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Accessibility: the solution lies in cooperation

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy11518

Date
2015-03-25
Topics
Health human resources
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2015-03-25
Topics
Health human resources
Text
ACCESSIBILITY: THE SOLUTION LIES IN COOPERATION Joint Brief of The Quebec Medical Association and the Canadian Medical Association BILL no. 20: An Act to enact the Act to promote access to family medicine and specialized medicine services and to amend various legislative provisions relating to assisted procreation March 25, 2015 Preamble We would like to thank the members of the Committee on Health and Social Services for giving the Quebec Medical Association (QMA) and the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) the opportunity to express their preliminary views on Bill 20. We use the word "preliminary" deliberately because the bill in its current form sets out broad principles but is lacking in specifics. We would have liked to see more transparency on the government's part early in the process, whereas the regulatory guidelines were only made public on March 19. This shows a lack of respect or courtesy, or is a deliberate expression of the government's determination to ignore the opinion of the professionals concerned, that is to say, physicians. We have chosen not to critique the bill clause by clause, so we will not go that route for the regulatory guidelines either. We will instead limit ourselves to a few general comments. For example, how was it determined that an HIV-positive patient is "worth" two vulnerable patients, or that a patient receiving end-of-life care at home is worth 25? Why not 22, 26, or 30? Only ministry insiders know for sure, since neither of our organizations was consulted. And how many civil servants will it take to measure and monitor this new form of "mathematical" medical practice? The QMA is the only Quebec association whose members include general practitioners, specialists, residents and medical students. It calls on its vast network of members to consider the issues the medical profession faces, propose solutions and innovate in order to rethink the role doctors play in society and continually improve medical practice. The CMA is the largest national association of Canadian physicians and advocates on their behalf at the national level. The association's mission is to help physicians care for patients. The CMA is a leader in engaging and serving physicians and the national voice for the highest standards for health and health care. This brief is a historic first for both organizations. This is the first time that the CMA has submitted a brief in Quebec's National Assembly as well as the first time that the QMA and CMA have submitted a joint brief. This joint initiative says a lot about how concerned the country's physicians are about Bill 20. This attack on the professional autonomy of physicians is unprecedented in the history of Canadian organized medicine. Undoubtedly, the issues speak to the entire medical profession because of the consequences the bill could have on the profession itself. Our input is intended to be realistic, constructive and reflective of our member's opinions and legitimate concerns. Our two organizations-which, we note, are not negotiating bodies-have a profound understanding of the health community in Quebec, Canada and internationally. In keeping with the tradition of our two organizations, we are constantly seeking ways to improve the health care system in order to bring about patient-centred care. That said, we are also well aware of the budget constraints Quebec is currently facing. Our comments will mainly address the following points: o Access to family physicians and specialists; o The "productivity" of Quebec physicians; o Examples elsewhere in Canada; o Success factors. Physician access Obviously, access to health care and services in Quebec is a problem, particularly with regard to family physicians. Statistics Canada reported that, in 2013, an average 15.5% of Canadians did not have a regular medical doctor1. Quebec, with 25.1% of residents lacking a family physician, was well above the national average. All four of the Atlantic Provinces as well as Ontario provided better access than Quebec while Manitoba and British Columbia reported rates that were about the same as the national average. Despite considerable investment in recent years, plainly many Quebecers still do not have access to a family physician and other specialists. We do not believe the status quo is an option. Something must be done. Unlike as provided in Bill 20, however, we do not believe that imposing patient quotas on physicians is the solution. Quotas could have the adverse effect of leading physicians to choose quantity of care over quality, which could result in incomplete examinations, increased use of diagnostic tests and, ultimately, overdiagnosis. This is the sort of practice that the QMA and CMA have been trying to eliminate for 18 months with their "Choosing Wisely Canada"2 awareness campaign, which advocates for better medicine and fewer tests and procedures of no added value. Overdiagnosis has significant impacts on cost, quality, effectiveness, efficacy and patient access to health care and, as a result, on the efficiency of the entire health care network. In short, doing more is not always better. The campaign has been embraced both by physicians and patients, but Bill 20 risks not only undermining considerable effort but also sending the public a contradictory message. The "productivity" of Quebec physicians The services provided by Quebec physicians have been the subject of much debate in recent months. The government's claim that Quebec physicians are less "productive" than their colleagues in other provinces is based on a false premise. The