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Acting on today's and tomorrow's health care needs: Prebudget submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy14123
Date
2019-08-02
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2019-08-02
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is pleased to provide the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance this pre-budget submission. It provides recommendations to address major pan-Canadian challenges to the health of Canadians: improve how we provide care to our growing elderly population; improve access to primary care across the country; increase digital health literacy to take advantage of the benefits of new health information technologies; and better prepare for and mitigate the health impacts of a changing climate on Canadians. Seniors Care Health systems across the country are currently struggling to meet the needs of our aging population. People aged 85 years and over—many of whom are frail—make up the fastest growing age group in Canadai. Provincial and territorial health care systems (as well as care systems for populations falling under federal jurisdiction) are facing many challenges to meet the needs of an aging population. Canadians support a strong role for the federal government in leading a national seniors strategy and working with the provinces to ensure that all Canadians have the same level of access and quality of services, no matter where they live. The 2017 federal/provincial/territorial funding agreement involving $6 billion over 10 years to improve access to home care services is a welcomed building block. But without greater investment in seniors care, health systems will not keep up. To be truly relevant and effectively respond to Canadians’ present and future needs, our health care system must provide integrated, continuing care able to meet the chronic and complex care needs of our growing and aging population. This includes recognizing the increased role for patients and their caregivers in the care process. The federal government must ensure transfers are able to keep up with the real cost of health care. Current funding levels clearly fail to do so. Health transfers are estimated to rise by 3.6% while health care costs are expected to rise by 5.1% annually over the next decade.ii Recommendation: The federal government ensure provincial and territorial health care systems meet the care needs of their aging populations by means of a demographic top-up to the Canada Health Transfer.iii Providing care often comes with a financial cost such as lost income due to the caregiver’s withdrawal from the workforce to provide care. There are also increasing out-of-pocket costs for both caregivers and care receivers for health care-related expenses—privately covered expenditures on home and long-term care for seniors are projected to grow by an average of 5.8 per cent annually—nearly 1.5 times the pace of household disposable income growth. While the federal government offers tax credits that can be claimed by care receivers/caregivers, they are significantly under-utilized. While representing a significant proportion of caregivers, those with low or no income receive little to no federal government support through these programs. Middle-income earners also receive less than those earning high incomes. 4 Recommendation: The federal government create a Seniors Care Benefit that would be an easier, fairer and more effective way to support caregivers and care receivers alike.iv Access to Care Since the mid-1990s, the federal and provincial/territorial governments (FPT) have provided sustained leadership in promoting and supporting the transformation of primary care in Canada. In 2000, the First Ministers concluded the first of three Health Accords in which they agreed to promote the establishment of primary health care teamsv supported by a $800 million Primary Health Care Transition Fund (PHCTF) funded by the federal government, but jointly governed. The PHCTF resulted in large-scale sustained change in primary care delivery models in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta with interest in other jurisdictions as well. However, the job is far from finished. Across Canada, access to primary care is challenging for many Canadians with a persistent shortage of family physicians. In 2017, 4.7 million Canadians aged 12+ reported they did not have a regular health care provider.vi Even those who have a regular provider experience wait time issues. There has been widespread interest in primary care models since the development of the College of Family Physicians of Canada’s (CFPC) vision document Family Practice: The Patient’s Medical Home (PMH), initially launched in 2011vii and recently re-launched.viii The model is founded on 10 pillars depicted in Figure 1. Figure 1. The Patient’s Medical Home, 2019 The updated model places increased emphasis on team-based care and introduces the concept of the patient’s medical neighborhood that sets out connections between the primacy care practice and all delivery points in the surrounding community. While comprehensive baseline data are lacking, it seems 5 safe to conjecture that most Canadians are not enrolled in a primary care model that would measure up to the model’s 10 pillars. Recommendation: The federal government, in concert with provinces and territories, establish a targeted fund in the amount of $1.2 billion to support a new time-limited Primary Health Care Transition Fund that would build on the success of the fund launched in 2000 with the goal of widely introducing a sustainable medical home model across jurisdictions. This would include the following key elements:
Age-sex-weighted per capita allocation across the provinces and territories;
Joint governance of the FPT governments with meaningful stakeholder engagement;
Respect for the Canada Health Act principles;
Common objectives (e.g., modeled on the CFPC Patient’s Medical Home framework);
Operating Principles specifying eligible/ineligible activities;
Reporting provisions and agreed-upon metrics; and
Sustainability plans. Digital/Virtual Care Canada and most industrialized countries will experience a digital health revolution over the next decade with great potential to improve patient and population health. Digital health can be described as the integration of the electronic collection and compilation of health data, decision support tools and analytics with the use of audio, video and other technologies to deliver preventive, diagnostic and treatment services that promote patient and population health. While most Canadian physicians’ offices and health care facilities are now using some form of electronic record keeping and most households have internet access, there remains a large deficit in using virtual care, both within jurisdictions and across provincial/territorial boundaries. 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 opportunities for digital health to improve health care delivery, including what regulatory changes are required for physicians to deliver care to patients within and across provincial/territorial boundaries. To take full advantage of digital health capabilities it will be essential for the population to have a functional level of digital health literacy: the ability to seek, find, understand and appraise health information from electronic sources and apply the knowledge gained to addressing or solving a health problem.ix This also includes the capability of communicating about one’s health to health care professionals (e.g., e-consults), self-monitoring health (e.g., patient portals) and receiving treatment online (e.g., Web-based cognitive behavioral therapy).x There are no current data available on health literacy in Canada, let alone digital health literacy. One basic barrier to achieving digital health literacy is access to, and usage of the Internet, which has been termed the “digital divide” (e.g., older Canadians and low income households are less likely to have Internet access).Error! Bookmark not defined. 6 In 2001 the federal government established the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC). Its mandate includes informing consumers about their rights and responsibilities in dealing with financial institutions and providing information and tools to help consumers understand and shop for financial products and services.xi In 2014 the FCAC appointed a Financial Literacy Leader who has focused on financial literacy, including activities such as conducting financial capability surveys and the development of a National Strategy for Financial Literacy.xii Considering the anticipated growth of digital/virtual care it would be desirable to understand and promote digital health literacy across Canada. What the federal government has done for financial literacy could serve as a template for digital health literacy. Recommendation: The federal government establish a Digital Health Literacy Secretariat to:
Develop indicators and conducting surveys to measure and track the digital health literacy of Canadians;
Develop tools that can be used both by Canadians and their health care providers to enhance their digital health literacy; and
Assess and make recommendations on the “digital divide” that may exist among some population sub-groups due to a lack of access to information technology and lower digital health literacy. Climate Change and Health Climate change is the public health imperative of our time. There is a high level of concern among Canadians about their changing climate. A 2017 poll commissioned by Health Canada demonstrates a high level of concern among Canadians about their changing climate: 79% were convinced that climate change is happening, and of these, 53% accepted that it is a current health risk, with 40% believing it will be a health risk in the future. The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified air pollution and climate change as one of the biggest threats to global health. Health care professionals see first-hand the devastating health impacts of our changing climate including increased deaths from fine particulate matter air pollution and increased heat-related conditions. Impacts are most common in vulnerable populations such as adults over 65 years, the homeless, urban dwellers and people with a pre-existing disease. Canada’s health care system is already treating the health effects of climate change. A lack of progress in reducing emissions and building adaptive capacity threatens both human lives and the viability of Canada’s health system, with the potential to disrupt core public health infrastructure and overwhelm health services, not to mention the economic and social costs. The federal government must provide leadership to deal with the impact already being felt in Canada and around the world. Recommendation: 7 The federal government make strong commitments to minimize the impact of climate change on the health of Canadians by:
Ensuring pan-Canadian and inter-jurisdictional coordination to standardize surveillance and reporting of climate-related health impacts such as heat-related deaths, develop knowledge translation strategies to inform the public, and generate clinical and public health response plans that minimize the health impacts;
Increasing funding for research on the mental health impacts of climate change and psychosocial adaptation opportunities; and
Ensuring funding is provided to the health sector to prepare for climate change impacts through efforts to increase resiliency (i.e., risk assessments, readiness to manage disease outbreaks, sustainable practice). 8 i Statistics Canada. The Chief Public Health Officer's Report on the State of Public Health in Canada, 2014: Public Health in the Future. Ottawa: Statistics Canada; 2015. Available: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/cphorsphc-respcacsp/2014/chang-eng.php; (accessed 2016 Sep 19). ii The Conference Board of Canada. Meeting the care needs of Canada’s aging population. Ottawa: The Conference Board; 2018. iii Canadian Medical Association. Meeting the demographic challenge: Investments in seniors care. Pre-budget submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance. August 3, 2018. https://policybase.cma.ca/documents/Briefpdf/BR2018-16.pdf iv The Conference Board of Canada. Measures to Better Support Seniors and Their Caregivers. March 2019. https://www.cma.ca/sites/default/files/pdf/health-advocacy/Measures-to-better-support-seniors-and-their-caregivers-e.pdf v Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat. News release – First Ministers’ meeting communiqué on health. September 11, 2000. http://www.scics.ca/en/product-produit/news-release-first-ministers-meeting-communique-on-health/. Accessed 04/22/19. vi Statistics Canada. Primary health care providers, 2017. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/en/pub/82-625-x/2019001/article/00001-eng.pdf?st=NGPiUkM5. Accessed 04/21/19. vii College of Family Physicians of Canada. A vision for Canada. Family Practice: the patient’s medical home. http://www.cfpc.ca/uploadedFiles/Resources/Resource_Items/PMH_A_Vision_for_Canada.pdf. Accessed 04/22/19. viii College of Family Physicians of Canada. The patient’s medical home 2019. https://patientsmedicalhome.ca/files/uploads/PMH_VISION2019_ENG_WEB_2.pdf. Accessed 04/21/19. ix Norman C, Skinner H. eHealth literacy: essential skills for consumer health in a networked world. J Med Internet Res 2006;8(2):e9. Doi:10.2196/jmir.8.2.e9. x Van der Vaart R, Drossaert C. Development of the digital health literacy instrument: measuring a broad spectrum of health 1.0 and health 2.0 skills. J Med Internet Res. 2017;19(1):e27. Doi:10.2196/jmir.6709. xi Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. About FCAC. xii Financial Consumer Agency of Canada. National Strategy for Financial Literacy. Phase 1: strengthening seniors’ financial literacy. https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/canada/financial-consumer-agency/migration/eng/financialliteracy/financialliteracycanada/documents/seniorsstrategyen.pdf. Accessed 06/24/19. https://www.canada.ca/en/financial-consumer-agency/corporate/about.html. Accessed 07/01/19.
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Answering the Wake-up Call: CMA’s Public Health Action Plan : CMA submission to the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1960
Last Reviewed
2010-02-27
Date
2003-06-25
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Health care and patient safety
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  2 documents  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2010-02-27
Date
2003-06-25
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Health care and patient safety
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
The public health system in Canada lies at the heart of our community values. It is the quintessential “public good” and is central to the continued good health of our population. When the public health system is working well, few are even aware that it is at work! Only when something goes terribly wrong — like the Walkerton tragedy or when we are faced with a new threat like SARS — is the integral, ongoing role of public health really recognized. The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) has been warning that our public health system is stretched to capacity in dealing with everyday demands, let alone responding to the latest crises. Canada’s physicians have repeatedly called for governments to enhance public health capacity and strengthen the public health infrastructure throughout Canada. Our public health system is the first — and often the only — line of defence against emerging and ongoing infectious and noninfectious threats to the health of Canadians. But we are only as strong as the weakest link in the emergency response chain of survival. As most health threats know no boundaries, our public health armaments must be in a constant state of “battle readiness.” In today’s climate of SARS, West Nile Virus, mad cow disease and monkey pox, even the thought that the public health system may be stretched beyond capacity strikes fear into the hearts of Canadians. Physicians have always been an integral part of the public health system serving as medical officers of health, community health specialists and other related roles. Indeed public health cannot successfully fulfill its mandate without the cooperation and commitment of front-line clinicians. In this submission, we reflect on the lessons to be learned from our recent experience with SARS and reflect on the longer-term needs of the public health system as a whole. The objectives of the pan-Canadian Public Health Action Plan proposed by the CMA are, first to realize a clearer alignment of authority and accountability in times of extraordinary health emergencies; and, second, to enhance the system’s capacity to respond to public health threats across the country (see recommendations, below, and Appendix 1). To achieve these twin objectives, three broad strategies are presented for immediate attention. They are legislative reform; capacity enhancement; and research, surveillance and communications. Legislative reform (see recommendations 1–3) The country’s response to SARS has brought into stark relief the urgent need for national leadership and coordination of public health activity across the country, especially during a health crisis. The apparent reluctance to act quickly to institute screening at airports, the delay in unifying the practice community for a concerted response and the appalling communications confusion worked against optimum handling of the outbreak — despite the best efforts of health care professionals. This is a wake-up call that highlights the need for comprehensive legislative reform to clarify the roles of governments with respect to the management of public health threats. A renewed and enhanced national commitment to public health should be anchored in new federal legislation to be negotiated with the provinces and territories. Specifically, the CMA recommends an Emergency Health Measures Act, to deal with emergent situations in tandem with the creation of a Canadian public health agency headed by a Chief Public Health Officer of Canada. Capacity enhancement (see recommendations 4–7) The SARS crisis has demonstrated the diminished capacity within the public health system. The Greater Toronto Area (GTA), with one of Canada’s most sophisticated public and acute health systems, has not been able to manage the SARS crisis adequately and carry on other health programs. The acute care system virtually ground to a halt in dealing with SARS. There was little or no surge capacity in Canada’s largest city. We should be grateful that SARS did not first strike a smaller centre in a far less-advantaged region of Canada. A critical element of the public health system is its workforce and the health professionals within the acute care system, such as hospital-based infectious disease specialists and emergency physicians who are the front-line interface. Let there be no doubt that the ongoing efforts of the GTA front-line providers are nothing short of heroic. However, the lack of coordinated contingency planning of hospital and community-based disease control efforts was striking. The overall shortage of critical care professionals and the inability of governments to quickly deploy the required professionals to areas of need contributed to the enormous strain on the public and health care system. Considering the importance of the public health system and its clearly limited capacity to protect and promote the health of Canadians, it is incomprehensible that we do not know how much is actually spent on the system. It is imperative that public health expenditures and capacity, in terms of both physical and human resources, be tracked and reported publicly. The CMA recommends a $1-billion, 5-year capacity-enhancement program to be coordinated with and through the new Canadian public health agency. Research, surveillance and communications (see recommendations 8–10) Canada’s ability to respond to public health threats and acute events, such as SARS, and to maintain its effective public health planning and program development depends on sound research, surveillance and rapid, real-time communications. A concerted pan-Canadian effort is required to take full advantage of our capacity for interdisciplinary research on public health, including infectious disease prevention and control measures. New-millennium challenges require moving beyond old-millennium responses. Enhanced surveillance is an overdue and integral part of public health, performing an essential function in early detection and response to threats of infectious diseases. Mandatory national reporting of identified diseases by all provinces and territories is critical for national and international surveillance. During times of crisis, rapid communication to the public, public health staff and front-line clinicians is of critical importance, but in many jurisdictions impossible. We tested our systems during the SARS outbreak and they came up short. The CMA recommends a one-time federal investment to enhance technical capacity to allow for real-time communication. Conclusion The CMA believes that its proposed three-pronged strategy, as set out in the attached recommendations, will go a long way toward addressing shortfalls of the Canadian public health system. Action now will help to ensure that Canadians can once again be confident that they are protected from any future threat of new infectious diseases. Action now will help Canada regain its position as a leader in public health. We wish the advisory committee well in its deliberations and offer the CMA’s assistance at any time in clarifying the strategies set out in our submission. Recommendations to the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health Legislative reform ($20 million / 5 years*) 1. The enactment of a Canada Emergency Health Measures Act that would consolidate and enhance existing legislation, allowing for a more rapid national response, in cooperation with the provinces and territories, based on a graduated, systematic approach, to health emergencies that pose an acute and imminent threat to human health and safety across Canada. 2. The creation of a Canadian Office for Disease Surveillance and Control (CODSC) as the lead Canadian agency in public health, operating at arm’s length from government. 3. The appointment of a Chief Public Health Officer of Canada to act as the lead scientific voice for public health in Canada; to head the Canadian Office for Disease Surveillance and Control; and to work with provinces and territories to develop and implement a pan-Canadian public health action plan. Capacity enhancement ( $1.2 billion / 5 years*) 4. The creation of a Canadian Centre of Excellence for Public Health, under the auspices of the CODSC, to invest in multidisciplinary training programs in public health, establish and disseminate best practices among public health professionals. 5. The establishment of a Canadian Public Health Emergency Response Service, under the auspices of the CODSC, to provide for the rapid deployment of human resources (e.g., emergency pan-Canadian locum programs) during health emergencies. 6. Tracking and public reporting of public health expenditures and capacity (both physical and human resources) by the Canadian Institute for Health Information and Statistics Canada, on behalf of the proposed Canadian Office for Disease Surveillance and Control. 7. Federal government funding in the amount of $1 Billion over 5 years to build adequate and consistent surge capacity across Canada and improve coordination among federal, provincial/territorial and municipal authorities to fulfill essential public health functions. Research, surveillance and communications ($310 million / 5 years*) 8. An immediate, sequestered grant of $200 million over 5 years to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to initiate an enhanced conjoint program of research with the Institute of Population and Public Health and the Institute of Infection and Immunity that will expand capacity for interdisciplinary research on public health, including infectious disease prevention and control measures. 9. The mandatory reporting by provinces and territories of identified infectious diseases to the newly established Chief Public Health Officer of Canada to enable appropriate communications, analyses and intervention. 10. The one-time infusion of $100 million, with an additional $2 million a year, for a “REAL” (rapid, effective, accessible and linked) Health Communication and Coordination Initiative to improve technical capacity to communicate with front line public health providers in real time during health emergencies. *See Appendix 2: Estimated cost of implementing recommendations. PURPOSE The CMA prepared this submission in response to an invitation from Dr. Naylor to provide input to the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health. We applaud this initiative and welcome the opportunity to present the views of Canada’s medical community to the committee. The CMA’s basic message is that our health protection laws are woefully outdated and the public health system is stretched beyond capacity. This submission draws on our long history of engagement in public health in Canada and our experience both post-September 11, 2001 and with SARS. It builds on the knowledge and experience of our members, national specialist affiliated societies and provincial and territorial divisions. (We acknowledge, in particular, the outstanding efforts of the Ontario Medical Association and the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians in battling SARS.) In this submission, we examine the lessons to be learned from our experience with the SARS outbreak and reflect on both the immediate and longer-term needs of the public health system as a whole. The objectives of the public health action plan proposed by the CMA are, first, to realize a clearer alignment of authority and accountability in times of extraordinary health emergencies and, second, to enhance the system’s capacity to respond to public health threats across the country, including those posed by preventable chronic disease. INTRODUCTION The public health system in Canada lies at the heart of our community values. It is the quintessential “public good” and is central to the continued good health of the population. When the public health system is working well, few are even aware that it is at work! Only when something goes terribly wrong — like the contamination of the blood supply in the 1980s, the Walkerton tragedy or SARS — is the integral, ongoing role of public health recognized. Our public health system is the first — and often the only — line of defence against emerging and ongoing infectious and noninfectious threats to the health of Canadians. But we are only as strong as the weakest link in the emergency response chain of survival. As most health threats know no boundaries, our public health system must be in a constant state of “battle readiness.” We can ill afford any weakness in our public health preparedness. In today’s climate of SARS, West Nile Virus, mad cow disease and monkey pox, the mere thought that the public health system may be stretched beyond capacity strikes fear into the hearts of Canadians. Physicians have always been an integral part of the public health system serving as medical officers of health, specialists in infectious disease and community medicine (who will not remember the stalwart efforts of Dr. Donald Low on SARS?) and in other related roles. Indeed, public health cannot successfully fulfill its mandate without the cooperation and commitment of front-line clinicians. The CMA has been warning for some time that our system is stretched to capacity in dealing with everyday demands, let alone responding to crises. Canada’s physicians have repeatedly called for governments to enhance public health capacity and strengthen the public health infrastructure throughout Canada. For example, the CMA’s submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance’s prebudget consultations on October 22, 2001 called for substantial investments in public health and emergency response as a first step to improve the public health system infrastructure and its surge capacity. This submission not only reiterates our previous recommendations, but also outlines specific actions that the CMA believes must be taken to ensure a strong public health system in Canada. The Enduring Impact of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome): in February 2003, these four letters sent massive shock waves around the world, causing widespread fear and confusion among health care officials and citizens of many countries. The “fear factor” extended across Canada as people realized the full threat of SARS. Since SARS was first identified in a patient in Toronto in March 2003, 438 probable or suspected cases have been reported to Health Canada and 38 people have died (as of June 23, 2003). However, these numbers do not reflect the full impact of the outbreak. The number of indirect deaths due to system shutdown will never be known. Local public health authorities across the country went on high alert. Those in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) as well as their provincial counterparts diverted almost all of their resources to respond to the crisis. Acute care services were adversely affected as stringent infection-control and screening measures were put into place to control the spread of SARS. In the GTA, the health system — acute and public — was brought to its knees. Over half of the reported SARS cases involved front-line providers as the outbreak largely affected health care settings. Approximately 20 physicians in Ontario contracted SARS and close to 1000 were quarantined. Thousands of nurses and other health care workers also faced quarantine, some more than once. Institutions closed their doors, limiting access to emergency departments, clinics and physicians’ offices. Intensive care units were full and surgeries were cancelled. Front-line health care professionals involved in critical care were stretched to their physical and mental limits. Others found themselves underutilized due to the impact of the infection-control measures on their practice settings. Feast and famine co-existed. Although the outbreak was mainly confined to health care settings, the entire GTA felt the effects. Upwards of 20,000 people entered voluntary quarantine. Businesses were affected. The tourism industry is still reeling. The disruption that SARS caused continues to reverberate through health care systems and economies. In response to urgent requests from both the Ontario Medical Association and Health Canada, the CMA mobilized its membership and assisted in the country’s response to SARS. Everything that could be done was done to facilitate bringing in qualified personnel to relieve those on the front line and make appropriate information available in real time. The CMA has learned its own lessons, both positive and negative. A full chronology of CMA activity is attached as Appendix 3. It has become abundantly clear that Canada’s public health system was ill prepared to deal with the SARS outbreak. If not for the heroic efforts of public health officials, health care providers and research scientists, Canada’s experience would have been much worse. Public health in Canada Public health is the science and art of protecting and promoting health, preventing disease and injury, and prolonging life. It complements the health care system, which focuses primarily on treatment and rehabilitation, sharing the same goal of maximizing the health of Canadians. However, the public health system is distinct from other parts of the health system in two key respects: its primary emphasis is on preventing disease and disability and its focus is on the health needs of populations rather than those of specific individuals. Public health is the systematic response to infectious diseases. It also ensures access to clean drinking water, good sanitation and the control of pests and other disease vectors. Further, it is immunization clinics and programs promoting healthy lifestyles. But it is also there to protect Canadians when they face a public health crisis like SARS. If the public health system is fully prepared to carry out essential services, then communities across the country will be better protected from acute health events. The reality in Canada today is that a strong, consistently and equitably resourced and integrated public health system does not exist. Public health systems across Canada are fragmented — a patchwork of programs, services and resources across the county. In reality, it is a group of multiple systems with varying roles, strengths and linkages. Each province has its own public health legislation. Most legislation focuses on the control of communicable diseases. Public health services are funded through a variable mix of provincial and municipal funding formulae, with inconsistent overall strategies and results, and with virtually no meaningful role for input from health professionals via organizations such as the CMA, or the federal level, in terms of strategic direction or resources. Federal legislation is limited to the blunt instrument of the Quarantine Act and a variety of health protection-related acts. (e.g., Food and Drugs Act, Hazardous Products Act, Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, Radiation Emitting Devices Act) Some of the laws, such as the Quarantine Act, date back to the late 19th century. Taken as a whole, the legislation does not clearly identify the public health mandate, roles and responsibilities of the different levels of government. In many cases, the assignment of authorities and accountabilities is anachronistic. Moreover, there is little information available on the functioning and financing of Canada’s public health system. There is no “one-stop shopping” for authoritative information on public health issues. In 2001, a working group of the Federal, Provincial and Territorial Advisory Committee on Population Health assessed the capacity of the public health system through a series of key informant interviews and literature reviews. The consistent finding was that public health had experienced a loss of resources and there was concern for the resiliency of the system infrastructure to respond consistently and proactively to the demands placed on it. Significant disparities were observed between “have” and “have-not” provinces and regions in their capacity to address public health issues. The report’s findings are consistent with previous assessments by the Krever Commission and the Auditor General of Canada. In 1999, the Auditor General said that Health Canada was unprepared to fulfill its responsibilities in public health; communication between multiple agencies was poor; and weaknesses in the key surveillance system impeded the effective monitoring of injuries and communicable and non-communicable diseases. In 1997, Justice Horace Krever reported that the “public health departments in many parts of Canada do not have sufficient resources to carry out their duties.” The Challenges Ahead The 21st century brings with it an awesome array of new public health risks and ancient foes. Not all of them can be identified at the present time. New diseases (e.g., SARS, West Nile Virus) will likely continue to emerge. Dr. Alan Bernstein, President of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, recently noted that SARS is here to stay. Old threats, such as contamination of a community water supply (e.g., Walkerton), can strike quickly if vigilance is relaxed or delegated to third parties. This century will likely bring greater focus on threats from the physical environment. Our social environment is also a source of illness as shown by the recent epidemic trends in obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus. A substantial minority of Canadians continue to smoke. In short, there is no lack of public health threats to Canadians. Although for each of these issues, there is a clear role for clinical care, it is the public health system that will identify and monitor health threats and provide interventions to prevent disease and injury and improve health. The system will also be at the front lines in any response to a biological, chemical or nuclear event. The public health system must have the infrastructure to respond to a range of threats to health, including emergencies. The experience with SARS has reaffirmed that we do not have the system flexibility to respond to these events after they have occurred. It is vital that we take steps now “to embrace not just the essential elements of disease protection and surveillance but also new strategies and tactics capable of addressing global challenges.”<1> CMA’S PROPOSED PUBLIC HEALTH ACTION PLAN No one policy instrument can possibly address the multiple factors involved in meeting the public health challenge head on. Similarly, no one level of government or constituency (e.g., community medicine) can or should shoulder all of the responsibilities. Although we need to restore public confidence quickly, we must also do what it takes to get it right. Accordingly, the CMA is proffering a three-pronged approach to meet the challenge: * A legislative reform strategy * A capacity enhancement strategy * A research, surveillance and communication strategy. These three broad strategies make up the CMA’s proposed 10-point Public Health Action Plan. Taken together, the CMA believes the Plan, if adopted, will serve us very well in the future. Legislative Reform Our experience with SARS — and the seeming lack of coordination between international, federal, provincial and local system levels — should be a massive wake-up call. It highlights the need for legislative reform to clarify the roles of governments with respect to the management of public health issues and threats. Four years ago, national consultations on renewing federal health protection legislation<2> resulted in a recommendation that * “The federal government must be given, either through legislation or through memoranda of understanding among provincial and territorial governments, the authority it needs to effectively address any outbreak of a communicable disease, where the health risk extends beyond provincial borders. * “Federal health protection legislation should be amended to give Health Canada authority to act quickly and decisively in the event of a national health emergency... if it poses a serious threat to public health; affects particularly vulnerable segments of the population; exceeds the capacity of local authorities to deal with the risk; and involves pathogens that could be rapidly transmitted across national and international borders.” Such legislative reform is consistent with the federal government’s well-recognized responsibility to act to protect public health and safety. It fits well with Health Minister McLellan’s recently announced plans to act now to review and update health protection legislation. The SARS outbreak has provided further experience to support these, and in our view, even stronger recommendations. There is ample historical evidence to support the federal government’s role in the management of communicable disease, a role that dates back to the time of confederation. The quarantine power was the initial manifestation of this authority in 1867 under Section 91 of the British North America Act and it gave the federal government the responsibility for ensuring the containment of infectious diseases. The outbreak of the Spanish Flu epidemic in 1918 further highlighted the need for coordinated national efforts and (at the urging of the CMA and others) resulted in the creation of the federal Department of Health in 1919. It would be reasonable to assume that legislators at the time had an expansive view of the need for centralized authority to deal with pan-Canadian health threats. One hundred and thirty-five years after confederation, we have a highly mobile global community. This mobility and the attendant devastating speed with which diseases can spread demand a national response. Currently, there is tremendous variation in public health system capacity among the various provinces and territories and, more particularly, among municipalities and local authorities. Inconsistencies in provincial approaches to public health matters have resulted in significant disparities between and within the provinces.