Primary care is the backbone of our health care system in Canada and a national priority for this government.
The echoing words of the Speech from the Throne certify that the Government will strengthen health care and “Work with provinces, territories, health professionals and experts in industry and academia to make sure that all Canadians can access a primary care family doctor.” The Health Minister’s mandate letter further confirms that the Government will work “with the support of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Seniors, to strengthen Medicare and renew our health agreements with the provinces and territories” to “ensure that every Canadian has access to a family doctor or primary health care team”.
We recognize that strengthening primary care through a team-based, inter-professional approach is integral to improving the health of all people living in Canada. This belief is consistent across our alliance of four major groups: the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nurses Association, the Canadian Association of Social Workers and the College of Family Physicians of Canada. There is nothing more suiting or fortunate than for a team-based approach to be wholeheartedly supported by an even larger team of teams.
We commend the Government’s commitment
to increasing Canadians’ access to primary care.
We have a model to make it happen.
The Primary Health Care Transition Fund 2, a one-time fund over four years, would provide the necessary funding to help establish models of primary care based on the Patient’s Medical Home, a team-based approach that connects the various care delivery points in the community for each patient. This model is rooted in the networking of family physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, social workers and other health professionals as a team. This is the only way to provide comprehensive primary care to patients. It will enable a more exhaustive approach to patient care, ultimately leading to increased prevention and better health outcomes for Canadians. Consider it the main artery
in meeting the needs of patients and communities.
A commitment to the Primary Health Care Transition Fund 2 gives substance to the promise of building a network of care that addresses immediate health needs while connecting to ongoing social and community health services. This Fund model bolsters Canadians. It is backed by doctors, nurses, and social workers. A phalanx of Canadian care providers stand behind it. An entire country will benefit from it.
In support of the federal government’s commitment to improve Canadians’ access to primary care,
we recommend a one-time fund in the amount of $1.2 billion over four years to expand the establishment of primary care teams in each province and territory.
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”
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
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.
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.
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and its Quebec office are pleased to provide this submission to the Committee on Transportation and the Environment on Bill 44: An Act mainly to ensure effective governance of the fight against climate change and to promote electrification. The CMA maintains that governance of the fight against climate change will not be effective unless it integrates the health impacts on the Quebec population. Physicians in Quebec, across Canada, and around the world have a unique role to play in helping advance government and public understanding of the health consequences of climate change and in supporting the development of effective public health responses. The CMA’s submission provides recommendations to better prepare and mitigate the impacts of a changing climate on people’s health and the health care system in Quebec.
How Climate Change Affects Health
The World Health Organization has identified climate change as the biggest threat to global health.
1 In Canada, the immediate health effects of climate change are a growing concern. In this century, Canada will experience higher rates of warming in comparison to other countries around the world. Northern Canada, including northern Quebec (Nunavik), will continue to warm at more than triple the global rate. These warming conditions will lead to an increase in extreme weather events, longer growing seasons, melting of the permafrost, and rising sea levels.2
Physicians are at the front lines of a health care system that is seeing growing numbers of patients experiencing health problems related to climate change, including heat-related conditions, respiratory illnesses, infectious disease outbreaks and impacts on mental health. For example, the heat wave in southern Quebec in 2018 was linked to over 90 deaths.3
Examples of the extent of this issue include:
The number of extremely hot days is expected to double or triple in some parts of Canada in the next 30 years and will lead to an increase in heat-related impacts (e.g., heat stroke, myocardial infarction, kidney failure, dehydration, stroke).4
Air pollution contributes to approximately 2,000 early deaths each year in Quebec by way of heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and respiratory disease (such as aggravated asthma).5
An increase in vector-borne diseases such as Lyme disease has increased significantly in Quebec, with the number of cases increasing from 125 in 2014 to 338 in 2018.6
Extreme weather events are increasing in frequency, intensity and duration across Quebec and can negatively impact mental health (e.g., anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder),7 as well as place additional strain on the health care system.
Increasing temperatures are affecting the ice roads used in winter, and other roads built on permafrost in northern Quebec, threatening food security.8
There are sub-populations that are more susceptible to the health-related impacts of climate change. For example, in northern Quebec, climate change is already increasing health risks from food insecurity due to decreased access to traditional foods, decreased safety of ice-based travel, and damage to critical infrastructure due to melting permafrost. For the rest of Canada, the health impacts vary by geographic region, but include a list of issues such as increased risk of heat stroke and death, increases in allergy and asthma symptoms due to a longer pollen season, mental health implications from severe weather events, and increases in infectious diseases, UV radiation, waterborne diseases and respiratory impacts from air pollution. 9
Seniors, infants and children, socially disadvantaged individuals, and people with existing medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, are at greater risk of being affected by climate change. The susceptibility of a population to the effects of climate change is dependent on their existing vulnerabilities and their adaptive capacity. 10,11
Figure 1. Examples of Health Impact of Climate Change in Canada5
Climate Change: A Health Emergency
Recent polls have demonstrated that Canadians are very concerned about climate change and its impact on health. A 2017 poll commissioned by Health Canada revealed that 79% of Canadians were convinced that climate change is happening, and of those people 53% accepted that it is a current health risk and 40% believe it will be a health risk in the future.12 As well, a 2019 poll commissioned by Abacus Data reports that Quebecers are the most anxious about climate change and think about the climate more often than people living in the rest of Canada. The same poll reports that 59% of people in Quebec believe that climate change is currently an emergency and 12% reported that it will likely become an emergency in a few years.13 These numbers are not surprising considering the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events in Quebec in recent years. The CMA believes climate change is a public health crisis. Over the past few years in Canada, there have been numerous extreme climate events, such as wildfires in British Columbia,
extreme heat waves in Quebec, and storm surges on the east coast. In southern Quebec, a changing climate has also increased the range of several zoonoses, including blacklegged ticks, which are vectors of Lyme disease.14 Physicians across Quebec are seeing patient outcomes affected by the changing climate and are advocating for change. The health impacts of climate change were raised at last year’s COP25 meeting in Madrid, Spain, among an international group of leading environment and health stakeholders, including the CMA. The group collectively called on governments to broaden the scope of their climate change initiatives and investments to include health care.
A lack of progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building adaptive capacity threatens both human lives and the viability of health systems, with the potential to disrupt core public health infrastructure and overwhelm health services, not to mention the economic and social costs. In Quebec, the research consortium Ouranos estimated in 2015 that extreme heat, Lyme disease, West Nile virus and pollen alone will cost the Quebec state an additional $609 million to $1,075 million,15 and could result in up to 20,000 additional lives lost within the next 50 years.
Canada is currently not on track to meet the international targets set out by the Paris Agreement.16 The 2019 report from Lancet Countdown, the largest international health and climate research consortium, states that continued inaction on meeting the targets set out by the Paris Agreement will result in the health of a child born today being impacted negatively by climate change at every stage of its life.
The CMA recommends that adaptation and mitigation measures be prioritized to limit the effects of climate change on public health.
Hearing Health Care Professionals on Climate Change Last June, the CMA was pleased with the announcement made by the Minister of the Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change, Benoit Charette, to create a task force to ensure effective governance of the fight against climate change, including meeting Quebec’s international climate targets.17 Climate change crosses multiple sectors and requires experts from diverse backgrounds to create solutions to adapt and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Considering the overwhelming evidence of the impacts of climate change on human health, it is paramount that a health representative sits on the committee that will be advising the Minister. Physicians and health professionals have a critical role to play in advancing public understanding of the potential impacts of climate change on health and promoting appropriate actions aimed at protecting the health of Canadians. Physicians believe that what’s good for the environment is also good for human health. Protecting human health must be at the core of all environmental and climate change strategies within Quebec.
Recommendation 2: The CMA recommends that a health representative sit on the committee that will be advising the minister.
Dedicated Funding for a Greener Health Care System
The 2019 Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change reports that Canada has the third-highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions coming from its health care sector in the world. Health care related emissions account for approximately 4.5% of the country’s total emissions. Hospitals produce a significant proportion of health sector emissions as they are always on, are resource intensive, and have strict ventilation standards. Hospital services also produce large amounts of waste through the use of single-use items (e.g., hospital gowns and surgical supplies).
To remedy this problem, the CMA recommends that experts from research, education, clinical practice, and policy work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and that funding be dedicated to measuring the carbon footprint of different institutions and addressing these issues. Health care providers are uniquely positioned to advocate for innovative solutions that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the health sector and improve public health.18 By reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the health system, the Quebec government will better position itself to be consistent with the timelines and goals of the Paris Agreement for zero-emissions for healthcare by 2050.19
The CMA recommends that a portion of the Green Fund’s budget be dedicated to the greening of health systems.
The CMA’s submission highlights the need to better prepare and mitigate the health impacts of a changing climate, as well as the need for a health representative to advise the minister, and the allocation of funding for the greening of health systems in Quebec. Physicians are in a unique position to help the government develop strategies to mitigate the impacts of climate change and ultimately improve population health.
Summary of recommendations
The CMA recommends that adaptation and mitigation measures be prioritized to limit the effects of climate change on public health.
The CMA recommends that a health representative sit on the committee that will be advising the minister.
The CMA recommends that a portion of the Green Fund’s budget be dedicated to the greening of health systems.
1 Costello A, Abbas M, Allen A, Ball S, et al. The Lancet and University College London Institute for Global Health Commission, The Lancet, 2009;373( 9676):1693-1733. Available: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(09)60935-1/fulltext (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
2 Government of Canada. Canada’s Changing Climate Report. Ottawa: Government of Canada; 2019. Available: https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/sites/www.nrcan.gc.ca/files/energy/Climate-change/pdf/CCCR_FULLREPORT-EN-FINAL.pdf (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
3 Institut national de santé publique du Québec. Surveillance des impacts des vagues de chaleur extrême sur la santé au Québec à l’été 2018 [French only]. Québec : Institut national de santé publique du Québec; 2018. Available: https://www.inspq.qc.ca/bise/surveillance-des-impacts-des-vagues-de-chaleur-extreme-sur-la-sante-au-quebec-l-ete-2018 (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
4 Guilbault S, Kovacs P, Berry P, Richardson G, et al. Cities adapt to extreme heat: celebrating local leadership. Ottawa: Health Canada Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction; 2016. Available: https://www.iclr.org/wp-content/uploads/PDFS/cities-adapt-to-extreme-heat.pdf (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
5 Health Canada. Health Impacts of Air Pollution in Canada--an Estimate of Premature Mortalities. Ottawa: Health Canada; 2017. Available: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/air-quality/health-effects-indoor-air-pollution.html (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
6 Santé et services sociaux Québec. Maladie de Lyme. Tableau des cas humains – Archives 2014 à 2018. [French only]. Available: https://www.msss.gouv.qc.ca/professionnels/zoonoses/maladie-lyme/tableau-des-cas-humains-lyme-archives/ (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
7 Cunsolo A, Ellis N. Ecological grief as a mental health response to climate change-related loss. Nature Climate Change 2018;8:275-81.