reality is that billing methods are different and cannot be meaningfully compared. The national data shows that 8.5% of Canadian physicians are salaried, while 41.9% are paid a fee per service and 41.4% are paid lump sums or through capitation, or a combination of the two. Longitudinal analysis of the 2014 National Physician Survey-a partnership between the College of Family Physicians of Canada, the Canadian Medical Association and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada-offers a way to relativize the "productivity" of Quebec physicians compared to that of their colleagues in other provinces. For more than a decade, the survey has been a point of reference for researchers, governments and stakeholders interested in analyzing and improving health care in Canada. The Canadian database for this study clearly shows that the gap between the hours devoted per week to direct patient services by Quebec and other Canadian physicians is shrinking. Even though physicians in the rest of Canada still report working more than their Quebec colleagues, the difference decreased 44% between 2010 and 2014 to 1.37 hours per week. For family physicians, the gap decreased 23% to 2.41 hours in 2014. Plainly, we are far from the alarming situation that has been decried in recent weeks. Furthermore, the results show that, on average, Quebec physicians perform more than 20% more research-related activities per week than their Canadian counterparts, confirming a trend over the past 10 years. On-call work for health care establishments should also be considered in the productivity debate as family physicians who perform such work spend on average more than eight hours per week on related tasks compared to approximately six hours in the rest of Canada. Counting specialists, the figure rises to more than 11 hours per week, compared to a bit less than eight hours per week by family physicians and specialists in the rest of the country. In 2014 Quebec family physicians reported having to spend 23% more time each week on administrative tasks than their Canadian colleagues (2.8 hours versus 2.27 hours). This trend has become more pronounced over the past 10 years. In short, Quebec physicians work almost as much as their colleagues in the rest of Canada. Yet they appear to be less efficient. Why? Because of the shortcomings in the way our system is organized, physicians are busy doing administrative work, seeking out clinical information that should be at their fingertips, and performing tasks that could be left to other health care professionals. These figures, which show that the number of hours worked by physicians in direct patient care declined an average of 10% in the other provinces between 2004 and 2014, raise a question. How is it that, despite this decrease in hours worked, there is better accessibility to health care services? Because in collaboration with physicians, Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia have each successfully introduced measures in recent years to improve their services, particularly on the front line. Quebec would do well to examine those initiatives. Elsewhere in Canada A GP for Me A GP for Me is an initiative in British Columbia jointly funded by the provincial government and Doctors of BC to:
Enable patients who want a family doctor to find one;
Increase the capacity of the primary health care;
Confirm and strengthen the continuous doctor-patient relationship; including better support for the needs of vulnerable patients. The mission of Doctors of BC3 is to make a meaningful difference in improving the health care for British Columbians by working to achieve quality patient care through engagement, collaboration and physician leadership. Its goal is to promote a social, economic and political climate in which members can provide the citizens of BC with the highest standard of health care, while achieving maximum professional satisfaction and fair economic reward. Ontario Ontario chose to tackle the access problem by obtaining the support and cooperation of faculties of medicine, health organizations and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. Two hundred family health teams (the equivalent of Quebec's family medicine groups) were created. The groups promote access to care by bringing different health care providers together under the same roof. Ontario also has more specialized nurse practitioners than Quebec does. The result of all these efforts is that two million more Ontarians can now call on a family physician. The inspiring example of Taber, Alberta The Taber Integrated Primary Healthcare Project4 is an initiative launched in the early 2000s in the town of Taber, in rural Alberta. The goal of the project was to improve health care services delivery through integration of the services provided by a physician group and the Chinook Health Region. In light of the project's success, it was expanded to the entire region five years later. According to Dr. Robert Wedel, one of the people behind the project, four factors explain the initiative's success: a community assessment and shared planning; evidence-based, interdisciplinary care; an integrated electronic information system; and investment in processes and structures that support change. Community evaluation and shared planning: First, successful integration of primary health care depends on gaining an understanding of individual, family and community health care needs. Health services providers and users must also have a shared vision of optimal health care delivery. Evidence-based, interdisciplinary care: Second, the introduction of interdisciplinary teams (physicians, nurses, managers and other health professionals) facilitated the transition from a facility-based service delivery approach to a community-based wellness approach. Electronic information system: Third, the introduction of an integrated information system