<3> Health Canada’s mandate as set out in its enabling legislation states that “[t]he powers, duties and functions of the Minister extend to and include all matters over which Parliament has jurisdiction relating to the promotion and preservation of the health of the people of Canada.” The CMA believes that it is time for the federal government to take responsibility for public health matters that touch the lives of all Canadians. The legal staffs at CMA, in consultation with external experts, have conducted a detailed review of existing legislation. We have concluded, as Health Minister McLellan recently announced, that there is a long overdue need to consolidate and rationalize current related laws. We also believe there is now public support and a demonstrable need to enhance the powers afforded the federal government. We recognize that the government has put forward Bill C-17, the Public Safety Act and a review of health protection legislation is underway. We believe that amending and updating existing legislation is necessary but not sufficient to address today’s public health challenges. The CMA is calling for the enhancement of the federal government’s “command and control” powers in times of national health emergencies. Specifically we are recommending a three-pronged legislative approach. 1. The CMA recommends The enactment of a Canada Emergency Health Measures Act that would consolidate and enhance existing legislation, allowing for a more rapid national response, in cooperation with the provinces and territories, based on a graduated, systematic approach, to health emergencies that pose an acute and imminent threat to human health and safety across Canada. The existing Emergencies Act gives the federal government the authority to become involved in public welfare emergencies when regions of the country are faced with “an emergency that is caused by a real or imminent... disease in human beings... that results or may result in a danger to life or property... so serious as to be a national emergency.” However, to use this power, the federal government must declare a “national emergency,” which itself has political and economic ramifications, particularly from an international perspective, and mitigates against its use. The CMA believes that this all-or-nothing approach is not in the public’s best interest. The concept of emergency in the context of public health requires a different response from governments in the future. Although we recognize that provincial and municipal governments currently have preplanned sets of responses to health threats, the CMA is proposing new legislation to allow for a rapid federal response to public health emergencies. The proposed Emergency Health Measures Act clarifies the roles and authority of governments and ensures a consistent and appropriate response with sufficient human and financial resources to protect Canadians faced with a public health emergency. Of utmost importance, all Canadians, regardless of their location, can be assured that the response to a health emergency will be delivered systematically by experts who can sustain the effort as needed. The proposed legislation would be founded on a graduated approach that would give the federal government the powers necessary to deal with a crisis, in an appropriately measured way, as it escalates. As the emergency grows, the government could implement stronger measures as required to meet the challenge — in principle, akin to the Unites States’ homeland security levels, which increase as the level of threat increases (see Appendix 4 for a description of the Canadian Emergency Health Alert System). The CMA strongly believes that the federal government must have jurisdiction to act when the ability of the provinces to respond to public health emergencies is so disparate. The inability of one province to stop the spread of virulent disease would have serious implications for the health of residents in the rest of the country. The federal government and the provinces must work together to ensure the safety of all our citizens. 2. The CMA recommends The creation of a Canadian Office for Disease Surveillance and Control (CODSC) as the lead Canadian agency in public health, operating at arm’s length from government. Although some provinces have established centres of public health expertise, considering the breadth of public health issues, the relative population sizes and differences in wealth, it will never be feasible to have comprehensive centres of public health expertise for each province and territory. Even if one achieved this, there would increasingly be issues of economies of scale and unnecessary duplication among centres. This issue is not unique to Canada.1 The CMA is proposing the development of a Canadian Office for Disease Surveillance and Control (CODSC) operating at arm’s length from any level of government. CODSC would have overall responsibility for protecting the health of Canadians. The Office would provide credible information to enhance health decisions and promote health by developing and applying disease prevention and control, environmental health and health promotion and education activities. CODSC would enable a consistent and coordinated approach to public health emergencies as well as play a key role in the prevention and control of chronic diseases and injuries. It would provide national health surveillance, apolitical scientific expertise, system development including standards and guideline development, development and dissemination of an evidence base for public health interventions, skills training and transfer of expertise (i.e., through secondment of staff) and resources, including funding for core programs, to other levels of the system (e.g., provincial and local). 3. The CMA recommends The appointment of a Chief Public Health Officer of Canada to act as the lead scientific voice for public health in Canada; to head the Canadian Office for Disease Surveillance and Control; and to work with provinces and territories to develop and implement a pan-Canadian public health action plan. Many national or federal–provincial–territorial committees play an important role in recommending public health strategies or actions. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization and the Federal, Provincial and Territorial Advisory Committee on Population Health are two excellent examples. But there is currently no single credible public health authority in whom is vested, through legislation or federal–provincial–territorial agreement, the overall responsibility for pan-Canadian public health issues. Therefore, the CMA is recommending the appointment of a Chief Public Health Officer of Canada. Potential roles for this officer may include: * Serve as the head of the Canadian Office for Disease Surveillance and Control * Serve as the national spokesperson for public health with the independence to comment on critical public health issues * Report annually on the health of the population * Develop, implement and report independently to parliament on public health system performance measures * Lead processes to identify and address gaps in the nation’s public health system. Capacity enhancement The public health system infrastructure is the foundation that supports the planning, delivery and evaluation of public health activities. In March 2001, the Federal, Provincial and Territorial Advisory Committee on Public Health<3> reported, In the view of respondents the system ‘is lacking in depth.’ This means that a sustained crisis would seriously compromise other programming. While the research does not indicate that the public health system in Canada is strained beyond capacity, there does appear to be agreement that there is a capacity to manage just one crisis at a time. However, just 2 years later, the GTA, an area with one of Canada’s most sophisticated public and acute care health systems, was not able to manage the SARS crisis and carry on any other programs. The Ontario government recognized this state of affairs when, on 12 June, Ontario’s Health Minister Tony Clement said, “I was concerned that if we had one additional large-scale crisis, that the system would crash.” Important public health issues ranging from immunization to suicide prevention went virtually unaddressed, as the public health capacity in Toronto was overwhelmed. In the absence of a mechanism to share resources within the system and a general lack of overall system surge capacity, the city of Toronto and the province competed with each other to recruit trained staff from other health departments. The SARS outbreak has shown there is no surge capacity in Canada’s largest city. The acute care system in Toronto virtually ground to a halt in dealing with SARS. We must ask ourselves what would have happened if SARS had struck first in a smaller centre in a far less-advantaged region of Canada. Clearly Canada is not fully prepared. We should not have needed a crisis to tell us this. The CMA sees several components to rebuilding the capacity of the public health system. Public health human resources For the essential functions of the public health system to be realized, public health agencies need a workforce with appropriate and constantly updated skills. Canada’s public health workforce is extremely thin. There appear to be too few graduate-level public health professionals (i.e., those holding a master’s degree and physicians who are certified specialists in community medicine); those who do exist are not distributed equitably across jurisdictions. The scarcity of hospital-based infection control practitioners and emergency physicians within the acute care system and the lack of integration of hospital and community-based disease control efforts have been particularly striking during the SARS outbreak. The knowledge and skills required for effective public health practice are not static. They continually evolve as new evidence is identified. However, continuing education programming for public health practitioners is woefully underdeveloped in Canada. Health Canada has made some limited progress in this area, but the issue needs to be addressed much more substantively. 4. The CMA recommends The creation of a Canadian Centre of Excellence for Public Health, under the auspices of the CODSC, to invest in multidisciplinary training programs in public health, establish and disseminate best practices among public health professionals. Canada has world-class expertise in public health. However, it does not have the depth of other countries, partly because we do not have a national multidisciplinary school of public health of the calibre of Harvard in Boston, Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and the School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in London. A national school of public health, which might be based on a virtual network of centres nationwide, could * Develop a plan to assess and address the substantial educational needs of new and existing public health staff * Address the coordination of the various academic training programs to meet the needs of the field * Ensure self-sufficiency of our public health workforce. 5. The CMA recommends The establishment of a Canadian Public Health Emergency Response Service, under the auspices of the CODSC, to provide for the rapid deployment of human resources (e.g., emergency pan-Canadian locum programs) during health emergencies. The SARS outbreak clearly demonstrated the need for a pre-planned approach to supporting and augmenting the public health and acute care workforce during a crisis. When health professionals in the GTA were overwhelmed, we were ill prepared to move health professionals in from other jurisdictions to help. Health professional associations like the CMA took the first steps in investigating and overcoming obstacles regarding licensure and insurance. We were taken aback when we found that the Ontario government had unilaterally awarded an exclusive contract to a for-profit company to arrange for emergency relief. The further delay caused by concerns about privacy, confidentiality and harmonizing fees hampered relief efforts. The deployment of health professionals during health emergencies is too important to be left in the hands of for-profit organizations as it was during the SARS experience. An established Canadian Public Health Emergency Response Service, operating on a non-profit basis, would * Maintain a “reserve” of public health professionals who are fully trained and could be deployed to areas of need during times of crisis * Co-ordinate the logistics of issues such as portable licensing, malpractice and disability insurance * Identify funding for staff training and a more equitable distribution of numbers and skills among jurisdictions. Investment in public health Considering the importance of the public health system and its capacity to protect and promote the health of Canadians, it is amazing that we have no reliable or comprehensive information about how much money is actually spent on the system or what public health human resources are available across Canada. This is partially due to the lack of uniform definitions, service delivery mechanisms and accounting practices. Even in the absence of reliable data on public health expenditures, there is ample evidence that the public health system continues to operate under serious resource constraints across Canada. 6. The CMA recommends Tracking and public reporting of public health expenditures and capacity (both physical and human resources) by the Canadian Institute for Health Information and Statistics Canada, on behalf of the Canadian Office for Disease Surveillance and Control. In its latest report on health system expenditures, the CIHI states that 6% of total expenditures in 2000 were spent on “public health and administration.”<4> The inclusion of administrative costs in this figure means that public health funding is substantially less than 6% of health system expenditures.2 Federal Government Estimates report that Health Canada allocated $433 million in 2003–2004 for health promotion and prevention activities with spending scheduled to decrease to $308 million by 2005–2006 or by almost 30%. This decrease in spending exemplifies a decade that has seen tremendous fluctuations in spending on public health activities. The situation is alarming when looked at from a current-dollar basis; there was an 8.8% decrease in funding of public health activities between 1994–1995 and 1997–1998. In fact, federal spending on public health on a constant dollar basis did not regain its 1994–1995 level until 2000–2001. Although the late 1990s saw some reinvestment in public health initiatives, the most recent 2003–2004 estimates suggest that, once again, federal investment in public health will decrease dramatically over the next few years. Indeed, public health continues to represent only a small fraction of total federal direct spending on health (9.7% in 2002–2003). At the provincial level, although we cannot distance public health from administration, we know that it fell victim to the brutal climate of fiscal retrenchment of the 1990s, when in real terms provincial–territorial per capita health spending declined for 5 consecutive years after 1991–1992. During this period, public health was further destabilized by regionalization. According to the Survey of Public Health Capacity in Canada most provincial and territorial officials reported reductions in programming as a result of the transfer of funding and responsibility to regional structures. Although Ontario did not regionalize, in 1997 public health funding was downloaded to municipalities, which left public health departments scrambling to find funds to meet existing programs as well as new services that were mandated by the provincial Health Protection and Promotion Act. Whether talking about federal or provincial–territorial jurisdictions, we can no longer afford to have funding for health and safety subject to the vagaries of financial cycles. However, what perhaps is most alarming is the potentially large economic impact of underinvestment in this area. Although the net cost of the SARS outbreak in Ontario is not yet known, recent estimates suggest that it could be as high as $2.1 billion.3 Given this, the proverbial ounce of prevention that is worth a pound of cure comes to mind suggesting that a relatively modest increase in funding for public health could potentially result in substantial savings in the longer term. 7. The CMA recommends Federal government funding in the amount of $1 billion over 5 years to build adequate and consistent surge capacity across Canada and improve coordination among federal, provincial/territorial and municipal authorities to fulfill essential public health functions. The best way to ensure that the public health system is capable of addressing the range of public health threats, including emergencies, is to significantly increase investment in its capacity. This investment must assist all levels of the system to fulfill essential public health functions, with particular attention to local and regional agencies. The strategic national leadership that we are calling for includes the development of new mechanisms for federal cost sharing of basic public health services and the guarantee of a basic core set of local programs serving everyone in Canada, regardless of where they live. The system also needs to receive targeted funds so that it can do its work smarter and more effectively. Priority areas for this targeted funding should include development of an integrated information system and staff training. Research, surveillance and communications Canada’s ability to respond to emerging public health threats and acute events, such as the SARS outbreak, and to maintain its effective public health planning and program development depends on sound research, surveillance and rapid, real-time communications. 8. The CMA recommends An immediate sequestered grant of $200 million over 5 years to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to initiate an enhanced conjoint program of research with the Institute of Population and Public Health and the Institute of Infection and Immunity that will expand capacity for interdisciplinary research on public health, including infectious disease prevention and control measures. Similar to the efforts in clinical care to support the use of evidence-based practices, interventions in public health must be based on research, evidence and best practices. A national effort should be undertaken to develop and make widely available, on an ongoing basis, a comprehensive and up-to-date review of the evidence base for public health programs. This information would support effective practice, enhance public health research capacity and support other infrastructure elements (e.g., minimum programs and services, performance measurement, system funding). It could also reduce unnecessary duplication of efforts by different public health agencies. We applaud the tremendous work of the unique trans-Canada partnership of 4 CIHR-funded research teams who, in just 11 weeks, discovered the complete DNA sequence of the coronavirus associated with SARS. This is a perfect example of what can be accomplished when our talented research teams work together. The recent announcement by the CIHR of an integrated national strategy for research on SARS reflects the intent of this recommendation for other public health challenges. 9. The CMA recommends The mandatory reporting by provinces and territories of identified infectious diseases to the newly established Chief Public Health Officer of Canada to enable appropriate communications, analyses and interventions. Public health surveillance is defined as the ongoing, systematic collection, analysis and interpretation of health data necessary for designing implementing and evaluating public health programs. It is an integral part of the public health system and performs an essential function in early detection and response to threats to human health. Current surveillance systems for communicable and noncommunicable diseases are inadequate to allow public health professionals to detect and react to major health issues. For effective public health management, surveillance must be a continuous process covering a range of integrated data sources to provide useful and timely information. 10. The CMA recommends The one-time infusion of $100 million, with an additional $2 million a year, for a “REAL” (rapid, effective, accessible and linked) Health Communication and Coordination Initiative to improve technical capacity to communicate with front line public health providers in real time during health emergencies. In today’s world, international travel, business and migration can move infectious diseases around the world at jet speed. But during the SARS experience, governments and public health authorities were unable to communicate in real time with health professionals on the front lines. Gaps in the basic communication infrastructure prevent public health agencies from talking with each other in real time, and also hinder exchanges between public health staff, private clinicians and other sources of information about emerging new diseases. In response to requests from both the Ontario Medical Association and Health Canada, the CMA mobilized its communication networks to provide physicians with critical information about public health management of SARS. In less than 48 hours, via email and fax, we reached over 45,000 physicians with authoritative information. Through the good offices of the Canadian Council of Health Services Accreditation, this information was also made available to over 1500 accredited health facilities across Canada. Although necessity caused the limits of the system to be tested, SARS highlighted the fact that we do not have information systems in place to facilitate real-time communication with health professionals. Information is the key to effective response during times of emergency. Information in real time is also essential for effective day-to-day health care to provide, for example, information on adverse drug reactions. CONCLUSION SARS brought out the best in Canada and Canadians’ commitment to one another. It also turned a bright, sometimes uncomfortable spotlight on the ability of this country’s health care system to respond to a crisis, be it an emerging disease, a terrorist attack, a natural disaster or a large-scale accident. We must learn from the SARS experience and quickly move to rebuild the infrastructure of a strong public health system. The CMA believes that this 10-point Public Health Action Plan will go a long way toward addressing shortfalls in the Canadian public health system. Action now will help to ensure that Canadians can be confident once again that their governments are doing all they can to protect them from the threat of new infectious diseases. We wish the advisory committee well in its deliberations and offer the CMA’s assistance at any time in clarifying the strategies set out in our submission. APPENDIX 1: THE CMA’S PUBLIC HEALTH ACTION PLAN [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] [TABLE END] APPENDIX 2: ESTIMATED COST OF IMPLEMENTING THE RECOMMENDATIONS [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Recommendation Estimated cost over 5 years Legislative and institutional reform 1. Canada Emergency Health Measures Act N/A 2. Canadian Office for Disease Surveillance and Control (CODSC) ? $20 million 3. Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Capacity enhancement 4. Canadian Centre of Excellence for Public Health $100 million 5. Canadian Public Health Emergency Response Service $35 million 6. Canadian Institute for Health Information and Statistics Canada $35 milliona 7. Surge capacity $1 billionb Research, surveillance and communications 8. Canadian Institutes of Health Research $200 millionc 9. Mandatory reporting Included under 2 and 3 above 10. Enhanced reporting $110 million TOTAL $1.5 billion a. Work is currently underway to break-out public health from the current category of “public health and administration.” b. This is an incremental investment in addition to funding currently available under Health Canada’s Health Promotion and Prevention Strategic Outcome area. c. Funding must be sequestered specifically for new initiatives related to public health. Additional money could also be acquired through funding from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, which received an additional $500 million in 2002–2003 (announced in the 2003 federal budget) to enhance the Foundation’s support of public health infrastructure. [TABLE END] APPENDIX 3: CHRONOLOGY OF THE CMA’S RESPONSE TO SARS 2002 November 16 * First known case of atypical pneumonia (SARS) occurs in Guangdong province, China 2003 February 11 * World Health Organization (WHO) receives reports from the Chinese Ministry of Health about SARS; 305 persons affected and 5 deaths February 13 * Canadian index case arrives in Hong Kong for a family visit February 18-21 * Canadian index case is a guest at the Metropole hotel in Kowloon February 21 * A medical doctor from Guangdong checks into Metropole hotel in Kowloon. The physician, who became ill a week before staying at the hotel, is considered to be the original source of the infection * This leads subsequently to outbreaks in Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore and Canada after guests leave the hotel and return home February 23 * Canadian index case returns home to Toronto March 5 * Canadian index patient dies in Toronto, 9 days after the onset of her illness March 12 * WHO issues global alert about SARS March 13 * National and international media reports begin appearing about SARS * The Canadian index patient’s son, Canada’s second SARS victim, dies 15 days after the onset of his illness March 14 * First reports from Toronto about deaths from SARS March 16 * Health Canada receives notice of SARS patients in Ontario and British Columbia; begins regular updates on SARS on its website * Health Canada initiates its pan-Canadian communication infrastructure, based on its pandemic influenza contingency plans March 17 * CMA calls Health Canada to offer assistance and request “real time information.” CMA immediately placed on list of participants in daily pan-Canadian teleconferences. * CMA adds a SARS page to its website home page (cma.ca) with CMA Shortcuts to expert information and daily updates March 19 * CMA alerts all its divisions and affiliates to the Health Canada and CMA SARS web pages * eCMAJ includes SARS updates on its website March 20 * CMA divisions add a link to SARS information for health professionals to their websites * Health Canada requests CMA’s assistance to inform physicians of the public health management guidelines for SARS March 28 * CMA sends an email to 33,000 members (copied to divisions and affiliated societies) to alert them to Health Canada’s SARS public health management documents and SARS web page April 1 * CMA CEO initiates cross-directorate task force and deploys dedicated staff resources. Some other CMA programs deferred/delayed. Task force begins daily staff SARS Working Group meetings * CMA communicates with the Ontario Medical Association on a daily basis April 2 * CMA holds teleconference with divisional communication directors re: SARS April 3 * CMA contacts the British Medical Association to establish whether we can secure a supply of masks from European sources * CMA organizes a teleconference among national health care organizations to discuss SARS developments April 7 * CMA posts electronic grand rounds on SARS for clinicians on cma.ca; * CMA sends email and fax communication to physicians to raise awareness of SARS e-grand rounds on cma.ca * Working with the Mental Health Support Network of Canada, CMA prepares and posts on cma.ca, fact sheets for health professionals and the public on coping with the stress caused by SARS April 9 * CMA hosts second teleconference among national health care organizations to discuss SARS developments April 17 * Electronic grand rounds on SARS updated and promoted through cma.ca April 23 * CMA sends email to membership requesting volunteers for the CMA Volunteer Emergency SARS Relief Network April 24 * CMA consults with the American Medical Association regarding the possibility of US physicians volunteering for the relief network April 25 * CMA CEO sends letter to deputy minister of health about the urgent need to create a national ministerial SARS task force April 30-May 1 * CMA participates in Health Canada-sponsored international SARS conference in Toronto May 6 * Health Canada announces the National Advisory Group on SARS and Public Health, headed by Dr. David Naylor May 12 * Opinion editorial by Dr. Dana Hanson, CMA president, on SARS and public health surge capacity published in The Ottawa Citizen; May 28 * CMA organizes a meeting of national health care organizations to discuss lessons learned from SARS June 3 * CMA receives an invitation to submit a brief to the National Advisory Group on SARS and Public Health June 6 * CMA sends e-mail to targeted segment of its membership (community medicine, public health, infectious disease and medical microbiology) requesting volunteers for the CMA Volunteer Emergency SARS Relief Network June 25 * CMA president outlines the CMA’s Public Health Action Plan during a speech at the Canadian Club in Toronto * CMA submission to the National Advisory Committee on SARS and public health APPENDIX 4: CMA’S PROPOSED HEALTH EMERGENCY ALERT SYSTEM [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Health alert may be declared in: Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4 Level 5 * Any area under federal jurisdiction * Any community or province/territory with a risk of transmission to other provinces/territories or countries * Any community or province/territory with insufficient resources to manage the public health emergency within the capacity of the local public health authorities Definition of the area of concern Voluntary quarantine for individuals or property Increasing surveillance Chief public health officer takes the lead in coordinating the response Regulation or prohibition of travel Facilitating communication Reviewing and updating health emergency procedures Determination of local capacity to lead and respond Coordinating necessary response efforts with national disaster relief agencies, armed forces or law enforcement agencies at the federal–provinical–territorial level Medium to significant limitations of civil rights and freedoms Mandatory surveillance Assessing future resource requirements Deployment of a national response team Medium to significant limitations of civil rights and freedoms Evacuation of persons and the removal of personal property Providing the public with necessary information. Discretionary deployment of the national response team or on request of local authorities Quarantine of individuals and/or property with enforcement by law Implementing interventions, as appropriate, and emergency response actions Regulation of the distribution and availability of essential goods, services and resources Assessing further refinement of actions Restricting access to the area of concern Requisition, use or disposition of property Required consent of governor in council No No Yes Yes Yes Lead response team Municipal or provincial Provincial or national Provincial or national National or international International [TABLE END] REFERENCES 1. Garrett, L. Betrayal of trust: the collapse of global public health. New York: Hyperion; 2000. 2. Health Canada. National consultations, summary report: renewal of the federal health protection legislation. Ottawa: Health Canada; 1999. 3. Federal, Provincial and Territorial Advisory Committee on Population Health. Survey of public health capacity in Canada: highlights. Ottawa: The Committee; 2001. 4. Canadian Institutes for Health Information. National health expenditure trends: 1975–2002. Ottawa: CIHI; 2002. 5. Lévesque M. The economic impact of SARS. TD Economics Topic Paper. TD Bank Financial Group; 6 May 2003. Available: http://www.td.com/economics/topic/ml0503_sars.html (viewed: 20 June 2003). 1 Many countries (e.g., United States, United Kingdom, Norway and the Netherlands) have developed critical masses of public health expertise at the national level. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, which has a critical mass, great depth of scientific expertise and the tools and fiscal resources to fund public health programs at both state and local levels through demonstration projects, is a sterling example of the effectiveness of such a central agency. 2 A review by the Canadian Institute for Health Information recognizes the problem with current expenditure tracking systems and has recommended separating public health from government administrative costs and prepayment administration in future health system cost estimates. 3 On 6 May, the TD Bank released a paper<5> suggesting that the cost of SARS to the Canadian economy may be between $1.5 and $2.1 billion.
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Canada Pension Plan Disability Program : CMA Presentation to the Sub-Committee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1965
Last Reviewed
2010-02-27
Date
2003-03-18
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2010-02-27
Date
2003-03-18
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
The Canadian Medical Association appreciates the opportunity to once again participate in the deliberations of the Sub-Committee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities. I am accompanied today by Mr. William Tholl, Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Medical Association. Before I begin my remarks, I want to congratulate this Committee, and particularly the Chair of the Committee, for your efforts in regard to another federal program, the Disability Tax Credit. Your 2002 report on this program, Getting it Right for Canadians, no doubt led to some of the important measures in regard to disabilities undertaken by the government in the recent federal budget. The appointment of the Technical Advisory Committee on eligibility criteria and the $105 million allocated over the next two years to improve assistance for persons with disabilities is, in our view, significant progress. The CMA appreciates this opportunity to discuss issues relating to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) specifically as the program relates to the disability benefit. I will focus my remarks today in three areas: * Physician experience with federal health programs and forms * The need for common criteria * Recommendations for action While the subject matter before the Subcommittee today is the CPP disability program, we believe a broader focus on the issue of “disability” and federal health programs in general is needed. Issues related to the CPP disability program are issues common to other federal disability assistance programs. THE PHYSICIAN EXPERIENCE I don’t think I need to tell this Committee about the alarming shortages of physicians and other health care providers in Canada. Canada’s physicians have been stretched to the limit and beyond. Therefore, it’s more important than ever that physician’s time be managed in such a way as to maximize our interaction with patients. Unfortunately however, this is not the case. Increasingly physicians are spending more and more of their time filling out forms. Forms for federal health programs such as the CPP or for-private insurance claims, pension benefits, tax credit eligibility, pharmaceutical plans and workers compensation claims to name just a few. To figure out all the various forms and determine eligibility you almost need to be a physician, a lawyer and a tax expert. The result of the proliferation in the number of forms and their increasing complexity has resulted in less time for what physicians are trained to do; treating illness and providing care to patients. If you were to ask the average physician his or her greatest frustration with the health system, the response would be too much time spent administrating the system and not enough time in providing care to patients. In regard to the CPP specifically, we have had in the past a good working relationship with the officials who manage this program. We have worked together well in the past in regard to improving the forms and bring great integrity to the program which has resulted in a reduction of appeals under the program. The CMA believes that in terms of a federal health program, the CPP set the template both in terms of administrative processes and cooperation that should be adopted across all federal programs in this area. That said, there is still considerable room for improvement. I urge the Committee to take into consideration the cumulative impact these various health programs, such as the CPP, have on our health provider workforce. We must look at ways in which to relieve the heavy administrative burden so that physicians can concentrate their efforts on what they do best, patient care. COMMON CRITERIA As with our presentation on the Disability Tax Credit program, the CMA recommends that a standard of fairness and equity be applied across all federal disability benefit programs. Currently, there is virtually a different definition and a different assessment process for each and every program. A common frustration of physicians is that while a patient qualifies as “disabled” under one disability program, that same patient does not under another. When you look at some of the common criteria used to determine the level of a disability, the problem is readily apparent. The CPP criteria define “severe” as preventing an applicant from working regularly at any job and “prolonged” as long term or that which may result in death. However, the DTC program notes that “severe” is to be interpreted to mean markedly restricting any of the basic activities of daily living and that a disability must be “prolonged” over a period of at least 12 months. While daily living includes working regularly at any job it encompasses so much more. Under the CPP criteria the physician is responsible for determining how to define long term; six months or twelve months. Other programs, such as the Veterans benefits that have entirely different criteria, are added to this mixture. This is confusing for physicians, patients and others involved in the application process. If the terms, criteria and the information about the programs are not as clear as possible then we have no doubt that faulty interpretation on the part of physicians when completing the forms can occur. This could then inadvertently disadvantage those who, in fact, qualify for benefits. There needs to be some consistency in definitions across the various government programs. This does not mean that eligibility criteria must be identical. However, there must be a way for a more standardized approach. Inconsistency in the application and administration of the program is likely without a more standardized definition of the program. The reality is that certain individuals with conditions or disabilities may qualify for the CPP disability benefit in one region of the country, while in other regions, an individual with the same condition will be deemed ineligible. There are a number of conditions that society would today view as a “disability,” yet may not fit under the current program. Severe and prolonged is a rigid standard, especially as it is applied to some medical conditions. The reality is that such a standard cannot be applied fairly in all situations. There needs to be greater flexibility and more realistic criteria that takes into account the special nature of some medical conditions that may not meet yesterday’s standards. RECOMMENDATIONS Canada’s physicians offer four specific actions for the Committee to consider: 1. That an emphasis be placed on reducing the administrative burden placed on health care providers under all federal health programs. The CPP program, both in terms of the consultative and administration process, should serve as the template for change. Unlike other federal health programs, the cost of having the eligibility form completed by a physician is subsumed under the program itself. The CMA believes this should be the case for all federal health programs. 2. The establishment of a joint governmental and stakeholder advisory group, similar to the recently announced DTC Advisory Committee, to monitor and appraise the performance of the CPP disability program to ensure it meets its stated purpose and objectives. Representation on this advisory group would include senior program officials; health care providers; various disability organizations; and patient advocacy groups. 3. That there be some consistency in definitions across the various government programs. This would not circumvent the purposes or mandates of the programs. 4. That a comprehensive information package be developed for health care providers and the public that provides a description of each program, its eligibility criteria, the full range of benefits available, copies of sample forms, physical assessment and form completion payment information, etc. CONCLUSION To conclude, the CMA believes that the CPP is a deserving benefit to those Canadians living with a disability. We again congratulate the Committee for the progress it has achieved on behalf of people with disabilities in regard to the recent initiatives announced in the federal budget. The CMA looks forward to working with all concerned to improve the CPP program and all other federal disability health programs. Thank You.