8 Rosol R, Powell-Hellyer S, Chan HM. Impacts of decline harvest of country food on nutrient intake among Inuit in Arctic Canada: impact of climate change and possible adaptation plan. Int J Circumpolar Health 2016;75(1):31127. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4937722/pdf/IJCH-75-31127.pdf (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
9 Howard C, Buse C, Rose C, MacNeill A, Parkes, M. The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change: Policy Brief for Canada. London: Lancet Countdown, Canadian Medical Association, and Canadian Public Health Association, 2019. Available: https://storage.googleapis.com/lancet-countdown/2019/11/Lancet-Countdown_Policy-brief-for-Canada_FINAL.pdf. (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
10 Canadian Medical Association (CMA). CMA Policy. Climate Change and Human Health. Ottawa: CMA; 2010. Available: https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy9809 (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
11 Health Canada. Climate Change and Health. Ottawa: Health Canada; 2020. Available: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/climate-change-health.html (accessed 2020 Jan 26).
12 Environics Health Research. Public Perceptions of Climate Change and Health Final Report. Ottawa: Health Canada; 2017.
13 Abacus Data. Is Climate Change “An Emergency” and do Canadians Support a Made-in-Canada Green New Deal? Ottawa: Abacus Data; 2019. Available: https://abacusdata.ca/is-climate-change-an-emergency-and-do-canadians-support-a-made-in-canada-green-new-deal/ (accessed 2020 Jan 26).
14 Howard C, Rose C, Hancock T. Lancet Countdown 2017 Report: Briefing for Canadian Policymakers. Lancet Countdown and Canadian Public Health Association. Available: https://storage.googleapis.com/lancet-countdown/2019/10/2018-lancet-countdown-policy-brief-canada.pdf. (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
15 Ouranos. Vers l’adaptation. Synthèse des connaissances sur les changements climatiques au Québec [French only]. Montreal: Ouranos; 2015. Available: https://www.ouranos.ca/publication-scientifique/SyntheseRapportfinal.pdf (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
16 Government of Canada. Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Ottawa: Government of Canada; 2018. Available: https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/environmental-indicators/greenhouse-gas-emissions.html (accessed 2020 Jan 26).
17 Gouvernment du Québec. Press Release: Minister Benoit Charette announces an unprecedented process to develop the forthcoming Electrification and Climate Change Plan. Québec: Gouvernment du Québec;
2019. Available: http://www.environnement.gouv.qc.ca/infuseur/communique_en.asp?no=4182 (accessed 2020 Jan 26).
18 Eckelman MJ, Sherman JD, MacNeill AJ. Life cycle environmental emissions and health damages from the Canadian healthcare system: An economic-environmental-epidemiological analysis. PLoS Med 2018;15(7):e1002623. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6067712/pdf/pmed.1002623.pdf (accessed 2020 Jan 25). (accessed 2020 Jan 26).
19 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Global Warming of 1.5C--Summary for Policymakers, France: IPCC; 2018. Available: https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/ (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) welcomes the opportunity to provide comments to the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs concerning its study of Bill C-2 (An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts). We will confine our comments to the portion of the proposed legislation that relates to impaired driving.
Canada's physicians support measures aimed at reducing the incidence of drug-impaired driving. We believe impaired driving, whether by alcohol or another drug, to be an important public health issue for Canadians that requires action by all governments and other concerned groups.
Published reports indicate that the prevalence of driving under the influence of cannabis is on the rise in Canada. We note that:
* Results from the Canadian Addictions Survey suggest that 4% of the population have driven under the influence of cannabis in the past year, an increase from the 1.5% in 2003 and that rates are higher among young people.1
* It was estimated that in 2003, 27.45% of traffic fatalities involved alcohol, 9.15% involved alcohol and drugs, and 3.66% involved drugs alone while 13.71% of crash injuries involved only alcohol, 4.57% involved alcohol and drugs, and 1.83% involved drugs alone.2
* In a 2002 survey, 17.7% of drivers reported driving within 2 hours of using a prescribed medication, over-the-counter remedy, marijuana, or other illicit drug during the past 12 months.
* These results suggest that an estimated 3.7 million Canadians drove after taking some medication or drug that could potentially affect their ability to drive safely.
* The most common drugs used were over-the-counter medications (15.9%), prescription drugs (2.3%), marijuana (1.5%), and other illegal drugs (0.9%).
* Young males were most likely to report using marijuana and other illegal drugs.
* While 86% of the drivers were aware that a conviction for impaired driving results in a criminal record, 66% erroneously believed that the penalties for drug-impaired driving were less severe than those for alcohol-impaired driving. In fact, the penalties are identical.
* Over 80% of drivers agreed that drivers suspected of being under the influence of drugs should be required to participate in physical coordination testing for drug impairment. However, only about 70% of drivers agreed that all drivers involved in a serious collision or suspected of drug impairment should be required to provide a blood sample.3
The CMA has, on several occasions, provided detailed recommendations on legislative changes concerning impaired driving. In 1999, the CMA presented a brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights during its review of the impaired driving provisions of the Criminal Code. While our 1999 brief focused primarily on driving under the influence of alcohol, many of the recommendations are also relevant to the issue of driving under the influence of drugs.
In June 2007, the CMA provided comments to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights of the House of Commons during their study of Bill C-32 (An Act to amend the Criminal Code (impaired driving) and to make consequential amendments to other Acts) which was later incorporated in the omnibus Bill now before your Committee.
Last year, the CMA published the 7th edition of its guide, Determining Medical Fitness to Operate Motor Vehicles. It includes chapters on the importance of screening for alcohol or drug dependency and states that the abuse of such substances is incompatible with the safe operation of a vehicle. This publication is widely viewed by clinical and medical-legal practitioners as the authoritative Canadian source on the topic of driver competence.
While changing the Criminal Code is an important step, the CMA believes further actions are also warranted. In our 2002 presentation to the Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs, the CMA put forth our long standing position regarding the need for a comprehensive long-term effort that incorporates both deterrent legislation and public awareness and education campaigns. We believe such an approach, together with comprehensive treatment and cessation programs, constitutes the most effective policy in attempting to reduce the number of lives lost and injuries suffered in crashes involving impaired drivers.
Drug-impaired drivers may be occasional users of drugs or they may also suffer from substance dependence, a well-recognized form of disease. Physicians should be assisted to screen for drug dependency, when indicated, using validated instruments. Government must create and fund appropriate assessment and treatment interventions.
Physicians can assist in establishing programs in the community aimed at the recognition of the early signs of dependency. These programs should recognize the chronic, relapsing nature of drug addiction as a disease, as opposed to simply viewing it as criminal behaviour.
While supporting the intent of the proposed legislation, the CMA urges caution on several significant issues, with regard to Clause 20 that amends the act as follows:
254.1 (1) The Governor in Council may make regulations
(a) respecting the qualifications and training of evaluating officers;
(b) prescribing the physical coordination tests to be conducted under paragraph 254(2)(a); and
(c) prescribing the tests to be conducted and procedures to be followed during an evaluation under subsection 254(3.1).
CMA contends that it is important that medical professionals and addiction medicine specialists in particular, should be consulted regarding the training offered to officers to conduct roadside assessment and sample collection.
Provisions in the Act conferring upon police the power to compel roadside examination raises the important issue of security of the person and the privacy of health information. As well, information obtained at the roadside is personal medical information and regulations must ensure that it be treated with the same degree of confidentiality as any other element of an individual's medical record. Thus, the CMA would respectfully submit that Clause 25 of Bill-C2 on the issue of unauthorized use or disclosure of the results needs to be strengthened because the wording is too broad, unduly infringes privacy and shows insufficient respect for the health information privacy interests at stake.
For instance, clause 25(2) would permit the use, or allow the disclosure of the results "for the purpose of the administration or enforcement of the law of a province". This latter phrase needs to be narrowed in its scope so that it would not, on its face, encompass such a broad category of laws.
Moreover, clause 25(4) would allow the disclosure of the results "to any other person, if the results are made anonymous and the disclosure is made for statistical or other research purposes" CMA would expect the federal government to exercise great caution in this instance, particularly since the results could concern individuals who are not actually convicted of an offence.
One should query whether the Clause 25(4) should even exist in a Criminal Code as it would not appear to be a matter required to be addressed. If it is, then CMA would ask the government to conduct a rigorous privacy impact assessment on these components of the Bill, studying in particular, such matters as sample size, degree of anonymity, and other privacy related issues, especially given the highly sensitive nature of the material.
CMA would ask whether clause 25(5) should specify that the offence for improper use or disclosure should be more serious than a summary conviction. Finally, it is important to base any roadside testing methods and threshold decisions on robust biological and clinical research.
CMA also notes with interest Clause 21, specifically the creation of a new offence of being "over 80" (referring to 80mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood, or a .08 blood alcohol concentration level or BAC) and causing an accident that results in bodily harm which will carry a maximum sentence of 10 years and life imprisonment for causing an accident resulting in death. (Clause 21)
We would also urge the Committee to take the opportunity that the review of this proposed legislation provides to recommend to Parliament a lower BAC level. Since 1988 the CMA has supported 50 mg% as the general legal limit. Studies suggest that a BAC limit of 50 mg% could translate into a 6% to 18% reduction in total motor vehicle fatalities or 185 to 555 fewer fatalities per year in Canada.4 A lower limit would recognize the significant detrimental effects on driving-related skills that occur below the current legal BAC.5
In our 1999 response to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights' issue paper on impaired driving6 and again in 2002 when we joined forces with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), CMA has consistently called for the federal government to reduce Canada's legal BAC to .05. Canada continues to lag behind countries such as Austria, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France and Germany, which have set a lower legal limit. 7
CMA expressed the opinion that injuries and deaths resulting from impaired driving must be recognized as a major public health concern. Therefore we once again recommend lowering the legal BAC limit to 50 mg%. or .05%.