aided interdisciplinary care and access to patient information in various points of service. Alternative payment plan: Finally, processes and structures were put in place to support change over the long term. An alternative payment plan was implemented to clarify physician remuneration, define service and productivity expectations and protect organizational autonomy. The plan was also designed to enable physicians to delegate tasks to other professionals on the team in order to spend additional time with patients with more complex needs. The physicians now receive a fixed salary for specific services (in-clinic ambulatory services, emergencies, minor operations, prenatal care, and so on). However, some services continue to be billed on a fee-for-service basis (births, major operations and anaesthesia). Salaries are reduced when a registered patient receives care outside the physician group. Furthermore, organizational change strategies were put in place to address resistance to the changes. Modifications were made so that a common, integrated care site could eventually be established. All these changes had significant, positive consequences in Taber but also throughout the Chinook region. This approach enables better monitoring of chronic diseases and more prevention and education services for patients. Also noted was better accessibility to care, even for vulnerable and generally underserved patients. In the early 2000s, patients had to wait about 30 days before the first available appointment, but the wait has been completely eliminated since 2006. Physician services increased about 10% and those by other professionals, 50%. Patients visit their physicians less often (2.1 visits per year rather than 5.6 visits in other regions), and a marked decline in emergency room visits and laboratory tests has been observed. Quebec could capitalize on the Taber initiative by adapting it to the situation in Quebec and encouraging physicians to participate fully like the committed partners they are of patients and the health system. Success Factors Improvements from the Taber project and other initiatives in Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia-all of which provide greater health care access than Quebec-share three common features that are available to Quebec as well: o Electronic health records (EHRs) Quebec lags behind other provinces in adopting EHRs. A mere 25% of Quebec physicians order diagnostic and laboratory tests electronically. The 2014 National Physician Survey ranks Quebec almost last in health care system computerization. The Quebec Health Record Project promised for 2011 at a cost of $543 million has been, according the health minister himself, an abject failure. Recently he said that the Quebec government planned to deliver the project in 2021 at a cost of $1.6 billion before adding that he was not sure there would be money to pay for it. Physicians have nothing to do with this delay or the squandering of public funds. They're ready and waiting to make use of computerized records to improve health care access and communicate better with patients. The confusion and delays in switching to EHRs in Quebec are a big part of the reason for Quebec's poor results on the survey. Some of the problems might indeed be caused by the older generation's reluctance to embrace information technology, but that's not the whole story. We need to have a system that is absolutely reliable and accessible. Primary care organizations in Ontario are using electronic medical records to identify and support patient needs. All Ontario's primary care organizations mentioned using EHRs in descriptions they submitted on their quality improvement plans5-an example of how technology can be used to monitor patient needs and support improved delivery of care. Approximately 38% described using EHRs to identify specific diseases. We cannot overlook the fact that EHRs have been the cornerstone of the productivity improvements elsewhere in Canada. o Interdisciplinary work organization Quebec also lags behind in providing environments conducive to greater interdisciplinary work and enlisting contributions from other health professionals (nurse practitioners [NPs], nurses, managers and other health professionals). Certain Canadian provinces are far ahead in this area. Team care allows the various professionals to do their regular tasks and delegate when the situation calls for it. The solutions that have put most Canadian provinces on the road to solving the problem of frontline health care access have generally come through collaboration between the government and the medical profession. With effective information systems and the implementation of interdisciplinary approaches, in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration, such health care systems manage to provide the kind of accessible, high quality care patients and taxpayers are entitled to expect when they need it. The bottom line is that interdisciplinary work allows physicians to do what they do best: diagnose and treat. o Remuneration practices for population-based responsibility Quebec seems to be the Canadian province where physician remuneration is closest to a fee-for-service model. Quebec Health Insurance Plan data from 2013 shows that close to 80% of Quebec physicians' total compensation is fee-for-service.6 Elsewhere in the country, mixed remuneration methods appear to make it easier to foster population-based responsibility, i.e., not just covering a territory, but also incorporating the determinants of population health and well-being, among which are access to high quality services and the full participation of all stakeholders. In its 2011 support strategy for the practice of population-based responsibility7, MSSS spelled out the government's approach. However, that strategy was developed around local service networks managed through CSSSs, which were