurance. This indicates that Canadians view health care as not just an ordinary good, such as an automobile or a house that they pay for based on their own financial resources, but as a good whose cost should be shared by the community on the basis of the ability to pay of individuals. For those two components that are most likely to create true financial hardship for families and individuals, hospital services and physician services, the overwhelming majority of the funding is from public sources as opposed to private sources. When it comes to the health services that are subject to the provisions of the CHA, namely hospital services and physicians' services, Canada has chosen a predominantly private delivery approach. Physicians are largely self-employed and operate within a private sector solo or group practice while community and teaching hospitals are largely private not-for-profit organizations. Most Canadian hospitals are governed by voluntary boards of trustees and are owned by voluntary organizations, municipal or provincial authorities or religious orders. 2.0 CANADIAN VALUES The evolution of Canada's health care system has been profoundly influenced by Canadian values and as a result so will its future. The Prime Minister's National Forum on Health produced a series of documents on Canada's health care system including analyses that delved into Canadian values regarding health care and Canada's health care system in particular. The following quotes are from Graves, Frank L. Beauchamp, Patrick, Herle, David, "Research on Canadian Values in Relation to Health and the Health Care System" Canada Health Action: Building on the Legacy, Papers Commissioned by the National Forum on Health, "Volume 5 - Making Decisions, Evidence and Information". These quotes exemplify the importance of health and the health care system in the hearts and minds of Canadians. "There is a broad consensus that the Canadian health care system is a collective accomplishment, a source of pride, and a symbol of core Canadian values. The values of equality, access, and compassion are salient to perceptions of the system and often held in contradistinction to perceptions of the American system. Moreover, the system is seen as relatively effective and sound. It may be the only area of current public endeavour which is seen as a clear success story." p. 352 "The public perceptions of problems in the health care system reflect many of the themes evident in broader concerns about government. One of these themes is a growing wariness of "expert" prescriptions for the health care system." p. 353 "This finding reconfirms a consistent conclusion of other research in this area - the gap between expert rationality and public values. It would be prudent to acknowledge the public's entrenched resistance to a purely economic mode on health care." p. 354 "A number of key conclusions are evident. First, people were generally loath to trade-off elements of the current system against the promise of better or fairer future performance." p. 355 "The public will be resistant to a rational discourse on these cost issues because they are more likely to see these issues in terms of higher-order values. The evidence suggests that further dialogue will tilt the debate more to values than economics. The public will insist on inclusion and influence in this crucial debate and they will reject elite and expert authority." p. 356 "In response to a question on how health care was different from other commodities and services sold in the marketplace, participants agreed that its main difference lies in the fact that it was directly related to "life and death"." p. 370 "Most simply did not want efficiency to be the driving force in health policy." p. 378 "The focus group discussions augmented the belief that health care is more about values than economics." p. 389 "Although other competing priorities emerged over the period of the discussion, it is equality of access that serves as the primary source of this pride. The "Canadian" values are wrapped up in equality of access - everybody gets relatively equal care when they are sick and nobody has to lose their house to pay their hospital or doctor bill. It is this feature of the system which is seen to most distinguish it from the American model (which is the point of comparison)." p. 393 "Many people readily acknowledge that their belief in egalitarianism is restricted to health care and that they are not troubled by wide discrepancies based on ability to pay or status in other areas of society. They have no trouble isolating health care in this way because they see health care as something of a completely different character than housing or automobiles or vacations." p. 393 "There is an overwhelming consensus among Canadians about the importance of equality of access as the defining characteristic of our system. That consensus is premised upon the assumption that quality is a given, as they have perceived it to be in the past." p. 395 "It is also true that, since Canadians recognize that a truly private system like the U.S. version might provide even greater levels or quality of freedom of choice to at least some citizens, they are choosing to sacrifice some of that from the system in order to provide equality of access to a universal system." p. 396 Clearly, Canadians value their health care system and the principles that it is based on. 3.0 IMPLICATIONS FOR TRADE LIBERALIZATION The core values that Canadians have expressed in relation to the health care system raise certain issues as to the impact of trade liberalization on those core values. Following is an analysis based on an examination of the various modes of trade. 