We also wanted to note our support for Clause 23 which addresses the issue of liability by extending the existing umbrella of immunity for qualified medical practitioners to the new provision under 254(3.4)
23. Subsection 257(2) of the Act is replaced by the following:
(2) No qualified medical practitioner by whom or under whose direction a sample of blood is taken from a person under subsection 254(3) or (3.4) or section 256, and no qualified technician acting under the direction of a qualified medical practitioner, incurs any criminal or civil liability for anything necessarily done with reasonable care and skill when taking the sample.
Finally, CMA believes that comprehensive long-term efforts that incorporate deterrent legislation, such as Bill C-2, must be accompanied by a public awareness and education strategy. This constitutes the most effective long-term approach to reducing the number of lives lost and injuries suffered in crashes involving impaired drivers. The CMA supports this multidimensional approach to the issue of the operation of a motor vehicle regardless of whether impairment is caused by alcohol or drugs.
Again, the CMA appreciates the opportunity to provide input into the legislative proposal on drug-impaired driving. We stress that these legislative changes alone would not adequately address the issue of reducing injuries and fatalities due to drug-impaired driving, but support their intent as a partial, but important measure.
Brian Day, MD
1 Bedard, M, Dubois S, Weaver, B. The impact of cannabis on driving, Canadian Journal of Public Health, Vol 98, 6-11, 2006
2 G. Mercer, Estimating the Presence of Alcohol and Drug Impairment in Traffic Crashes and their Costs to Canadians: 1999 to 2003 (Vancouver: Applied Research and Evaluation Services, 2005).
3 D. Beirness, H. Simpson and K. Desmond, The Road Safety Monitor 2002: Drugs and Driving (Ottawa: Traffic Injury Research Foundation, 2003). Online: www.trafficinjuryResearch.com/whatNew/newsItemPDFs/RSM_02_Drugs_and_ Driving.pdf
4 Mann, Robert E., Scott Macdonald, Gina Stoduto, Abdul Shaikh and Susan Bondy (1998) Assessing the Potential Impact of Lowering the Blood Alcohol Limit to 50 MG % in Canada. Ottawa: Transport Canada, TP 13321 E.
5 Moskowitz, H. and Robinson, C.D. (1988). Effects of Low Doses of Alcohol on Driving Skills: A Review of the Evidence. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, DOT-HS-800-599 as cited in Mann, et al., note 8 at page 12-13
6 Proposed Amendments to the Criminal Code of Canada (Impaired Driving): Response to Issue Paper of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. March 5, 1999
7 Mann et al
That the government create a one-time Health Care and Innovation Fund to resume health care services, bolster public health capacity and expand primary care teams, allowing Canadians wide-ranging access to health care.
That the government recognize and support the continued adoption of virtual care and address the inequitable access to digital health services by creating a Digi-Health Knowledge Bank and by expediting broadband access to all Canadians.
That the government act on our collective learned lessons regarding our approach to seniors care and create a national demographic top-up to the Canada Health Transfer and establish a Seniors Care Benefit.
That the government recognize the unique risks and financial burden experienced by physicians and front line health care workers by implementing the Frontline Gratitude Tax Deduction, by extending eligibility of the Memorial Grant and by addressing remaining administrative barriers to physician practices accessing critical federal economic relief programs.
Five months ago COVID-19 hit our shores. We were unprepared and unprotected. We were fallible and vulnerable. But, we responded swiftly.
The federal government initiated Canadians into a new routine rooted in public health guidance.
It struggled to outfit the front line workers. It anchored quick measures to ensure some financial stability.
Canadians tuned in to daily updates on the health crisis and the battle against its wrath.
Together, we flattened the curve… For now.
We have experienced the impact of the first wave of the pandemic. The initial wake has left Canadians, and those who care for them, feeling the insecurities in our health care system.
While the economy is opening in varied phases – an exhaustive list including patios, stores, office spaces, and schools – the health care system that struggled to care for those most impacted by the pandemic remains feeble, susceptible not only to the insurgence of the virus, but ill-prepared to equally defend the daily health needs of our citizens.
The window to maintain momentum and to accelerate solutions to existing systemic ailments that have challenged us for years is short. We cannot allow it to pass. The urgency is written on the faces of tomorrow’s patients.
Before the onset of the pandemic, the government announced intentions to ensure all Canadians would be able to access a primary care family doctor. We knew then that the health care system was failing.
The pandemic has highlighted the criticality of these recommendations brought forward by the Canadian Medical Association. They bolster our collective efforts to ensure that Canadians get timely access to the care and services they need. Too many patients are succumbing to the gaps in our abilities to care for them. Patients have signaled their thirst for a model of virtual care. The magnitude of our failure to meet the needs of our aging population is now blindingly obvious. Many of the front line health care workers, the very individuals who put themselves and their families at risk to care for the nation, are being stretched to the breaking point to compensate for a crumbling system.
The health of the country’s economy cannot exist without the health of Canadians.
Long wait times have strangled our nation’s health care system for too long. It was chronic before COVID-19. Now, for far too many, it has turned tragic.
At the beginning of the pandemic, a significant proportion of health care services came to a halt. As health services are resuming, health care systems are left to grapple with a significant spike in wait times. Facilities will need to adopt new guidance to adhere to physical distancing, increasing staff levels, and planning and executing infrastructure changes. Canada’s already financially atrophied health systems will face significant funding challenges at a time when provincial/territorial governments are concerned with resuscitating economies.
The CMA is strongly supportive of new federal funding to ensure Canada’s health systems are resourced to meet the care needs of Canadians as the pandemic and life continues. We need to invigorate our health care system’s fitness to ensure that all Canadians are confident that it can and will serve them.
Creating a new Health Care and Innovation Fund would focus on resuming the health care system, addressing the backlog, and bringing primary care, the backbone of our health care system, back to centre stage.
The CMA will provide the budget costing in follow-up as an addendum to this submission.
RECOMMENDATION 1 Creating a one-time Health Care and Innovation Fund
It took a global pandemic to accelerate a digital economy and spark a digital health revolution in Canada. In our efforts to seek medical advice while in isolation, Canadians prompted a punctuated shift in how we can access care, regardless of our location or socio-economic situation. We redefined the need for virtual care.
During the pandemic, nearly half of Canadians have used virtual care. An incredible 91% were satisfied with their experience. The CMA has learned that 43% of Canadians would prefer that their first point of medical contact be virtual.
The CMA welcomes the $240 million federal investment in virtual care and encourages the government to ensure it is linked to a model that ensures equitable access.
A gaping deficit remains in using virtual care. Recently the CMA, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and the College of Family Physicians of Canada established a Virtual Care Task Force to identify digital opportunities to improve health care delivery, including what regulatory changes are required across provincial/territorial boundaries. To take full advantage of digital health capabilities, it will be essential for the entire population, to have a functional level of digital health literacy and access to the internet.
The continued adoption of virtual care is reliant on our ability to educate patients on how to access it. It will be further contingent on consistent and equitable access to broadband internet service.
Create a Digi-Health Knowledge Bank
Virtual care can’t just happen. It requires knowledge on how to access and effectively deliver it, from patients and health care providers respectively. It is crucial to understand and promote digital health literacy across Canada. What the federal government has done for financial literacy, with the appointment of the Financial Literacy Leader within the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, can serve as a template for digital health literacy.
We recommend that the federal government establish a Digi-Health Knowledge Bank to develop indicators and measure the digital health of Canadians, create tools patients and health care providers can use to enhance digital health literacy, continually monitor the changing digital divide that exists among some population segments.
Pan-Canadian broadband expansion
It is critical to bridge the broadband divide by ensuring all those in Canada have equitable access to affordable, reliable and sustainable internet connectivity. Those in rural, remote, Northern and Indigenous communities are presently seriously disadvantaged in this way. With the rise in virtual care, a lack of access to broadband exacerbates inequalities in access to care. This issue needs to be expedited before we can have pride in any other achievement.
RECOMMENDATION 2 Embedding virtual care in our nation’s health care system
Some groups have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Woefully inadequate care of seniors and residents of long-term care homes has left a shameful and intensely painful mark on our record. Our health care system has failed to meet the needs of our aging population for too long.
The following two recommendations, combined with a focus on improving access to health care services, will make a critical difference for Canadian seniors.
A demographic top-up to the Canada Health Transfer
The Canada Health Transfer (CHT) is the single largest federal transfer to the provinces and territories. It is critical in supporting provincial and territorial health programs in Canada. As an equal per-capita-based transfer, it does not currently address the imbalance in population segments like seniors.
The CMA, hand-in-hand with the Organizations for Health Action (HEAL), recommends that a demographic top-up be transferred to provinces and territories based on the projected increase in health care spending associated with an aging population, with the federal contribution set to the current share of the CHT as a percentage of provincial-territorial health spending. A top-up has been calculated at 1.7 billion for 2021. Additional funding would be worth a total of $21.1 billion to the provinces and territories over the next decade.
Seniors care benefit
Rising out-of-pocket expenses associated with seniors care could extend from 9 billion to 23 billion by 2035. A Seniors Care Benefits program would directly support seniors and those who care for them. Like the Child Care Benefit program, it would offset the high out-of-pocket health costs that burden caregivers and patients.
RECOMMENDATION 3 Ensuring that better care is secured for our seniors
The federal government has made great strides to mitigate the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. Amidst the task of providing stability, there has been a grand oversight: measures to support our front line health care workers and their financial burden have fallen short.
The CMA recommends the following measures:
1. Despite the significant contribution of physicians’ offices to Canada’s GDP, many physician practices have not been eligible for critical economic programs. The CMA welcomes the remedies implemented by Bill C-20 and recommends the federal government address remaining administrative barriers to physicians accessing federal economic relief program.
2. We recommend that the government implement the Frontline Gratitude Tax Deduction, an income tax deduction for frontline health care workers put at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. In person patient care providers would be eligible to deduct a predetermined amount against income earned during the pandemic. The Canadian Armed Forces already employs this model for its members serving in hazardous missions.
3. It is a devastating reality that front line health care workers have died as a result of COVID-19. Extending eligibility for the Memorial Grant to families of front line health care workers who mourn the loss of a family member because of COVID-19, as a direct result of responding to the pandemic or as a result of an occupational illness or psychological impairment related to their work will relieve any unnecessary additional hardship experienced. The same grant should extend to cases in which their work contributes to the death of a family member.