recently done away with by Bill 10, An Act to modify the organization and governance of the health and social services network, in particular by abolishing the regional agencies. The authors of the strategy define population-based responsibility collectively, as follows: * Using health and social services data to develop a shared picture of the reality on the ground; * Deciding, in consultation with the public, partners in the health and social services network and other sectors, on a basket of integrated, quality services to meet the needs of the local population; * Strengthening actions on health determinants in order to improve the health and well-being of the entire local population; and * Tracking performance and seeking ongoing improvements, in the interests of greater accountability Implementing population-based responsibility clearly requires a collective approach. Nothing in Bill 20 appears to indicate that the government might arrive at such an approach. No discussion of population-based responsibility would be complete without considering the Kaiser Permanente model. Kaiser Permanente is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide high quality, affordable health care services and improve the health of its members and the communities it serves. Approximately 9.9 million people receive health care from Kaiser Permanente, which has 17,000 physicians and 174,000 employees (including 48,000 nurses) working in 38 hospitals and medical centres and more than 600 clinics. The organization lists five keys to its model's success:8 1. Accountability for population 2. Transparency 3. Use of electronic health records and the Internet 4. Team care 5. Moving care out of doctor's office There are no provisions in Bill 20 for developing any of the above. Clearly, the fee-for-service model does not encourage population-based responsibility. We have seen in the Taber example a broad basket of services covered in the clinic's overall budget, with other things remaining fee-for-service (births, major operations, anaesthesia etc.). The way physicians are currently compensated stands in the way of any strategy whereby physician groups would receive fixed budgets to care for a given population. This is where Bill 20 goes off track-by individualizing patient targets instead of grouping them. Under group approaches, a physician who fails to meet commitments and does not see the required number of patients risks repercussions from colleagues and not the government, because the physician is responsible for contributing to the group's objectives. A physician in that same clinic who sees only complex cases will necessarily see fewer patients, but colleagues will be freed up to deal with more. We sincerely believe that physicians are in favour of a population-based responsibility approach. Yet the inescapable conclusion is that Bill 20, with its fee-per-service and individualized appointment targets, is taking us in a different direction entirely. We are convinced that physicians are overwhelmingly in favour of mixed compensation methods. The health and welfare commissioner launched a series of studies to assess the impact of remuneration on health system effectiveness and efficiency. As soon as RAMQ data becomes available, researchers will be able to complete their work and show how adjusting remuneration methods would contribute to improving health care access. Conclusion It is no coincidence that we have not attempted a clause-by-clause critique of Bill 20. The government's entire approach needs to be changed. It is high time the government understood that physicians are part of the solution to health service access problems, and that a coercive approach is counterproductive and demoralizing. History is full of examples in which working together in a climate of mutual respect led to impressive results. Both the QMA and CMA fully support the idea and purpose of the bill-to improve access to health care-but we believe Bill 20 is not the answer. We think changes worked out in partnership get the best results. All real improvements to the health care system have always been achieved in an atmosphere of dialogue and collaboration. To sum up, the QMA and CMA recommend first and foremost that the government work with the medical profession to improve access to health care, as well as the following measures: * Speed up the process of switching to electronic health records-an indispensable tool in 2015. * Reorganize tasks to accord a greater role to other health professionals (NPs, nurses, administrators and others) by forming care teams that can pool their knowledge and skills to better serve patients. * Reconsider Quebec's near-exclusive reliance on fee-for-service and consider bringing in a form of mixed remuneration that leads towards a population-based responsibility model. Elsewhere in Canada, this approach has contributed significantly to improvements in health care access, particularly on the front line. 1 http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-625-x/2014001/article/14013-eng.htm 2 http://www.choosingwiselycanada.org/ 3 https://www.doctorsofbc.ca/sites/default/files/strategicplan-doctorsofbc-web.pdf 4 Wedel R, Kalischuk RG, Patterson E, et al. Turning Vision into Reality: Successful Integration of Primary Healthcare in Taber, Canada. Healthcare Policy 2007; 3(1): 81-95. 5 http://www.hqontario.ca/portals/0/Documents/qi/qip-analysis-pc-en.pdf 6 Régie de l'assurance maladie du Québec. Évolution du coût des services médicaux et du nombre de médecins selon le mode de rémunération. Services médicaux, Québec, 2009-2013. 7 http://publications.msss.gouv.qc.ca/acrobat/f/documentation/2011/11-228-04W.pdf 8 Molly Porter. An Overview of Kaiser Permanente: Integration, Innovation, and Information Systems in Health Care. Presentation for the Canadian Medical Association, Kaiser Permanente International, March 2, 2015.