Documents
Less detail

CMA’s Annual Check-up of Canada’s Health Care System: Presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance Pre-Budget Consultations

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1953
Last Reviewed
2011-03-05
Date
2003-09-25
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
  2 documents  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2011-03-05
Date
2003-09-25
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
The past year has been an historic one for health and health care in Canada. We applaud the federal government for the reinvestments that were made at the time of the February 2003 Health Accord. However, what we as physicians continue to hear in our offices, clinics and hospitals right across the country is continuing concern from our patients that Canada’s health care system won’t be there for them when they need it. And so while we can understand government’s desire to “turn the page” on health care issues, the temptation must be resisted. It is appropriate and prudent that at least once a year, the federal government take the pulse of the health care system – an annual check-up – to take stock of where we’ve been and identify priorities for the coming year. This year, the Canadian Medical Association’s (CMA’s) submission to the Standing Committee on Finance moves largely away from macro funding issues to focus in on strategic initiatives that are national in scope and promise high returns in terms of value for money. Specifically, we identify three areas that require immediate new investments while reminding committee members of work that remains unfinished from years past. Unfinished Business While the CMA applauds the federal government for its leadership in achieving the 2003 Health Accord, it is now time to follow through on some outstanding promises that were made. In particular, there are two areas that require special mention. At the time of the First Ministers’ Health Accord in February 2003, the federal government agreed to provide up to an additional $2 billion into Canada’s health care system at the end of this fiscal year (2003/04) if a sufficient surplus above the normal Contingency Reserve were available. The federal government must honour their commitment. Health cannot be treated as a residual after other contingencies are addressed. Equally important is moving forward with establishing the Canada Health Council. Suggestions to water down the mandate of the health council to make it more palatable to some jurisdictions are not the answer. Canada needs a robust mechanism that will provide for enhanced evidence and accountability on how Canada’s health care dollars are spent. Canada needs a Health Council that will create a meaningful place at the table for Canadians, health care providers and other stakeholders to provide input on how the system operates and monitor its performance. Protecting Public Health The public health system in Canada lies at the very heart of our community values. It is the quintessential “public good” and is central to the continued good health of our population. It is the view of the CMA that our public health system is stretched to capacity in dealing with everyday demands, let alone responding to emerging crises. On June 25, 2003, the CMA submitted a brief to the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health headed by Dr. David Naylor. In it the CMA called upon the federal government to make a minimum investment of $1.5 billion over five years to achieve legislative reform; capacity enhancement; and enhanced research, surveillance and communications capacities. In particular, the CMA calls for immediate funding of two specific priorities. The first is the same proposal that the CMA brought to the Standing Committee on Finance last year – the REAL (rapid, effective, accessible and linked) Health Communication and Co-ordination Initiative. The purpose of this initiative is to increase the capacity of the public health system to communicate in real time, between multiple agencies and with health care providers. Had CMA’s earlier recommendations been acted upon, perhaps we would have been better prepared to communicate with health care providers when SARS first appeared in Toronto. Improved communications must be a priority this time around – we cannot afford to let this recommendation languish another year. The second short-term priority for public health is to invest in an emergency supply chain for use in times of crisis. SARS showed us that the Greater Toronto Area, an area with one of Canada’s most sophisticated public and acute care health systems, was not able to manage the SARS crisis and maintain its capacity to meet other acute care requirements or important public health services such as suicide prevention programs. The federal government must assure Canadians that plans are in place when the health care system is again tested with another public health emergency. Ensuring Adequate Supply, Distribution and Mix of Canada’s Health Human Resources Health is primarily a people business. Of all of the critical issues facing Canada’s health care system, none is more urgent than the shortages of health providers. Simply put, if people are not available to provide care and treatment to patients everything else is irrelevant. While we were encouraged with the $90 million provided in the 2003-04 to “improve national health human resources planning and co-ordination, including better forecasting of health human resources needs”, details of how these funds will be allocated and for what purposes remain unclear. The CMA has proposals on how this money could be used to support much needed health human resource planning that are ready to be pulled off the shelf and implemented. For example, the CMA believes that an arm’s length Health Institute for Human Resources (HIHuR) should be established to address the human side of health, just as existing institutes address the technological (CCOHTA) and information aspects of health (CIHI). Addressing the Health Status of Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples Particularly alarming is the health status of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples where, despite some improvements over the past few decades, Canada has been largely unable to adequately address the health issues facing this community. At CMA’s annual general meeting in August 2003, Health Minister Anne McLellan noted that despite significant investment Canada’s aboriginal people continue to have poor health outcomes. The CMA recommends that the federal government adopt a comprehensive review to look at how the money being spent on health, health care and related areas of investment for Aboriginal people can result in better health outcomes. The current results are not good enough. We must do better. Conclusion For those involved in the health care community, and indeed for all Canadians, this has truly been a remarkable year for Canada in terms of health and health policy. In many ways, the events of February marked a turn toward significant reinvestment in the health care system. However, with the outbreak of SARS in Ontario and the emergence of other significant public health concerns such as West Nile virus, health continued to be a top-of-mind concern for many Canadians. We also know that despite investments made in the 2003 federal budget, there continue to be areas for targeted, strategic initiatives that promise high payoff in terms of value for money. Public health, health human resources and the health status of Canada’s aboriginal people are the three areas that we have highlighted where additional attention and funding can make a real impact at the national level. When considering these investments, however, we must remember that we cannot afford to rob Peter to pay Paul. Both the public health and the acute care systems must simultaneously benefit from increased investment in order not to download one problem onto the other. To return to the analogy of an annual health check-up, let us conclude with this prognosis. Many actions taken in the past year should help over time address the acute symptoms of the patient. However, we must not be complacent. Long term health requires follow-through on last year’s initiatives, targeted new investments and ongoing vigilance. We look forward to the year ahead. INTRODUCTION When historians look back on 2003, they may very well call it the year of health. Since the Canadian Medical Association’s (CMA’s) presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance on October 22, 2002, several key events have highlighted health and health care issues in the minds of Canadians. Senator Michael Kirby and the Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology kicked off the year by releasing its final report of the review of the federal health care system in October 2002. This report was followed closely by the release of the final report of the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada (the Romanow Commission) in November. In February 2003, Canada’s First Ministers agreed to their second Health Accord in just over two years. February also brought the federal government’s 2003 federal budget, which featured health as a key element. Emerging threats to the health of Canadians such as SARS and West Nile virus, coupled with ongoing concern that the health care system is not meeting patient needs in a timely way, clearly illustrate the prominence health care has played as an issue over the past year. Indeed, Canadians continue to show unwavering interest in health and the health care system. According to an EKOS Poll, Private Voices, Public Choices, health care was consistently identified as Canadians’ highest priority for the federal government as compared to other significant public policy issues (debt, level of taxation and unemployment) between August 1995 and January 2002.i Despite ongoing consensus on the need to make progress in the area of health, polling done for the CMA by Ipsos Reid found that the public remains unsatisfied with the federal government’s response to the health issue. In the CMA’s recently released Third Annual National Report Card on Health Care, 64% of respondents gave the federal government either a “C” or “F” rating in their performance in dealing with health care in Canada.ii Notwithstanding, the CMA acknowledges that the flurry of activity and the amount of public attention that health and health care has garnered over the past year can lead to policy fatigue. However, practitioners working in the health care system continue to see the concern of Canadians about being able to access health care services when and where they need them. Add to that their heightened sense of vulnerability in the face of new infectious diseases and ongoing reports about the poor state of our public heath care infrastructure, and anxiety regarding health and the health care system over the past year has become almost palpable. Health care is also a huge sector of our economy. At over $112 billion dollars,iii Canada’s health care system represents 9.7% of our Gross Domestic Productiv. At the federal level, major transfers to other levels of government (a large proportion of which goes to support health care in the provinces and territories) represents almost a quarter (22%) of total program spending by the federal government.v And so, while the physicians of Canada can understand the desire to “turn the page” on health care issues, the temptation must be resisted. It is appropriate and prudent that at least once a year, the federal government take the pulse of the health care system – an annual check-up if you like – to take stock of where we’ve been and identify priorities for the coming year. The CMA recognizes that great strides were made last year in terms of reinvestment in Canada’s health care system. As such, this submission to the Standing Committee on Finance will move largely away from macro funding issues to focus in on targeted, initiatives that are national in scope and promise high returns in terms of value for money. Specifically, we have identified three areas that require immediate new investment. 1. Protecting public health; 2. Ensuring adequate supply, distribution and mix of Canada’s health human resources; and 3. Addressing the health status of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples. Will any of these initiatives alone improve the overall health of Canadians and increase their access to health care? The answer is no. But by improving the public health infrastructure; ensuring better supply of health human resources; and addressing the particularly urgent health care needs of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples, the proposed initiatives represent significant steps that can be taken toward eliminating many of the access issues that are top of mind concerns for so many Canadians. However, before discussing these priorities for new investment, there are a couple of areas of unfinished business that need to be brought to the attention of members of the Standing Committee. Unfinished Business – delivering on the health accord promise Federal Reinvestments in Health Care Financing In February 2003, the federal government announced new funding of $24.9 billion over 5 years1 for the provinces and territories. This was a significant investment and we applaud the federal government for making health a priority, while noting that a gap persists between the reinvestments made and the CMA’s recommendations for new funding to shore up Canada’s core health care system. (Appendix A provides further details of this gap in funding). At the time of the First Ministers’ Health Accord in February 2003, the federal government agreed to provide up to an additional $2 billion into Canada’s health care system at the end of this fiscal year (2003/04) if a sufficient surplus above the normal Contingency Reserve were available.vi Over the past summer however reports in the media have suggested that this money may not be forthcoming, a concern that has impacted negatively on the federal/provincial/territorial (F/P/T) relationship and created a barrier for advancing the business of health care reform. It is exactly this unpredictability that fosters provincial/territorial distrust of the federal government’s role in health care. While the CMA firmly believes that the federal government has a critical role to play in supporting health care across the country, it must fulfil this role in a manner that reassures provinces and territories that promises made are promises kept. This must be the modus operandi of federal health investments. Let us state in the strongest words possible that the CMA and Canada’s physicians expect the Government of Canada to ensure its fiscal house is in order so that this commitment can be fulfilled. Canada’s health care system must not be treated as a residual after other contingencies are addressed. Canada Health Transfer The CMA was pleased to see the 2003 budget announce the creation of a separate Canada Health Transfer effective April 1, 2004. It is the CMA’s view that this measure is a significant step toward greater accountability and transparency of funds and we applaud the federal government for this bold initiative. However, in creating the Canada Health Transfer the government has neglected to build-in the key feature of how to ensure the ongoing sustainability of federal support for health care in the provinces and the territories. Without a built-in escalator, claims by the federal government that its investments have introduced sustainability into the system ring hollow. As it stands now, the Canada Health Transfer does not provide for increases in funding to grow in step with increases in health care expenditures or our ability to pay as a country. In the longer term this will result in a return to the imbalance between federal funding of provincial and territorial health expenditures. The CMA reiterates its recommendation made last year to the Standing Committee on Finance and to the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada, that a built-in escalator tied to increases in GDP is a fundamental component of the Canada Health Transfer. Canada Health Council One of the biggest piece of unfinished business arising from the February 2003 Health Accord is the continued lack of progress in the area of the Canada Health Council. Canadians are demanding greater accountability for their health care system. Canadians are also fed-up with inter-jurisdictional bickering on health care financing. A Council would provide a forum to allow for non-political assessment of health care issues divorced from the political wrangling that has defined health care in Canada for more than a decade. It would also enhance F/P/T accountability on how health care dollars in Canada are being spent in order to ensure that Canada’s health care dollars are being used wisely. In February, governments promised Canadians that the Health Council would be set up in May. Throughout the summer of 2003, federal government officials indicated that it would be just a matter of time. Most recently, at their Annual Conference on September 4, 2003, F/P/T Ministers of Health agreed to take another seven weeks to “expedite work on the Health Council”.vii Prior to that meeting, the CMA challenged Health Ministers to ratify an implementation plan for a Canada Health Council that would have a council in place no later than November 28, 2003, one year after the release of the final report of the Romanow Commission.viii Suggestions to water down the mandate of the Health Council to make it more palatable to some jurisdictions are not the answer. Canada needs a robust mechanism that will provide for enhanced evidence and accountability on how Canada’s health care dollars are spent. Canadians need an independent, empowered Council. Senator Kirby said it when he called for a National Health Care Council.ix Commissioner Romanow said it when he recommended a Health Council of Canada.x Canadians are demanding greater accountability. Enough is enough. Get on with it. Health Research Another area for continued reinvestment is health research. In our submission to the Romanow Commission, the CMA called for federal government support of health research equal to at least 1% of national health expenditures. For 2002 this would equal approximately $1.1 billion. Actual budgeted expenditure by the federal government for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research for 2002/03 was only $727.2 million.xi Canada must move beyond viewing health care expenditures as a drain on government budgets and start treating them the same as in any other sector – investments. Today’s research provides tomorrow’s treatments. For example, the benefits of increased investment in research extend far beyond the scientist’s lab. Rather, the return on investment is potentially many times the initial investment through increased trade potential, increased innovation and increased productivity. For this reason, the CMA supports, in principle, that idea proposed by Dr. Henry Friesen for the creation of a Health Innovation Council to encourage greater innovation and investment in Canada’s health care system. Key Recommendations Keep your word. Direct the Minister of Finance to honour his promise to put $2 billion back into Canada’s health care system in this fiscal year. Introduce a built-in escalator into the Canada Health Transfer to ensure the federal contribution to the health system keeps pace and remains sustainable. Enough is enough! Establish the Canada Health Council. Identify support for health research equal to at least 1% of national health expenditures. Protecting public health The public health system in Canada lies at the very heart of our community values. It is the quintessential “public good” and is central to the continued good health of our population. It includes the systematic response to infectious disease, but also much more. It ensures access to clean drinking water, good sanitation and the control of pests and other disease vectors. It provides immunization clinics, and programs promoting healthy lifestyles as well as being there to protect Canadians when they face a public health crisis like SARS. Our public health system is the first — and often only — line of defence against emerging and ongoing infectious and noninfectious threats to the health of Canadians. But we are only as strong as the weakest link in the emergency response chain of survival. Most health threats know no boundaries, so our public health armaments must be in a constant state of “battle readiness.” It is the view of the CMA that our public health system is stretched to capacity in dealing with everyday demands, let alone responding to emerging crises. At no time was this more apparent than following the tragic events of September 2001. As a result, the CMA dedicated our 2001 submission to the Standing Committee on Finance to issues related to emergency preparedness in terms of security, health and capacity. In light of SARS and other public health threats those recommendations continue to ring true today.xii It is our contention that had these actions been taken, Canada would have been better prepared to face the recent public health challenges. Unfortunately, the opposite road was taken. Rather than making reinvestments in public health, the federal government has scheduled declines in departmental spending in this area. In fact, according to Government of Canada estimates, by 2005/06 public health expenditures are planned to decrease in current dollars to their lowest level in over a decade (Chart 1). And while we were encouraged by recent investments made in the health care system, we question the lack of investment and forecast reductions in funding for public health. We cannot continue to rob Peter to pay Paul. Both the public health and acute care systems require ongoing investments and attention. On June 25, 2003, the CMA submitted a brief to the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health headed by Dr. David Naylor. In it we identified the need to establish a clearer alignment of authority and accountability in times of extraordinary health emergencies. We also highlighted the need to enhance the system’s capacity to respond to public health threats across the country. To achieve this, we call on the federal government to make a minimum investment of $1.5 billion over five years to achieve legislative reform; capacity enhancement; and enhanced research, surveillance and communications capacities. (For additional detail, please refer to CMA’s submission to the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health, June 2003.xiii A copy of our recommendations and associated costs are attached as Appendix B.) While significant, this level of funding represents only a small investment relative to the massive potential cost of, for example, another SARS crisis. $1.5 billion over five years should be treated as the minimum that could be allocated to these initiatives in order to operationalize each of the recommendations. Estimates do not include existing expenditures on public health that would be reallocated within the public health system. While all of our recommendations for the public health care system are important, there are two components that the CMA believes need immediate action by the federal government. The first refers to the particular urgency to improve communications between health professionals and address immediate shortages in supplies and equipment. Last year we came to the Standing Committee on Finance with a proposal for the REAL (rapid, effective, accessible and linked) Health Communication and Co-ordination Initiative. The purpose of this plan was to increase the capacity of the public health system to communicate in real time, between multiple agencies and with health care providers. (A copy of the REAL proposal is attached as Appendix C.) This followed the call in our 2001 submission for increased communications between public health officials, police, fire and ambulance services, hospitals and other services.xiv The effectiveness of the public health system depends, largely, on its capacity to disseminate authoritative information in a timely way. Information is key to be able to respond to patient needs effectively during times of emergency. Information in real time is also essential for effective day-to-day health care to provide, for example, information on adverse drug reactions. Had the CMA’s 2001 and 2002 recommendations been acted upon, perhaps we would have been better prepared to communicate with health care providers when SARS first appeared in Toronto. As it was, the CMA mobilized its own communication networks to provide physicians with the critical information that they needed to manage SARS. And while this worked to get the word out in a pinch – it also underlined the fact that Canada does not have information systems in place to facilitate real-time communication with health professionals. How many SARS-type events must we have? This must be a priority. With a one-time infusion of $100 million, and an additional $2 million a year, the REAL proposal would provide the technical capacity to communicate with front-line public health providers in real time during health emergencies. We cannot afford to let this recommendation languish another year. The second short-term priority for public health is to invest in emergency supply chain for use in times of crisis. SARS showed us that the Greater Toronto Area, an area with one of Canada’s most sophisticated public and acute care health systems, was not able to manage the SARS crisis and maintain its capacity to meet other acute care requirements or important public health services such as suicide prevention programs. Most hospitals work on a just-in-time inventory basis for the purchase of drugs. Without some sort of plan to quickly re-supply their pharmacies and expand their capacity, patient care suffers. Emergency bed space is also lacking. The federal government must assure Canadians that plans are in place when the health care system is again tested with another public health emergency. That is where the federal government can ensure the health system’s readiness and reassure Canadians that help will be there when they need it. (Additional information is provided in Appendix D.) Key Recommendation Immediately allocate $1.5 billion over 5 years to reinforce Canada’s public health care system in order to respond to public health threats and acute events, such as SARS starting with a Rapid Effective Accessible Linked (REAL) Health Communications and Co-ordination Initiative; and an emergency medical supplies and equipment supply chain. Health human resources Health is primarily a people business. Of all of the critical issues facing Canada’s health care system, none is more urgent than the shortages of health providers. Bluntly put, if the people are not available to provide care and treatment to patients everything else is irrelevant. The CMA has been encouraged by significant movement toward the implementation of the 1999 Canadian Medical Forum recommendations calling for an increase in undergraduate medical training positions and the subsequent 30% increase in the number of first-year, first-time medical students. Despite these efforts, there continues to be growing concern over the shortage of physicians. Statistics Canada figures suggest that the number of Canadians who do not have a family physician is greater than three million. Indeed, in order for Canada to meet the OECD average with respect to physician numbers, Canada must increase the number of physicians by an alarming 38%. Given that Canada continues to average a net loss of approximately 200 physicians per year due to emigration, action must come without delay to address this growing concern. Similarly, research published last year by CNA predicts that Canada will have a shortage of 78,000 registered nurses by 2011 and up to 113,000 by 2016.xv While we were encouraged with the $90 million provided in the 2003-04 to “improve national health human resources planning and co-ordination, including better forecasting of health human resources needs”xvi, details of how these funds will be allocated and for what purposes remain unclear. Indeed, it appears to be somewhat of a shell game with various federal departments vying for funding but no one department coming forward to provide leadership with clear proposals. The CMA has proposals on how this money could be used to support much needed health human resource planning that are ready to be pulled off the shelf and implemented. For example, the CMA believes that an arm’s length Health Institute for Human Resources (HIHuR) should be established to address the human side of health, just as existing institutes address the technological (CCOHTA) and information aspects of health (CIHI). It would be a virtual institute, in the same sense as the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR). The Institute should promote collaboration and the sharing of research among the well-known university-based centres of excellence (e.g., MCHP and CHSPR) as well as research communities within professional associations and governments. It would enable and focus on needs-based long-term planning. HIHuR would have the ability to embark upon large scale research studies such as needs-based planning that is beyond the purview or financial ability of any single jurisdiction. Standard methodologies could be established for data collection and analysis to estimate health human resource requirements based on the disease-specific health needs and demands of the population (e.g., Aboriginal peoples, the elderly, etc.). The institute would work in close collaboration with primary data providers such as Statistics Canada and CIHI. It would complement the work of the new Canada Health Council. Possible deliverables of the model could include such cross-disciplinary issues as measuring effective supply, functional specialization, regulatory restrictions, and assessing new and existing models of delivery. The institute could build on and maintain the initiatives of the various health sector studies. The institute would advise on medium and long-term research agendas that could be adopted and implemented by such funding bodies as CHSRF and CIHR. The CMA recommends that base funding be provided by the federal government (with other members also financially supporting the HIHuR) and that the annual budget for the institute be $2.5 million with an initial institute development grant from the federal government of $1 million. (Further details of the HIHuR funding proposal are attached in Appendix E). High tuition fees also have the potential to have a serious, negative impact on the supply, mix and distribution of health human resources. The CMA is very concerned that high tuition fees in undergraduate programs in medicine are creating barriers to access to a medical education and threatening the diversity of future physicians who later serve the needs of Canadians. High tuition fees have made a medical education unaffordable to many Canadians and may create an imbalance in admissions to medical school by favouring those who represent the affluent segment of society and not the variety of groups reflected in the Canadian population. High student debt loads, as a consequence of high tuition fees and insufficient financial support, can also influence students’ decisions about practice specialty and practice location. Ultimately, these factors could threaten the availability of services provided to Canadians, particularly in rural and remote communities. For these reasons, the CMA is an active participant on the National Professional Association Coalition on Tuition (NPACT) and supports its recommendations concerning professional tuition and access to post-secondary education. Key Recommendation Instruct federal departments to work together on key health human resource initiatives and fund a new Health Institute for Human Resources (HIHuR). Health status of Aboriginal peoples Throughout the 1980s, Canada either just maintained or lost ground in the international rankings on key health indicators with other leading industrialized countries. In 1990, Canada ranked fifth on the United Nations Human Development Index measuring average achievement on three basic dimensions of human development – a long and healthy life; knowledge; and a decent standard of living. In 1991, Canada moved to second place behind Japan and in 1992 Canada topped the list. In 2001, however, Canada dropped back to third place as a result of new figures for life expectancy and educational enrolment.xvii Since the 1980s, Canada has continued to improve in key indicators such as infant mortality and life expectancy. However, other industrialized countries have also made improvements either equalling and in many cases, quite dramatically surpassing gains made in Canada. As a result, Canada’s ranking has either stayed the same or dropped. For example, although Canada’s infant mortality rate dropped by 22% between 1990 and 1999, its rank dropped from 5th to 17th among the 31 industrialized countries included in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Similarly, Canada’s ranking for life expectancy at birth decreased over the same period from 3rd to 5th. (Additional information on how Canada compares to other countries in terms of health status indicators is attached as Appendix F.) Particularly alarming is the health status of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples where, despite some improvements over the past few decades, Canada has been largely unable to adequately address the health issues facing this community. The facts speak for themselves: * The incidence and prevalence of chronic and degenerative diseases (diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and arthritis) is higher among Aboriginal Canadians than for the rest of the population (e.g., the rate of Type II diabetes among First Nations is three to five times that of Canadians in general and is considered a growing problem); * Certain infectious diseases are more prevalent among Aboriginal Canadians (e.g., the incidence of hepatitis and tuberculosis are five and ten times higher, respectively, than for other Canadians); and * Manifestations of mental health problems such as violence, suicide and sexual abuse are widespread (e.g., the rate of death from suicide is four times higher among the Inuit than Canadians in general.) These problems are compounded by the remoteness of many Aboriginal communities, which makes access to health services and infrastructure costly and difficult. Other issues include the distinct health needs of different Aboriginal communities (First Nations, Metis, Inuit and urban Natives) and jurisdictional problems such as the separation of health and social services and conflicting or overlapping F/P/T areas of responsibility. As well, it is broadly accepted that the health status of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples is a result of a broad range of factors and is unlikely to be improved significantly by merely increasing the quantity of health services. Instead, inequities within a wide range of social and economic factors must also be addressed, for example: income and education; environmental hazards, water quality, housing quality and infrastructure; and maintenance of cultural identity. At CMA’s annual general meeting in August 2003, Health Minister Anne McLellan noted that despite significant investment Canada’s aboriginal people continue to have poor health outcomes. Simply put, these results are unacceptable. The CMA recommends that the federal government adopt a comprehensive review to look at how the money being spent on health, health care and related areas of investment for Aboriginal people can result in better health outcomes. The current results are not good enough. We must do better. Key Recommendation The federal government should adopt a comprehensive review to look at how the money being spent on health, health care and related areas of investment can result in better health outcomes. CONCLUSION For those involved in the health care community, and indeed for all Canadians, this has truly been a remarkable year for Canada in terms of health and health policy. In many ways, the events of February marked a turn toward significant reinvestment in the health care system. However, with the outbreak of SARS in Ontario and the emergence of other significant public health concerns such as West Nile virus, health continued to be a top-of-mind concern for many Canadians. We also know that despite investments made in the 2003 federal budget, there continue to be areas for targeted, strategic initiatives that promise high payoff in terms of value for money. Public health, health human resources and the health status of Canada’s aboriginal people are the three areas that we have highlighted where additional attention and funding can make a real impact at the national level. When considering these investments, however, we must remember that we cannot afford to rob Peter to pay Paul. Both the public health and the acute care systems must simultaneously benefit from increased investment in order not to download one problem onto the other. Finally, promises made must be promises kept. The federal government must ensure that the fiscal environment is such so that it can fulfill its commitment to provide an additional $2 billion in this fiscal year. As well, the CMA intends to hold the federal government and the provinces and territories to their promise to implement a Canada Health Council. Governments must open the political black box of health decision making and let others in. To exclude physicians and other health stakeholders would seriously undermine the Health Council and deprive it of the benefits of first-hand insight into how care is actually delivered. Governments must take advantage of this opportunity to introduce a mechanism that will provide evidence to Canadians that they are getting a good return on their investment in health care. To return to the analogy of an annual health check-up, let us conclude with this prognosis. Many actions taken in the past year should help over time address the acute symptoms of the patient. However, we must not be complacent. Long term health requires follow through on last year’s initiatives, targeted new investments and ongoing vigilance. We look forward to the year ahead. Appendix A: Federal Reinvestments in Health Care Financing In the January 2003 document, From Debate to Actionxviii, the Canadian Medical Association challenged Canada’s First Ministers to put the health of Canadians first. With respect to health care financing, we underlined the need for a financial commitment to health care that is adequate, stable, predictable, transparent and sustainable. In February 2003, the federal government announced new funding to the provinces and territories of $24.9 billion over 5 years.2 The CMA and others suggested that these reinvestments were good but insufficient to address the challenges facing Canada’s health care system.xix Specifically, we had called for a minimum commitment by the federal government to “fund 50% of the core health care system with at least half of the federal government’s contribution in cash”.xx. (Core defined to include non-targeted and targeted investments in infrastructure such as health human resources, information technology, capital infrastructure, and rural and remote access.) Altogether, we called for a minimum cash investment of $31.5 billion over 5 years to renew the health care system. [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Gap Between 2003 Health Accord and CMA Recommended Re-Investments in Canada’s Health Care System ($ billions) 2003?2004 2004?2005 2005?2006 2006?07 2007?2008 Total Core Funding 3.5 3.9 4.4 4.6 4.9 $21.3 Targeted Core 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 0.5 $2.5 Targeted New Programs 1.1 2.1 2.2 2.3 $7.7 Total 4.0 5.5 7.0 7.3 7.7 $31.5 Federal Reinvestments 4.8 3.3 4.9 5.2 6.7 $24.9 Remaining Gap in Funding (0.8) 2.2 2.1 2.1 1.0 $ 6.7 [TABLE END] There remains a significant gap of almost $ 7 billion over 5 years between our estimate of the minimum requirement needed for the renewal of the health care system and the new resources dedicated by the federal government. In light of this, the CMA calls upon the federal government to finish its unfinished business and allocate an additional $7 billion over 5 years in its next budget for the Canada Health Transfer to shore up Canada’s health care system. Appendix B: Recommendations to the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health Legislative reform ($20 million / 5 years*) 1. The enactment of a Canada Emergency Health Measures Act that would consolidate and enhance existing legislation, allowing for a more rapid national response, in cooperation with the provinces and territories, based on a graduated, systematic approach, to health emergencies that pose an acute and imminent threat to human health and safety across Canada. 2. The creation of a Canadian Office for Disease Surveillance and Control (CODSC) as the lead Canadian agency in public health, operating at arm’s length from government. 3. The appointment of a Chief Public Health Officer of Canada to act as the lead scientific voice for public health in Canada; to head the Canadian Office for Disease Surveillance and Control; and to work with provinces and territories to develop and implement a pan-Canadian public health action plan. Capacity enhancement ( $1.2 billion / 5 years*) 4. The creation of a Canadian Centre of Excellence for Public Health, under the auspices of the CODSC, to invest in multidisciplinary training programs in public health, establish and disseminate best practices among public health professionals. 5. The establishment of a Canadian Public Health Emergency Response Service, under the auspices of the CODSC, to provide for the rapid deployment of human resources (e.g., emergency pan-Canadian locum programs) during health emergencies. 6. Tracking and public reporting of public health expenditures and capacity (both physical and human resources) by the Canadian Institute for Health Information and Statistics Canada, on behalf of the proposed Canadian Office for Disease Surveillance and Control. 7. Federal government funding in the amount of $1 Billion over 5 years to build adequate and consistent surge capacity across Canada and improve co-ordination among federal, provincial/territorial and municipal authorities to fulfill essential public health functions. Research, surveillance and communications ($310 million / 5 years*) 8. An immediate, sequestered grant of $200 million over 5 years to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to initiate an enhanced conjoint program of research with the Institute of Population and Public Health and the Institute of Infection and Immunity that will expand capacity for interdisciplinary research on public health, including infectious disease prevention and control measures. 9. The mandatory reporting by provinces and territories of identified infectious diseases to the newly established Chief Public Health Officer of Canada to enable appropriate communications, analyses and intervention. 10. The one-time infusion of $100 million, with an additional $2 million a year, for a “REAL” (rapid, effective, accessible and linked) Health Communication and Co-ordination Initiative to improve technical capacity to communicate with front line public health providers in real time during health emergencies. Appendix B: Estimated Cost of Implementing the Recommendations [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] RECOMMENDATION ESTIMATED COST OVER 5 YEARS Legislative and Institutional Reform 1. Canada Emergency Health Measures Act N/A 2. Canadian Office for Disease Surveillance and Control (CODSC) ? $20 million 3. Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Capacity Enhancement 4. Canadian Centre of Excellence for Public Health $100 million 5. Canadian Public Health Emergency Response Service $35 million 6. Canadian Institute for Health Information and Statistics Canada $35 milliona 7. Surge capacity $1 billionb Research, surveillance and communications 8. Canadian Institutes of Health Research $200 millionc 9. Mandatory reporting Included under 2 and 3 above 10. Enhanced communications $110 million TOTAL $1.5 billion [TABLE END] a. Work is currently underway to break out public health from the current category of “public health and administration.” b. This is an incremental investment in addition to funding currently available under Health Canada’s Health Promotion and Prevention Strategic Outcome area. c. Funding must be sequestered specifically for new initiatives related to public health. Additional money could also be acquired through funding from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, which received an additional $500 million in 2002–2003 (announced in the 2003 federal budget) to enhance the Foundation’s support of public health infrastructure. Appendix C: REAL (Rapid, Effective, Accessible , Linked) Health Communication and Co-ordination Initiative The effectiveness of the public health system is dependent, in large part, on its capacity to communicate authoritative information in a timely way. A two-way flow of information between experts and the practising community is necessary at all times. It becomes essential during emergency situations. Information, including health advice and alerts, needs to move out to front line health care providers from public health bodies. Information, such as data for surveillance and analysis purposes, needs to move in from these front line providers to the public health authorities. To detect new emerging diseases or health threats and effectively care for their patients, front-line health professionals must have accurate and timely information. Conversely public health specialists depend on information coming in from the front lines to track disease and institute appropriate public health interventions. Despite the tremendous developments in information management, there has been scant attention paid to this issue within public health. The SARS outbreak highlighted various weaknesses in our current communication capacity. Gaps in the basic IT infrastructure prevented public health agencies and acute care institutions from communicating with each other in real-time. There are a number of anecdotal reports of public health units stationing personnel inside hospitals to retrieve information and then telephone it into their units. Case investigators used paper-based files to manage the hundreds of cases reported to public health units, and to investigate and follow up of thousands of contacts. Identification of clusters and links between cases literally depended upon pencil and paper and brainpower. Toronto Public Health did create a database for its SARS cases and could send it electronically to the province. However the province had a different database which raised concerns about the transfer of data files from one system to another. The deficiency in IT capacity hindered exchanges between public health staff, private clinicians and other sources of information. The potential for a disconnect in communications between different jurisdictions (international, national, provincial/territorial, municipal) and sectors (environment, health, transportation) that are affected by a health emergency is a further challenge to the public health system. The importance of communicating essential health advice and public health management protocols to front line practitioners and institutions cannot be overstated. During the SARS experience it became evident that government did not have information systems in place to communicate rapidly with physicians across the country. In response to requests from Health Canada the CMA was able to mobilize its communication networks to get information to physicians in real-time. It is interesting to note that in local areas the problem often was not one of not enough information, but of too much information, which was often confusing, conflicting or impractical for a practice setting. Consistent messaging disseminated in a coordinated fashion is essential for a consistent and coordinated response to a health crisis. The CMA believes that the federal government must take a leadership role to ensure that the communication tools and information technology necessary for a modern efficient public health system, with the capacity to mount a rapid and informed response to public health emergencies, are in place in all regions of the country. The CMA brought this to the attention of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance in October 2001, and again in October 2002 with our recommendation for a REAL (rapid, effective, accessible, linked) Health Communication and Co-ordination Initiative. We called for a one-time infusion of $100 million, and an additional $2 million a year, to improve technical capacity to communicate with front-line public health providers in real-time during health emergencies. This initiative would facilitate seamless communication between local, provincial and federal levels of the public health system and rapid, real-time communication between the public health sector and other components of the health care system. It must also ensure a two-way flow of information between front-line health care providers and public health professionals at the local public health unit, the provincial public health department and the proposed Canadian Office for Disease Surveillance and Control. The REAL Health Communication and Co-ordination Initiative would improve the ability of the public health system to communicate in a rapid fashion by: * Providing a focal point for inter-jurisdictional communication and co-ordination in order to improve preparedness in times of emergency; * Developing a seamless communication system leveraging formal and informal networks and * Researching the best way to disseminate emergency information and health alerts to targeted health professionals and public health officials in a rapid, effective and accessible fashion. As well as funding research and demonstration projects, funding should also be allocated to provinces/territories and municipalities to build their connectivity infrastructure. The initiative should build on communication systems currently in place, filling gaps and enhancing capacity. Communicating with Health Professionals. One of the key lessons the CMA has drawn from the experience of SARS is that physicians take up information in different ways. Some want it by e-mail, others by fax and still others by mail. Even those with e-mail have expressed a desire to get emergency information in a different format. Other health care associations have also employed various ways to communicate with their membership. During the SARS crisis, the existing communication networks between health professionals were an important, if informal, avenue to disseminate and in some cases explain public health interventions and information. In fact ten national health care associations3 met via teleconference and in person during the crisis to share information and ensure a consistency of message to health professionals. This sector can play a critical role in bridging the gap between clinicians and the public, as well as in the delivery of credible public education and training to both professionals and the public. The importance of communicating timely and relevant information directly to those in leadership positions (Chief of Staff, Hospital CEO) should not be overlooked. These individuals can make the information relevant for their particular setting, and ensure that it is widely disseminated within their community. The uptake of new information is influenced by many qualitative factors and research is needed to determine how best to communicate with individual physicians and other health care providers in emergency situations. Any new communication processes should be based on sound research and build on existing communication networks. The REAL Health Communication and Co-ordination Initiative would be led by the Canadian Office for Disease Surveillance and Control and would undertake work in three phases. 1. Research Phase For example: * Evaluation of communications during the SARS crisis * Quantitative research on how health professionals want to receive information * Catalogue of existing communication networks 2. Pilot projects in areas such as risk communications and information management in public health. 3. Evaluation and dissemination of best practices in communications and information management. Appendix D: Emergency Medical Supplies and Equipment Supply Chain In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, the CMA, in its October 2001 pre-budget submission to the Standing Committee on Finance, stressed the fact that in the event of a significant attack on our population among the first points of contact with the health system will be doctors’ offices and the emergency rooms of our hospitals. The SARS outbreak has proven that this point is just as valid when faced with a public health emergency. SARS showed us that the Greater Toronto Area, an area with one of Canada’s most sophisticated public and acute care health systems, was not able to manage the SARS crisis and maintain its capacity to meet other acute care requirements or important public heath services such as suicide prevention programs. Most hospitals work on a just-in-time inventory basis for the purchase of drugs. Without some sort of plan to quickly re-supply their pharmacies and expand their capacity, patient care suffers. Emergency bed space is also lacking. The federal government must assure Canadians that plans are in place when the health care system is again tested with another public health emergency. That is where the federal government can ensure the health system’s readiness and reassure Canadians that help will be there when they need it. We have also witnessed in recent years the enormous strain these facilities can be placed under when even something quite routine like influenza strikes a community hard. The acute care occupancy rates of Ontario public hospitals across the Ontario Hospital Association regions in 1999-00 illustrate this point. In three of the five regions (Eastern Ontario, Central and South West) the occupancy rate ranged from 94% to 97%.xxi The highest rate was found in the very heavily populated Central region. A British Medical Journal study suggests that an occupancy rate over 90% indicates that the hospital system is in a regular bed crisis.xxii This problem is not unique to Ontario: “the decrease in the number of acute care beds across Canada over the past decade, coupled with an aging population and our extraordinary success in extending the survival of patients with significant chronic illness, has eliminated any cushion in bed occupancy in the hospital system.”xxiii With this in mind, picture the impact of another public health crisis such as an influenza pandemic when hundreds of thousands of individuals could be affected. The public health system and medical diagnostic and treatment systems in the community and hospitals would become overwhelmed very quickly without the ability to absorb the extra caseload. We need no further demonstration of the need to enable hospitals to open beds, purchase more supplies, and bring in the health care professionals it requires to meet the need. Currently the National Emergency Stockpile System can supply up to 40,000 cots, as well as medical supplies and relatively rudimentary hospital equipment. Reports indicate, however, that much of the equipment is decades old, and that protocols for logistical management (e.g., transport and rapid deployment) are outdated. There is an urgent need to reassess and reaffirm capacity in this context. The SARS experience also brought to our attention the critical lack of equipment. The Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians (CAEP) has noted that many emergency departments across the country are not adequately equipped for 21st century infection control challenges. They do not have negative pressure rooms with contained toilets, often have only one resuscitation suite for critically ill patients and do not have a safe place to segregate accompanying persons. Nor do they have protective hoods like the PARR device that is needed to safely intubate SARS patients. CAEP concluded that most emergency departments are not physically designed to cope with infection control problems. The federal government must assure Canadians that municipal and provincial plans are in place with an overarching national plan to support these jurisdictions if their service capacities are overwhelmed. But the government should help further by making available an emergency fund that would enable hospitals to plan and organize their surge capacity. The purpose of having such elaborate response plans and stockpiles of supplies and equipment is to be ready for the possibility that, in spite of all efforts to prevent a catastrophe from occurring, it nevertheless happens. That is where the federal government can facilitate the health system’s readiness and reassure Canadians that help will be there when they need it. Appendix E: Health Institute for Human Resources (HIHuR) While the need for more health human resources is apparent, resource planning is difficult and fraught with complexity. Answers must balance affordability, reflect population health needs and consider issues pertaining to the supply, mix and distribution of physicians. Over the last decade, a number of stakeholders including government, associations, and researchers have invested significant resources in health human resource planning.xxiv However, these groups do not systematically communicate with each other and do not always buy into each other’s products. The result is silo-based planning, lack of progress on key areas of database development, and an overall failure to address important issues such as professional burnout. The CMA seeks to build consensus within the medical profession on major program and policy initiatives concerning the supply, mix and distribution of physicians and to work with major stakeholders in identifying and assessing issues of mutual importance. At the same time, the CMA remains sensitive to Canada’s provincial and territorial realities with respect to the fact that health human resource planning requires assessment and implementation at the local or regional level. However, there is a need for a national body to develop and coordinate health human resources planning initiatives that take into account the mobility of health care providers nationally and internationally. Identification of the need for more coordinated research in the area of health human resources has come from many sources. In the Listening for Directions report of 2001xxv, the partner organizations indicated health human resources as the number one priority theme for research funding over the next two to five years. A joint report in 1995 by national organizations representing occupational therapists, physiotherapists, dieticians and nurses established an integrated health human resources development framework with three main components of planning, education and training, and management.xxvi Similarly, the Canadian Policy Research Networks Inc. (CPRN) commissioned by Mr. Romanow to investigate and summarize health human resource issues, recommended the creation of a national health human resources coordinating agency to provide focus and expertise for health human resource planning. Senator Kirby also identified the need for such a planning body in his final report. He recommended that the federal government work with other concerned parties to create a permanent National Coordinating Committee for Health Human Resources, to be composed of representatives of key stakeholder groups and of the different levels of government.xxvii Finally, the final report of the Commission of the Future of Health Care in Canada called for a substantial improvement in the base of information on Canada’s health workforce and the need to establish a comprehensive plan for addressing supply, distribution, and education issues.xxviii The CMA believes that an arm’s length Health Institute for Human Resources (HIHuR) should be established to address the human side of health, just as existing institutes address the technology (CCOHTA) and information aspects of health (CIHI). It would be a virtual institute, in the same sense as the Canadian Institute for Health Research. The Institute should promote collaboration and the sharing of research among the well-known university based centres of excellence (e.g., MCHP and CHSPR) as well as research communities within professional associations and governments. It would enable/focus on needs-based long term planning. HIHuR should have the ability to embark upon large scale research studies such as needs-based planning that is beyond the purview or financial ability of any single jurisdiction. Standard methodologies could be established for data collection and analysis to estimate health human resource requirements based on the disease-specific health needs and/or demands of the population (e.g., Aboriginal peoples, the elderly, etc.). The institute would work in close collaboration with primary data providers such as Statistics Canada and CIHI. It would complement the work of the new Canada Health Council. Possible deliverables of the model could include such cross-disciplinary issues as measuring effective supply, functional specialization, regulatory restrictions, and assessing new and existing models of delivery. The institute could build on, and maintain, the initiatives of the various health sector studies. The institute would advise on medium and long-term research agendas that could be adopted and implemented by such funding bodies as CHSRF and CIHR. It is recommended that base funding be provided by the federal government (with other members also financially supporting the HIHuR). It is proposed that the annual budget for the institute would be $2.5 million with an initial institute development grant from the federal government of $1 million. Appendix F : Straight facts about health…Is Canada getting left behind? Straight facts about health... Is Canada getting left behind? Through the 1980s, Canada has either remained the same or lost ground in the international rankings on key health indicators with other leading industrialized countries surpassing our progress. This worrisome turn of events, the Canadian Medical Association believes, needs attention. United Nations Human Development Index In 1990, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) began publishing an annual Human Development Report (www.undp.org/hdr). The Human Development Index (HDI) is one of the key indicators in this report. It is a composite index that measures average achievement in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life; knowledge and a decent standard of living. How has Canada fared? In 1990, Canada ranked fifth. Canada moved to 2nd place behind Japan in 1991 and into 1st place in 1992. It again dropped behind first-place Japan in 1993. Canada then led the world on the HDI between 1994 and 2000. In 2001, Canada dropped back to 3rd place. As the UNDP reported in 2001, “Norway is now ranked first in the world and Australia second. Both moved narrowly ahead of Canada, the leader for the previous six years, as a result of new figures for life expectancy and educational enrolment. Canada fell in the rankings even though its per capita income rose by 3.75 percent.” Canada remained in 3rd place in 2002. World Health Organization health system performance indicators The World Health Organization (WHO) (www.who.int/whr) ranked the health system performance of 191 member countries for the first time in its 2000 World Health Report. The ranks are based on the measurement of population health in relation to what might be expected given the level of input to the production of health. WHO presented two rankings. The first, performance on health level, considers health status in disability-adjusted life expectancy relative to a country’s resource use and human capital. Canada ranked 35th among 191 countries with respect to this indicator in 2000. The second indicator is a measurement of overall performance. This assesses health system attainment relative to what might be expected for five goals of the health system, including health status, health inequality, level and distribution of responsiveness and fairness in financing. In 2000, Canada ranked 30th on the index of overall performance. France led the world on this indicator in 2000. International health indicators Since the 1980s, Canada has continued to record improvements on key health indicators such as infant mortality and life expectancy. However, other industrialized countries have also recorded improvements that have either equaled or, in some cases, quite dramatically surpassed the gains made in Canada. As a result, Canada’s ranking has either stayed the same or dropped. Infant Mortality — Although Canada’s infant mortality rate dropped by 22% between 1990 and 1999, its rank dropped from 5th to 17th among the 31 industrialized coun-tries included in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Other countries have recorded even greater gains; for example, Sweden and Austria both recorded a drop of 43% in infant mortality over the same time period. Among others, Spain, Italy and the Czech Republic now rank ahead of Canada. However, the United Kingdom, United States and Australia rank behind Canada. Perinatal Mortality — Between 1990 and 1999, Canada’s perinatal mortality rate declined by 18% while its international ranking remained essentially the same — moving from 10th in 1990 to 11th in 1999. In comparison, the perinatal mortality rate for 1st-ranked Japan dropped by 31% during the same period. Life Expectancy — In 1999, Canada ranked 5th in life expectancy at birth, down from 3rd in 1990. During the 1990–1999 period, total life expectancy increased by 1.8% in Canada, compared to 2.0% in 1st-ranked Japan. Healthy Life Expectancy (HALE) — Healthy life expectancy is based on life expectancy but includes an adjustment for time spent in poor health. In its 2002 World Health Report, WHO presented HALE esti-mates for 191 countries during 2001. Among these countries, Canada ranked 20th in 2001, tying with the Netherlands at 69.9 years at birth. Japan and Switzerland headed the list at 73.6 and 72.8 years respectively in 2001. Health human resources per capita Canada continues to lag behind other industrialized countries with respect to physicians per 1000 population. The OECD average of 2.8 per 1000 population is one-third higher than Canada’s rate of 2.1 (including post-graduate residents), placing us 23rd out of 27th for this indicator. In a comparison of G-8 countries (excluding Russia) between 1990 and 1999, Canada was the only country that did not show any improvement in the physician-to-population ratio. The situation for nurses is equally distressing. Canada placed only 12th in 1999 and experienced a 7% drop in the ratio between 1990 and 1999 from 8.1 per 1000 population to 7.5. This puts Canada in the middle of the G-8 group. Public sector as percent of total health spending Among the industrialized (OECD) countries, Canada has consistently reported one of the lower public shares of total health spending since the 1980s. In 1985, Canada’s public spending on health represented 75.6% of total health spending — placing Canada at 14th among the 22 countries reporting. In 2000, with public spending rep-resenting 72% of total health spending, Canada ranked 16th among 26 countries reporting. Canada’s 2000 level of public spending was down almost four percentage points from 1985. Note: The UNDP contains 173 countries, WHO contains 191 countries and the OECD contains 31 countries. Life expectancy figures represent years at birth. Infant mortality represents the number of deaths of babies less than one year of age that occurred during a year per 1000 live births during the same year expressed as a rate. Perinatal mortality represents the number of deaths under 7 days (early neonatal deaths) plus fetal deaths of 28 weeks of gesta-tion or more per 1000 total live births (live and stillbirths). Health indicators data are from OECD Health Data, 2002, 4th ed. www.oecd.org/healthdata. WHO performance indicators for 2002 are based as estimates for 1997. ENDNOTES 1 $24.9 billion includes all new federal transfers to the provinces and territories (targeted and non-targeted) announced at the time of the First Ministers’ meeting on February 4/5, 2003 and confirmed in the February 18, 2003 Federal Budget. It includes the $2 billion in funding to be made available at the end of fiscal year 2002/03. It does not include previously announced CHST funding, nor investments in federal health programs. 2 $24.9 billion includes all new federal transfers to the provinces and territories (targeted and non-targeted) announced at the time of the First Ministers’ meeting on February 4/5, 2003 and confirmed in the February 18, 2003 Federal Budget. It includes the $2 billion in funding to be made available at the end of fiscal year 2002/03. It does not include previously announced CHST funding, nor investments in federal health programs. 3 Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, Canadian Council on Health Services Accreditation, Canadian Dental Association, Canadian Healthcare Association, Canadian Medical Association, Canadian Infectious Disease Society, Canadian Nurses Association, Canadian Pharmacists Association, Canadian Public Health Association, Association of Canadian Academic Healthcare Organizations i Ekos Research Associates. Presentation to the Charles E. Frosst Foundation for Health Care. Private Voices, Public Choices. November 7, 2002. ii Canadian Medical Association. Third Annual National Report Card on Health Care. August, 2003. (Conducted by Ipsos Reid). p. 17. iii Canadian Institute of Health Information. National Health Exenditure Trends, 1975-2002. December 2002. iv Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Health Data 2003. v Government of Canada. The Budget Plan, 2003. February 18, 2003. p. 211. vi Government of Canada. The Budget Plan, 2003. February 18, 2003. p. 69. vii News Release, Annual Conference of Federal-Provincial-Territorial Ministers of Health, Halifax, Nova Scotia, September 4, 2003. viii Canadian Medical Association. Press Release, “CMA Calls for Council by November 28 – Further Delay Unacceptable”. September 3, 2003. ix Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology. Final Report on the State of the Health Care System in Canada: The Health of Canadians – The Federal Role Volume Six: Recommendations for Reform. October 2002. p. 17 - 20. x Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada. Building on Values: The Future of Health Care in Canada – Final Report. November 2002. p. 52. xi Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Report on Plans and Priorities for the Fiscal Year, 2003-2004. p. 29. xii For more information, please refer to CMA’s 2001 report to the Standing Committee on Finance, Security Our Future … Balancing Urgent Health Care Needs of Today with the Important Challenges of Tomorrow. November 1, 2001. xiii Canadian Medical Association. Submission to the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health. Answering the Wake-up Call: CMA’s Public Health Action Plan. June 2003. xiv Canadian Medical Association. Presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance Pre-Budget Consultations. Securing our Future … Balancing Urgent Health Care Needs of Today With the Important Challenges of Tomorrow. November 1, 2001. xv Canadian Nurses Association. Canada’s Nurses See Latest Data as a Warning: Action Needed to Address Nursing Shortage. Press Release, September 17, 2003. xvi Government of Canada. The Budget Plan, 2003. February 18, 2003. p. 78. xvii United Nations Human Development Project. Human Development Report 2001. Press Release, July 10, 2001, Mexico City (www.undp.org/hdro). xviii Canadian Medical Association. From debate to action. Message to First Ministers … It’s time to put the health of Canadians first. January 2003. xix Other organizations that reiterated the need for additional investment in health care included the Canadian Healthcare Association (Press Release, February 18, 2003 (www.cha.ca) and the Association of Canadian Academic Healthcare Organizations (Press Release, February 19, 2003 (www.ACAHO.org). xx Canadian Medical Association. From debate to action. Message to First Ministers … It’s time to put the health of Canadians first. January 2003. p. 8. xxi Ontario Hospital Reporting System, 2001. Acute Care Occupancy Rates, Ontario Public Hospitals by OHA region, 1999/00. Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. xxii Bagust A, Place M, Posnett J. Dynamics of bed use in accommodating emergency admissions: stochastic simulation model. BMJ; 319: 155-158 July 17, 1999. xxiii Nicolle L. Viruses without borders. Can J Infect Dis Vol. 11, Issue 3, May/June 2000 (Downloaded from Web: October 23, 2001: www.pulsus.com/Infdis/11_03/nico_ed.htm) xxiv At the national level there are a number of bodies that, in some cases, have been involved in health human resource planning issues for literally decades. The long standing Advisory Committee on Health Human Resources reported to the Conference of Deputy Ministers on health human resource issues but it functioned without outside expertise from the provider community and found it difficult to implement an integrated approach to planning. The National Coordinating Committee on Postgraduate Medical Training did include membership from both the medical profession and the government but its mandate was narrow (postgraduate training of physicians) and the committee was de facto sunsetted a couple of years ago. xxv Canadian Health Services Research Foundation. Listening for Direction: A National Consultation on Health Services and Policy Issues. June 2001. xxvi Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists, Canadian Dietetic Association, Canadian Nurses Association, Canadian Physiotherapy Association, Integrated Health Human Resources Development – Pragmatism or Pie in the Sky, August 1995. xxvii Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, The Health of Canadians – The Federal Role, Final Report, October 2002. xxviii Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada. Building on Values: The Future of Health Care in Canada – Final Report. November 2002. p. 108.
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CMA Submission on infrastructure and governance of the public health system in Canada: Presentation to the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1954
Last Reviewed
2011-03-05
Date
2003-10-08
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2011-03-05
Date
2003-10-08
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) has prepared this submission for the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology study on the governance and infrastructure of the public health system in Canada and its response during public health emergencies. We applaud this initiative and welcome the opportunity to present the views of Canada’s medical community. Introduction Canada has a distinguished history as one of the best countries in the world in which to live, ranking number one on the UN’s Human Development Report from 1994 to 2000. Our health care system was a major contributor to the country’s top position but in the past few years Canada has lost ground in international rankings on key health indicators. For example, although Canada’s infant mortality rate dropped by 22% between 1990 and 1999, other countries recorded greater declines in infant mortality over the same time period. As a result, Canada’s rank dropped from 5th to 17th among the 31 industrialized countries included in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In 1999, Canada ranked 5th in life expectancy at birth, down from 3rd in 1990. During the 1990-1999 period, total life expectancy increased by 1.8% in Canada but other countries made larger gains. The CMA believes that this worrisome turn of events needs attention. Delegates to its 2003 General Assembly called on the federal government to commit to the goal of establishing Canada as the top country worldwide, regarding the health status of its citizens, within ten years. To achieve this Canada will need a national strategy that defines national health goals and can seriously address the health inequalities that continue to exist in Canada. Improvement to health status in Canada will not be possible without a strong, effective and well-resourced public health system. Unfortunately we do not have that today. For years the CMA has been warning that our public health system is stretched to capacity in dealing with everyday demands, let alone responding to new and emerging health threats. Canada’s physicians have repeatedly called for governments to enhance public health capacity and strengthen the public health infrastructure throughout Canada. For example, the CMA’s submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance’s pre-budget consultations on October 22, 2001 called for substantial investments in public health and emergency response as a first step to improve the public health system infrastructure and surge capacity. It also drew attention to the need for improved co-ordination and communication between jurisdictions. In February 2003, before the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a global alert about Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), the CMA again raised concerns about the capacity of Canada’s health system to handle emerging infectious diseases without being overwhelmed. This warning came in the CMA’s submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health hearings on West Nile Virus. Most recently, in our submission to the National Advisory Committee on SARS & Public Health, Answering the Wake-Up Call: CMA’s Public Health Action Plan, the CMA called for a clearer alignment of authority and accountability in times of extraordinary health emergencies. The submission also recommended enhancement of the system’s capacity to respond to public health threats across the country. The Public Health Action Plan and accompanying technical backgrounders have previously been circulated to the Committee and are attached as Appendix 1. In this submission we will expand on the recommendations contained in Answering the Wake-Up Call: CMA’s Public Health Action Plan to focus on the federal government’s role in public health. Particular emphasis will be placed on legislative reform, human resource capacity enhancement, and surveillance and communications. Public Health in Canada Public health is the science and art of protecting and promoting health, and preventing disease and injury. It complements the health care system, which focuses primarily on treatment and rehabilitation, sharing the same goal of maximizing the health of Canadians. However, the public health system is distinct from other parts of the health system in two key respects: its primary emphasis is on preventing disease and disability and its focus is on the health needs of populations rather than those of specific individuals. It is interesting to note that Canada’s current public health legislation was enacted more than a half century before our health care legislation. Public health is about ensuring access to clean drinking water, good sanitation and the control of pests and other disease vectors. Further, it is immunization clinics and programs promoting healthy lifestyles and healthy environments. It is also the systematic response to infectious diseases, there to protect Canadians when they face a public health threat like SARS. When the public health system is fully prepared to carry out essential services, communities across the country are better protected from acute health events. Unfortunately it is only when something goes terribly wrong, as in the Walkerton tragedy when 7 people died and 1,346 were affected by E. coli contamination of a community well, that the important role and contribution of public health is highlighted. Today’s reality is that Canada does not have a strong, integrated, consistently and equitably resourced public health system. In 2001, a working group of the Federal, Provincial and Territorial Advisory Committee on Population Health assessed the capacity of the public health system through a series of key informant interviews and literature reviews. The consistent finding was that public health had experienced a loss of resources. There was also concern for the resiliency of the system’s infrastructure and its ability to respond consistently and proactively to the demands placed on it. Significant disparities were observed between “have” and “have-not” provinces and regions in their capacity to address public health issues. The report’s findings are consistent with previous assessments by the Krever Commission and the Auditor General of Canada. In 1999, the Auditor General said that Health Canada was unprepared to fulfil its responsibilities in public health: communication between multiple agencies was poor; and weaknesses in the key surveillance system impeded effective monitoring of injuries and communicable and non-communicable diseases. In 1997, Justice Horace Krever reported that the “public health departments in many parts of Canada do not have sufficient resources to carry out their duties.” Public health systems across Canada are fragmented. It is less a system and more a patchwork quilt of programs, services and resources across the county. In truth, it is a group of multiple systems with varying roles, strengths and linkages. Each province has its own public health legislation. Most legislation focuses on the control of communicable diseases. Public health services are funded through a variable mix of provincial and municipal funding formulae, with inconsistent overall strategies and results, and with virtually no meaningful input from health professionals via organizations such as the CMA, or its divisions and affiliates, in terms of strategic direction or resources. Federal legislation is limited to the blunt instrument of the Quarantine Act and a variety of health protection-related acts like the Food and Drugs Act, Hazardous Products Act, Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, Radiation Emitting Devices Act. Some of the laws, such as the Quarantine Act, date back to the late 19th century. Taken as a whole, the legislation does not clearly identify the public health mandate, or the respective roles and responsibilities of the different levels of government. In many cases, the assignment of authorities and accountabilities is anachronistic. The existing Emergencies Act gives the federal government the power to become involved in public welfare emergencies when regions of the country are faced with “an emergency that is caused by a real or imminent….disease in human beings .. that results or may result in a danger to life or property … so serious as to be a national emergency.”1 However, in order to use this power, the federal government must declare a “public welfare emergency” which itself has political and economic implications, particularly from an international perspective, that mitigate against its use. CMA believes that this all-or-nothing approach is not in the public’s best interest and that the concept of national emergency in the context of public health requires a different and differentiated response from governments in the future. In its submission to the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health the CMA called for the enhancement of the federal government’s “command and control” powers in times of national health emergencies through the enactment of a Canada Emergency Health Measures Act. The Act would give the federal government specific authority to act for a pre-determined, temporary period of time, during a declared extraordinary health emergency. It would also provide the authority for development of a graduated health alert system with corresponding public health interventions to enable a rapid co-ordinated response as a public health threat emerges. The declaration of a health alert would imply that financial, scientific and human resources from the federal government would be available as required to address the crisis. An incremental level of federal assistance should be associated with each of the five levels of health alert to help meet the basic costs of response and recovery when such expenditures exceed what an individual province or territory could reasonably be expected to bear on its own. For example at level three a 50/50 cost sharing arrangement could be envisioned with this increasing to 90/10 at level 5. At health alert levels 1 and 2 the financial contribution should be considered to be within the operational funds of the proposed Canadian Office for Disease Surveillance and Control. Financial assistance that may be required during health alert levels 3 to 5 should be submitted to and approved by the Governor in Council during the authorization for declaration of the health alert. The level of health alert and affected area would be reviewed regularly and modified as needed. The graduated system of health alerts proposed by CMA will ensure a more appropriate and effective response to public health emergencies than currently exists.2 The CMA has also brought the issue of emergency response forward on the international stage through its membership in the World Medical Association (WMA). At the WMA General Assembly in September 2003, delegates from over 50 countries supported a motion put forward by the CMA urging the WHO to enhance its emergency response protocol to deal with world epidemics such as SARS. (See Appendix ll.) The WMA agreed to establish a working group, headed by the CMA, to develop a public health risk alert plan. The report of the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health has now been submitted to the federal health minister. The federal government must not let this report languish on the shelf. It must develop a plan to respond to its recommendations in order to create a strong and well-resourced public health system with adequate surge capacity and sufficient highly qualified public health professionals. The CMA has determined that a very targeted incremental investment of $1.5 billion over five years is needed to address the legislative reform and capacity enhancement required to bring our public health system into the 21st century. Simply re-allocating funds within existing health budgets is not sufficient and would only negatively impact efforts to shore the core of current health care services. Recommendation One The federal government rapidly move to enact a Canada Emergency Health Measures Act that would consolidate and enhance existing legislation. This new Act would allow for a more rapid national response, in co-operation with the provinces and territories, based on a graduated, systematic approach, to health emergencies that pose an acute and imminent threat to human health and safety across Canada. Recommendation Two The federal government invest in the country’s public health system with an immediate commitment of $ 1.5 Billion over five years to rebuild the public health infrastructure. An Action Plan for the Federal Government National leadership is critical to articulate the key issues and challenges facing public health today and to implement comprehensive strategies to address the deficiencies in the system’s infrastructure. The CMA has called for a renewed and enhanced national commitment to public health anchored in new federal legislation. Legislative Reform Canada’s response to SARS brought into stark relief the urgent need for national leadership and coordination of public health activity across the country, especially during such a serious health crisis. It was a wake-up call that highlighted the need for comprehensive legislative reform to clarify the roles of governments and public health officials with respect to the management of public health threats. The development of a national public health system ought not to occur by the instalment plan, provoked by SARS-like events. It must be carefully planned and evaluated. This, in turn, requires clear identification of key issues and mobilization of resources. A sustainable public health system also requires a critical mass of technical expertise to support essential public health functions3. The CMA believes that the federal government has a critical role to play in the development of a strong, co-ordinated pan-Canadian public health system. In both the United Kingdom and the United States, national leadership has been instrumental in clearly defining health goals for the population and stating the role of the public health system, its key infrastructure elements and the development of strategies to attain them. Canada does not have a formal national leadership position comparable to England’s Chief Medical Officer or the Surgeon General in the US. There is currently no single credible public health authority vested, through legislation or federal-provincial-territorial agreement, with the overall responsibility for pan-Canadian public health issues. The CMA has recommended the appointment of a Chief Public Health Officer of Canada with decision-making powers in areas of federal jurisdiction. Currently there is tremendous inequity in the public health system capacity among different provinces and territories. Considering the breadth of public health issues, the relative population sizes and differences in wealth, it will never be feasible to have comprehensive centres of public health expertise for each province and territory. Even if one achieved this, there would increasingly be issues of economies of scale and unnecessary duplication among centres. This issue is not unique to Canada.4 The CMA has proposed the establishment of a Canadian Office for Disease Surveillance and Control (CODSC) as a key component of its public health action plan. A comprehensive centre of public health expertise allows for a strategic pan-Canadian approach to public health planning and services while developing a critical mass of scientific and public health expertise and resources that can be deployed to any region in the country when necessary. A first priority of the CODSC must be to facilitate pan-Canadian agreement on the definition of the core functions of the public health system as it will not be possible to assess and develop system infrastructure if these are not defined. (As noted earlier in this paper the Federal-Provinical-Territorial Advisory Committee on Public Health has suggested five core functions.) A follow-up step to the development of core functions for public health is to identify national health goals to improve health status and address health inequities within populations across the country. The impact of inequality in health on health status can be seen within the aboriginal population. The degree of ill health within their communities is one of Canada’s major unresolved challenges. Although there have been significant improvements over the past few decades, the overall health status of Aboriginal peoples falls well below that of others living in Canada. Mortality and morbidity records indicate that life expectancy, while varying among communities, remains significantly less than that of the average Canadian. And the incidence and prevalence of chronic and degenerative diseases (Type II diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease, cancer and arthritis) is increasing. The CODSC would be a key player in establishing health goals and supporting Aboriginal peoples with public health expertise and resources. The CODSC and the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada will also have a central role in providing public health services to those areas falling under federal jurisdiction where local and provincial Chief Medical Officers of Health do not have access or authority. Airports, railways, military bases, aboriginal peoples living on reserve, federal meat packing plants and national parks are examples of areas under federal jurisdiction. The delivery of public health in these jurisdictions has been especially compromised by the lack of comprehensive coordination between provincial and federal systems. The CODSC must address this issue. Under the CMA’s plan, CODSC would become the lead national agency on public health matters with a broad mandate to co-ordinate all aspects of planning for national public health emergencies. It would also provide ongoing national health surveillance and work closely with provinces/territories to reinforce other essential public health functions. The Chief Public Health Officer of Canada would head the CODSC and act as the lead scientific voice for public health in Canada. To effectively carry out its mandate the CODSC’s structure must respect five guiding principles. It must be: * Independent – At arm’s length from government, insulated from day-to-day vagaries of political pressures while remaining accountable to Canadians. * Science-based – Adherence to the highest standards of risk assessment and decision-making with a view to safeguarding the health of Canadians. * Transparent – Open to public scrutiny and encouraging public participation in its activities. * Responsive – Characterized by a nimble decision-making process and a capability of deploying resources and expertise quickly and efficiently to any part of the country. * Collaborative – Partnership-oriented, fostering collaboration with other federal, provincial and non-governmental partners. There are three main options for the governance structure of the CODSC. Canadian and international precedents exist for each of the options. 