3.1 Modes of Trade in Services The Uruguay Round of trade negotiations leading to the World Trade Organization's creation in 1995 classified services into 160 sectors. Health services are classified as a sector. In addition, trade in insurance services may affect health services where a market for health insurance exists. The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) distinguishes among four modes of trade in services. Each is briefly described below, together with examples, (involving the mythic countries 'A' and 'B') from the health sector. [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Mode Example 1 Cross-border trade - provision of diagnosis or treatment planning services in country A by suppliers in country B, via telecommunications ('telemedicine') 2 Consumption abroad - movement of patients from country A to country B for treatment 3 Commercial presence - establishment of hospitals in country A whose owners are from country B, i.e. foreign direct investment 4 Presence of natural persons1 - service provision in country A by health professionals who have emigrated from country B [TABLE END] To date, Canada has made no commitments in the health services sector. Commitments in general have been shallow in the health sector in comparison to the most liberalized sectors, telecommunications and financial services, reflecting in part the substantial uncertainty about how such commitments will affect health care systems. Many of the countries that have undertaken health sector commitments have opted for enshrining the status quo, or even the status quo with commitments that include language proficiency requirements for health care professionals. Some WTO Members, however, have made more extensive commitments, driven in part by the hope that this will facilitate development of export opportunities and importation of foreign capital and know-how. Where developing countries have made such commitments, the general lack of resources appears to be a far more potent barrier to trade than the presence or absence of such commitments. 3.2 GATS and the Health System: Role of Insurance and Health System Structure To understand trade implications for the health sector, it may be helpful to distinguish between three functions that undergird all health systems: regulation/stewardship, financing, and service provision. Since the inception of Medicare, Canadians have received their health care through a system of private providers regulated under statutes. This links them closely to a financing system comprised largely of public funds in the form of general taxation revenues disbursed to health care providers by provincial and territorial governments and drawn from provincial and federal revenues through the progressive income tax system. The regulatory/stewardship established by the Canada Health Act and provincial regulation is pivotal to the system's structure. For example, building private hospitals need not be explicitly banned because funding levers make this a difficult business proposition as services provided there would not be automatically covered by provincially managed insurance schemes. A further useful distinction arises between input goods and services (drugs, devices, health care personnel, cleaning, laundry etc.) and the output of health care services. It is difficult to argue that the cleaning of hospitals is fundamentally part of the output of health services, rather it is similar to cleaning of other facilities and is increasingly performed by commercial entities in contractual relationships with health care facilities. These commercial entities include firms with foreign ownership or shareholders. Similarly many of the drugs and devices used in Canadian health care facilities are traded goods, moving in international trade from foreign-based suppliers and being accompanied by Canadian goods exported to other health care systems. Another input into the health care system is medical education. Physicians have to be trained so that Canadians have access to appropriate physician resources. There is some concern about the effects of GATS on the medical education enterprise and the quality of medical education currently delivered in Canada. As well, there is international recognition of Canada's expertise in medical education and evaluation and that this is a part of the health care system that Canada should be exporting. 4.0 RESPONDING TO GATS: POTENTIAL IMPLICATIONS In responding to GATS, it is helpful to consider each of the four modes of trade in health services, current levels of trade, and how GATS liberalization, (i.e. commitments by the government of Canada) could impact Canada's health care system. Mode 1 - Cross-border supply Cross border supply of health services, where the provider (health care professional) and consumer (patient) are in different jurisdictions has recently moved from the realm of science fiction to reality with advances in telemedicine. However, certain services, particularly those involving direct patient contact (nursing, rehabilitation professionals) are unlikely to be provided, regardless of advances in telemedicine. Cross-border supply appears most relevant to services involving diagnosis and treatment planning. For example, a physician in Canada may digitize radiology films and send them for interpretation to a radiologist in the Caribbean or South Asia. Similarly, several experiments within Canada have attempted to use telediagnosis to spare families long trips from remote communities to consult with highly specialized paediatricians. If this were to occur across national borders with exchange of payment for services, it would constitute a form of international services trade. Current limits on telemedicine's growth are essentially no longer technological but rather the regulatory/stewardship issues of professional certification and payment systems for services rendered. A commitment under mode 1 would do nothing to address either of these questions, particularly the first as governments retain full authority to establish licensing and certification regimes for professionals. Within Canada, payment has been hampered by provincial insurance plan insistence that the doctor-patient encounter must occur in such a way that both are in the same physical