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Letter - CMA’s 2006 Pre-Budget Submission to the Minister of Finance

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy2031

Last Reviewed
2013-03-02
Date
2006-04-19
Topics
Health human resources
Health systems, system funding and performance
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2013-03-02
Date
2006-04-19
Topics
Health human resources
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
On behalf of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), I am pleased to present you with our pre-budget submission for your government's consideration. The CMA appreciates the opportunity to provide input into this government's first budget and to identify strategic investment opportunities for the long term health of Canadians. While Canada's health system faces many challenges, we believe that immediate action by the federal government in four key areas will offer both short term and long term benefits. They are: (1) the establishment of a Canada Health Access Strategy to support a patient wait-times guarantee; (2) a proposed Visa position buyback program and a repatriation program to immediately address shortfalls in health human resources; (3) a strengthening of Canada's public health infrastructure; and (4) a remedy for GST-induced distortions in the health care system.We believe these proposals fit well with the government's stated priorities. While information on each of these recommendations is attached for your information and consideration, I would like to provide you with an overview of each. 1. CANADA HEALTH ACCESS STRATEGY The CMA has been advocating for the implementation of maximum wait time thresholds or care guarantees for a number of years and is pleased that the government has included this as one of its top five priorities. As a first step, the CMA worked with six other specialty societies as part of the Wait Times Alliance (WTA) to develop a set of pan-Canadian wait-time benchmarks or performance goals released last August. We believe this work served as a catalyst for the provincial and territorial governments to move some way toward meeting their commitment in announcing pan-Canadian wait-time benchmarks last December. We must continue to work with governments and the academic community to improve access to medical care beyond the five priority health issues identified in the First Ministers' 2004 10-year health care plan. The second step in implementing patient wait-time guarantees is the issue of honouring the commitment and providing for patient recourse. As a member of the WTA, the CMA strongly supports accelerating the timetable to reduce wait times nationwide. However, the federal government needs to do its part to assist provinces in advancing the timetable by stepping up the flow of funds earmarked for the last four years of the accord. Our proposed Canada Health Access Strategy is comprised of three components directed at making this happen: supporting provinces to expand capacity and to handle surges in demand; supporting the creation of regional and/or national referral networks; and establishing a Canada Health Access Fund for a "safety valve" to help Canadians access care elsewhere when necessary. Details on how this Strategy would work are attached. The point is that this Strategy is necessary to assure Canadians that they get the care they need when they need it. Recommendation 1. The federal government advance the remaining $1 billion from the 2004 First Ministers Accord that was originally intended to augment the Wait Times Reduction Fund (2010-2014) to support a Canada Health Access Strategy by: (a) expanding provincial surge capacity : $500 million to be flowed immediately to provinces on a per capita basis in return for agreement to accelerate the timetable for bringing down wait times, as was promised in the recent federal election campaign; (b) improving national coordination of wait time management: $250 million to support creation of regional and/or national referral networks, a more coordinated approach to health human resource planning, expansion of information technology solutions to wait time management and facilitation of out-of-country referrals; and (c) establishing a Canada Health Access Fund: $250 million initial investment in an alternative patient recourse system or "safety valve" when and if clinically-indicated maximum wait time benchmarks as agreed to by provinces/territories last December are exceeded. Addressing Shortfalls in Health Human Resources As identified by Minister Clement in a recent speech at the "Taming of the Queue III" wait-time conference, addressing shortages in health human resources is a key element of any strategy for reducing lengthy wait-times. Unfortunately, we face serious physician shortages, starting with family physicians. The bad news is that it can take several years to educate and train the necessary professionals. The good news is that there are some strategies that can be undertaken to address the situation in the short term. 2. VISA POSITION BUYBACK FUND One such strategy is our Visa Position Buyback proposal that would eliminate the backlog of 1,200 qualified international medical graduates (IMGs) over the next five to seven years. Currently, these qualified IMGs, who are either Canadian citizens or landed immigrants, are unable to access the necessary residency training. One existing source for training capacity exists with the positions purchased by foreign governments for visa trainees. We estimate that there are over 900 current visa trainees at all rank levels. By implementing the Visa Position Buyback