1. Federal departmental entity Under this option, the CODSC would be created under federal legislation as a departmental branch or agency with the minister of health having general authority for its management and direction. The chief public health officer would be answerable to the minister and to the Prime Minister for the quality of management and advice provided by the office and for any actions taken by agency officials. This would not be very different from what already exists at Health Canada. The critical difference is that the CODSC would be a separate entity reporting to the minister of health, as opposed to the current structure where the Population and Public Health Branch is an entity within the department. Canadian examples: Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Pest Management Regulatory Agency International example: U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention 2. National arm’s length agency This option consists of incorporating the office as a not-for-profit entity under the Canada Corporations Act (Part II), with the federal and provincial governments as members/shareholders. The CODSC would be structured on a corporate model with a board, and the chief public health officer acting as CEO. However, instead of direct accountability to Parliament, the office would be accountable to the Conference of F-P-T Ministers of Health. This option would signal a more radical departure from current arrangements and would make CODSC more of a joint venture with the provinces and territories. While the concept is intriguing, this model might place the management of national public health concerns too far from the ambit of governmental accountability. Canadian examples: Canadian Blood Services, Canadian Institute for Health Information, Canada Health Infoway, Canadian Coordinating Office for Health Technology Assessment 3. Federal arm’s length agency This middle option would consist of creating a more independent entity within the purview of the federal government. Under this approach, CODSC would be structured on a corporate model in which decision-making powers are vested in a board. The board, in turn, would be accountable to Parliament and the public for the exercise of these powers. The chief public health officer would be CEO and would oversee the day-to-day operation of the office. CODSC would be created through new federal legislation but would remain under the health portfolio, with accountability to Parliament through the health minister. Canadian examples: Canadian Institutes for Health Research, Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse, Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission International example: U.K. Health Protection Agency While each of the options discussed has strengths and weakness, a federal arm’s length agency would be the best fit with the CMA’s vision for the CODSC. It would mark a departure from the status quo in that the level of professional autonomy would increase and the level of ministerial involvement in professional issues would be reduced. This would contribute to making the CODSC more credible as a science-based organization. The board governance structure would encourage participation from the broader public health community and could therefore be more effective in creating partnerships with other key players. Illustration of a federal arm’s length agency CMA is very encouraged with the strong support for a Canadian public health agency shown by federal Health Minister Anne McLellan and her provincial /territorial counterparts following their most recent meeting. We also welcome their recognition of the need for significant resources to deliver the kind of integrated, collaborative national public health infrastructure needed to protect the health and safety of Canadians. 5 We have estimated the incremental cost of establishing and operating the CODSC to initially be $20 million over five years, over and above existing funding for programs that could be transferred to the new office such as emergency preparedness and response, and surveillance co-ordination. In its recent brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance 2003 pre-budget hearings, CMA asked that these monies be allocated immediately to allow for the creation of the CODSC within the next fiscal year. Recommendation Three That the federal government create a Canadian Office for Disease Surveillance and Control led by a Chief Public Health Officer of Canada to be the lead Canadian agency in public health, operating at arm’s length from government. Recommendation Four That the federal government allocate at least $20 million / 5 years with appropriate ongoing funding, over and above the funding for existing national public health programs, for the creation and operating expenses of the Canadian Office for Disease Surveillance and Control. Health Human Resource Capacity Enhancement The CMA has been speaking out on the impact of the shortage of physicians and other health care professionals on the acute care system for the last five years. In prior submissions to this Committee, to the House of Commons Committee on Finance and to the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada, the CMA called for increased funding for the recruitment, education and on going training of physicians to address the current crisis in the acute care workforce. The SARS outbreak has clearly demonstrated that Canada’s public health workforce is especially thin. The shortage of community medicine and infectious disease specialists, nurses and laboratory technicians affects our capacity to respond to health threats. For the essential functions of the public health system to be realized, public health agencies need a workforce with appropriate and constantly updated skills. As the first line of defence against threats to the health of Canadians, the public health system must be able to respond quickly to an emergency with a skilled and trained workforce with sufficient numbers to meet the demands of the crisis. While Health Canada has made some limited progress to help address ongoing education needs of public health practitioners, there are virtually no resources currently dedicated to address public health emergency response skills or the essential cross-training that is critical during a public health crisis. Effective cross-training boosts surge capacity by equipping public health practitioners with knowledge and skills that can be called upon in times of public health emergency while allowing them to fulfil essential public health services at other times. CMA’s submission to the National Advisory Committee on SARS and Public Health has called for investment in multidisciplinary training programs in public health and the dissemination of best practices to public health professionals.6 But our country’s response to SARS also confirmed the co-dependent nature of the public health and acute care systems. The scarcity of hospital-based infection control practitioners, emergency physicians, nurses and technologists in the clinical and laboratory arenas within the acute care system were particularly striking during the SARS outbreak. This clearly demonstrated the need for a pre-planned approach to support and augment the public health and acute care workforce during a crisis. With essentially no plan in place to systematically shift human resources within the public health and acute care systems, we were ill prepared to move health professionals from other jurisdictions to respond to the crisis. Consequently Toronto public health and acute care professionals were stretched to their physical and mental limits. Recruitment of health care professionals to assist in the Greater Toronto Area depended, to a large degree, on volunteerism rather than co-ordinated efforts. Therefore, the CMA has proposed the establishment of a Canadian Public Health Emergency Response Service to work in collaboration with non-governmental health organizations like the CMA and the Canadian Public Health Association and function under the auspices of the Canadian Office for Disease Surveillance and Control.7 The Canadian Public Health Emergency Response Service would be made up of a core group of highly trained and mobile public health professionals, employed by the CODSC, able to carry out emergency response interventions as directed by the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada. But what SARS also clearly demonstrated was the need to be able to support and provide respite to the physicians and nurses overwhelmed by the influx of patients to acute care facilities and the accompanying institutional infection control measures. The CMA believes that the federal government must have access to a predetermined cadre of health care professionals willing to be deployed to provide acute care “locum” services during health emergencies. The CMA is well positioned to play an important part in recruiting physicians for an Emergency Relief Network. CMA’s MedConnexions online job matching service for health professionals, developed in partnership with Industry Canada, is a tool that could be used to disseminate information on the Network and collect contact information from physicians interested in volunteering to be deployed to provide local services. Volunteers would be asked to provide services that they normally provide, (for example, emergency medicine, intensive care, respirology, infection control) or other general services in affected areas to provide relief to staff that are stretched to the limit. Training in outbreak investigation would allow these individuals to also supplement the public health workforce in times of crisis. CMA would maintain control of the volunteer list and establish procedures to ensure that the information on the list is accurate and current. CMA would also undertake to determine that issues such as compensation (payment services and lost time [e.g., because of quarantine]), licensing, liability, disability coverage, logistics (travel and accommodation) are covered. CMA would contact members of the list in response to a request from the federal government through the CODSC. Recommendation Five That the federal government invests $250,000/ year on an ongoing basis to establish, in partnership with the profession, an Emergency Relief Network of physicians able to provide “locum” services during health emergencies. Recommendation Six That the federal government under the auspices of the Canadian Office for Disease Surveillance and Control provide funding for the training of physician volunteers in outbreak investigation. Surveillance and Communications The effectiveness of the public health system is also dependent, in large part, on its capacity to communicate authoritative information in a timely manner. A two-way flow of information between experts and the practising community is necessary at all times but becomes especially crucial during emergency situations. A well-functioning public health system will allow for this two-way communication — disease information to a central body that can analyze the aggregate data, and a capability to share aggressively and in real time the resulting analytical assessment with front line workers. A pan-Canadian surveillance system must be a fundamental component of the public health system. One of the keys to building a strong surveillance system is a robust connectivity with all points of health care. This would ensure real time notification through a pan Canadian health surveillance system of the occurrence of reportable diseases by front line health care workers throughout the country. All jurisdictions have embarked on information technology strategies that will build the connectivity to points of care over time. It is estimated that this work will take up to 10 years to complete and will require a $4 billion investment. Provinces and territories are at different stages of advancing this agenda and Ontario probably has the most progressive initiative. (It has committed to spending approximately $1 billion to put in place the pipelines that provide the connectivity and will cover the costs to carry the information traffic.) It is also important to note that Canada, as a World Health Organization member state, has international obligations in public health surveillance under the International Health Regulations (IHR). The IHR, introduced in 1969 to help monitor and control four serious diseases which had significant potential to spread between countries, involve: i. Notification of cases: * WHO Member States are obliged to notify WHO for a single case of cholera, plague or yellow fever, occurring in humans in their territories, and give further notification when an area is free from infection. * These notifications are reported in WHO's Weekly Epidemiological Record. ii. Health-related rules for international trade and travel. iii. Health organization: Measures for deratting, disinfecting, and disinsecting international conveyances (ships, aircraft, etc.) are to be implemented at points of arrival and departure (ports, airports and frontier posts). The health measures called for are the maximum measures that a state may apply for the protection of its territory against cholera, plague and yellow fever. iv. Health documents required: Requirements are included for health and vaccination certificates for travellers from infected to non-infected areas; deratting/deratting exemption certificates; health declarations- Maritime Declaration of Health; Aircraft General Declaration. 8 The IHR are currently under revision to include mandatory reporting of “public health emergencies of international concern”. 9 The health consequences of new infectious diseases are magnified because these public health threats cross local, provincial/territorial and national borders. Decisions made by one government have a direct impact upon the activities of adjacent governments. Canadian jurisdictions must co-ordinate their approaches to public health challenges to ensure they are effectively managed. Canada must ensure that our surveillance networks and public health infrastructure are up to the challenge in order to meet our international obligations to recognize and deal with emerging infectious diseases. In our submission to the National Advisory Committee on SARS & Public Health the CMA argued for a $1 billion infusion to rebuild the capacity of the public health system. Part of this investment is to help with the communication dimension of the connectivity problem. SARS highlighted the fact that Canada does not have information systems in place to facilitate real time communication with front line health professionals. Gaps in the basic communication infrastructure prevented public health agencies from interacting with each other in a timely manner. They also hindered exchanges between public health staff, private clinicians and other allied health workers about the latest information on the management of the disease. In addition, contact information, when it was there, was found to be seriously out of date and communications methods were not appropriately targeted to the end users. CMA learned some valuable lessons about how to provide real time communications to physicians. The health crisis resulted in the CMA mobilizing our communication networks to provide physicians with critical information about the public health management of SARS. Over 50,000 physicians received pertinent information on SARS over a 24-48 hour period of time. In addition, over 1500 health care facilities received critical authoritative information on SARS via the Canadian Council on Health Services Accreditation. For the first time in Canadian history an e-grand rounds initiative was launched to provide on line advice to physicians across this country in a format that they are familiar with. While the CMA succeeded in getting the information to physicians virtually in real time it was clear that the current infrastructure was inadequate. The CMA had to jury-rig a system that tied together disparate information lists and communications channels to move the information out to physicians. There was no guarantee the approach would work and there was no guarantee it would be timely. Luck was on our side. But we cannot continue to rely on luck; we must rely on sound management and planning. A stronger and more complete communications capacity to move information to physicians needs to be in place as soon as possible. This system has to ensure that the information is shared in a manner that respects the confidentiality and modality of how physicians would like to receive time sensitive information. One of the key lessons drawn from this latest emergency is that information is taken up by physicians in different ways. Some like to receive it by e-mail, others by fax and still others by mail. Even those with e-mail have expressed a desire to get emergency information in a different format. Iterative research will provide the information necessary to construct a solution that best maps how physicians work. There is a critical need to invest in data management infrastructure to maintain physician contact information (over 20% changes yearly) and build the correct modality channel to forward emergency information. This is a labour intensive process without which the assurance of reaching the majority of physicians would be compromised. The CMA has carried out an internal assessment on how it can best mobilize its own outreach capabilities coupled with those of its 12 divisions and has determined that with a one time investment of $250,000 for research, development and implementation of internal IT systems and ongoing operational funding of $100,000 a more robust, timely and assured connectivity with physicians will result. It is estimated that this connectivity could be built within the next twelve months. Recommendation Seven That the federal government partner with the CMA and the Canadian Council on Health Services Accreditation to ensure the capacity to communicate with physicians in real time during health emergencies. Recommendation Eight That the federal government invest in communication between professionals within the health care system through immediate funding for dedicated internet connectivity for all physicians in Canada. Conclusion SARS brought out the best in Canada and Canadians’ commitment to one another. It also turned a bright, sometimes uncomfortable spotlight on the ability of this country’s health care system to respond to a crisis, be it an emerging disease, a terrorist attack, a natural disaster or a large-scale accident. We must learn from the SARS experience and quickly move to build the infrastructure of a strong public health system. Different parts of the country have developed particular public health strengths and we can build on these strengths. With national leadership, commitment and resources, Canadians can have a well-functioning pan-Canadian public health system. The CMA believes that the federal government has a critical responsibility to ensure that the infrastructure for a strong public health system to serve all Canadians is in place. Summary of Recommendations 1. That the federal government rapidly move to enact a Canada Emergency Health Measures Act that would consolidate and enhance existing legislation, allowing for a more rapid national response, in co-operation with the provinces and territories, based on a graduated, systematic approach, to health emergencies that pose an acute and imminent threat to human health and safety across Canada. 2. The federal government invest in the country’s public health system with an immediate commitment of $ 1.5 Billion over five years to rebuild the public health infrastructure. 3. That the federal government create a Canadian Office for Disease Surveillance and Control led by a Chief Public Health Officer of Canada to be the lead Canadian agency in public health, operating at arm’s length from government. 4. That the federal government allocate $20 million / 5 years with appropriate ongoing funding, over and above the funding for existing national public health programs, for the creation and operating expenses of a Canadian Office for Disease Surveillance and Control. 5. That the federal government invest $ 250,000/ year on an ongoing basis to establish, in partnership with the profession, an Emergency Relief Network of physicians able to provide “locum” services during health emergencies. 6. That the federal government under the auspices of the Canadian Office for Disease Surveillance and Control provide funding for the training of physician volunteers in outbreak investigation. 7. That the federal government partner with the CMA and the Canadian Council on Health Services Accreditation to ensure the capacity to communicate with physicians in real time during health emergencies. 8. That the federal government invest in communication between professionals within the health care system through immediate funding for dedicated internet connectivity for all physicians in Canada. Appendix l (These documents available on the CMA website, under Submissions to Government) Answering the Wake-Up Call: CMA’s Public Health Action Plan, June 2003 Technical Backgrounders, July 21, 2003 Appendix ll WORLD MEDICAL ASSOCIATION Latest releases: 15 September 2003 Action Urged to Improve Response to World Health Epidemics The World Health Organisation has been urged by physicians of the World Medical Association to enhance its emergency response protocol to deal with world epidemics such as Sars. Meeting in Helsinki for their General Assembly, WMA delegates from almost 50 countries were critical of the way in which the Sars epidemic was handled earlier this year and in particular the failure of WHO to involve physicians early enough. The WMA Assembly called on the WHO to provide for the "early, ongoing and meaningful engagement and involvement of the medical community globally, including initiating immediate discussion on the establishment of an effective and real time means of communicating reliable, evidence-based information to front line workers and the establishment of reliable sources of products and materials needed to safeguard the health of front line workers and their patients". The WMA has also agreed to develop a public health risk alert plan covering areas of communications, preventive measures for physicians and patients, best practice in terms of diagnostic and therapeutic methods and evidence-based travel advice for the public. The plan is to be drawn up by a working group headed by the Canadian Medical Association, which, at the height of the Sars epidemic in Canada, managed to contact 26,000 physicians via e mail and the internet. The CMA described the World Medical Association's new resolution as "a wake up call to the world". The WMA has now invited all national medical associations to share the lessons learned during the Sars epidemic by providing details of measures taken in their countries to strengthen the responsiveness of their public health systems. Printed from: http://www.wma.net/e/press/2003_20.htm 1 Emergencies Act, R.S.C. 1985, c.22 (4th Supp), s. 5. “National emergency” is defined in section 3 as “an urgent and critical situation of a temporary nature that (a) seriously endangers the lives, health or safety of Canadians and is of such proportions or nature as to exceed the capacity or authority of a province to deal with it, or (b) seriously threatens the ability of the Government of Canada to preserve the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of Canada, and that cannot be effectively dealt with under any other law of Canada.” (Emergencies Act, R.S.C. 1985, c.22 (4th Supp) section 3). 2 See Appendix 1: Technical Backgrounders to Answering the Wake-Up Call: CMA’s Public Health Action Plan for details on the Emergency Health Alert System. 3 The FPT Advisory Committee on Population Health recommended the following as essential functions of the public health system: population health assessment; health surveillance; health promotion; disease and injury prevention; health protection. 4 Many countries (e.g., United States, United Kingdom, Norway and the Netherlands) have developed a critical mass of public health expertise at the national level. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, which has a critical mass, great depth of scientific expertise and the tools and fiscal resources to fund public health programs at both state and local levels through demonstration projects, is a sterling example of the effectiveness of such a central agency. 5 McLellan promises health cash injection, A4, The National Post, 04-09-2003 6 Recommendation 4 of Answering the Wake-Up Call: CMA’s Public Health Action Plan: The creation of a Canadian Centre of Excellence for Public Health, under the auspices of the CODSC, to invest in multidisciplinary training programs in public health, establish and disseminate best practices among public health professionals. 7 Recommendation Five of Answering the Wake-Up Call: CMA’s Public Health Action Plan: The establishment of a Canadian Public Health Emergency Response Service, under the auspices of the CODSC, to provide for the rapid deployment of human resources (e.g., emergency pan-Canadian locum programs) during health emergencies. 8 http://www.who.int/csr/ihr/current/en/print.html accessed September 15, 2003 9 (http://www.who.int/csr/ihr/revision/en/print.html) accessed July 4, 2003
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Getting the Diagnosis Right… Toward a Sustainable Future for Canadian Health Care Policy (Part One of a two-part brief to the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada)

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1970
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2001-10-31
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
  2 documents  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2001-10-31
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
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The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) welcomes this opportunity to provide a perspective to the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada on behalf of our 50,000 physician members, provincial/territorial divisions and affiliated medical organizations. Canada’s doctors are literally at the coal face of the health care system. Collectively each year our physicians, including licensed physicians, post graduate trainees and medical students have at least one, and often several face-to-face interactions with at least 80% of Canadians. Moreover, on a daily basis we interact with a wide range of other health professionals and agencies. The striking of the Commission has come at a cross-roads in the evolution of our national health care program. We face a faltering health care system, characterized by no long-term vision or systematic plan. There is a lack of common purpose among the stakeholders, waning public confidence and extremely low provider morale. If we do not act immediately to address these key areas, we will very soon lose the underpinnings of social support for the publicly funded health care system. This brief is the first of two parts. In medicine it has long been accepted that the key to a successful treatment is to first get the diagnosis right. In Part One we will focus on the “signs and symptoms” leading to a diagnosis and also outline some of the broad pathways to stabilizing our traumatized health care system. In Part Two, which will be completed in the spring of 2002, we will put forward recommended treatments. The overall theme is that we cannot manage our way out via increased efficiency gains alone. SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF A “TRAUMATIZED PATIENT” As a result of the relentless cost-cutting of the 1990s, we are now in the midst of a crisis of sustainability that has at least five dimensions: Crisis of Access – For those of us who spend increasing amounts of time each day trying to secure diagnostic and treatment resources for our patients, it is clear that we are in a deepening crisis of access to people, to technology, and to the surrounding infrastructure. What were once routine and timely referrals and treatments are now unacceptably long waits for all but the most urgent care. Crisis of Provider Morale – The morale of physicians, nurses and other providers in the system is at an all-time low. Physicians are working harder than ever, with fatigue and burnout becoming more commonplace. We are increasingly frustrated by the growing effort and time required to secure resources for our patients. Moreover, physicians have been largely marginalized in decision making at a system level as a result of the reforms of the 1990s. Crisis of Public Confidence – While Canadians continue to report high satisfaction with the health care they receive, they have lost confidence that the system will be there for them in the future. At the same time, they are being barraged through multiple media about the promise of revolutionary technology that is fueling their expectations about what we as physicians and the health care system are able to provide for them. Crisis of Health System Financing – While the federal government had been paring back its contributions to Medicare since the late 1970s, this was greatly intensified in the mid-1990s and only recently has begun to reverse itself. Health care spending is projected to exceed 40% of provincial/territorial government revenues in the not too distant future. Demographics and technology will continue to put upward pressure on costs. We believe that the top-down supply side management approach to cost containment has been a resounding failure. Crisis of Accountability – There is a growing problem of accountability at several levels. There continues to be bickering between the federal and provincial/territorial governments – is the federal share of Medicare 11% or 34%? At the provincial/territorial level, accountability has been pushed down to regional health authorities while authority continues to be held by the central health ministry. Proposals for reform have targeted providers for increased accountability but have ignored consumers as patients. We believe that the health care system and those of us who work in it have been seriously traumatized. We believe that these five signs and symptoms will only grow worse in the years ahead unless there is concentrated and timely action. PATHWAYS TO STABILIZING THE TRAUMATIZED PATIENT While we are not ready to put forward specific recommended treatments at this time, we would suggest that there are five “pathways” that will help guide the Commission’s work on the stabilization and recovery of this trauma. Focus on the “Hows”, not just the “Whats” – The health reform discussions of the 1990s in Canada have been dominated by the “whats” rather than the “hows”. When the “how” was considered at all, governments generally approached reform with a “big bang” approach. International experts have recognized that this is very unlikely to be successful when there are many stakeholders in a plurality of settings—which is certainly an apt depiction of the Canadian health care landscape. There is a clear need for a collaborative approach to “change management” that is based on early, ongoing and meaningful involvement of all key stakeholders. Adopt a Values-Based Approach to Change – We believe that Canadian Medicare has been largely well-served by its values-based approach, as expressed in the five program criteria of the Canada Health Act. We believe that a modernized Medicare program must continue to be underpinned by basic values such as universality and expressed through national principles. In particular, as physicians, we believe it is fundamental that we must continue to be agents of our patients and moreover that we must continue to uphold the principles of choice between patients and physicians. Striking a Better Balance Between Everything and Everyone – As we contemplate what a vision of Medicare for tomorrow might include we must be mindful that no country in the world has been able to pay for first dollar coverage for timely access to all health services. In light of the rapidly transforming delivery system with a shift from institutional to community-based care, a re-examination of the Medicare “basket” is overdue. Generate New Thinking – The new millennium requires new thinking. We have become complacent about Medicare. We are unlikely to find durable answers as long as discussions are bound by the current scope of application and interpretation of the five principles of the Canada Health Act. We need to reflect on the discussions among provincial/territorial premiers over the past few years and on international experience in order to gain an appreciation of the new consensus that may be emerging. Canada can and must learn from the experience of other countries that have already been forced to deal with, for example, the demographic shifts that Canada is about to encounter. We also need new thinking about the evolving context of the delivery of care in the age of the Internet and the new generation of both consumers and providers. Recognize That Better Management (while necessary) Will Not Be Sufficient – We do not believe that we can simply manage our way out of this crisis. Physicians have supported, indeed led, many innovations such as the implementation of clinical practice guidelines and have participated in primary care reform demonstration projects. Improved efficiency alone, however, cannot meet the demands we expect to see in the future. The system must be properly resourced on a predictable basis. NEXT STEPS… There is no “magic bullet” or quick fix that will put our national health program on a sustainable footing and restore Canadians’ confidence in it. Working harder to make the current system work better will not be sufficient. While there are still gains to be made from efficiencies and integration, we cannot simply manage our way out of this problem. It is time for fundamental change. We should not be discouraged from pressing on with this daunting challenge; it is imperative that we begin to act immediately. This brief sets out the variety of pressures that render the current health system unsustainable. It also sets out a value-based policy framework that can help guide future deliberations and point us to policies that can help address the rising concerns among both providers and Canadian health consumers. The brief is not intended to be all-encompassing. Various other medical organizations will be making representations to the Commission. The CMA encourages the Commission to seriously consider the complementary briefs submitted by our sister organizations. The CMA intends to submit its final recommendations, building on this framework, in the spring of 2002. This second brief will again be the product of our extensive set of discussions with the profession. INTRODUCTION The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) welcomes this opportunity to provide a perspective to the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada on behalf of our 50,000 physician members, provincial/territorial divisions and affiliated medical organizations. Canada’s doctors are literally at the coal face of the health care system. Collectively each year our physicians, including licensed physicians, post graduate trainees and medical students have at least one, and often several face-to-face interactions with at least 80% of Canadians. Moreover, on a daily basis we interact with a wide range of other health professionals and agencies. The striking of the Commission has come at a cross-roads in the evolution of our national health care program. We face a faltering health care system, characterized by no long-term vision or systematic plan. There is a lack of common purpose among the stakeholders, waning public confidence and extremely low provider morale. If we do not act immediately to address these key areas, we will very soon lose the underpinnings of social support for the publicly funded health care system. This brief is the first of two parts. In medicine it has long been accepted that the key to a successful treatment is to first get the diagnosis right. In Part One we will focus on the “signs and symptoms” leading to a diagnosis and also outline some of the broad pathways to stabilizing our traumatized health care system. In Part Two, which will be completed in the Spring of 2002, we will put forward recommended treatments. The development of this brief has been guided by the policy debates within the CMA over the past few years , including those at General Council in 1994 to 1998 and 2001, and by current deliberations with our Divisions and Affiliates. It has also been informed by the results of a series of Public Dialogue Sessions that were held across Canada in May/June 2001 and a National Report Card Survey that was conducted in late June 2001. The overall message of this initial submission is that working harder to make the current system work better, while necessary, is not sufficient. While there are still gains to be made from efficiencies and integration, we cannot simply manage our way out of this problem. It is time for fundamental change. Changes must focus, first and foremost, on restoring public confidence and provider morale. They should focus on care and speak to individuals and their needs, rather than being dispassionate at a systems level analysis. As a society, Canadians need a new consensus on the fundamentals of our health and health care system. SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF A “TRAUMATIZED PATIENT” 1. CRISIS OF ACCESS—ACCESSIBILITY MEANS NOTHING WITHOUT AVAILABILITY Access is a critical dimension of quality care. We are facing a growing crisis of access to timely health care with human, technological and physical infrastructure dimensions. As a result, the ability to provide quality care is suffering. The Health Workforce While we believe that the health workforce in general is facing a major sustainability challenge, we will focus our discussion on the physician workforce, with which we are most familiar. For most of the past decade, governments have acted on advice that Canada has too many physicians. Ministers of Health met in Banff in January 1992 to discuss the 1991 Barer-Stoddart report Toward Integrated Medical Resource Policies for Canada. 1 Out of the comprehensive set of 53 recommendations in this report, the Ministers clearly “cherry-picked” the one recommendation with a number attached to it – namely the 10% cut in enrolment that was implemented in the Fall of 1993. A year later governments began proposing/introducing a range of punitive measures to promote distribution objectives. Probably the most extreme of these was a proposal by the Ontario government in April of 1993 to discount by 75% the fees of what would have been the majority of new family physicians, paediatricians and psychiatrists. 2 Undergraduate medical school enrolment was already on the decline when the 10% cut was implemented, so the overall reduction translated into 16% fewer positions by 1997/98 than in 1983/84. Opportunities for young Canadians to enter medical school (relative to the population) decreased at an even greater rate. First year enrolment peaked in 1980 with 1 student per 13,000 citizens but by 1998 this had fallen to 1 per 20,000 (compared to 1 per 12,000 in the UK for example). While there was no decrease in the number of postgraduate new entry positions, re-entry opportunities were less plentiful and fell from 663 positions in 1992 to 152 by 1998. 3 Against this backdrop one should scarcely wonder why the number of physicians leaving Canada doubled between 1989 and 1994 (384 to 777). Since 1994, the outflow has abated somewhat to just over 400 in 1999. During 1998 and 1999 the number of physicians returning from abroad increased, thus the net loss was reduced to just under 250 physicians in each of those 2 years. In 2000, owing to a significant drop in the number of physicians leaving, the net loss dropped to 164. Nonetheless this is still equivalent to more than 1.5 graduating medical classes. 4 Over the 12 year period from 1989 – 2000, the net loss of physicians to emigration was almost 4,000. While long term planning is a key element of other large public enterprises in Canada, the same cannot be said for the health workforce. One of the ten core principles of the United Kingdom National Health Services reads “the NHS will support and value its staff”. An application of this principle may be seen in a recent UK strategy document for the scientists, engineers and technologists working in healthcare science. This 3-point strategy covers pay and career opportunities, working conditions and recruitment. 5 We would suggest that such a consideration has been largely absent from Canadian health policy over the past decade, certainly at a national level and most probably at the provincial/territorial level. The health workforce received scant attention by the National Forum on Health. The Provincial/Territorial Health Ministers’ 1997 Renewed Vision for Canada’s Health System makes only incidental mention of the health workforce. 6 These examples suggest that the health workforce has largely been taken for granted. By comparison, during the past decade, no fewer than three task forces have been struck to address the renewal of the federal public service. (Public Service 2000, La Relève and the 2001 Task Force on Modernizing Human Resources Management in the Public Service ). 7 We are now paying the price for this neglect. If we are to continue to maintain health care as a public enterprise in Canada, we believe that there needs to be a high level policy acknowledgement of the value of and commitment to the enhancement and renewal of the health workforce. A recent national consultation on research priorities for health services and policy issues reported that “health human resources was seen as the dominant issue for the next two to five years by policy makers, managers, and clinical organizations. The concerns of policy makers included regulatory frameworks, mechanisms for avoiding cycles of surplus/shortage, and the leadership vacuum within management and policy-making organizations.” 8 There are some signs that governments have belatedly begun to acknowledge that we are in a shortage situation. In November 1999, the Canadian Medical Forum presented the report of its Task Force on Physician Supply (Task Force One) at a meeting hosted by the co-chairs of the Confererence of Federal/Provincial/Territorial Ministers of Health. One of the key recommendations of the report called for an increase to 2000 first year medical school places for 2000.3 Since that time several provinces have announced increases in undergraduate enrolment and postgraduate training. As of July 2001, these increases numbered 353 undergraduate, 153 postgraduate and 37 re-entry (specialty) training positions. 9 However, these increases will not begin to have an appreciable impact for a minimum of five to six years. Another key recommendation, calling for efforts to repatriate Canadian physicians practising abroad and which would have a more immediate payoff has received no attention that we can discern. While these enrolment increases are most welcome, they highlight another problem, namely the steep increases in medical tuition and the prospect of tuition deregulation. Already there are reports of cumulative debt loads from undergraduate and medical education that may exceed $100,000. If this upward trend continues, we fear that this might not only re-ignite an exodus of physicians to the U.S. (where loans may be repaid more quickly), but that access to medical education may be restricted to only the most advantaged Canadians. Indeed a 1999 study 10 at one Ontario medical school found that the median family income of the 1st year intake class following a large tuition increase was significantly higher than the 2nd and higher year classes. A further challenge that is posed by the enrolment increases is in the capacity of the 16 Academic Health Sciences Centres (AHSCs) to provide undergraduate medical education and post-graduate training. There is a tendency to overlook the fact that AHSCs have a threefold mission; to provide teaching, to conduct original research, and to provide all levels of care for the surrounding population and highly specialized care for outlying regions. As the site of training moves increasingly out to the community, it will become necessary to recruit even more teachers from a pool of physicians who are only barely able to cope with their existing workloads. With few exceptions the resources required to fund the expansion of medical education to the community have not been forthcoming. Another development is that Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) is in the process of initiating several sectoral studies in health including home care, natural products, nursing, oral health care, pharmacists and physicians. 