RECOMMENDATION 4 Cementing financial stabilization measures for our front line health care workers
Those impacted by COVID-19 deserve our care. The health of our nation’s economy is contingent on the health standards for its people. We must assert the right to decent quality of life for those who are most vulnerable: those whose incomes have been dramatically impacted by the pandemic, those living in poverty, those living in marginalized communities, and those doubly plagued by experiencing racism and the pandemic. We are not speaking solely for physicians. This is about equitable care for every Canadian impacted by the pandemic.
Public awareness and support have never been stronger. We are not facing the end of the pandemic; we are confronting an ebb in our journey. Hope and optimism will remain elusive until we can be confident in our health care system.
The CMA appreciates the opportunity to present to the Standing Committee on Health today.
My presentation will focus on:
1. Wait Times
2. Health Human Resources; and
3. Patient Focused Care
In regard to the issue of wait times, I would echo the two main points of my colleagues from the Wait Time Alliance:
* First, while progress is being made on wait times, that progress is limited and not consistent across the country; and second,
* Health workforce and infrastructure capacity shortages remain the primary barriers to effectively addressing wait times.
Wait times don't only exact a heavy human toll - they also carry severe economic costs.
A CMA-commissioned report released earlier this year found that the economic cost of having patients wait longer than medically recommended was $14.8 billion in 2007. That stunning total was for just four of the five procedures identified as priorities in the 10-year plan - joint replacement, diagnostic imagining and cataract and bypass surgery - and it was only for one year.
Over a million Canadians continue to suffer on wait lists because of deficiencies in our system. This is unacceptable.
We need to "break the back" of wait times for the sake of our patients and for the economic health of Canada.
This will require:
* More federal leadership, not less;
* A revolutionary change in the "focus" of our health care system; and
* Substantial investments.
Health Human Resources
The 10-Year Plan to Strengthen Health Care acknowledged the need to increase the supply of health care professionals in Canada. However, not enough progress has been made.
Canada is 26,000 doctors short of the average of developed countries, and we now rank a lowly 24th among OECD countries in doctors per population.
A poll released today by the CMA found that Canada's doctor shortage ranked second only to the economy as a top public issue. In this same poll, 91% of Canadians say having a plan to address the doctor shortage will influence their vote in the next federal election. Federal political parties who ignore this issue in the next election could pay a price at the polls.
In the 10-year plan to strengthen health care, $1-billion was set aside for the last four years (2010-2014) of the agreement. We can't afford to wait that long.
This funding should be immediately fast-tracked to focus on the three priority areas in the CMA's "More Doctors. More Care" Campaign:
* One, expanding health professional education and training capacity;
* Two, ensuring self sufficiency in health human resources by investing in long-term health human resource planning; and.
* Three, investing in health information technology to make our health care system more responsive and efficient.
In terms of IT, we should be ashamed that we only spend a third of the OECD average on IT in our hospitals. Canada's poor record in avoidable adverse effects is, in part, due to our system's inability to share available information in a timely manner.
Patient Focused Care
Many countries have systems that provide universal care, have no wait lists and cost the same or less to run as our system does. Wait lists can and must be eliminated in Canada. The momentum to do just that depends simply on making the system work for patients, not on forcing patients to work the system.
We must reposition patients to the centre of our health-care system, which requires that we move beyond block funding or global budgets for health institutions. We need a system where funds follow the patient - patient-focused funding.
Block funding blocks access. Patient-focused funding will increase productivity, lead to greater efficiencies and reduce wait lists. A patient will become a value to an institution, not a cost.
Canada remains the last country in the developed world to fund hospitals with block funding. In England, patient-focused funding helped eliminate wait lists in less than four years.
So, my question to the Committee is why do we wait?
Why do we continue to keep patients on wait lists when research shows it costs a lot less to cut wait times then it does to have them?
Why do we not make the necessary reforms and investments to provide Canadians with timely access to quality care?
On behalf of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), I want to thank you for the opportunity to provide the following information to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology during its review of the service sector in Canada. The committee's study of the strengths and challenges facing this sector, overall employment percentage, overall average of salaries across the sector its impact on Canada's overall economy and the role of the Government of Canada in strengthening this sector comes at an opportune time.
CANADA'S HEALTH SERVICES SECTOR
Canada's health services sector is facing a critical shortage of physicians and other health care professionals and the CMA and our over 67,000 physician members are pleased to have the opportunity to present practical solutions within the jurisdiction of the federal government - working collaboratively with provincial/territorial governments and other health system stakeholders.
Health care delivery in Canada is a $160 billion industry, representing over 10% of our country's gross domestic product (GDP).1 The 30,120 physicians' offices across Canada make important contributions to our economy. In 2003, the latest year for which data are available, offices of physicians employed 142,000 Canadians and contributed $11.6 billion to the Canadian economy.2 This represents almost 39 per cent of all Health Service Delivery establishments, and almost 11% of all HSD employees. As a standard measure of economic productivity, physician offices report the highest levels of GDP per employee within the Health Service Delivery sector. On this measure, they are approximately twice as productive as other components of Health Service Delivery.
There are simply not enough physicians to continue providing the quality health care that Canadians expect and deserve. Here are the facts:
- Almost 5 million Canadians do not have access to a family physician;
- By 2018 an additional 4.5 million Canadians could be without a doctor;
- Canada ranks 24th in Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations in terms of physicians-per-population ratio. Canada would need 26,000 more doctors right now to meet the OECD average;
- Canada spends only a third of the OECD average on information technology (IT) and diagnostic equipment in our hospitals; and
- Canada has the highest hospital occupancy rate of all OECD countries and among the highest waits for access to specialty care services.
The lack of physicians and other health care providers has resulted in restricted access to health care services and the growth of wait times for necessary medical procedures. In January 2008, CMA released new research by the Centre for Spatial Economics that proved that, in addition to the human health cost, waiting for care results in dramatic and excessive costs to our economy. Researchers addressed just four priority areas targeted in the 2004 First Ministers Health Accord. They used government and other data to determine how many Canadians were waiting longer than the maximum medical consensus established by the Wait Time Alliance.
Selected for analysis were: joint replacement, cataract surgery, heart bypass grafts, and MRI scans. Costs, as calculated for all provinces varied from $2,900 to over $26,000 per patient. The cumulative cost of waiting in 2007, for treatment in just 4 areas, was $14.8 billion.
This reduced economic activity lowered government revenues in 2007 by $4.4 billion. That is equivalent to over 1/3rd of the total Ontario health budget. The reduction in economic activity included the impact of the patient's inability to work while waiting, and direct losses from decreased production of goods and services, reduced income, and lowered discretionary spending.
It is important to note that the figure of 14.8 billion dollars is based only on patients that exceed designated maximum waiting times in just 4 clinical areas. In the example of hip replacements, the research only factored in costs for waits that exceed 6 months. Of those waiting longer than the maximum recommended time, average waits were 1 year for hip and knee replacement surgery, 7 months for cataract surgery, and twice maximum for heart bypass surgery. Those who didn't make the MRI target waited an average of 12 weeks.
Reduced economic activity included informal caregiver costs. These costs are generated when caregivers reduce work hours to care for family members on wait lists, or attend appointments with family members. Patients languishing on wait lists also incur additional costs for drug and other treatments that timely care would eliminate.
Estimates in this study are extremely conservative. They address only the wait time to treatment after a specialist's consultation and recommendation. And exclude the growing, and significant costs of waiting to see the GP or specialist. They do not include anyone who is not working. They do not include the costs, short and long term, of the deterioration that occurs while waiting.
To solve Canada's doctor shortage, the CMA believes governments must:
- Adopt a long-term policy of self-sufficiency to provide Canadians with the health care professionals they need when and where they need them;
- Establish a dedicated health human resource renewal fund to educate, retain and enhance the lives of health care professionals; and
- Invest in health technology, infrastructure and innovation to make our health care system more responsive and efficient.
Over the past decade, there have been increasing concerns that Canada is not producing an adequate number of health providers to meet the growing demand for health services - now and into the future. These concerns have been consistently registered by physicians, nurses, pharmacists, technicians, in addition to other groups that represent other providers and the institutional and heath facilities community.
Furthermore, the policy challenges related to health human resources (HHR) have been identified in several seminal reports - including the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada, the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science & Technology, and the Health Council of Canada.3
A growing number of health providers are looking to retire over the next decade (or leave the health system all together) relative to the number of trainees who are entering the health system, and at a time where a growing number of Canadians will be turning to the health system for diagnosis and treatment. Over 6% of physicians who responded to the National Physician Survey 20074 said they plan to retire from clinical practice and 1% plan to permanently leave practice for other reasons in the next 2 years. The effect of these changes could mean that, as the baby boom generation gets older, over 4,000 physicians will cease their medical practice within the next 2 years, making it even more difficult for Canadians to find a family physician.
At the same time, the HHR challenges facing Canada's health care system are not unique to our country - over the next decade all western developed countries can expect intensified global competition for talent when it comes to health providers.5
While there are, no doubt, other provider groups who are also concerned about the future supply of health providers, there is a growing national consensus that, in addition to the primary role that the provinces and territories play in supporting the training of health providers across the country, there is a significant, catalytic and strong complementary role for the federal government in the area of health human resources.
CMA, like many health care organizations, is of the view that there is a legitimate role for the federal government to strengthen its working relationship with the provinces and territories, and health providers through the creation of a time-limited, issue-specific and strategically-targeted fund to accelerate training capacity in the health system.
The World Medical Association's ethical guidelines for international recruitment of physicians16 (2003), fully supported by the CMA, recommend that every country "should do its utmost to educate an adequate number of physicians, taking into account its needs and resources. A country should not rely on immigration from other countries to meet its need for physicians."7 However, in reality Canada continues to rely heavily on recruitment of internationally educated health professionals. Approximately one-third of the increase in physician supply each year is due to International Medical Graduates (IMGs) who are either recruited directly to practice or who have taken significant postgraduate medical training in Canada. In nursing, the number of internationally educated nurses applying for licensure is increasing rapidly, almost tripling from 1999 to 2003.
Previous recommendations of the CMA to the House of Commons included improved medium- to longer-term supply projection models; sufficient opportunities for Canadians to train for health professional careers in Canada; and integration of international graduates, who are permanent residents or citizens of Canada, into practice. The CMA recognizes that professionals are working in an increasingly global world in terms of the exchange of scientific information, mutual recognition of qualifications between countries and the movement of people.