program, the government is able to take an immediate step that will produce tangible results as soon as a two to four years from now. This initiative would be part of a longer term plan to fully address the shortages in health human resources and help the government meet its commitment to implement a properly functioning patient wait-time guarantee. Recommendation 2a. The federal government allocate $381.6 million toward the training of up to 1,200 IMGs through to practice over the 2007/08 to 2015/16 period. Funding would be made available in two installments: an immediate investment of $240 million and the remaining $140 million subject to a satisfactory progress report at the end of five years. Repatriate Health Professionals Working in the United States Fortunately, another short-term source of health professionals exists that Canada should pursue. Thousands of health care professionals are currently working in the United States including approximately 9,000 Canadian trained physicians. We know that many of the physicians who do come back to Canada are of relatively young age meaning that they have significant practice life left. While a minority of these physicians do come back on their own, many more can be repatriated in the short-term through a relatively small but focussed effort by the federal government led by a secretariat within Health Canada. Recommendation 2b. The federal government should establish a secretariat within Health Canada that would provide funding to national professional associations to conduct targeted campaigns to encourage the repatriation of Canadian health professionals working in the United States, and act as a clearinghouse on issues associated with returning to Canada (e.g., citizenship, taxation, etc.). 3. PUBLIC HEALTH INFRASTRUCTURE RENEWAL The CMA remains concerned about the state of Canada's public health system. Public health, including the professionals providing public health services, constitutes our front line against a wide range of threats to the health of Canadians. While there is much talk about the arrival of possible pandemics, Canada's public health system must be ready to take on a broad range of public health issues. The CMA has been supportive of the Naylor report which provides a blue print for action and reinvestment in the public health system for the 21st century. While this will take several years to achieve, there are some immediate steps that can be taken which will lessen the burden of disease on Canadians and our health care system. These steps include establishing a Public Health Partnership Program with provincial and territorial governments to build capacity at the local level and to advance pandemic planning. In addition, we call on the government to continue its funding of immunization programs under its National Immunization Strategy. Recommendation 3a. The federal government should establish a Public Health Infrastructure Renewal Fund in the amount of $350 million annually to establish a Public Health Partnership Program with the provincial/territorial governments for the purposes of building capacity at the local level and advancing pandemic planning. In addition, the $100 million per year for immunization programs under the National Immunization Strategy should be continued. 4. A REMEDY FOR GST-RELATED DISTORTIONS IN THE HEALTH SYSTEM The CMA and many other national health organizations are concerned about the increasing, unintended and negative consequences the GST is having on health care. For example, the 83% rebate originally provided for under the so-called "MUSH" formula is no longer tax neutral and is acting as a deterrent in some cases toward increased use of ambulatory care services such as day surgeries. Over the past 15 years the physicians of Canada have faced a large and growing unfair tax burden due to the GST. Since physicians' services are tax exempt under the law, physicians are unable to either claim input tax credits or pass on the tax because of the prohibition under the Canada Health Act of billing patients directly. This puts physicians in a unique and patently unfair catch 22 that now amounts to over $65 million per year, which further acts as a deterrent to repatriating or retaining Canadian physicians. Recommendation: 4a. That the federal government, in the course of reducing the GST from 7% to 5% further to its campaign commitments, remove the large and growing deterrent effects of the GST on the efficient and effective delivery of health care in Canada. In summary, the CMA is providing you with recommendations on strategic investments to help your government honour its commitment to timely access to care and to improve the health of Canadians. Our recommendations are financially reasonable, making good use of Canadians' tax dollars. We look forward to meeting with you on April 19 to discuss our proposals with you. Sincerely, Ruth L. Collins-Nakai, MD, MBA, FRCPC, MACC President c.c. The Honourable Tony Clement, Health Minister

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Letter to the Honourable Pierre Pettigrew on mandatory retirement

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy11701

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

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Notes for an address by Sunil V. Patel, MB, ChB, President, Canadian Medical Association : Presentation to the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration of the House of Commons

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy2009

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

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