11 The Canadian Medical Forum, made up of the major national Canadian medical organizations, together with others will be working with HRDC and Health Canada to implement the physician sector study over the next few years. Again, these studies will not produce any short term payoffs toward alleviating the immediate and growing shortages of physicians and other health providers. Looking to the decades ahead we know that the demographic composition of the profession is going to change markedly. Women now represent more than 50% of our graduating medical classes, and while at present they represent 29% of the practising physician population, by 2021 this is expected to reach 44%. The medical profession is also aging. As of 2001 some 27% of physicians are aged 55 and over; by 2021 this proportion will be 37%. Given the historical (and continued) gap of some eight hours per week between the average work week of male and female physicians, there will be a major challenge in sustaining the volume of service required to meet the needs of our aging population. Information Technology in Service of Health The health care system operates within an information intensive environment. However, to date, a substantial portion of the data being collected is gleaned as a derivative of administrative or billing/financial systems. Although this provides useful information for arriving at a “high level” view of the operation of the health care system, it is generally of limited value to health care providers at the interface with their patients. A detailed costing study prepared by PriceWaterhouse Coopers for the CMA in 2000 estimated the cost of connecting all delivery points in the Canadian health care system at $4.1 billion. The $500 million announced in the September 2000 Health Accord is only a modest start. Health care providers require access to a secure and portable electronic health record (EHR) that provides details of all health services provided to their patient as well as the appropriate decision support tools. An EHR that meets the clinical needs of health care providers when interacting with their patients will serve to benefit not only the health of Canadians, but the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the health care system. 12 A critical aspect of the EHR that remains to be addressed is that of privacy. While the Personal Information Privacy and Electronic Document Act is due to come into force for health information in 2002, the privacy protection afforded to patient and provider interactions is not at all clearly defined. The CMA has ongoing serious concerns about the lack of clarity in the Act. These concerns have recently been exacerbated by a decision of the federal Privacy Commissioner to deem physician information as “professional” rather than personal, thereby making confidential information more accessible. This will not make it any easier for Canadian physicians to embrace information technology in service of health. Capital Infrastructure Much of our current infrastructure dates back to the early days of Medicare—forty years ago. In order to provide necessary health services, the health care system must be supported by adequate infrastructure. However, public investment in this area has declined substantially since the late 1980s with the first wave of health care reform initiatives. For example, from 1986-87 to 1993-94, the number of approved public hospital beds decreased by 2.8% annually, and in 1994-95 the decline increased to 7.2% annually after the introduction of the CHST. In total, over this period the number of approved public hospital beds decreased by 36.1%. 13 While the trend in shorter inpatient days, and therefore an increase in outpatient care, has mitigated the problem of a bed shortage somewhat, there is a need to monitor readmission rates on an ongoing basis. Furthermore, the question of whether Canada has an adequate supply of acute care beds for those who require inpatient care must be addressed. We would also add that this has resulted in considerable offloading to the community in the area of primary care, community based services and informal caregivers without any transfer or infusion of resources to support the community’s efforts. Further evidence of the disinvestment in health care infrastructure can be seen in the areas of building construction, machinery and equipment. The following considers expenditures in terms of constant 1992 dollars so that levels are adjusted for inflation. Real per capita capital health expenditures by provincial governments have declined by 16.5% from its 1989 peak at over $63. In terms of new building construction by hospitals, between 1982 and 1998 real per capita expenditures decreased by 5.3% annually. Finally, real investment in new machinery and equipment in the hospital sector has declined annually by 1.8% since 1989. 13 2. CRISIS OF PROVIDER MORALE We are concerned that this telling comment, written by a physician respondent in the CMA’s 2001 Physician Resource Questionnaire (PRQ), reflects the mood of many physicians in Canada today. [BOX CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] [BOX END] Canada’s physicians are working harder than ever. According to the 2001 PRQ survey the average work week of a physician is 53.4 hours (not including call). The bulk of this is taken up with direct patient care (35 hours). The remainder is occupied by activities such as indirect patient care, teaching, research, and education. The physician’s work week does not end there. Again according to the PRQ, three out of four physicians (74%) report taking shared call for their patients out of hours and those who do report an average of 144 hours (six 24-hour days) per month, during which their activities are constrained to a significant degree. It is no surprise that more than one out of two (54%) respondents to the 2001 PRQ reported that their workload had increased over the past 12 months, while fewer than one out of ten (9%) reported a decrease. In every age group, physicians were likely to report that their workloads are heavier than they would like – in terms of potentially compromising their ability to provide high quality care to their patients – rising from 53% among those less than 35 years of age to roughly 70% of those in the 35-54 age group, and then declining to 64% among those aged 55-64 and 37% among those 65 and over. 14 There are at least three main contributing factors to the crisis of physician morale. The first has been the aforementioned blunt and coercive measures made by governments in the early 1990s to curtail physician numbers and manage distribution. Planning requires taking a longer term view and resisting the temptation to “cherry pick” for short term relief. A second facet of practice life that has become increasingly burdensome for patients and providers is the increasing amount of time that it takes to arrange for referrals, tests and treatments for our patients. In urgent or life-threatening situations, care is being provided. However, about two thirds or 64% of respondents to the 2001 PRQ reported difficulty in obtaining appropriate resources on behalf of their patients. The difficulty that Canadian physicians experience in accessing resources on behalf of their patients is further illustrated by the results of a survey conducted by the firm of Harris Interactive, in which physicians were surveyed in 2000 in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S. Data from this study show that high proportions of Canadian physicians report problems with access to care in their practices, particularly when compared to their U.S. colleagues. While Canadian and U.K. physicians report similar levels of problems, there are dramatic differences between Canada and the U.S. For example, Canadian physicians are almost eight times more likely to report problems with access to the latest medical and diagnostic equipment than their U.S. colleagues (63% vs. 8%). Similarly, 61% of Canadian physicians reported problems of availability of medical specialists and consultants, compared with 13% of U.S. physicians, while 66% of Canadian physicians reported major problems with long waiting times for surgical or hospital care compared with just 7% of U.S. physicians 15. This is an avoidable cause of stress on the physician-patient relationship. Third, when regionalization was implemented during the 1990s, physicians and other providers were generally marginalized in the process. Indeed, in several provinces, health providers were expressly prohibited from serving on regional boards. An early indication of this was gained in the CMA’s 1995 Physician Resource Questionnaire. Only 10% of respondents agreed that physicians had been involved or consulted in the implementation of regionalization in their region, and just 21% agreed that the medical profession had any ongoing input. While we have not surveyed our members recently on this, we have little reason to believe that there has been significant change. The crisis of morale is by no means confined to physicians. The authors of a recent policy synthesis on the benefits of a healthy workplace for nurses, their patients and the system declared that “the Canadian healthcare system is facing a nursing shortage that threatens patient care. Many nurses, physically and mentally exhausted, quit; employers cannot fill those vacancies, while paradoxically other nurses cannot find secure jobs with hours that suit them. Meanwhile, nursing schools cannot keep up with the demand for new recruits.” 16 3. CRISIS OF PUBLIC CONFIDENCE The observation quoted here was made by one of the physician moderators at the CMA’s 2001 Public Dialogue Sessions. 17 We believe that, if anything it understates the perilous state of Canadians’ confidence in our health care system. [BOX CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] [BOX END] The precipitous decline in Canadians’ assessment of our health care system has been tracked by the Ipsos-Reid polling firm over the 1990s. While in May 1991, 61% of Canadians rated our health care system as excellent or good, by January 2000 this has declined to just 26%. 18 We found further evidence of the dimensions of this concern in the first CMA National Report Card on Health Care Survey, which was carried out on our behalf by Ipsos-Reid in the summer of 2001. In terms of an overall rating, just 21% of Canadians gave the system an “A” grade, 44% “B”, 26% “C”, and 9% “D”. While the report card confirms previous findings that those who have used the system are generally satisfied (30% “A”, 38% “B”) the ratings of access to most health care services are distressing (Figure 1). While access to family physicians receives an “A” rating, the ratings of most specialized services are dismal. Just 15% of Canadians rate access to medical specialists as “A”, while 22% assign it a failing “F” grade. 19 [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] [TABLE END] Similarly, our Public Dialogue Sessions from the summer made it clear that Canadians believe that the quality of health services has declined in Canada and many fear that it will get worse before it gets better. Six out of ten Canadians (64%) reported that the overall quality of health care services in their community had deteriorated over the past 10-15 years. Looking ahead, 37% of Canadians expect health services to be worse in five years, outnumbering the 30% who think they will get better. As one of our Public Dialogue participants put it this summer, “It will get worse—nursing homes have long waiting lists. Hospital beds are plugged up with people waiting to get into nursing homes. With our aging population—it’s only going to get worse.” 17 Although we do not have much quantitative evidence yet, we believe that patient expectations will continue to increase, as Canadians are bombarded by news of promising new developments through multiple channels. The growth of health information on the Internet has been a chief contributor to this. In the CMA’s 2000 PRQ survey, 84% of physicians reported that patients had at least occasionally presented medical information to them that they had found on the Internet. 20 Also worrisome is the vast array of sources of medical information that can be found on the world wide web – information that is not always from credible sources nor based on scientific evidence. In summary, we are deeply concerned that Canadians’ confidence in our system is hovering at a level that threatens the sustainability of the social consensus that underlies our current Medicare program. Clearly this must be addressed before we attempt to strike a new one. 4. CRISIS OF HEALTH SYSTEM FINANCING When Tommy Douglas’ government implemented Medicare in Saskatchewan in 1962, he said at the time, “all we want to do is pay the bills”. It was not too long after Medicare was implemented nationally in 1971, however, that governments started thinking about ways of controlling costs, and before the decade was out, under the Established Programs Financing (EPF) arrangements, 50:50 cost sharing had been replaced by a combination of tax points and cash contributions linked to economic growth. Clearly, policy thinking has been dominated by top-down supply side management for the past two decades. In a commentary on Justice Emmett Hall’s second (1980) report, noted Canadian health economist Roderick Fraser warned, “the size of the Canadian health care sector in relation to the current health status of Canadians and in particular to the current lifestyle of Canadians, hazardous as it is to health status, leads one to wonder if we have been over-sold on cost-containment.” 21 When EPF was merged with the Canada Assistance Plan (CAP) in the 1995 federal budget, creating the Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST), total federal contributions to health care became impossible to distinguish from contributions to social assistance and services and post-secondary education. Latterly, this has resulted in ongoing feuding between the federal and provincial/territorial governments over the respective shares of health financing. Not only is the portion of the CHST allocated to health care variable and indistinguishable from other social programs, the amount of the CHST itself has been unstable since its introduction. In the two fiscal years beginning April 1996, government cut CHST cash by 33%. It will not be until 2002-03 that the CHST cash floor will equal its 1994-95 level, with no adjustment for the increasing health care needs of Canadians, inflation or economic growth. 12 A five year $11.5 billion cumulative reinvestment in health care announced in 1999 and an additional one-time unearmarked investment of $2.5 billion in 2000 are a combination of increases to the CHST cash floor and one-time supplements. These CHST supplements, totalling $3.5 billion over three years starting in 1999 and $2.5 billion over four years starting in 2000 are not included in the CHST cash floor, nor are they intended to grow over time through an escalator. These multi-year supplements are charged to the preceding year’s budget. Once allocated and spent, the money is gone. These supplements are merely “tentative half-measures” and by no means a substitute for fostering short-, medium- and/or long-term planning. 12 The effect of the squeeze on public health care finance in Canada is clearly evident in international comparative perspective. During the 1980s and early 1990s, governments were fond of calling Canada the “silver medalist” in health expenditures as we were second only to the U.S. in terms of total per capita expenditures. As of 1998, however, Canada ranks fourth among OECD countries and much lower when we consider just the public component. In 1998, Canada ranked 8th with respect to public per capita spending (the “private system” U.S. ranked third and indeed recorded per capita public spending that was 13% higher than Canada). When public expenditure is considered as a percentage of total health expenditure, Canada was much closer to the bottom, ranking 23rd out of 30. 22 These rankings are not generally well-known and governments are generally not interested in getting this information out to Canadians. Demographics The issue of demography has been widely discussed in recent years and a variety of scenarios regarding the impact of the aging Canadian population has been presented. It was featured in the CMA (1982) report as one of two major pressures on the system, along with technology (see below). According to a 1998 Report of the Auditor General of Canada, the number of people 65 years of age and over is expected to more than double from 3.6 million in 1996 to almost 9 million by 2031. 23 The implication for health care is substantial. On average, per capita public spending on health for those aged 65 and over is almost five times greater than per capita spending on the rest of the population. 23 In our 2000 research, we identified four schools of thought: * The first, and the one that has probably received the greatest attention, posits that as a result of population aging, total health costs will increase significantly and will require an increased relative share of GDP. * The second argues that total health costs will increase, but only gradually, and this increase will be absorbed by GDP growth and reallocations from other sectors. * The third school believes that population aging will result in an increase in the demand for health care, but that we will be able to contain costs by delivering health care more efficiently. * The fourth school holds that the demand for health care will decrease because the future population, and in particular the future elderly population, will enjoy better health status. From the 2000 discussion paper it was evident that there is no clear consensus on the prospects for sustainability. 24 In July 2000, Ipsos-Reid polled the Canadian public on behalf of the CMA, with respect to their agreement on the likelihood that each school will play out over the next 20 years. The results are shown in Table 1 (with exact wording). 25 Clearly, Canadians are skeptical about our ability to sustain an affordable health care system. We share their concern. [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Table 1: Poll of Canadians’ Views School of thought % reporting agreement 1. Healthcare costs will rise sharply, thereby increasing demands for public funds for health care 45 2. Healthcare costs will rise gradually, the increase will be manageable due to growth in the economy 19 3. The demand for healthcare will increase but we will be able to contain costs by operating the healthcare system more efficiently 29 4. The demand for healthcare will decrease because the population will enjoy better health status 11 [TABLE END] A September 2001 OECD study has compiled the most recent projections of aging related to public expenditures over the 2000-2050 period, and in general, significant health care cost increases associated with population aging are expected. “The average increase over the 2000-2050 period for the 14 countries where this information is available is 3 to 3.5 percentage points of GDP. But for five countries (Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the United States), increases of 4 percentage points or more are projected.” 26 For Canada specifically, the study estimates that the 2000 level of 6.5% of GDP allocated for public health expenditures will increase to roughly 10.5% over the 2000-2050 period—more than the current GDP share of total health expenditures (9.3% in 2000). Similarly, according to a recent study by the Conference Board of Canada, “public health expenditures are projected to rise from 31% in 2000 to 42% by 2020 as a share of total provincial and territorial government revenues.” 27 This would clearly squeeze other categories of social spending and public expenditure. While to a certain degree these projection studies are intended to be “self-defeating prophecies”, in our judgement, when these are factored in to the overall context of what the demographic shift will mean for the aging workforce and social security generally, there is reason for profound concern. Health Technology Over the past few decades, technology has made a great contribution toward pushing back the frontiers of Medicare. Based on a 2001 survey of U.S. general internists of their assessment of 30 of the most significant innovations over the past 25 years, Fuchs and Sox reported that the most important innovation by a considerable margin is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) scanning. 28 The potential of CT and MRI technology for screening, diagnosis and the image-guided treatment of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases and cancer has been documented by Industry Canada’s Medical Imaging Technology Roadmap Steering Committee. 29 In terms of keeping pace with developments in technology, Canada is woefully behind other OECD countries for selected diagnostic and treatment technology, except for radiation therapy equipment (Table 2). 30 The CMA has estimated that, for the technologies listed in Table 2 (plus positron emission tomography, for which data are not available from the OECD), it would require an overall capital cost of $1 billion plus an operating cost of $0.74 billion (for a three-year period) to bring Canada up to the standard of access to medical technology of developed countries with a similar level of per capital income. [TABLE CONTENT DOES NOT DISPLAY PROPERLY. SEE PDF FOR PROPER DISPLAY] Table 2: Canada’s relative position among OECD countries with respect to selected medical technology, 1997 Canada OECD countries reporting Selected Technology Level; units per million pop. Rank No. of countries Avg. level; units per million pop. First rank; units per million pop. Computed tomography 8.1 12 15 12.7 24.9 Magnetic Resonance Imaging 1.7 11 13 3.7 8.4 Lithotripter 0.5 10 11 1.9 3.7 Radiation therapy 7 5 13 6.1 14.8 [TABLE END] The Canadian Coordinating Office for Health Technology (CCOHTA) has just completed a national inventory of several types of imaging equipment, which will form a useful basis for further discussion. If we relate the numbers of units to the July 2001 population 31, the only significant shift since 1997 has been in MRI scanners, where the rate has more than doubled to 3.6 units per million population – still below the 1997 OECD average of 3.7. The 2001 level of CT scanners of 9.7 per million is still significantly below the 1997 OECD average of 12.7, and there has been no change in the relative availability of lithotripters. 32 The September 10, 2000 10-point health accord that was concluded by First Ministers 33 did include a $1 billion fund to modernize technology, however, no accountability measures were attached to it and so a year later we really do not know how much of it has actually been spent on the purchase of new equipment that has been put into the service of patients. More generally, the Canadian Association of Radiologists (CAR) has expressed concerns about aging equipment that may be providing unreliable diagnostic information. 34 In summary, the CMA supports the efforts of CCOHTA to date, while suggesting that the introduction, diffusion and replacement of medical technology is still occurring across Canada in too haphazard a fashion. The need for better planning has been well put by the Industry Canada Committee, which stated that “The health-care system needs to develop budgetary tools and financial systems which permit and facilitate cost-effective technological innovation. Health-care funding, including capital cost amortization, needs to be stable and predictable, and independent of political uncertainties.” 29 5. CRISIS OF ACCOUNTABILITY . . . COOPERATIVE MECHANISMS Why is it that those who know the most about health and health care – practitioners – have the least opportunity to participate in the key decisions about health and health care? This is the key to re-establishing accountability in the system. We believe that the crisis of accountability is due in large measure to a profound problem in the governance of Canada’s health system. If we may define governance as the process of effective coordination when knowledge and power are distributed, there are at least three axes in Canada along which power and knowledge are distributed: a. between federal/provincial/territorial and regional authority/municipal levels of government/administration; b. along the east-west array of provinces and territories; and c. among a range of stakeholders, including government, non-governmental agencies (NGOs) and citizens. There has been a substantial and growing imbalance among these axes over the past decade; it seems that at any given time it is difficult to achieve concerted direction on more than one of them. For much of the past decade, the tension between the federal/provincial/territorial governments in relation to healthcare has been very pronounced. For example, the provinces and territories did not generally participate in the National Forum on Health. Conversely, when the provincial/territorial Health Ministers produced their 1997 Renewed Vision for Canada’s Health System (Conference of Provincial/Territorial Ministers of Health 1997), the report received very little attention at the federal level. 6 In both cases, the admonitions of the health care community went largely unheeded. While there has been progress along this front, as evidenced by the February 1999 Social Union Framework Agreement (Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat 1999) and the September 2000 health accord, this highlights a second problem. In general, governments have discounted the role that NGOs and citizens might play in policy-making and in promoting policy among its members. The recent federal/provincial/territorial agreements have been negotiated by government officials behind closed doors (executive federalism), and yet it is the providers and patients who are expected to implement and live with the results. This is in keeping with the lack of openness and transparency of the entire federal/provincial/territorial policy process. To highlight one problem that this has caused, the acute shortage of physicians in many places across Canada is due, in part, to the unilateral decision by Health Ministers in 1992 to reduce undergraduate medical enrolment by 10%. These problems are exacerbated by the rapid turnover of both Health Ministers and Deputy Ministers. Again, the admonitions of the health community went largely unheeded. Clearly, Canadians are unimpressed with the back and forth squabbling between levels of government. We believe this is partly reflected in the findings of our 2001 Report Card Survey. When asked to rate the federal government’s performance in dealing with health care in Canada, Canadians were six times as likely to give it a failing “F” grade (30%) than they were to give an excellent “A” grade (5%). Similarly, 35% of Canadians gave their provincial government an “F” grade while just 6% gave it an “A” grade. 19 If we are to achieve a vision for a sustainable Medicare program in the challenging decades ahead, it will be critical to resolve the imbalances along these axes. Governments must begin to work collaboratively with other stakeholders, including citizens. Prior to the Health Ministers meeting in September 2000, the Canadian Health Care Association, Canadian Nurses Association and the CMA put forward a proposal to them for a Council on Health System Renewal based on the principles of consultation and collaboration. 35 A year later we have yet to hear a response. Perhaps there may be lessons to learn from the Council of Ministers of Education, which has been meeting since 1967. While this Council does not include formal NGO representation, it does sponsor events such as a symposium that involve key stakeholders.36 PATHWAYS TO STABILIZING THE TRAUMATIZED PATIENT The traumatized patient of “Medicare” needs to be stabilized. The Health Accord (September 2000) goes part of the way. What remains is to set out some of the parameters of change that can ensure that we keep the best of what we have but also progress the system to address the challenges set out in the previous section. Five such parameters of change are set out below. 1. FOCUS ON THE “HOWS”(not just the “whats”) The health reform discussions of the 1990s in Canada have been dominated by questions of what we need to do, e.g. expand benefits to include pharmacare and home care. Discussions did not deal with the “hows”. When the “how” was considered at all, governments generally approached reform with a “big bang” approach. International experts have recognized that this is very unlikely to be successful when there are many stakeholders in a plurality of settings—which is certainly an apt depiction of the Canadian health care landscape. There is a clear need for a collaborative approach to “change management” that is based on early, ongoing and meaningful involvement of all key stakeholders. In approaching change management there are two important principles to keep in mind. The first is the need for evidenced-based decision-making. This is adapted from the concept of evidenced-based medicine, which stresses the examination of evidence from clinical research based on a range of quantitative and qualitative approaches. 37 The second would be to reaffirm the Canadian way of approaching change, namely: evolution not revolution. By this we mean that we should build on the best of what we have in the current Canadian system 2. ADOPT A VALUES-BASED APPROACH TO CHANGE After much discussion, the CMA is of the view that any proposed changes should be assessed in relation to a limited number of first principles. For the purposes of this paper, Medicare as we know it today consists of those services that are covered by the five program criteria of the Canada Health Act; essentially medically necessary services provided in hospitals and doctors’ offices. As we reflect on where we have come in Medicare and where Canada might go, as physicians we believe that the following first principles underpin any new and sustainable policy direction. * Patient-centered focus – reforms must focus on meeting the needs of the patient rather than the system * Inclusivity – to truly achieve buy-in to change all key stakeholders; payors, providers and patients; must be engaged in early, ongoing and meaningful consultation * Accountability – all stakeholders must assume some level of accountability for the health care system * Universality – we believe that health care must be available and accessible to all Canadians and that health resources should be allocated on the basis of relative medical need. We would underscore that Medicare is the last remaining universal program in Canada and needs to be preserved and protected. * Choice – one of the hallmarks of Medicare is that patients have the freedom to choose their physician, to switch with another physician and/or to seek a second opinion. We believe it is essential that the principle of choice between physicians and patients must be sustained. * Physician as Agent of the Patient – we believe that Medicare has promoted the concept of the physician as agent of the patient and that this must continue. * Quality – we believe that the Canadian health care system must continuously strive to provide quality care. By quality care we mean services that are evidenced-based, appropriate for patient needs and delivered in a manner that is timely, safe and effective. In summary, we believe that these principles can serve to guide the “modernization” of our health care system for the future, while at the same time building on the best of our current system. 3. STRIKING A BETTER BALANCE BETWEEN EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE As we contemplate the future of Medicare it is useful to begin by establishing a frame of reference for the Canadian system. Historically, Canada has distinguished itself in terms of health system design by essentially subsuming the demand side of the market (i.e. public financing) while leaving the supply side alone (e.g. fee-for-service payment methods). Canada has also chosen to provide everyone with first dollar coverage for a somewhat limited range of benefits (unlike our European counterparts). Accordingly, there are two broad dimensions that may be used to describe publicly financed or regulated health care systems in the developed or industrialized world: * Universality Dimension…Coverage of Everybody – the extent to which the public program covers the entire population over all health services; and * Comprehensiveness Dimension…Coverage of Everything – the range of services that are included in the public program and the extent of that coverage. An overall proxy measure of comprehensiveness is the share of total health expenditures that come from the public purse. From a national perspective, physician and hospital services are essentially both universal and comprehensive programs. The universality and comprehensiveness of other health services varies between the provinces and territories. With respect to comprehensiveness as it relates to the total health care system, the Canadian system comes in at 70% public coverage – an amount not dissimilar from most industrialized nations.22 Where Canada differs from other countries is in the distribution of that coverage. Canada has provided extensive public coverage in physician and hospital services (over 90% public payment), with less attention to other services such as home care and prescription drugs (e.g. less than 60% of prescription drug expenditures were public in 1998 38). Other countries tend to spread the extent of public coverage more evenly across the broad spectrum of health services. As we think of the future of Medicare, a key challenge will be to determine whether the uneven distribution of public coverage is a significant issue. It is the view of the CMA that this issue does require serious consideration for a number of reasons: * Canadians can point to the fact that the allocation of physician and hospital resources is predominantly based on patient need. This same principle, however, does not extend to patients whose condition requires access to other kinds of services – out-patient prescription drugs, community mental health care and home care being three examples where economic factors may play a greater role in access decisions. We must consider the equity issues of this dichotomy, acknowledging that there are practical constraints. * Where there are treatment alternatives, the lack of comprehensive coverage may lead to biases that increase costs. Physicians faced with decisions about separation from acute care facilities must factor in the availability of home care programs which are often less than adequate. Some drug treatments are simply outside the reach of many Canadian families, though this may be the most efficacious and cost-efficient route. * The problems cited above have been intensifying due to the changing nature of health service delivery, such as the movement of care to the community and the growth in drug therapies. * Canadian provinces do not all have the same ability to expand beyond physician and hospital services and there are no generally accepted principles to govern that expansion. As a result, there is a patchwork quilt of coverage across the country with widely varying services. If the Commission determines that a more comprehensive range of services is required, then the question will become how this can be achieved. There are several alternatives that can be considered, and there will be a need for new thinking. 4. GENERATE NEW THINKING In Canada, Medicare has been defined by five principles that, taken together, embody the collective value or sense that we are all in the same health lifeboat. Over the years the five program criteria or principles of the Canada Health Act (CHA) have been effective in preserving the publicly funded character of hospital and physician services, although there has been a growing crisis of access. The delivery of health care has been markedly transformed. Treatment methods provided today are often quite different from those provided in the past for the same conditions. This affects the extent to which their care is publicly insured, which is dependent upon how they are treated, who treats them, and where they are treated. During the past few years a number of questions have been raised about the values that underlie health care systems both in Canada and internationally. In the Canadian context we can think of the following three critical questions. First, what range of services should be covered by national principles? Second, are the five principles that currently apply to Medicare sufficient? Third, having defined a range of services whose provision is assured by a set of principles, how do we pay for them? One example of an attempt at new thinking may be seen in the 1995 report of the provincial/ territorial Ministerial Council on Social Policy Reform and Renewal which sets out 15 principles along four themes, namely that social programs must be accessible and serve the basic needs of all Canadians; reflect individual and collective responsibility; be affordable, effective and accountable; and be flexible, responsive and reasonably comparable across Canada. 39 In our view, this language promotes a flexibility of interpretation that reflects our modern diversity and allows for a realignment of priorities as they may change over time. To summarize, in our view the language and content of the principles put out over the past few years are a reflection of the following points: * the principles that have defined Medicare to date cover a declining share of the delivery of health care * the existing CHA principles are increasingly inadequate in respect of assuring Canadians a reasonable (i.e. timely) access to medically necessary services * internationally, it appears that there is a move to adopt guiding principles that cover a broader range of the continuum of care and which rebalance individual and collective responsibility in some measure. We have grown complacent while the rest of the world has experimented. Indeed, to some extent our national health insurance system has forced out innovation. On the other hand, because provinces are reasonably autonomous regarding health, we have had the benefit of interprovincial comparisons. We are also on the leading edge of both a health information and a bio-technological revolution that is going to fundamentally change the practice of medicine and the nature of the patient-physician relationship. We will need to promote flexibility and adaptability in an era of diversity and rapid change. 5. RECOGNIZE THAT BETTER MANAGEMENT (WHILE NECESSARY) WILL NOT BE SUFFICIENT Up to the present, the reports of the federal and provincial/territorial task forces and commissions since the 1980s have concluded that we can manage our way out of the sustainability crisis by introducing a series of supply side measures to control costs. In Canada, these initiatives have included the wave of regionalization (and rationalization), physician controls and numerous proposals for primary care reform. The multi-faceted crisis that we are now experiencing is clear evidence of the inadequacy of these strategies. We suspect that many in the health policy community continue to believe that major efficiency gains remain to be squeezed out of the system. After four consecutive years of negative real growth in public sector health spending (1992 to 1996 inclusive) 38, the CMA cannot accept the premise that working harder or smarter is going to solve the problems of the system. Strategic reinvestments in health are clearly required. We do not believe that we can simply manage our way out of this crisis. Physicians have supported many innovations such as the implementation of clinical practice guidelines and have participated in primary care reform demonstration projects. Improved efficiency alone, however, cannot meet the demands we expect to see in the future. The system must be properly resourced on a predictable basis. NEXT STEPS … There is no “magic bullet” or quick fix that will put our national health program on a sustainable footing and restore Canadians’ confidence in it. Working harder to make the current system work better will not be sufficient. While there are still gains to be made from efficiencies and integration, we cannot simply manage our way out of this problem. It is time for fundamental change. We should not be discouraged from pressing on with this daunting challenge; it is imperative that we begin to act immediately. This brief sets out the variety of pressures that render the current health system unsustainable. It also sets out a value-based policy framework that can help guide future deliberations and point us to policies that can help address the rising concerns among both providers and Canadian health consumers. The brief is not intended to be all-encompassing. Various other medical organizations will be making representations to the Commission. The CMA encourages the Commission to seriously consider the complementary briefs submitted by our sister organizations. The CMA intends to submit its final recommendations, building on this framework, in the spring of 2002. This second brief will again be the product of our extensive set of discussions with the profession. REFERENCES 1 Barer M, Stoddart G. Toward Integrated Medical Resource Policies for Canada. Winnipeg: Manitoba Health; 1991. 2 Shortt S. The doctor dilemma: public policy and the changing role of physicians under Ontario Medicare (Chapter 3). Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press; 1999. 3 Tyrrell L, Dauphinee D. Task force on physician supply in Canada. Ottawa: Canadian Medical Forum; 1999. 4 Slight rise in Canada’s physician supply, more specialists and fewer family physicians, reports Canadian Institute for Health Information. Ottawa: Canadian Institute for Health Information; Aug. 9, 2001. [Media release] [http://www.cihi.ca/medrls/09aug2001.shtml] 5 National Health Service. Making the change: a strategy for the professions in healthcare science. London: Department of Health; 2001. [http://www.doh.gov.uk/makingthechange/index.htm] 6 A renewed vision for Canada’s health system. Provincial/Territorial Ministers of Health; Jan. 1997. 7 Prime Minister announces formation of Task Force on Modernizing Human Resources Management in the Public Service [press release]. Ottawa: Prime Minister of Canada; Apr. 3, 2001. [http://pm.gc.ca/default.asp?Language=E&Page=newsroom&Sub=newsreleases&Doc=managementtaskforce. 20010403_e.htm] 8 Listening for direction: a national consultation on health services and policy issues. Ottawa: Canadian Health Services Research Foundation; 2001. 9 Buske L. Additional undergraduate, postgraduate and reentry positions announced since summer 1999. Ottawa: CMA Research Directorate; July 16, 2001. 10 Sim P. Report of the 1999 survey of medical students. London: University of Western Ontario; 1999. 11 Human Resources Development Canada Studies in Progress. http://www.hrdc-drhc.gc.ca//hrib/hrib/hrp-prh/ssd-des/english/projects/projects.shtml. Accessed May 1, 2001. 12 On the road to recovery…an action plan for the Federal Government to revitalize Canada’s health care system. Ottawa: Canadian Medical Association; Sept. 2000. 13 Specialty care in Canada: issue identification and policy challenges. Ottawa: Canadian Medical Association; 2001. 14 2001 Physician resource questionnaire. Ottawa: Canadian Medical Association; 2001. 15 Blendon R, Schoen C, Donelan K, Osborn R, DesRoches CM, Scoles K, et al. Physicians’ views on quality of care: a five-country comparison. Health Aff 2001;20(3):233-243. 16 Commitment and care: the benefits of a healthy workforce for nurses, their patients and the system. Canadian Health Services Foundation, The Change Foundation; 2001. 17 Public dialogue sessions 2001: Planning a full recovery—voices, values & vision. Ottawa: Canadian Medical Association; 2001 18 Wright J. The public domain: current public opinion attitudes and expectations on Canada’s healthcare system. (presentation). Vancouver: Ipsos Reid Group; May 15, 2000. 19 National report card on health care 2001. Ottawa: Canadian Medical Association; 2001. 20 2000 Physician resource questionnaire. Ottawa: Canadian Medical Association; 2000. 21 Bird R, Fraser R. Commentaries on the Hall Report. Toronto: Ontario Economic Council; 1981. 22 Health data 2001. Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; 2001. 23 Population aging and information for parliament: understanding the choices (chapter 6). In Report of the Auditor General of Canada. Ottawa: Office of the Auditor General of Canada; April 1998. 24 In search of sustainability: prospects for Canada’s health care system. Ottawa: CMA; 2001. 25 Canadians call for funding and multi-stakeholder involvement to cure health care ills. Ottawa: CMA; Aug. 13, 2000. [http://www.cma.ca/advocacy/news/2000/08-13.htm]. 26 Dang T, Antolin P, Oxley H. Fiscal implications of ageing: projections of age-related spending. Paris: OECD; Sep. 5, 2001. 27 The future cost of health care in Canada: balancing affordability and sustainability. Ottawa: The Conference Board of Canada; 2001. 28 Fuchs V, Sox H. Physicians’ views of the relative importance of thirty medical innovations. Health Aff 2001; 20(5):30-42. 29 Medical Imaging Technology Roadmap Steering Committee. Future needs for medical imaging in health care. Ottawa: Industry Canada; 2000. 30 Health data 1999. Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; 1999. 31 Statistics Canada. Latest Indicators; Oct. 24, 2001. [http://www.statcan.ca/start.html]. 32National Inventory of Selected Imaging Equipment. Ottawa: Canadian Coordinating Office for Health Technology; 2001. [http://www.ccohta.ca/newweb/imaging_equip/imaging_equip.htm]. 33 First Ministers’ meeting: communiqué on health. Ottawa: Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat; Sep. 11, 2000. [http://www.scics.ca/cinfo00/800038004_e.html]. 34 Radiology in crisis: majority of equipment dangerously outdated. Montreal: Canadian Association of Radiologists; Sep. 28, 2000. [http://www.car.ca/press/equipment.htm]. 35 Barrett P. Letter to Hon. Allan Rock and Hon. David Chomiak. Ottawa: CMA; Sept. 25, 2000. 36 About the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada. Toronto: CMEC; 2000 [http://www.cmec.ca] 37 Evidence-Based Working Group. Evidence-based medicine: a new approach to teaching the practice of medicine. JAMA 1992; 268(4): 2420-2425. 38 National health expenditure trends 1975-2000. Ottawa: Canadian Institute for Health Information; 2000. 39 Report to Premiers. Ottawa: Ministerial Council on Social Policy Reform and Renewal; 1995.