The greatest barrier to enhancing Canada's ability to become more self-sufficient, in terms of physician resources, is the capacity of our medical schools. Despite recent increases in enrolment, Canada continues to turn away approximately 3 equally qualified students for every 1 that is accepted into an undergraduate medical program. This has resulted in over 1500 Canadian students, with the financial means to do so, who are training in medical schools outside of Canada.
INTERNATIONAL MEDICAL GRADUATES
In the larger context, Canada's current fertility rate is not sufficient to support self-sufficiency in general in relation to any professions. And, while self-sufficiency in the production of physicians is a desirable goal, it is also important to promote the international exchange of teaching and research, particularly in an increasingly global society. In this regard, IMGs should be considered as a planning component for a sustainable Canadian physician workforce. Historically IMGs have entered the practice of medicine through a variety of routes, which most typically include a recognized period of post-MD training in Canada.
CMA's best estimate is that there are about 400 IMGs newly licensed to practice in Canada each year who have not completed postgraduate training in Canada. In addition, there are another 300 or so who are exiting Canadian postgraduate training programs and heading into practice. In fact, for the past few years, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario has licensed more IMGs than new Ontario medical graduates.
In recent years, there have been an increasing number of opportunities for IMGs already living in Canada to achieve the required credentials for licensure. The number of ministry-funded IMG postgraduate residents has more than tripled in the past seven years from 294 to 1065 trainees. In 2007, there were almost 1500 IMGs who were qualified to compete in the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS) match. By the end of the second round, close to 300 had matched and about 60 were placed through other provincial programs.
The federal government should make a clear policy commitment to increasing self-sufficiency in the education and training of health professionals in Canada that would incorporate the following.
- Short term - increase number of community preceptors to train Canadian graduates and assess internationally educated health professionals already living in Canada. Recognition of the time and value of community teaching is needed.
- Medium term - support increased capacity for academic health science centres and other institutions that train health professionals.
- Long term - creation of new academic health science centres to increase capacity for self-sufficiency.
REPATRIATING CANADIAN DOCTORS WORKING ABROAD
It is known that there are thousands of Canadian-trained health professionals practising in the United States and abroad. Between 1991 and 2004, almost 8,000 physicians left Canada (although some 4,000 returned for a net loss of 4,000).8 Of this number, roughly 80% went to the US.9 During the 1990s, approximately 27,000 nurses migrated from Canada to the US.1011 A more recent indicator of nursing outmigration is that in 2006, 943 Canadian-trained Registered Nurses and Licensed Practical Nurses wrote the US licensing board examination for the first time.12 Data for other health professional disciplines are not readily available.
In 2007, with the assistance of the American Medical Association, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) surveyed all (n=5,156) Canadian-trained physicians practicing in the US who were age 55 or under, with regard to the likelihood of their return to Canada and the importance of various factors that might be incentives to return. A 32% response rate was achieved with a single mailing with no follow-up - this is considered exceptionally high.
While only 13% of respondents indicated that they were likely or very likely to return to Canada, a further 25% were neutral in their opinion. What is more telling is that more than one-half of respondents indicated that they would be willing to be contacted by CMA to explore practice opportunities and provided their contact information for this purpose. When asked about a range of potential incentives to return to Canada, 57% agreed that a relocation allowance would be somewhat or very important.13 It must be stressed, however, that it is clear from the results that a number of factors would need to be taken into consideration, such as practice opportunities. This would also be true of other disciplines; in the case of nursing, nurses will only come back for full-time jobs and healthy work environments.14
Nonetheless, expatriate Canadian medical graduates should be good candidates for recruitment on the basis of the greater likelihood that they will meet Canadian standards for full medical licensure, and it is expected that this would also apply to nursing and other disciplines.
As well, significant progress has been made in restoring and adding capacity to our medical schools but, to achieve self-sufficiency, much more needs to be done. For example, we must try and repatriate Canadian medical students and doctors who are studying and working abroad. There are currently some 1500 Canadian medical students and residents training abroad, we must act now, before things get worse.
During that past few years there have been efforts to enhance national coordination in the health human resources arena. One area of national focus has been the integration of International Medical Graduates, since extended to nursing and other disciplines. There have been several initiatives undertaken in this area such as the establishment of the Canadian Information Centre for International Medical Graduates15 which provides a clearinghouse of information and links to provincial/territorial jurisdictions.
Relocation grants, from $10,000 up to $20,000 could be offered to Canadian-trained physicians practising in the US. It is suggested that advertising be concentrated in and around US cities where Canada maintains a consulate/office (in states with a significant concentration with recruitment candidates) and in major national and selected state health professional journals. The cost of a repatriation secretariat is estimated at $162,500 per year. Assuming that 1,500 health professionals are recruited back over the 3-year period, the total cost would range from $21.5 million to $36.5 million.
This would further translate to a per recruit cost that ranges from $14,325 to $24,325. Even at the high end of the range this would be cost-effective as compared to the total cost of training a practice-entry level graduate of any licensed health professional discipline in Canada.
In light of the foregoing, the CMA has recommended that the federal government should establish a Health Professional Repatriation Program in the amount of $30 million over 3 years that would include the following:
- secretariat within Health Canada that would include a clearinghouse function on issues associated with returning to Canada such as licensure, citizenship and taxation;
- An advertising campaign in the US to encourage health professionals practicing south of the border to return home; and
- A program of one-time relocation grants for health professionals returning to active practice in Canada.
NATIONAL HEALTH HUMAN RESOURCES INFRASTRUCTURE FUND
The implementation of Medicare in Canada in the 1960s required a major investment in the capacity to train more health professionals. The 1966 Health Resources Fund Act played a key role in enabling a significant expansion in training capacity across the provinces for a range of health professionals. Forty years later, Canada faces growing shortages across most health disciplines. Clearly another giant step up is required in the human and physical infrastructure needed to train health professionals if Canadians are to have timely access to care.
During the years of fiscal famine of the 1990s, health professional enrolment was either reduced (e.g., 10% in the case of medicine) or flat-lined. While there have been increases since 2000, we are about to face the double impact of both an aging population as the first of the baby boomers reach 65 in 2011 and aging health professions. For example, more than 1 out of 3 physicians (35%) are aged 55 or older. As mentioned, as many as 4,000 physicians are expected to retire in the next 2 years.
If we are going to have sufficient numbers of health providers to meet the needs of the next few decades, it is imperative to expand the human and physician infrastructure capacity of our health professional education and training system. The federal investments in health human resources over 2003-2005 of some $200 million have been welcome, but fall far short of what is needed.
It is proposed that the federal government implement a National Health Human Resources Infrastructure Fund in the amount of $1 billion over 5 years that would be made available to the provinces/territories on an equal per capita basis, and awarded through a competitive process that would include federal/ provincial/territorial representation with consultation/engagement of health professional organizations. The fund would address the following elements:
1. The direct costs of training providers and developing leaders (e.g., cost of recruiting and supporting more community- based teachers/preceptors).
2. The indirect or infrastructure costs associated with the educational enterprise (e.g., physical plant [housekeeping, maintenance]; support for departments [information systems, library resources, occupational health, etc.]; education offices, and the materials and equipment necessary for clinical practice and practical training.
3. Resources that improve the country's overall data management capacity when it comes to health human resources, and in particular, facilitate the ability to model and forecast health human resource requirements in the face of the changing demand for health services.
Clearly it would be necessary to develop guidelines around the types of expenditures that would be eligible as was done for the 1966 Health Resources Fund, and more recently for the Medical Equipment Fund II.
The federal government should establish a National Health Human Resources Fund in the amount of $1 billion over 5 years to expand health professional education and training capacity by providing funding to support the:
- direct costs of training providers
- indirect or infrastructure costs associated with the educational enterprise
- resources that improve Canada's data collection and management capacity in the area of health human resources.
More than 85% of the health care delivered in Canada occurs within the community. This is the most under-invested segment of the health care delivery system in terms of information technology. Dr. Brian Postl in his June 2006 wait-time report16 to the federal government noted health information technology is essential in improving wait times. He quantified the investment needed at $2.4 billion with the largest portion of this investment ($1.9 billion) targeted to automating physician offices, which are located at the front line of care in community settings and are key to managing and resolving the wait time issue in Canada.
Why invest in physician office automation? Because it will lead to improved productivity from the provider community through more efficient resource usage and through improved coordination in the delivery of care; it will enable labour mobility of health care workers through portability of records; it will support the wait time agenda by improving the flow of timely information; it will build an electronic infrastructure platform to enhance patient care and health research and will provide a direct financing vehicle for the federal government to influence and shape the health care sector.
The federal government has made similar types of infrastructure investment. The CFI Program was established to fund research infrastructure, which consists of the state-of-the-art equipment, buildings, laboratories and databases required to conduct research. Investing in EMR infrastructure will lead to the creation of state of the art clinical environments across Canada, electronic data base of health information and the foundational underpinnings of a health information network to support enhanced population health and health research.
Under this scenario the federal contribution would provide a direct benefit to physicians without any need for provincial or territorial involvement. Second, the federal government could use existing government machinery to manage the program. Third, the federal contribution to infrastructure would only flow after a physician has introduced an EMR into his/her clinic ensuring that the funding is directly tied to building the EMR infrastructure platform.
The recent National Physician Survey notes that some progress is being made across the country to automate community clinics. However without incentives the adoption trend will be incremental and extend over a further 20-year time frame. Financial incentives can shorten the timelines since it addresses one of the main adoption barriers physicians identify.17
Diffusion theory18 of new technologies into any sector of the economy demonstrates that without appropriate incentives it will take approximately 25 years the technology to reach the saturation point of integration. It is estimated that a financial incentive can shorten this timeline by 15 years.
The federal government, over a 5-year time frame, should provide a full tax credit to any physician who takes the steps to automate his or her clinical office. The tax credit would only apply to 1-time costs to establish a state of the art clinical environment. It is estimated, on average, 1-time costs would be $22,000. Total costs of the program if fully subscribed would amount to $880 million.
The health services sector makes significant contributions to the Canadian economy, both in terms of direct stimulus and by keeping Canadians healthy and productive. However, Canada's health services sector is facing a critical shortage of physicians and other health care professionals. By:
- Adopting a long-term policy of self-sufficiency to provide Canadians with the health care professionals they need when and where they need them;
- Establishing a dedicated health human resource renewal fund to educate, retain and enhance the lives of health care professionals;
- Investing in health technology, infrastructure and innovation to make our health care system more responsive and efficient;
the federal government, in partnership with provincial/territorial governments and other health system stakeholders can strengthen this sector. A strong health services sector means healthy Canadians and a vibrant Canadian economy.