space. At present, efforts have been directed to establishing cross-border recognition of professional accounting certification, fueled in large part by the concentration of accounting services work within a handful of multinational firms on behalf of their increasingly globalized clients. By contrast, similar efforts directed to social sector professions are unlikely given the atomistic nature of the professionals and the institutions and organizations where they work. The absence of a concerted desire for such cross-border recognition, coupled with the powerful role of governments in regulating not only certification but also numbers of health care professionals, suggests cross-border recognition will remain unlikely for the foreseeable future. That having been said, a commitment by Canada and other countries to mode 1 liberalization could increase pressure on licensing authorities to develop programs of cross-border recognition. If this were to happen the export of telemedicine services outside of Canada would represent physician resources that would not be available to Canadians. Given the physician workforce issues that Canada is presently facing such a commitment could exacerbate an already difficult position. In addition, there are other implications that would have to be determined through stakeholder consultation, for example: provider legal liability and malpractice insurance, patient privacy and confidentiality of medical records to name a few. Mode 2 - Consumption abroad Individual Canadians have long sought care in other jurisdictions, most notably the United States. This is typically paid for from private health insurance or out of pocket funds. Changes to provincial insurance reimbursement for out-of-country care have dramatically limited publicly funded consumption abroad by Canadians. Two exceptions to this are treatment for specific rare conditions and, in several provinces, contracting for radiation therapy services with American institutions. Liberalization under mode 2 would do little for Canada in affecting the outward flow of Canadian patients to the US given the ease with which Canadians can cross the Canada-US border to purchase medical care. Similarly, opportunities for Canadian professionals and facilities to attract additional foreign patients are unlikely to grow substantially should a mode 2 commitment be made. The obvious growth potential for Canadian physicians and facilities lies in the USA but has been substantially limited by two synergistic factors. First is the non-portability of insurance coverage, both publicly financed Medicare/Medicaid benefits and most market-purchased insurance. Exclusion from health maintenance organizations' (HMOs) networks of providers are a further impediment for Canadian providers seeking to attract American consumers. Should the United States be willing to commit to the generalized portability of Medicare benefits, Canada would be a logical destination for American consumers seeking care, but that would be contingent on a commitment from the United States or other action regarding portability, rather than a specific mode 2 commitment by Canada. Commitments in this direction may, however, only be made if similar commitments are made by potential trading partners for health services, notably Canada and Mexico. A commitment by Canada and other countries, especially the United States, to mode 2 liberalization could change the business plans or strategies to attract foreign patients by some physicians especially certain niche subspecialists. Such a change could result in access difficulties for Canadian patients as providers substitute higher-paying foreign patients for Canadian ones for which payment is fixed by provincial insurance plans. Mode 3 - Commercial presence Commercial presence, usually through foreign direct investment (FDI), is often necessary for providing services such as banking or supply chain management. FDI in Canada's health service sector is relatively insignificant and that would appear unlikely to change with a mode 3 commitment. As with several of the other modes of trade, the regulatory and stewardship environment creates structural impediments to FDI, specifically concerning which services will be paid for in which facilities, that a mode 3 commitment is unlikely to remove. A related area for the health system is that of consulting services, where multinational, foreign-origin firms already play a substantial role in providing various forms of management consulting services. While some hospital boards are reported to have been approached regarding the outsourcing of their management to foreign management services firms, the extent of implementation to date has been minimal. Should hospital management be outsourced in this way or hospital facilities networked through supra-facility organizations, American based firms are logical candidates for such work and can be expected to bring with them substantial experience in shaping and constraining physician decision-making, particularly around access to expensive procedures. Mode 3 commitments are arguably neither necessary nor sufficient for such a change in hospital governance and management when compared to the power of provincial government regulation and financing mechanisms. If Canada made a mode 3 commitment, provincial governments would still have substantial latitude to regulate financing and provision of services, so long as these regulations applied to all potential suppliers, regardless of country of origin, thus ensuring national treatment. However, the full ramifications of such a commitment remain largely unknown and there appears little to be gained by Canada in making such commitments. Mode 4 - Presence of natural persons Presence of natural persons, specifically physicians and other health professionals, is one of the most pressing issues in health systems around the world. For countries like South Africa, emigration of physicians hamstrings efforts to deliver