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Joint Submission to the Subcommittee on Sport-Related Concussions in Canada House of Commons Standing Committee on Health

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy14080
Date
2019-01-29
Topics
Health care and patient safety
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2019-01-29
Topics
Health care and patient safety
Text
Based on a well-established collaboration addressing concussion, the Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine (CASEM) the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC), and the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) are pleased to submit this brief to the Subcommittee on Sport-Related Concussions (SCSC) of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health. About the Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine (CASEM) CASEM is a physician member-based organization comprised of 850 medical doctors from many specialties who have specialized training and skills in sport and exercise related injuries/illnesses for active patients of all ages and abilities, including concussion care. CASEM physicians hold national and international leadership roles in concussion care. Namely, at the national level, CASEM chairs the Canadian Concussion Collaborative (CCC) and at the international level, several CASEM members played leadership roles in the development of the International Consensus Statements on Concussion in Sport which is the key document that establishes concussion management recommendation every 4 years. About the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) The CFPC is the professional organization that represents more than 38,000 family physician members across the country. The College establishes the standards for, and accredits, postgraduate family medicine training for Canada’s 17 medical schools. It reviews and certifies continuing professional development programs, and materials, that enable family physicians to meet certification and licensing requirements. The CFPC provides high-quality services, supports family medicine teaching and research, and advocates on behalf of family physicians and the specialty of family medicine. About the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) The Canadian Medical Association unites 85,000 physicians on national health and medical matters. Formed in Quebec City in 1867, the CMA’s rich history of advocacy led to some of Canada’s most important health policy changes. As we look to the future, the CMA will focus on advocating for a healthy population and a vibrant profession. Along with CASEM, the CMA is a co-founding member of the CCC. 3 KEY KEY THEMESTHEMES AND RECOMMENDATIONSAND RECOMMENDATIONS: In this brief, CASEM, CFPC, and the CMA submit a series of recommendations under two key themes. Taken as a whole, we believe these will help inform the Subcommittee’s study on how to improve concussion awareness, prevention and treatment for all Canadians. Background information regarding the groups and initiatives mentioned in the key themes and recommendations, is provided in the subsequent part of this document. KEY THEME #1: The impacts of concussion and the benefits of awareness efforts are slowly becoming better known at the higher levels of sport participation that received support for the implementation of proper concussion management strategies (namely through the Canadian Concussion Protocol Harmonization Project). Further efforts and government funding should address the issue at all levels of sport participation. This must include school-based sport programs, and concussion occurring in other contexts (e.g. leisure, occupation, etc.). RECOMMENDATIONS related to key theme #1: #1.1 The federal government should commission and fund the development and evaluation of additional efforts to improve awareness and proper management of concussion at all levels of sport participation and contexts where concussions occur in Canada. #1.2 Since “key aspects of concussion prevention, detection and management occur prior to, as well as after, the initial medical intervention”1, “public health strategies should be developed and implemented to address the issue of concussions.”1 #1.3 Given their competencies and expertise in this area, “family physicians2 and sport and exercise medicine (SEM) physicians should play a central role in the design and implementation of strategies that work in conjunction with families, schools, sports organizations, employers and governments to educate, support and empower the implementation of proper concussion prevention, detection and management protocols.”1 #1.4 Any future effort to improve concussion awareness and management should, whenever possible, be evidenced-informed, and aim for synergy with ongoing Canadian initiatives. #1.5 Innovative dissemination strategies that have the potential to reach all levels of sport participation and contexts where concussions occur should be considered and evaluated (e.g. massive open online course or MOOC 3). 1 The Role of Family Physicians and physicians with Added Competencies in Sport and Exercise Medicine in a Public Health Approach to Concussions. A joint position statement of CASEM, CFPC, and the CMA. 2017 https://www.cfpc.ca/ProjectAssets/Templates/Resource.aspx?id=4319&langType=4105 2 This is not meant to exclude the possible role of other health care disciplines, such as nurse practitioners, that can be involved in the diagnosis and medical management of concussions in some Canadian jurisdictions. 3 https://www.ulaval.ca/les-etudes/mooc-formation-en-ligne-ouverte-a-tous/commotion-cerebrale-prevention-detection-et-gestion-dans-mon-milieu.html 4 KEY THEME #2: For the majority of Canadians affected by a concussion, family physicians play a central role in concussion identification and management through the recovery process. However, where persistent concussion symptoms arise, family physicians and their patients require timely access to SEM physicians, and multidisciplinary care for the development and implementation of individualized treatment plans. As it presently stands, access to such expert medical and multidisciplinary resources for concussion is very limited (especially in rural and remote regions). To complicate matters, Canadians affected by a concussion are all too often uncertain how best to navigate a health care system that isn’t well organized to address their unique needs. RECOMMENDATIONS related to key theme #2: #2.1 Medical schools and organizations should maintain continuous efforts aiming for the rapid integration of the most current clinical practice recommendations about concussion. #2.2 Initial care for Canadians affected by a concussion should be coordinated by the patient’s family physician. #2.3 To work in collaboration with their family physicians, patients affected by persistent symptoms following a concussion should have timely access to medical experts on concussion and allied professionals with expertise in concussion management. #2.4 The potential of telemedicine strategies or other virtual network to improve access to concussion experts for support in the management of concussion should be considered and evaluated. BACKGROUNDBACKGROUND:: The challenging dynamics of concussion: Sport-related concussion seriously impacts the health and well-being of Canadians across the country; to say nothing of the costs to the health care system and concussed individuals. Canadian statistics show that among children and youth (10-18 years) who visit an emergency department for a sports-related head injury, 39% were diagnosed with concussions, while a further 24% were possible concussions.4 Between 2003 and 2013 in Ontario, a 4.4-fold increase of pediatric concussion-related consultations has been observed, with a sharp increase between 2010 and 2013 and nearly 35000 visits in 2013.5 Although, the precise reasons for this increased incidence of concussion are unknown, the study suggests that “…concussion education and awareness, improved diagnosis of 4 https://www.canada.ca/en/canadian-heritage/services/concussions.html 5 Zemek et al. J Pediatr 2017; 181: 222-8 (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jpeds.2016.10.067) 5 concussion, and revised concussion guidelines advocating stricter follow-up…” played an important role. The body of knowledge regarding concussion is rapidly and constantly changing; a dynamic that is unlikely to change for the foreseeable future. One important limitation of our knowledge about concussion is the lack of information on the true burden of concussion in Canada. A significant proportion of all concussions are not captured by traditional health-related databases, or clinical research, because individuals often do not consult a physician. One positive and recent development that will help better understand the true burden of sport related concussion in youth occurred in November 2018 when a group of more than 30 Canadian researchers including CASEM and CFPC leaders on concussion received $12 million from the National Football League “Play Smart, Play Safe” initiative.6 This 3-year longitudinal cohort study will evaluate diagnostic tools, prognostic indicators, prevention strategies, and treatment strategies. This study will characterize the true incidence rate and recovery characteristics of concussion in high school-based sport settings. Psychological and social factors must also be considered. Attitudes and awareness towards injury are complicating factors that highlight the need for improved concussion prevention and awareness. These include injury minimization, the lack of a visible injury, and a general lack of both pre and post-injury awareness. Those closely associated with a concussed individual (coaches, co-workers, employers, or an injured individual themselves) may have an incentive, or experience pressure, to hide/downplay injury or avoid medical assessment due to stigma.7 The natural human predilection towards downplaying the nature of injury is another important factor to consider, especially where, post-injury, the effects aren’t clearly visible. A concussed individual may lack the mental acuity to be able to understand that their symptoms require medical attention. Another area to consider is the availability of qualified health care resources. Family physicians, whether in primary care settings or emergency departments, and SEM physicians, are generally the first medical professionals seen by a person who has sustained a concussion during a sport, leisure or occupational activity. They are the first point of contact for proper management, advice, and education regarding that person’s gradual return to cognitive (e.g. school and work) and physical activities (e.g. sport, exercise or work).8 Gaps in medical training, and the fast-paced evolution of concussion best practices, means that clinicians sometimes struggle to maintain up-to-date knowledge regarding the detection and treatment of concussions. These factors are further complicated by ambiguous scopes of practice across the multidisciplinary professions involved 6 https://www.ucalgary.ca/utoday/issue/2018-11-16/nfl-gives-significant-funding-help-youth-shred-burden-concussion 7 Delaney J, Caron J, Correa J, et al. Why Professional Football Players Choose not to Reveal their Concussion Symptoms During a Practice or Game. Clin J Sport Med, 2018, 28(1): 1-12. 8 College of Family Physicians of Canada & Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise. Joint Position Statement - The Role of Family Physicians and Physicians with Added Competencies in Sport and Exercise Medicine in a Public Health Approach to Concussions. 2017. 6 with concussion management. Finally, there is general lack of available medical experts on concussion to whom family physicians can refer patients that present persistent symptoms. Our recommendations also take into consideration the following factors:
The simple principles of initial concussion management6-8 are within the scope of practice of family physicians.
In the vast majority (80-90%) of cases, once simple principles of initial management have been implemented, concussion is a condition that will evolve favorably within 7-10 days.8
Even with proper initial management, some concussion patients will present with persistent symptoms that require a multidisciplinary team approach.
“Persistent symptoms” has been defined as more than 4 weeks in youth and more than 2 weeks in adults.9
Access to physicians with added competencies in concussion care (e.g. SEM Physicians, Physiatrists, Neurologists), and allied health professionals with experience in treating specific presentations of concussions is limited, especially in Canada’s rural and remote areas. CASEM & CFPC’s concussion efforts to date: Since 2012, CASEM has played a key role in the evolution of concussion care in Canada by leading the work of the CCC10. The CCC is composed of 18 health organizations concerned with concussions that aim “to improve education about concussions, and the implementation of best practices for the prevention and management of concussions”. The CFPC has been involved with the CCC from the start. In 2015, the CCC published 2 key recommendations in a document entitled “Recommendations for policy development regarding sport-related concussion prevention and management in Canada”11 that state:
Organizations responsible for operating, regulating or planning sport and sporting events with a risk of concussion should be required to develop/adapt and implement a concussion management protocol, based on current best practices, that is customized for their context and available resources.
In situations where timely and sufficient availability of medical resources qualified for concussion management is lacking, multidisciplinary collaborative approaches should be used to improve concussion management outcomes while facilitating access to medical resources where appropriate. Since 2015, the CCC has contributed a multidisciplinary health care perspective to key concussion-related initiatives in Canada. The first of these initiatives was initiated in January 2015 by Sport Canada and led to the creation of a Federal-Provincial-Territorial working group (FTP-WG) on 9 McCrory et al. Consensus statement on concussion in sport. (2017) https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/51/11/838 10 https://casem-acmse.org/resources/canadian-concussion-collaborative/ 11 https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/49/2/88 7 concussion that brings together sport, education, government and health stakeholders. Later in 2015, the mandate letters from Prime Minister Trudeau asked the Minister of Health and the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities to collaborate on a national strategy on concussion. The Federal government budgeted $1.4 million to allow the Public Health Agency of Canada to work with provinces and territories to develop harmonized concussion management guidelines across Canada.12 Most of that work has been accomplished by funding to Parachute for the development of the Canadian guideline on concussion in sport.13 Members of the CCC and concussion leaders from the CFPC and CASEM were closely involved. Since 2016, one of the CASEM and CFPC leaders on concussion developed a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) to develop general awareness on concussion and facilitate the implementation of proper concussion management protocols in specific settings. After 4 iterations of that French language MOOC, over 8000 participants have accessed it. Presently an English version is being developed in collaboration between Laval University and the University of Calgary. In August 2017, CASEM and CFPC, published a joint position statement entitled “The role of family physicians and physicians with added competencies in sport and exercise medicine in a public health approach to concussions”14 that is directly related to the recommendations presented in this brief. Finally, since mid-2018, CASEM and CFPC have partnered with the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) to completely revamp the CMA’s policy on Head Injury in Sport. To foster high-level advocacy, cultural sensitivity, and awareness messaging on concussion, it has been redeveloped for a host of target audiences from all relevant perspectives. It is set for release in early 2019. CONCLUSIONCONCLUSION: Concussion is a pressing public health issue in Canada. The members of the SCSC should keep in mind that concussions are not limited to higher level organized sport. It’s a sudden, and unwanted challenge that hundreds of unsuspecting and unprepared Canadians face each day. These concussions occur in a range of situations, inside and outside of sports settings, and often go untreated; with a potential for tragic consequences. To truly address the issue and make progress towards the objectives expressed by Prime Minister Trudeau in the mandate letters, the Government of Canada must provide significant investments. To make progress across the spectrum of sports, leisure and other context where concussions 12 https://www.budget.gc.ca/2016/docs/plan/ch5-en.html 13 The Canadian guideline on concussion in sport was part of the Parachute-led Concussion Protocol Harmonization Project. 14 https://www.cfpc.ca/ProjectAssets/Templates/Resource.aspx?id=4319&langType=4105 8 occur, the Government funding should minimally represent a 10-fold increase from the initial $1.4M budgeted in 2016. With their respective membership, tools and resources, CASEM and the CFPC can play an important role in addressing the burden that concussions place on Canadians. With this brief, we are expressing the willingness of our organizations to collaborate with the government in the design and implementation of strategies to systemically address concussion from all causes as a public health issue. To be successful this must occur across all levels of sport participation and include: leisure, school-based sports, occupational activities and address the rural and remote areas of the country. On behalf of CASEM, and the CFPC, we would welcome the opportunity, and privilege, to present and discuss these recommendations with your Committee. Respectfully submitted, Dr. Paul Watson CASEM President Dr. Pierre Fremont Chair of the CFPC’s SEM Committee and Past President of CASEM Dr.Tatiana Jevremovic Past President of CASEM Dr. Gigi Osler CMA President Contacts: Dawn Haworth, Executive Director, CASEM dhaworth@casem-acmse.org 613 748 5851 – ext 1 Artem Safarov, Director of Health Policy and Government Relations, CFPC asafarov@cfpc.ca 905-629-0900 x 249
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Presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance Pre-Budget Consultations : Securing Our Future . . . Balancing Urgent Health Care Needs of Today With The Important Challenges of Tomorrow

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy2013
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2001-11-01
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Health human resources
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2020-02-29
Date
2001-11-01
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Health human resources
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) values the open, constructive and ongoing dialogue afforded by the Standing Committee on Finance’s Pre-Budget Consultations process. As a society, it is essential that we make every effort to work together to find lasting solutions to what are a series of complex and interdependent policy issues, especially during these turbulent times. Last August, the Committee set out objectives for this year’s consultations. You asked for advice on how to ensure that Canada remains a major player in the New Economy while providing Canadians with equal opportunities to succeed and create a socio-economic environment where they can enjoy the best quality of life and standard of living. However, world events have intervened and the urgent has crowded out the important. The CMA has suspended, for the most part, what we consider important longer term issues in an effort to do our part in helping guide the government’s deliberations in this time of national need. We support the government’s commitments, to date, in response to the events of September 11 and their aftermath. We are cognizant of the economic forecasts that show a slowing economy as a result and the need to re-focus our national attention on security issues. The overriding challenge for this Committee therefore, will be to develop recommendations for the next budget that address the current and future situation with respect to national security without losing sight of internal needs such as pursuing the innovations necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of our health care system. Indeed, we see the latter as supporting the former. The CMA is committed to working closely with the federal government to ensure that Canada’s health care system can respond to immediate health security challenges. Our members are committed to continuing to ensure that Canadians’ confidence is restored by developing and implementing policy initiatives that serve to strengthen Canadians’ access to quality health care when they need it. To this end and building on our efforts since September 11, the CMA has put together a to meet these objectives. Specifically, the CMA has examined and developed recommendations that address national preparedness in terms of security, health and capacity; the capacity of our health human workforce in addressing current and future demands; and a look beyond the urgent to the necessary, in the form of a proposed process to review tax policy in support of health policy. II. PREPAREDNESS Health and Security The events of September 11, 2001 have had a profound impact on the lives of Canadians. Anxiety over the openness of our borders, the safety of our airlines and our vulnerability to attacks filled the media and our conversations in the days following the tragedies in the United States. A Canadian Ipsos Reid Express survey taken for the Canadian Medical Association October 23-25, 2001 indicated that 31% of respondents report ongoing sadness, anger, disturbed sleep, or are overprotective of their children. 1 This confirms what our members are telling us, based on everyday practice. A GPC International survey indicates that three-quarters of Canadians have a moderate to strong fear that the US-led anti-terrorist campaign will lead to Canada being a possible terrorist target. 2 An earlier Canadian Ipsos Reid Express survey taken October 1, 2001 shows that the attacks have risen to the top of the list of issues (73%) that should receive the greatest attention among our leaders. 3 Social issues, including health, are the second rated (49%) concern among Canadians. The Canadian Medical Association’s response following the terrorist attack was immediate and is ongoing. Working through and with our provincial/territorial Divisions and Affiliates, the Association began collecting names of those physicians willing to offer assistance to US agencies dealing with the tragedy should it have been requested. As well, we spearheaded the development of the Canadian Mental Health Support Network (www.cma.ca/cmhsn), which includes Health Canada and twelve other national health associations, to help Canadians and Canada’s health professionals cope with the mental health aftermath of the attack. The work of this network continues in terms of a series of public security announcements to be released very soon and in terms of ensuring that the information available through health professionals is clear, concise and consistent. We also provided continuous updated advice to Canadian doctors about bioterrorist threats. In the early days of the anthrax scare, before Health Canada had materials available for the public, hundreds of calls for information to 1-800-OCanada were referred daily by Health Canada to the CMA. However, there is an aspect of this issue requiring urgent attention given the current environment. It is the ability of our health system to respond to a disaster, be it a terrorist attack, a natural disaster or a large scale accident. As the Canadian Medical Association and others have documented, the people and the infrastructure of our system is already stretched in its capacity to deal with everyday demands. We have seen that emergency rooms across this country can barely cope with the increased demands brought on by the annual flu season. The system is already operating at or beyond capacity. Devastation approaching the scale of September 11 has not been seen in Canada since December 6, 1917 with the Halifax explosion. While no health system can ever be fully prepared to meet such a staggering level of destruction, it must have the confidence, the resources and, the disaster planning and referral systems to rise to the challenge if Canadians are to be reassured that help will be there if and when they need it. Public Health and Safety The challenge – if and when it comes – will require a local response that is supported nationally. To appreciate the scope of the work necessary to prepare the health system for the threats brought by terrorism it will be useful to understand the challenges currently facing public health in Canada. We have long enjoyed the benefits of a solid public health system through the various health protections, health promotion, and disease prevention and control programs created to maintain and improve the health of the population. The essential role of the medical officer of health in the public health system must be acknowledged, supported, and respected. Their credibility provides the community and health care professionals, particularly physicians, with balance and specialized medical expertise on public health matters. When the board of health is performing its mandated duties successfully, few are even aware that it is at work. Yet when a public health crisis strikes, the community expects rapid, knowledgeable, expert and quality attention to matters. But it can only do that if there is a strong infrastructure in place to meet the challenge. A clear and present danger is the emergence of new diseases or the re-appearance of old ones. An editorial in the April 27, 2000 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine expresses concern about the ability of public health infrastructures to cope with this problem without the resources needed to respond. 4 Increased trade, rising migration rates, and changes in the environment have led to worries over the revival of diseases thought to be under control or near extinction (e.g., human plague, tuberculosis and malaria) and even the recognition of some new “bugs”. The need to be vigilant about the re-emergence of infectious diseases was brought home to governments with a large outbreak of human plague in India in 1994. 5 Out of 876 cases reported, characterized as presumptive plague, 56 were fatal. A large outbreak of Ebola in Zaire in 1995 led to as many as 233 people dying from the disease and further strengthened the case for devoting resources to this problem. 6 West Nile Virus The New York City area got a first-hand look at this problem in 1999 with the appearance of the West Nile virus in North America. As the New York Times reported, it may have come in the blood of a traveler returning from Africa or Europe. 7 It may have arrived in an infected bird smuggled in baggage or even in a mosquito that got onto a jet. In spite of efforts to contain the disease, it has now begun to spread through the eastern portion of the continent, as far north as southern Ontario and as deep as Florida. Tuberculosis Tuberculosis remains one of the world’s two deadliest infections and it is feared to be on the verge of a major comeback. The disease kills 1.5 million to 2 million people a year, almost as many as AIDS. Experts say that toll could increase in the coming years because TB bacteria are evolving dangerous new strains that are increasingly drug-resistant. 8 Health Canada reports that there have been some cases (and deaths) in Canada of multiple drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) strains. 9 Only Newfoundland, PEI and the territories have not had cases of drug-resistant TB. Latvia and Russia are considered “hot spots” in the world for MDR-TB. However, one in three reported isolates in New York City in recent years was MDR-TB. As well, highly resistant strains spread from New York to Florida, Nevada, Georgia and Colorado in less than two years. Malaria The World Health Organization estimates that one million die from malaria a year and 90% of those deaths are Africans (2500 African children under five die from malaria each day). 10 The disease seems to be dying back in other continents but growing stronger across Africa. The WHO report on infectious diseases describes malaria as having the power to “overwhelm a young child causing high fever, convulsions and breathing difficulties. With the onset of cerebral malaria the child lapses into a coma and may die within 24 hours.” 11 AIDS According to the WHO, there are over 33 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS. 12 The hardest hit area is sub-Saharan Africa where one in four of the adult population has HIV/AIDS. In South Africa, 10% of the population is now infected with HIV. 13 The problem among pregnant women is worse, with 22% infected with HIV. In May, 2000, the US National Security Council declared that the spread of AIDS across the world is a threat to national security. 14 The concern, like many of the infectious diseases, is that eventually it will overwhelm the ability of governments to cope with the disease. The US government has sought to double to $254 million to combat AIDS overseas. Readiness Post-September 11 The tragic events of September 11 provided a grim reminder of the necessity of having a strong public health infrastructure in place at all times. As was demonstrated quite vividly that day, we do not have the luxury of time to prepare for these events. While it is not possible to plan for every contingency, certain scenarios can be sketched out and prepared for. To succeed, all communities must maintain a certain consistent level of public health infrastructure to ensure that all Canadian residents are protected from threats to their health. These are only some of the external threats. The Canadian public health system must also cope with domestic issues such as diseases created by environmental problems (e.g., asthma), sexually transmitted diseases, and influenza, among many others. Even before the spectre of bioterrorism this country’s public health experts were concerned about the infrastructure’s ability to deal with multiple crises. There are many vacancies among the public health physician and nursing staffs, particularly in rural and northern Canada as well as the First Nations units. This workforce is also aging and efforts to attract and retain staff have been lagging. The announcement of October 18, 2001 by the federal government of a $11.59 million investment was welcome news to Canadians in the aftermath of September 11. It provided for the “basics” in terms of stockpiling of necessary antibiotics, the purchase of sensor and detection equipment to help respond to radio-nuclear incidents, enhancing a laboratory network to better equip them to detect biological agents, and provide training to front-line health care professionals to help them recognize, diagnose and treat suspicious illnesses. However, far more needs to be done to improve our ability to respond to health and security contingencies of all kinds. The Walkerton water crisis is an example of the difficulties often faced by public health officials. Without the full resources (legislative, physical, financial, human) to do the job properly, the health of Canadians is potentially jeopardized. The Ontario Medical Association emphasized this point in its brief to the Walkerton Inquiry: “Unstable and insufficient resources hamper the Ontario public health system. Steps must be taken by the provincial government to enhance the ability of boards of health to deliver public health programs and services that promote and protect health and prevent disease and injury. Sufficient and reliable public health funding is critical.” 15 The CMA reinforced that message in a resolution passed at its 2001 Annual General Meeting: “That CMA recommend all levels of government across Canada urgently review legislation governing all aspects of drinking water from source to consumption to ensure that comprehensive programs are in place and being properly implemented, with effective linkages to local, provincial and territorial public health officials and Ministries of Health.” In a recent broadcast in the United States, Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention laid out seven priority areas for building capacity and preparedness within a public health system: 16 * A well trained, well staffed public health workforce * Laboratory capacity to produce timely and accurate results for diagnosis and investigation * Epidemiology and surveillance to rapidly detect health threats * Secure, accessible information systems to help analyze and interpret health data * Solid communication to ensure a secure two-way flow of information * Effective policy evaluation capability * A preparedness and response capability which includes a response plan and testing and maintaining a high state of preparedness These points apply whether the threat is a natural disaster or a terrorist attack. Public health must be ready for all such threats. And, at present, we are told, that responding to a crisis like Walkerton or North Battleford, not to mention the possibility of co-ordinated bioterrorism, effectively results in public health units shutting down many core programs that are the building blocks of the health care system. As the long shadow of bioterrorism rises over Canada and menaces our health and wellbeing, these issues take on even more significance to Canadians. This Committee must do its part to provide for an “act locally by thinking nationally” with regard to public health support systems. The Current Context As noted above, prior planning and preparation is one of the keys to ameliorating the effects of such sudden and calamitous occurrences. It must be remembered that a catastrophic event of the nature that occurred on September 11 is a local event in that it happens within the jurisdiction of a specific municipality. The quality and level of the response depends on how well prepared the local authorities are for such actions. The local capacity to respond varies across Canada with some area health services (e.g., the larger urban centres) better prepared and equipped than others (there may be jurisdictions that do not have plans). Regardless of how well prepared any municipality is there is always the very strong possibility that public health officials will be overwhelmed and need to turn to the province or territory for help. It is also possible that the event is so massive that even the provincial or territorial resources are besieged and it must call on the federal government with their stockpiles of medical supplies and access to epidemiologists and laboratory services. That assumes good planning before hand between the federal and provincial/territorial governments and that is not necessarily the case. There is an important role for the federal government to urgently improve the coordination among authorities and reduce the variability among the various response plans in cooperation with provincial authorities (and assist those in preparing plans where none exist). Health Canada must help facilitate efforts to rationalize preparations and make it easier for jurisdictions to assist one another in a time of disaster. This could include measures such as transferring patients quickly to facilities outside the affected area when the immediate hospitals are full or even to transferring them to other provinces or territories if necessary. Disease surveillance is another component of these measures. To be effective there must be, at the provincial and territorial level, linked electronic surveillance mechanisms that are standardized and the staff available to analyze and report the data. At the federal level, the government must be ready to provide data in a timely fashion, especially in an emergency. However, very few of Canada’s doctors will have seen the disease entities that threaten Canadians at the moment (e.g., anthrax, smallpox). The CMA has expressed its willingness to assist Health Canada in bringing together stakeholders to develop quickly a curriculum that would train health care professionals to recognize, diagnose and treat the new threats we face as a society. The government must also aid in the development of volunteer teams of health professionals and other experts that can be mobilized rapidly in response to disasters wherever and whenever they occur. The concept would be similar to the military's Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART). 