Again, on behalf of the Canadian Medical Association, Canada's doctors appreciate the opportunity to provide information to the Committee.
Brian Day, MD
President, Canadian Medical Association
1 National Health Expenditure Trends, 1975-2007. Canadian Institute for Health Information. 2007
2 Source: Business Register (STC 2003) and TIM (Informetrica Limited)
3 The Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada, November 2002. Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science & Technology, October 2002. The Health Council of Canada "Modernizing the Management of Health Human Resources in Canada: Identifying Areas for Accelerated Change: November 2005.
4 The National Physician Survey is a major ongoing research project conducted by the College of Family Physicians of Canada, Canadian Medical Association and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada that gathers the opinions of all physicians, 2nd year medical residents and medical students from across the country. It is the largest census survey of its kind and is an important barometer of where the country's present and future doctors are on a wide range of critical issues.
5 The Economist, The Battle for BrainPower - A Survey of Talent, October 7, 2006.
7 World Medical Association. The World Medical Association Statement on Ethical Guidelines for the International Recruitment of Physicians. Geneva: The World Medical Association; 2003. Available: www.wma.net/e/policy/e14.htm
8 Canadian Institute for Health Information.
2. Canadian Institute for Health Information.
10 Zaho J, Drew D, Murray T. Barin drain and brain gain: the migration of knowledge workers from and to Canada. Education Quarterly Review 2000;6(3):8-35.
12 Little L, Canadian Nurses Association, personal communication, January 8, 2008.
13 Buske L. Analysis of the survey of Canadian graduates practicing in the United States. October 2007. http://www.cma.ca/multimedia/CMA/Content_Images/Policy_Advocacy/Policy_Research/US_survey_ver_4.pdf. Accessed 02/04/08.
14 Little L, Canadian Nurses Association, personal communication, January 28, 2008.
16 Postl, B. Final Report of the Federal Advisor on Wait Times. Ottawa: Minister of Health Canada, Health Council of Canada; 2005.
17 Canadian Medical Association/Canada Infoway. Physician Technology Usage and Attitudes Survey. Ottawa: CMA/CanadaInfoway; 2005. Available: www.cma.ca/index.cfm/ci_id/49044/la_id/1.htm (accessed 8 Jan 2008).
18 Bower, Anthony. The Diffusion and Value of Healthcare Information Technology. Santa Monica (CA): RAND Corporation; 2005
It is with a sense of urgency that the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) submits
the recommendations herein for emergency federal measures that, taken together,
will ensure Canadians receive appropriate care and that supportive measures are
implemented for public health protection during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While Canada has made significant strides since SARS to establish and implement
effective public health infrastructure, resources and mechanisms, the significant
resource constraints across our health systems present a major challenge in our
current response. Federal emergency measures must be developed in the context
of the current state of health resources: hospitals across the country are already at
overcapacity, millions of Canadians lack access to a regular family doctor, countless
communities are grappling with health care shortages, virtual care is in its infancy,
and so on.
Another core concern is the chronic underfunding and ongoing budget cuts of
public health resources and programming. Public health capacity and leadership at
all levels is fundamental to preparedness to respond to an infectious disease threat,
particularly one of this magnitude.
It is in this context that the Canadian Medical Association recommends that the
following emergency measures be implemented by the federal government to
support the domestic response to the COVID-19 pandemic:
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1) FEDERAL RECOMMENDATION AND SUPPORT FOR SOCIAL DISTANCING
In this time of crisis, Canadians look to the federal government for leadership and guidance.
The single most important measure that can be implemented at this time is a consistent
national policy calling for social distancing. This recommendation by the federal government
must be paired with the resources necessary to ensure that no Canadian will be forced to choose
between financial hardship — whether by losing employment or not being able to pay rent —
and protecting their health.
The CMA strongly recommends that the federal government immediately communicate guidance
to Canadians to implement social distancing measures. The CMA further recommends that the
federal government deliver new financial support measures as well as employment protection
measures to ensure that all Canadians may engage in social distancing.
2) NEW FEDERAL EMERGENCY FUNDING TO BOOST PROVINCIAL/
TERRITORIAL CAPACITY AND ENSURE CONSISTENCY
It is the federal government’s role to ensure a coordinated and consistent national response across
jurisdictions and regions. This is by far the most important role for the federal government in
supporting an effective domestic response, that is, protecting the health and well-being of Canadians.
The CMA strongly recommends that the federal government deliver substantial emergency funding to
the provinces and territories to ensure health systems have the capacity to respond to the pandemic.
Across the OECD, countries are rapidly stepping up investment in measures to respond to COVID-19,
including significant investment targeting boosting health care capacity. In considering the
appropriate level of federal emergency funding to boost capacity in our provincial/territorial
systems, the CMA urges the federal government to recognize that our baseline is a position of deficit.
New emergency federal funding to boost capacity in provincial/territorial health systems should
be targeted to:
rapidly enabling the expansion and equitable delivery of virtual care;
establishing a centralized 24-hour national information hotline for health care workers to obtain
clear, timely and practical information on clinical guidelines, etc.;
expanding the capacity of and resources for emergency departments and intensive care units;
coordinating and disseminating information, monitoring and guidance within and across
rapidly delivering income stabilization for individuals and families under quarantine.
Finally, the inconsistencies in the provision and implementation of guidance and adoption of
public health measures across and within and jurisdictions is highly concerning. The CMA strongly
encourages the federal government enable consistent adoption of pan-Canadian guidance and
measures to ensure the health and safety of all Canadians.
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3) ENSURING AN ADEQUATE SUPPLY OF PERSONAL PROTECTIVE
EQUIPMENT FOR CANADIAN HEALTH CARE WORKERS AND
ENSURING APPROPRIATE USAGE
The CMA is hearing significant concerns from front-line health care workers, including physicians,
about the supply and appropriate usage of personal protective equipment. It is the CMA’s
understanding that pan-Canadian efforts are underway to coordinate supply; however, additional
measures by the federal government to ensure adequate supply and appropriate usage are required.
Canada is at the outset of this public health crisis — supply issues at this stage may be exacerbated
as the situation progresses. As such, the CMA strongly recommends that the federal government
take additional measures to support the acquisition and distribution throughout health systems of
personal protective equipment, including taking a leadership role in ensuring our domestic supply via
international supply chains.
4) ESTABLISH EMERGENCY PAN-CANADIAN LICENSURE FOR
HEALTH CARE WORKERS
In this time of public health crisis, the federal government must ensure that regulatory barriers
do not prevent health care providers from delivering care to patients when and where they need
it. Many jurisdictions and regions in Canada are experiencing significant shortages in health
The CMA urges the federal government to support piloting a national licensure program so that
health care providers can opt to practice in regions experiencing higher infection rates or where
there is a shortage of providers. This can be accomplished by amending the Canadian Free Trade
Agreement (CFTA) to facilitate mobility of health care workers.
Specifically, that the following language be added to Article 705(3) of the CFTA:
(j) A regulatory authority of a Party* shall waive for a period of up to 100 days any condition of
certification found in 705(3)(a) - (f) for any regulated health care worker to work directly or
indirectly to address the Covid-19 pandemic or any health care emergency. Any disciplinary matter
emanating from work in any province shall be the responsibility of the regulatory authority of the
jurisdiction where the work is performed. Each Party shall instruct its regulatory authorities to set-up
a rapid check-in/check-out process for the worker.
*Party refers to a signatory of the CFTA
To further enable this measure, the CMA recommends that the federal government deliver targeted
funding to the regulatory colleges to implement this emergency measure as well as targeted funding
to support the provinces/territories in delivering expanded patient care.
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5) ESTABLISH AN EMERGENCY NATIONAL MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT
SERVICE FOR HEALTH PROVIDERS
Health care providers may experience trauma and hardship in meeting the increasing health needs
and concerns of Canadians in this time of crisis. The CMA strongly recommends that the federal
government establish an emergency National Mental Health Support Services hotline for all health
care providers who are at the front lines of patient care during the pandemic. This critical resource
will ensure our health care providers have the help they may need as they care for patients,
including helping them to deal with an increasing patient load.
6) IMPLEMENT A TARGETED TAX CREDIT FOR HEALTH PROVIDERS
EXPERIENCING FINANCIAL LOSS DUE TO QUARANTINE
In addition to supporting income stabilization measures for all Canadians who may benefit from
support, the CMA recommends that the federal government establish a time-limited and targeted
tax credit for health providers who may experience financial loss due to quarantine.
Many health care providers operate independently and may face significant fixed expenses as part of
their care model. As health care providers may have an increased risk of contracting COVID-19, this
may result in significant financial loss. A time-limited tax credit to ease this loss may help ensure
the continued viability of their care model. Further, the CMA supports extending the federal tax
filing timeline in recognition of the fact that health care workers and all Canadians are focused
on emergency matters.
The CMA’s recommendations align with the OECD’s call to action: “Governments need to ensure
effective and well-resourced public health measures to prevent infection and contagion, and implement
well-targeted policies to support health care systems and workers, and protect the incomes of vulnerable
social groups and businesses during the virus outbreak.”
Now is the time to ensure that appropriate leadership continues and that targeted investments are
made to protect the health of Canadians.
Re: Federal measures to recognize the significant contributions of Canada’s front-line health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic
Dear Ministers Morneau and Hajdu:
On behalf of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and HEAL’s member organizations, representing 650,000 health care workers in Canada, we are writing to you with recommendations for new federal measures to support the financial hardships and risks posed to front-line health care workers (FLHCWs) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To begin, we strongly support the measures the federal government has taken to date to mitigate the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. However, given the unique circumstances that FLHCWs face, additional measures are required to acknowledge their role, the risks being posed to themselves and their families, and the financial burden they have taken on through it all. All FLHCWs face numerous challenges trying to carry out their life-saving work during these incredibly difficult times and they deserve to be recognized for their significant contributions.
As such, we are recommending that the federal government implement the following new measures for all FLHCWs:
1) An income tax deduction for FLHCWs put at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic, in recognition of their heroic efforts. All FLHCWs providing in-person patient care during the pandemic would be eligible to deduct a designated amount against their income earned. This would be modelled on the deduction provided to members of the Canadian Armed Forces serving in moderate- and high-risk missions.