health services. For parts of Canada, immigration of those physicians has been essential to providing Canadians with health care, particularly in rural and remote areas. Nevertheless, mode 4 commitments are unlikely to be particularly useful for health human resource planning. For destination countries like Canada, a mode 4 commitment to liberalize immigration of natural persons, specifically health sector professionals, does not bind that country to forego national systems of certification and licensure. Moreover, existing systems of visas and work authorizations offer far more effective control over inflows than would a mode 4 commitment. Similarly, Canadian physicians who wish to emigrate, typically to the US, do so in the absence of a Mode 4 commitment by either country. Of concern to Canadians is the increased recognition of physician shortages as demonstrated by the fact that several provinces have increased medical school enrolment. Therefore any measures that would make it easier for physicians and other health care professionals to leave Canada and to practice elsewhere, especially the United States, could exacerbate an already tight supply of human health resources in several provinces. After a decade of efforts to reduce the number of physicians in Canada, assessments of Canadian physician supply are increasingly identifying shortages or, at the very least, chronic undersupply, in rural areas. Substantial numbers of foreign-trained physicians already reside in Canada but are unable to practice due to some combination of limited language skills, insufficient training, or 'queuing' for the various transition requirements imposed on international medical graduates (IMGs) by provincial licensing authorities. Commitments by Canada in this area however could result in pressure on licensing authorities to modify their requirements with potential implications on quality of care. Again, there is little to be gained for Canada to pursue commitments in this area until the ramifications are fully explored. Additional Considerations: Two areas that are to be explored are: 1) cross-sectoral horse trading, and 2) equity perceptions. 'Cross-sectional horse trading' refers to countries offering commitments in one sector in return for commitments in other, unrelated sectors. As an example, Canada may wish to increase its access to foreign markets for financial or telecommunications services and face the choice of putting the health services sector 'into play' as part of negotiating on matters unrelated to health services. This would be potentially disastrous if Canada were to undertake specific health services commitments in the rush to secure benefits in other sectors without attention to the federal-provincial cooperation and coordination to ensure that such commitments did not undermine the foundations of Canada's health system. Such cooperation and coordination appears to be becoming increasingly difficult and the pressure of a GATS commitment perceived to be negotiated by persons outside the health sector and health ministry would seem a surefire way to increase that difficulty. The second issue, equity perceptions, arises from the confluence of increasing concern among Canadians about access to their health care system and the likely additional concern that would arise if Canadian physicians were perceived to be favouring foreign patients over Canadian patients. The clearest example of access concerns to date is likely that of ophthalmology services where the opportunities for these specialists to provide non-insured laser treatment to American citizens may have reduced the services available to provincially insured Canadians. Non-insured care, whether for Canadians or foreign patients is a growing part of physician revenues, but pushing for its expansion through a mode 2 commitment under GATS appears unlikely to generate benefits sufficient to offset the potential negatives when compared with other methods of expanding revenue from non-insured services. 5.0 CONCLUSION The Government of Canada's bargaining position regarding health services in relation to the ongoing liberalization of trade in health services through the GATS will evolve from an assessment of the opportunities and costs associated with various levels of commitment. A major factor in the equation are the values of Canadians and their affinity for the publicly funded health care system. 6.0 RECOMMENDATION "The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) recognizes that trade liberalization can have positive economic impacts on the Canadian economy, however the type of healthcare system that Canadians and health care providers want is of primary concern whereas the goals of trade liberalization in health services is of a secondary nature. Recognizing that the GATS process is an on-going and long-term approach to trade liberalization, the CMA recommends that the Federal government undertake extensive consultative sessions with the Canadian public and healthcare providers. Such a consultation process would help answer questions as to the implications of trade liberalization and would provide feedback as to what level of trade liberalization in health care services is consistent with Canadian values." 1 Mode 4: "Presence of 1Natural Persons" - this covers the conditions under which a service supplier can travel in person to a country in order to supply a service. Source: http://gats-info.eu.int/gats-info/gatscomm.pl?MENU=hhh
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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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International Medical Graduates : Notes for an address by Dr. Albert J. Schumacher, President, Canadian Medical Association : Presentation to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration

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

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

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