2) A non-taxable grant to support the families of FLHCWs who die in the course of responding to the COVID-10 pandemic or who die as a result of an occupational illness or psychological impairment related to this work. The grant would also apply to cases in which the death of a FLHCW’s family member is attributable to the FLHCW’s work in responding to the pandemic. We are recommending that access to the Memorial Grant program, or a similar measure, be granted to FLHCWs and their family member(s).
3) A temporary emergency accommodation tax deduction for FLHCWs who incur additional accommodation costs as well as a home renovation credit in recognition of the need for FLHCWs to adhere to social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to their family members. We are recommending all FLHCWs earning income while working in a health care facility or public health unit or in a capacity related thereto (e.g. paramedics or janitorial staff) be eligible for the deduction and credit.
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Ministers Morneau and Hajdu
June 2, 2020
4) Provide additional child-care relief to FLHCWs by doubling the child-care deduction. We recommend the individuals listed above be eligible for the enhanced deduction.
We recognize that it is important that any measures enacted be simple for the government to implement and administer, as well as simple for FLHCWs to understand and access. The recommendations above will ensure that relief applies to a wide range of Canada’s FLHCWs who are battling COVID-19, where the primary intention is to be as inclusive as possible.
Once again, we commend the federal government for its decisive and meaningful response to the pandemic. Now is the time to ensure comprehensive supports are provided to those who have stepped up to protect the health and safety of all Canadians. We welcome the opportunity to discuss these recommendations with you.
Sandy Buchman, MD, CCFP(PC), FCFP
President, Canadian Medical Association
This letter is signed by the following organizations:
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Ministers Morneau and Hajdu
June 2, 2020
Canadian Medical Association
Canadian College of Health Leaders
Canadian Podiatric Medical Association
Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada
Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association
Canadian Psychiatric Association
Canadian Association of Community Health Centres
Canadian Psychological Association
Canadian Association for Interventional Radiology
Canadian Dental Association
Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists
Canadian Dental Hygienists Association
Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science
Canadian Society of Nutrition Management
Canadian Association of Midwives
Canadian Association of Nuclear Medicine
Canadian Massage Therapist Alliance
Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists
Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists
Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada
College of Family Physicians of Canada
Canadian Association of Optometrists
Canadian Nurses Association
Dietitians of Canada
Canadian Association of Social Workers
Canadian Ophthalmological Society
Canadian Cardiovascular Society
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Paramedic Association of Canada
Canadian Chiropractic Association
Canadian Pharmacists Association
Canadian Physiotherapy Association
Speech-Language & Audiology Canada
By many measures Canada's health care system is underperforming. One symptom of this weak performance are exceedingly long wait times that have an impact on care and cost patients, the system and governments money1. There are a number of responses to this poor performance including increasing the supply of health human resources2. Another response is to maximize the resources we have on the front lines and work smarter through information technology. This productivity approach is aligned with the assumptions set out in the federal government's Advantage Canada strategy. This strategy involves principally a 'knowledge advantage' and an 'infrastructure advantage'. Consequently, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is recommending that the federal government make a strategic "strings attached" $570-million investment to create an interconnected health information technology network3 through a Health Information System Transition Fund and time-limited accelerated IT tax incentives.
This investment aims to integrate all Canadian patient health care records, an effort that will take time. However, there are foundations upon which to build thanks to federal government investments - most recently in providing $400 million for wait-time related health information systems. But for these investments to bear fruit further connectivity and integration is vital. In other words, our current system is like having an ATM card that only works at the bank's head office. We believe that additional investments must concentrate on connecting patient records in physician offices with hospitals and medical laboratories. Physicians also believe in accountability, and suggest investments should not be made unless the clinical community confirms a high level of system integration.
The CMA recommends that the federal government should invest $570 million over five years in an interconnected pan-Canadian health information system that includes:
=> A $225 million, 5-year Health Information System Transition Fund aimed at change management training and support to convert 26-million patient records in 36,000 physician offices and community care facilities into interoperable electronic records across Canada.
=> $305 million for a 3-year time-limited and accelerated Capital Cost Allowance for software and hardware costs related to health information technologies that connect patient records from physician offices to laboratories and hospitals.
=> $10 million to sponsor a cross-country education campaign to inform Canadians of the health and system benefits of e-health connectivityi.
=> $2 million annually for Canada Research Chairs to promote and demonstrate the value of interconnectivity in health information between the faculties of Medicine, Management and Engineering.
The federal government must also encourage provinces to increase their support of these initiatives and work to reduce the barriers to health information system interfacing, by ensuring patient record systems use similar codes in labs, hospitals and physician offices. Federal government guidance, encouragement and cooperation with the provinces is integral to making these connectivity investments a success. It is time that the federal government helped finish the job of health information system connectivity. A health information network will improve patient outcomes, system efficiency, increase accountability and save billions of dollars.
Why advance e-health interconnectivity now? Our health system e-performance is poor
Both national and international studies confirm that Canada lags behind nearly every major industrial country when it comes to health information technology (Figure 8). The impact of this underinvestment is longer wait times, poorer quality, and a severe lack of financial accountability especially of federal dollars. Investments in connectivity are needed now because Canada's health care system compares poorly in both value and efficiency compared to other countries. The Conference Board of Canadaii, the OECDiii, the World Health Organizationiv, the Commonwealth Fundv, and the Frontier Centre for Public Policy all rate Canada's health care system poorly in terms of "value for money" as well as efficiency.
Benchmarking health information connectivity-where we stand, where we must go
According to the 2007 National Physician Survey, just 30% of physicians have an electronic interface with a medical laboratory or diagnostic imaging facility, while fewer than 5% have such an interface with a pharmacy/pharmacistvi. Imagine if just 30% of Canadian banks had ATMs throughout the country? This is a difference of not only convenience, but quality and cost savings. In comparison, Denmark and New Zealand have near 100% use of electronic medical records (EMRs) in ambulatory care. According to Dr. Allan Brookstonevii an EMR expert, "If most physicians in a health region or geographic area implemented an EMR system, the incentive for a local hospital or region to connect to those physicians would be significantly enhanced". In an emergency situation right now in Canada it is easier to access critical financial information than critical health information. This reality is not a matter of technology but the lack of will to put it in place.
2. Why the federal government should be interested in e-health interconnectivity.
-Health information technology connectivity yields returns on investment: 8:1
International strategy and technology consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton found that viii the benefits of an interconnected Electronic Health Record (EHR) in Canada could provide annual system-wide savings of $6.1 billion. These savings would come from reduced duplicate testing, transcription savings, fewer chart pulls and filing time, reductions in office supplies and reduced expenditures due to fewer adverse drug reactions. The study went on to state that the benefits to health care outcomes would equal or surpass these annual savings, thus providing a possible combined annual savings of $12.2 billion. In addition, a comprehensive literature reviewix comparing health IT productivity gains to similar industries in the U.S. concludes that effective EMR implementation and networking could eventually save more than $81 billion annually by improving health care efficiency and safety. Similarly, health information technology-enabled prevention and management of chronic disease could eventually double those savings while increasing health and other social benefits. Assuming that the Canadian health system is one-tenth the size of US system, savings would range from $8 to $16 billion annually.
Connected health information technology - increasing performance and accountability
A fundamental question the Standing Committee on Finance may ask is where $22 billion (growing at 6 % annually) in federal health care transfers to the provinces is going and what are the results of this support? Right now, we do not know exactly. Health care in Canada represents 10% of our economy ($160 billion annually and growing at 6% per year) and is larger than the total agricultural sector.
The question Canadians are asking is not whether tax dollars should be spent on health care, but whether the money being spent is worth the services receivedx. Moreover, in health care, there are legitimate questions as to whether improvements to date have justified the associated costs. The public institutions and organizations that deliver health care in Canada could deliver more value than they do at present. With a national health information (management) system in place they could work to reduce variations in the quality of service and in the way services are used across the system. However at a national level, we do not have an accounting systemxi in place to uniformly measure quality across the country.
3. Who: Canadians - our patients - want and need e-health interconnectivity.
Health information technology is critical to managing wait times
Quality of care is an important concern for Canadians, but first they must be able to get the care they need. But waiting for health care is the principal concern for Canadiansxii. Excessive wait times result in mental anguish for patients and their families and also cost the Canadian economy billions of dollars each year. In 2007 a study commissioned by the CMAxiii conservatively calculated that excessive wait times in just four procedures (joint replacements, cataract surgery, coronary artery bypass grafts and MRIs) cost the economy over $14 billion in lost output and government revenues. It is important to note that beyond these hospital procedures there is potential to reduce wait times and cost in physician offices through information technology. This is why we have suggested accelerating the capital cost allowance tax for EMR related software and hardware purchases and that they go to community care and physician offices where most patient visits occur every day. Figure 1 below shows that in Ontario for example, just 3,000 out of an average of 247,000 patient visits per day or 1.2% of the total are made in hospitals. That is why this submission is aimed at (the circle area in the chart) increasing connectivity and tying investments to the 99% of the places where patients visit most.
Figure 1 Patient visits per day in Ontario, Source: Canada Health Infoway
Most of the emphasis on connectivity in Canadian health care to date has not focused on the point of care -even though the number of patient interactions with hospitals is greatly exceeded by the number of visits to physicians' officesxiv. Thus patient-physician office interactions outnumber patient-hospital interactions by a ratio of 18 to 1. It is also important that patients understand the value of electronic health records, which is why we are recommending a $10 million cross-country educational campaign to impact the demand side of this critical health and industrial equation.
4. Why physicians are involved in e-health interconnectivity
The physician community can play a pivotal role in helping the federal governments make a connected health care system a realizable goal in the years to come. Through a multi-stakeholder process encompassing the entire health care team, the CMA will work toward achieving cooperation and buy-in. This will require a true partnership between provincial medical associations, provincial and territorial governments and Canada Health Infoway (CHI).
Accelerating Advantage Canada through health information technologies
The CMA's pre-budget submission, related to health system connectivity, incorporates the five tenets of Advantage Canadaxv. This submission principally addresses the infrastructure and knowledge advantages that are involved in investing in an interconnected network that is useless unless the 'knowledge' advantage to provide stewardship of the Electronic Health Record through our physicians' is in place. That is why we recommend that the federal government help support research, development and knowledge transfer at our major universities in health information technology by supporting 10 Canada Research Chairs in the faculties of Medicine, Management and Engineering. In addition, a pan-Canadian health information technology network will provide the kind of infrastructure that supports labour mobility where for example a migrant worker from Atlantic Canada can access his health records in Fort McMurray Alberta.
5. How to speed-up health information technology connectivity -a green tax incentive approach
Thus far the strategy applied to health information connectivity in Canada has been focused on a top-down approach that has produced limited success. That is why the CMA is suggesting that the federal government accelerate the Capital Cost Allowance (CCA) on EMR-related software and hardware equipment over the next three years - an early-bird special or incentive. The CMA does not pretend to be tax policy experts however we do appreciate the federal governments' recent increase in the CCA rates for software and hardware. Our recommendation would mean changing the current software CCA (Class 12xvi) from 100% over two years to 100% in the first year specifically for EMR related investments. And for EMR hardware (Class 50xvii) accelerate the CCA to 100% in the first year from the current 55% rate for a limited time only of three years. These accelerated CCA rate proposals are also consistent with the governments' environmentally friendly CCA initiative as EMRs would save tonnes of paper for years.
Mixed results for Canada Health Infoway => Health Information System Transition Fund
The CMA lauds the federal government's 2008 Budget for making a $400-million investment in Canada Health Infoway (CHI) to support early movement toward patient wait time guarantees through the development of health information systems and electronic health records. At the same time the physician community believes that CHI has had mixed results, especially when it comes to digitizing and integrating patient records at the places where most patients contact the health care system: physician offices, laboratories and emergency rooms. However, we believe with targeted, conditional policies CHI can be an effective vehicle to accelerate the transition of current health centre paper practices into electronic operations through a time limited five-years Health Information Transition Fund. We also believe that federal transition funds should be matched at a fifty-fifty rate by the provinces. Although this may not be easy, there are other non-monetary policy levers (e.g. regulatory) that the federal government could and should use to persuade the provinces of the value of investing in electronic health record system integration. This is particularly true since the provinces will yield most of the return on the investment. It is imperative that the current health information technology gap be closed and be set at levels for similar service-intensive industries (see Figure 2 in the Appendix 1). That is why; beyond the figures outlined in this submission, the CMA recommends continued federal health information technology support for the next 10 years.
Conclusion - Big investments. but big payoffs too
As the Health Council of Canada stated in their 2008 annual reportxviii, "Change is underway, but too slowly". The OECD, WHO, The Commonwealth Fund and the Conference Board of Canada's research all strongly suggest that Canada lags behind the rest of the industrialized world in terms of health information technology investments and system integration. The investments made so far may seem large but they will be wasted if a second effort in connecting the entire system is not made now. It is time that the federal government finishes the job of health information system connectivity at the point of care.
A Pan-Canadian network of health information will improve patient outcomes, health system efficiency and dramatically increase system accountability. The Health Council of Canada also said that, "These [health information technology] are big investments but the payoff is big too". Accordingly we suggest that over the next five years the following investments will improve the running of Medicare as well as the Canadian economy.
The CMA recommends that the federal government should invest $570 million over five years in an interconnected pan-Canadian health information system that includes:
=> A $225 million, 5-year Health Information System Transition Fund aimed at change management training and support involved in converting 26 million patient records in 36,000 physician offices and community care facilities into interoperable electronic records across Canada.
=> $305 million for a 3-year time limited accelerated Capital Cost Allowance for EMR software and hardware costs related to health information technologies that connect patient records from physician offices to laboratories and hospitals.
=> $10 million to sponsor a cross-country education campaign to inform Canadians of the health and system benefits of e-health connectivityxix.
=> $2 million annually for Canada Research Chairs promoting the value of interconnectivity in health information between the faculties of Medicine, Management and Engineering.
1The cumulative economic cost of waiting for treatment across just 4 priority areas in 2007 was an estimated $14.8 billion. This reduction in economic activity lowered federal and provincial government revenues in 2007 by a combined $4.4 billion. See:www.cma.ca/multimedia/CMA/Content_Images/Inside_cma/Media_Release/pdf/2008/EconomicReport.pdf
2 Almost 5-million Canadians do not have a family physician. Canada would need 26,000 more doctors to meet the OECD average of physicians per population. Physicians spend more time on paperwork and less with patients than they did 20 years ago. See: "More Doctors. More Care.": www.moredoctors.ca/take_action/
3 Please see Table l in Appendix 1 for full investment horizon details.
i Patient perspective on electronic medical record.
Meldgaard M; International Society of Technology Assessment in Health Care. Meeting (19th : 2003 : Canmore, Alta.). Annu Meet Int Soc Technol Assess Health Care Int Soc Technol Assess Health Care Meet. 2003; 19: abstract no. 148.
CONCLUSIONS: Patient confidence and perceived quality of care is influenced by a well informed forward-looking staff as can be obtained in settings where EPR is successfully implemented. Patient satisfaction and the functional level of EPR implementation are interdependent.
ii A Report Card on Canada see: http://sso.conferenceboard.ca/HCP/overview/health-overview.aspx
iii Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD] (2007). OECD Health
Data 2007. Version 07/18/2007. CD-ROM. Paris: OECD.
iv World Health Organization [WHO] (2007). World Health Statistics 2007. see: http://www.who.
v Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: An International Update on the Comparative Performance of American Health Care May 15, 2007 (updated May 16, 2007)
Authors: Karen Davis, Ph.D., Cathy Schoen, M.S., Stephen C. Schoenbaum, M.D., M.P.H., Michelle M. Doty, Ph.D., M.P.H., Alyssa L. Holmgren, M.P.A., Jennifer L. Kriss, and Katherine K. Shea
Editor(s):Deborah Lorber see: www.commonwealthfund.org/publications/publications_show.htm?doc_id=482678
vi See Tables Q39 and Q40a in the 2007 National Physician Survey at:www.nationalphysiciansurvey.ca/nps/
vii Dr. Alan Brookstone is a family physician in Richmond, BC and the founder of CanadianEMR. The quote was taken from: Online resource enables MDs to rate EMRs. See: www.cma.ca/multimedia/CMA/Content_Images/Inside_cma/Future_Practice/English/2007/November/Online-e.pdf
The CanadianEMR Physician Resource Directory provides access to a province specific searchable list of vendors of products and services to support the EMR-based practice. http://www.canadianemr.ca/
viii Booz, Allan, Hamilton Study, Pan-Canadian Electronic Health Record, Canada's Health Infoway's 10-Year Investment Strategy, March 2005-09-06.
ix Can Electronic Medical Record Systems Transform Health Care? Potential Health Benefits, Savings, And Costs
Richard Hillestad, James Bigelow, Anthony Bower, Federico Girosi, Robin Meili, Richard Scoville and Roger Taylor, Health Affairs, 24, no. 5 (2005): 1103-1117.
x In November 2008 the Auditor General of Canada will present it's performance audit on, "Reporting on Health Indicators-Health Canada" to Parliament. See: www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/oag-bvg_e_29401.html
xi There has been heavy emphasis is being placed on "accountability" and "performance measurement," endorsed by the Romanow Commission (Commission on the Future of Healthcare in Canada 2002), the Kirby Committee (Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology 2002), and the First Ministers' accord (First Ministers 2004). See Raisa Deber Why Did the World Health Organization Rate Canada's Health System as 30th? Some Thoughts on League Tables. Some Thoughts on League Tables
xii The results of an Ipsos Reid poll (January 2008) finds that eight in ten (78%) Canadians believe that hospital and other health care wait times cost Canada money because people who are waiting for treatment are less productive and miss work. This is compared to just two in ten (19%) who think that wait times save Canada money because governments don't have to put as many resources into healthcare.
xiii The economic cost of wait times in Canada, January 2008. This study was commissioned by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) to analyze the economic costs of wait times in Canada's medical system. The CMA's membership includes more than 67,000 physicians, medical residents and medical students. It plays a key role by representing the interests of these members and their patients on the national stage. Located in Ottawa, the CMA has roots across the country through its close ties to its 12 provincial and territorial divisions.
xiv Sources: Physician visits - CIHI - Physicians in Canada: Fee-for-Service Utilization 2005-2006. Table 1-21. Hospital contacts - CIHI - Trends in Acute Inpatient Hospitalizations and Day surgery Visits in Canada 1995-1996 to 2005-2006 and CIHI -National Ambulatory Care Reporting System - Visit Disposition by Triage Level for All Emergency Visits - 2005-2006.
xvAdvantage Canada builds on Canada's strengths and seeks to gain a global competitive advantage in five areas:
1. Tax Advantage-Reducing taxes for all Canadians and establishing the lowest tax rate on new business investment in the G7.
2. Fiscal Advantage-Eliminating Canada's total government net debt in less than a generation.
3. Entrepreneurial Advantage-Reducing unnecessary regulation and red tape and increasing competition in the Canadian marketplace.
4. Knowledge Advantage-Creating the best-educated, most-skilled and most flexible workforce in the world.
5. Infrastructure Advantage-Building the modern infrastructure we need.
CLASS 12 , (100 per cent)
Property not included in any other class that is....
(o) computer software acquired after May 25, 1976, but not including systems software or property acquired after August 8, 1989 and before 1993 that is described in paragraph (s).
CLASS 45 , (45 per cent)
Property acquired after March 22, 2004 (other than property acquired before 2005 in respect of which an election is made under subsection 1101(5q)) that is general-purpose electronic data processing equipment and systems software for that equipment, including ancillary data processing equipment.
(a) electronic process control or monitor equipment;
(b) electronic communications control equipment;
(c) systems software for equipment referred to in paragraph (a) or (b); or
(d) data handling equipment (other than data handling equipment that is ancillary to general-purpose electronic data processing equipment).
Class 50 (55 per cent)
Property acquired after March 18, 2007 that is general-purpose electronic data processing equipment and systems software for that equipment, including ancillary data processing equipment, but not including property that is principally or is used principally as
(a) electronic process control or monitor equipment;
(b) electronic communications control equipment;
(c) systems software for equipment referred to in paragraph (a) or (b); or
(d) data handling equipment (other than data handling equipment that is ancillary to general-purpose electronic data processing equipment).
xviii Health Council of Canada, Rekindling Reform: Health Care Renewal in Canada, 2003 - 2008, June 2008 (page 23).
(Table does not display correctly -- See PDF)
Table 1 -Health Interconnectivity investments over five years.
Figure 2 -Major Canadian health centers are well below industry IT investment standard