17 DART consists of medical, engineering, logistics, communications and security personnel ready to deploy at short notice to anywhere in the world from their support base at Canadian Forces Base Trenton. It is crucial, that the federal government build and maintain its supplies for emergency use, its public health laboratories for early detection, its capacity to rapidly train and inform frontline health workers of emerging threats, its ability to assist the provinces and territories, and co-ordinate provincial responses in the event of overwhelming or multiple simultaneous threats. In this area, the CMA recommends that: 1. The federal government immediately provide a minimum of $15 million for an assistance fund to municipal and provincial authorities to improve the co-ordination of their emergency responses among public health officials, police, fire and ambulance services, hospitals and other services. This fund should be over and above a similar sized investment to ensure that Health Canada’s Centre for Emergency Preparedness can function even only at a minimal level of effectiveness. The announcement of October 18 by the Minister of Health that $11.59 million would be spent to enhance our response to a potential attack is an important step toward reassuring Canadians that help will be there when they need it. However, far more must be done to further expand the federal government’s ability to assist municipalities, provinces and territories in dealing with disasters. The vital role played by disease surveillance cannot be stressed enough. In the event of an unusual or particularly feared illness, or an outbreak of a preventable disease, the public’s attention can quickly focus on the public health unit’s response. The medical officer of health communicates with physicians (specialists and, general and family practices physicians) in the community. Physicians, especially general and family practice physicians, depend upon their medical officers of health and the health units as an important resource. This includes information on contact tracing, interpretation of unusual clinical symptomatology, vaccination, communicable disease control, outbreak control, environmental health, cluster investigation, epidemiology, travel medicine etc. An effective and efficient surveillance system must be in place in order to provide this data quickly to stop the spread of a disease as fast as possible. Unfortunately, a weak link in the existing surveillance system is communications. This has had an impact on health professionals’ ability to receive timely information regarding changes in disease incidence in their community. Regional, provincial/territorial and federal authorities must work to improve the coordination of communications at all levels to protect the health and wellbeing of Canadians in times of crisis. The CMA recommends that: 2. The federal government continue to invest, at a minimum, $25 million in the coming year in the resources and infrastructure (i.e., medical supplies, equipment, laboratory facilities, and training for health care professionals), needed to anticipate and respond to disasters. The sale of Connaught Laboratories meant that Canada lost much its residual capacity to manufacture vaccines. If this were a “normal” war, Canadians would be looking to divert our manufacturing capacity toward meeting the threat. Given the biological threat, the Government of Canada should be negotiating with the pharmaceutical industry to increase our capacity to produce a secure supply of vaccine on Canadian soil. This would include the need for more than one supplier and the capacity to increase quickly the production of the vaccine. The CMA recommends that: 3. That the federal government undertake an immediate review of Canada’s self-sufficiency in terms of critical medical supplies (e.g., vaccines) required in the event of disasters with a view to short term self sufficiency. Surge Capacity Among the first points of contact with the health system for Canadians in the event of a significant attack on our population it will be the doctors offices and the emergency rooms of our hospitals. As noted earlier, we have witnessed in recent years the enormous strain these facilities can be placed under when even something quite routine like influenza strikes a community hard. The media abounded with stories of patients waiting hours to be examined, of stretchers lining corridors and of ambulances being redirected from hospital to hospital. Canadians themselves experienced first-hand how the resources of the hospitals, particularly the human resources, were stretched to the breaking point. The acute care occupancy rates of Ontario public hospitals across the Ontario Hospital Association regions in 1999-00 illustrate this point. In three of the five regions (Eastern Ontario, Central and South West) the occupancy rate ranged from 94% to 97% 18. The highest rate was found in the very heavily populated Central region. A British Medical Journal study suggests that an occupancy rate over 90% indicates that the hospital system is in a regular bed crisis 19. This problem is not unique to Ontario: “the decrease in the number of acute care beds across Canada over the past decade, coupled with an aging population and our extraordinary success in extending the survival of patients with significant chronic illness, has eliminated any cushion in bed occupancy in the hospital system.” 20 With this in mind, picture a catastrophe similar in scale to the destruction seen in New York or Washington D.C. occurring in downtown Toronto, Vancouver or Montréal; or perhaps the release of smallpox or botulism over Fredericton or Winnipeg. As noted earlier, the public health system and medical diagnostic and treatment systems in the community and hospitals could become overwhelmed very quickly without the ability to absorb the extra caseload. Like our hydro system, that is why surge capacity must be built into the system nationally to enable hospitals to open beds, purchase more supplies, and bring in the health care professionals it requires to meet the need. An element of surge capacity that is seriously lacking is the federal government’s contribution to emergency bed space. With the closure of most of the Canadian Force’s hospitals and the severe loss of experienced health professionals in the military, the government’s ability to assist local and provincial/territorial civilian authorities should their systems become overwhelmed is limited. Currently the National Emergency Stockpile System can supply up to 40,000 cots, as well as medical supplies and relatively rudimentary hospital equipment. Reports indicate, however, that much of the equipment is decades old, and that protocols for logistical management (e.g., transport and rapid deployment) are outdated. There is an urgent need to reassess and reaffirm capacity in this context. The CMA is in close contact with the American Medical Association as they advise their government on coordinating the use of civilian and federal facilities in an emergency. Most hospitals work on a just-in-time inventory basis for the purchase of drugs. Without some sort of plan to quickly re-supply their pharmacies and expand their capacity, patient care will suffer. The federal government must assure Canadians that municipal and provincial plans are in place with an overarching national plan to support these jurisdictions if their service capacities are overwhelmed. As mentioned earlier, the announcement by the federal government of the $11.59 million investment to enhance our response to a potential attack is a good step. But the government must help further by making available an emergency fund that would enable hospitals to plan and organize their surge capacity. The CMA recommends: 4. The federal government provide, in the coming year, $25 million in specific earmarked funding to the provinces and territories to enable health care facilities to plan, build and maintain surge capacity (e.g., open more beds, purchase emergency supplies) into their systems. The purpose of having such elaborate response plans and stockpiles of supplies and equipment is to be ready for the possibility that, in spite of all efforts to prevent a catastrophe from occurring, it nevertheless happens. That is when responsibility for dealing with the aftermath of the event falls largely to the public health system where a strong and viable infrastructure must already be in place to meet the challenge. Without the resources and the preparations, the crisis might well deteriorate and spread beyond “ground-zero.” That notion is often very difficult for non-health sector agencies and organizations to appreciate and can be an impediment to improving our capacity to help Canadians in times of disaster. No one can be completely prepared but you can prepare for certain scenarios. That is where the federal government can facilitate the health system’s readiness and reassure Canadians that help will be there when they need it. The federal government has taken several steps to reassure Canadians that their physical safety is enhanced. This includes the introduction of the Anti-Terrorism Act and the development of an Anti-Terrorism Plan. As well, there is increased funding to the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service and the Communications Security Establishment to help those agencies do their jobs more effectively. The health system must be considered an integral component of any plan to combat terrorism. It too requires assistance, especially the public health infrastructure, in strengthening its ability to counter the effects of an attack, whomever or whatever is responsible. III. THE CAPACITY OF OUR HEALTH HUMAN WORKFORCE Although the right mix of physical infrastructure and sustainable, long-term funding is necessary, in and of itself, it is not sufficient to ensure that all Canadians have timely access to quality medical services. We must also have an adequate supply of physicians and other health personnel or the system will not have the flexibility or adaptability to respond to basic societal needs or a crisis in times of disaster. We believe that the health workforce in general is facing a major sustainability challenge, and as such, this section of the brief proposes initiatives that are not solely focused on physicians but the entire health human workforce. Reports produced by several health professional organizations show that although overall numbers may be increasing, it is not sufficient to meet future demands. In 2000, there was a moderate 1.7% increase in the nurse population 21; however, a 1997 Canadian Nurses Association report projected that the supply of nurses must grow by 2.1% per year to meet future demand. 22 Similarly, the number of physicians per 100,000 population appears to be increasing slightly each year (187 in 2000), but it remains below the 1993 level of 191 per 100,000 population. The physician to population ratio can be misleading in that it does not necessarily represent full time physicians. CMA figures show that a larger proportion of physicians fall into the older age groups and may not be working full time or indeed may not be providing patient care at all. Also, one needs to factor in the demographics of the current physician workforce. Female physicians, who tend to work fewer hours per week than their male colleagues, now represent 30% of the practising pool. This means that more physicians will be needed to provide the same number of services. But this may not be possible, as approximately two-thirds of all family physicians are no longer routinely accepting new patients. 23 This is placing considerable pressure on those currently working within the health care system with little hope for relief. For example, data gathered through the CMA’s annual Physician Resource Questionnaire (PRQ) substantiates anecdotal evidence that physicians are working harder. Over half the respondents to the 2001 PRQ (53.7%) indicated that their workload had increased over the past year. Looking at specific areas that have caused physicians the greatest degree of stress, 63.7% indicated that their workload is heavier than they would like (up from 62% in 1998), while 58.1% felt that their family and personal life had suffered from choosing medicine as a profession (up from 55% in 1998). There are a number of short-term and longer term initiatives that can be implemented to reverse the shortage in our health care personnel and alleviate the stress they are feeling from trying to keep the system operating as best it can. What follows is a description of the short-term initiative the CMA is proposing for consideration by the Standing Committee. For a detailed description of the longer term initiatives and recommendations, please refer to Appendix A. What Can be Done Today? Given the immediate need for more physicians and other health professionals in Canada and the time lag involved in training, especially for physicians, the CMA proposes that a variation on the strategy adopted by the Canadian Forces (CF) 24 be used to repatriate physicians and other professionals. The CF announced the implementation of a Medical and Dental Direct Entry Officer Recruitment Allowance effective April 1, 1999 to recruit licensed family physicians, general practitioners and dentists. Recruitment incentives involve a lump-sum signing bonus/recruitment allowance of $80,000 per direct entry medical officer and $25,000 per direct entry dental officer after a successful completion of 3 months of basic officer training. The commitment is for a duration of 4 years and retention incentives involve an adjustment to medical and dental rates of pay that are competitive with private sector net earnings. The CMA concurs with the concept of an incentive program as proposed by the CF and suggests that a similar approach be implemented for recruiting and retaining Canadian physicians and other health care professionals currently practising outside of Canada. Presently there are some 10,500 Canadian physicians practicing in the US as well as tens of thousands of Canadian nurses. Of these physicians, close to 1,000 are considered active physicians both in Canada and the US. 25 Some of these physicians are no doubt practising in border towns where dual licensure is common, but many may be expatriates who have maintained their licensure in Canada hopefully with plans to either return or at least leave their future options open. Rather than proposing a lump sum approach as an incentive the CMA proposes that the incentive come through graduated federal income tax relief by reducing federal income tax payable by 50% for 3 years for Canadian physicians and health care professionals who return to practice in Canada. Such an approach provides direct relief and over a period of 3 years would provide incentives similar in size to those proposed by the CF in their recruitment and retention program. It is estimated that such a program would cost approximately $45 million over 3 years to repatriate an estimated 5% or 500 physicians back to Canada. If repatriation of other health care providers were included then it is estimated that the total cost of such an initiative could increase to $85 million over 3 years. The CMA therefore recommends: 5. That the federal government seriously consider implementing a 3-year graduated tax relief and re-allocation policy to encourage expatriate physicians and other health professionals to return to Canada. IV. TAX POLICY IN SUPPORT OF HEALTH POLICY The federal government has played a key role in the development of our health care system, primarily through a variety of measures or policy levers such as: spending; taxation; regulation; and information. Up until now, Canada’s health care system has made extensive use of only two federal policy levers, namely spending, in the form of cost-sharing arrangements between the federal and provincial/territorial governments; and by regulation, through the Canada Health Act. However, the degree to which the government can continue to rely on these levers must be examined. In the not-too-distant future, our health care system will face a number of pressures that will challenge its sustainability. Namely, an aging and more demanding population in terms of the specialty care services and technology they will seek; the cry for expanding the scope of medicare coverage to include homecare and pharmacare; and a shortage of health personnel. Several national health care studies, namely the Prime Minister’s Forum on Health and more recently, the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology’s Study of the Health Care System have raised the need to look at alternative health care funding sources. We can not and should not wait any longer to explore and act upon the options available to us. Looking at Alternatives One of the lesser-explored options has been the strategic use of Canada’s taxation system. A public discussion of tax policy has not been seen in Canada since at least 1966. 26 Nor have we seen a major assessment of tax policy in relation to social policy since the 1980’s Macdonald Commission. In fact, the last major overall tax policy review was that of Benson in 1971. There is an urgent need to more fully consider the role that the tax system can play in supporting the health care system. Several proposals have been put forward over time in this areas, such as earmarked taxes for health; health-related excise taxes; input tax credits for health care services; medical savings accounts; saving for long-term care; social insurance; and refundable tax credits. This list is not exhaustive. In fact, the CMA has done some preliminary work in this area by commissioning a discussion paper on taxation and health policy. 27 In the paper, the author puts forth 10 “real world” proposals where the tax system can be used to support health policy. The CMA has initiated detailed discussion with Health Canada, Statistics Canada and others to model some of the possible scenarios. Of course, some of these are more promising than others. It is for this reason that the CMA is recommending the federal government to establish a National Task Force to review the tax system with the purpose of developing innovative tax-based mechanisms that better synchronize tax policy with health policy. In this area, the CMA recommends: 6. That the Federal Government establish a blue ribbon National Task Force to study the development of innovative tax-based mechanisms to better synchronize tax policy and health policy. First and foremost this Task Force would study: a) increasing the reach of the medical expense deduction (i.e., increasing the threshold from the current 3% of taxable expenditures) b) extending the medical expense deduction from a non-refundable tax credit to a refundable tax credit so that those not having income tax payable are afforded easier access to those services not covered under universal health “programs” c) dealing with the untoward inequities arising out of the application of the GST. The CMA envisions the mandate of the Task Force as being – to conduct a thorough policy and costing analysis of all potential tax-based mechanisms (not limited to those outlined in the above recommendations) that can be developed to assist in the financing and management of the health care system. The Task Force would be comprised of representatives from government, the health care system, private sector, and the public and it would issue its findings and recommendations within 2 years of its conception. V. SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS In closing, the CMA has offered a powerful and strategic combination of policy initiatives designed to re-vitalize Canada’s health care system as well as to restore Canadians’ confidence that they will be taken care of in times of disaster. The proposals are realistic and practical. They give the provinces and territories full flexibility in terms of policy implementation while ensuring full recognition to the federal government for its essential investments. These proposals emphasize the need for the federal government to continue its leadership to ensure that our health care system, Canada’s most cherished social program, is available to meet the health care needs of all Canadians. No one group can address all of the issues and challenges facing the health care system. The CMA reiterates its commitment to work with the federal government and others to ensure that our health care system will be there for all Canadians in the future and in times of crisis. The Summary of Recommendations is as follows: 1. The federal government immediately provide a minimum of $15 million for an assistance fund to municipal and provincial authorities to improve the co-ordination of their emergency responses among public health officials, police, fire and ambulance services, hospitals and other services. 2. The federal government continue to invest, at a minimum, $25 million in the coming year in the resources and infrastructure (i.e., medical supplies, equipment, laboratory facilities, and training for health care professionals), needed to anticipate and respond to disasters. 3. That the federal government undertake an immediate review of Canada’s self-sufficiency in terms of critical medical supplies (e.g., vaccines) required in the event of disasters with a view to short term self sufficiency. 4. The federal government provide, in the coming year, $25 million in specific earmarked funding to the provinces and territories to enable health care facilities to plan, build and maintain surge capacity (e.g., open more beds, purchase emergency supplies) into their systems. 5. That the federal government seriously consider implementing a 3-year graduated tax relief and re-allocation policy to encourage expatriate physicians and other health professionals to return to Canada. 6. That the Federal Government establish a blue ribbon National Task Force to study the development of innovative tax-based mechanisms to better synchronize tax policy and health policy. First and foremost this Task Force would study: a) increasing the reach of the medical expense deduction (i.e., increasing the threshold from the current 3% of taxable expenditures) b) extending the medical expense deduction from a non-refundable tax credit to a refundable tax credit so that those not having income tax payable are afforded easier access to those services not covered under universal health “programs” c) dealing with the untoward inequities arising out of the application of the GST. APPENDIX A The Capacity of Our Health Human Workforce Looking to the Future There are some signs that governments have begun to acknowledge that we are in a sustained shortage situation. In November 1999, several health ministers met with members of the Canadian Medical Forum Task Force on Physician Supply in Canada which recommended 2000 first year medical school places for 2000. Since then, governments have been very active in committing to increases in both undergraduate and postgraduate medical training. Enrolment of new medical students in 2000/2001 reached 1763 for an increase of 12% since 1997/98. This closely matches the promised increases to undergraduate enrolment made by governments. Approximately 140 more positions have been promised for the school years beginning 2001 and 2002. In this area, the CMA recommends that: 7. That the federal government immediately establish a Health Human Resources Education and Training Fund in the amount of $500 million per year for 5 years to fund: (1) increased enrolment in undergraduate and postgraduate education; and (2) the expanded infrastructure (both human and physical resources) required at Canada’s 16 health science centres as a result of increased enrolment. While the outlook for the future supply of physicians in Canada seems brighter, it will be quite a few years before we can benefit from the current increases in undergraduate enrolment. These initiatives must not only continue, but be enhanced to ensure that our health care system is sustainable into the future. However, there is one factor that may keep us from attaining the optimal level of medical school enrolment – high and rising medical school tuition fees. In August 2000, at the Conference of Premiers, Prime Minister Chretien said, “It is indeed important in the new knowledge-based economy that Canadians … have access to high quality post-secondary education without excessive debt loads, and that every child get the best possible start in life. This is all part of the Canadian competitive advantage.” 28 This sounds well and good, but the facts tell us otherwise. Since 1980, medical school tuition costs have increased by almost 880%, or more than twice as fast as the general cost of living. 29 The average tuition for students entering first year medical school in September 2001 was $12,840, a 158% increase over the 1997 average fee of $4,977. This means that over the course of four years, an undergraduate medical student is likely to spend approximately $110,000 in tuition, academic and living expenses. 30 Many students have had to resort to bank loans to cover the shortfall from their government-sponsored student loan, but the growing amount of debt accumulating for medical students is starting to worry the banks. The CIBC says that rising medical education costs have resulted in debt loads growing much faster than medical students’ potential income and so, it will no longer grant medical students preferred lending rates. The CIBC sets limits on the amount of debt that they feel students can repay in the years following their training. Unfortunately, medical students are now reaching these limits – which are in the $100,000 - $130,000 range. 31 Unlike the government-sponsored loans, interest on bank loans begin accruing immediately, up to a decade before a medical student starts earning a full income. This trend raises serious concerns that access to medical education will be restricted solely on the basis of personal financial resources. High debt loads will discourage capable and qualified students – particularly those from modest financial backgrounds – from applying to medical school. Canada’s health care system needs individuals from different socio-economic, cultural, rural and urban backgrounds to serve an equally diverse population of patients. First and foremost, the government must address the situation concerning the high and rising tuition fees and the insufficient financial support systems available to medical students. It must also consider purchasing additional training positions in Canada’s medical schools specifically targeted for groups, such as Aboriginal, Indian and Inuit populations. These measures will foster the education and training of a diverse population of health care givers, and will support the culturally and socially sensitive health care needs of all Canadians. The CMA sees a strong role for the federal government in ensuring that medicine remains a rewarding and affordable career accessible to students based on their passion and academic performance, not their financial status. The CMA therefore recommends: 8. That, in order to alleviate some of the pressures driving tuition fee increases, the federal government increase transfer payments to the provinces/territories with targeted amounts for post-secondary education. 9. That the federal government create and fund a national health services student bursary program to encourage students who have limited financial resources to apply for an education in health care services. 10. That the federal government develop financial support systems for health services students that are: (a) non-coercive; (b) developed concomitantly or in advance of any tuition increase; (c) in direct proportion to any tuition fee increase; and (d) provided at levels that meet the needs of the students. 11. That the federal government purchase additional training slots in Canadian medical schools for particular segments of our population, such as aboriginals. REFERENCES 1 Canadian Ipsos Reid Express. Terrorist Effect. October 23-25, 2001. 2 GPC International. Canadians split on the best response to the terrorist attacks and fear reprisals at home. Media Release October 18, 2001. www.gpcinternational.com/media/releases/20011018.html 3 Canadian Ipsos Reid Express. The Public Agenda Post September 11, 2001. October 1, 2001 4 Osterholm M. Emerging infections – another warning. NEJM 2000; 342(17) http://www.nejm.org/content/2000/0342/0017/1280.asp. 5 World Health Organization. Plague Manual – Epidemiology, Distribution, Surveillance and Control. The Organization: 1999. http://www.who.int/emc-documents/plague/docs/whocdscsredc992a.pdf 6 Sanchez A. et al. Reemergence of Ebola virus in Africa. Emerging Infectious Diseases Vol. 1(3); July-September 1995. http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/eid/vol1no3/sanchez.htm. 7 Revkin A. Mosquito virus exposes the hole in the safety net. New York Times Oct. 4, 1999. http://www.nytimes.com/library/national/regional/100499ny-pest.html 8Okie S. Tuberculosis is threatening to make a comeback. International Herald Tribune Aug. 11, 1999. http://www.iht.com/IHT/TODAY/WED/IN/tb.2.htm 9 Health Canada. When anti-tuberculosis drugs don’t work. Tuberculosis Epi Update January 2000. http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hpb/lcdc/bah/epi/tbdrug_e.html. 10 BBC News Online. Africa confronts malaria. Apr. 25, 2000. http://www.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/africa/newsid_724000/724445.stm 11World Health Organization. World Health Organization Report on Infectious Diseases – Removing Obstacles to Healthy Development. Geneva: The Organization, 1999. http://www.who.int/infectious-disease-report/pages/textonly.html 12 Ibid. 13 BBC News Online. South Africa AIDS crisis worsens. Apr. 19, 2000. http://www.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/health/newsid_719000/719183.stm 14 Richwine L. US declares AIDS a threat to security. National Post May 1, 2000 A1. 15 Ontario Medical Association. Ontario Medical Association Input to Walkerton Inquiry Part II: Protecting the Public’s Health. Toronto. April 2001 16 Koplan JP. Building Infrastructure to Protect the Public’s Health. Public Health Training Network Broadcast September 21, 2001 (Downloaded from Web: October 19, 2001 www.phppo.cdc.gov/documents/KoplanASTHO.pdf ) 17 Dept. of National Defence. Canadian Forces Disaster Assistance Relief Team. BG-99-051 (Amended) October 10, 2001. (Downloaded from Web: October 25, 2001 [www.dnd.ca/eng/archive/2001/oct01/28DART_b_e.htm] 18 Ontario Hospital Reporting System, 2001. Acute Care Occupancy Rates, Ontario Public Hospitals by OHA region, 1999/00. Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. 19 Bagust A, Place M, Posnett J. Dynamics of bed use in accommodating emergency admissions: stochastic simulation model. BMJ; 319: 155-158 July 17, 1999. 20 Nicolle L. Viruses without borders. Can J Infect Dis Vol. 11, Issue 3, May/June 2000 (Downloaded from Web: October 23, 2001: www.pulsus.com/Infdis/11_03/nico_ed.htm) 21 CIHI. Canadian Institute for Health Information Reports Moderate Rise in Register Nurses Workforce, Fewer RNs Working on Casual Basis, More Working Full-time, Media Release, May 23, 2001. 22 Canadian Medical Association. Specialty Care In Canada: Issue Identification and Policy Challenges, October 2001. 23 Canadian NewsWire. Not enough family-physicians to meet patient needs, October 25, 2001 [www.cnw.ca/releases/October2001/25/c0304.html] 24 Incentive Programs for the Recruitment and Retention of Medical and Dental Officers, http://www.dnd.ca/eng/archive/1999/jul99/05DocIncen_b_e.htm 25 Based on a linkage done by Canadian Institute for Health Information of data from Southam Medical Data Base and the America Medical Association’s Masterfile. 26 Carter K. Royal Commission on Taxation, Canada, 1966. 27 Thompson A. Taxation and Health Policy: A Discussion Paper, August 2001. 28 Letter from Prime Minister Jean Chretien to the Honorable Gary Doer, Premier of Manitoba, Chair, Conference of Premiers, August 4, 2000. 29 Ontario Medical Association. Medical Education Fact Sheet, 2001. 30 Admissions/Student and Equity Affairs, Faculty of Medicine, University of Western Ontario. Budgeting Guide for Medical Students: 1999-2000. 31 Banks no longer banking on earning potential of medical students, Canadian Medical Association Journal, June 12, 2001; 164(12) 1735
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Protecting the national blood supply from the West Nile Virus : CMA Submission to House of Commons Standing Committee on Health

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1964
Last Reviewed
2010-02-27
Date
2003-02-19
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health care and patient safety
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2010-02-27
Date
2003-02-19
Topics
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Health care and patient safety
Text
INTRODUCTION On behalf of its more than 54,000 members, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is pleased to provide the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health with recommendations in regard to protecting the national blood supply from the West Nile Virus (WNV). As physicians, we understand both the perceived and actual risks associated with blood-borne diseases and the impact on individuals, families and communities. BACKGROUND WNV has emerged in North America, presenting a threat to public, animal and equine health. The most serious human manifestation of WNV infection is fatal encephalitis (inflammation of the brain). WNV is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito and can infect people, many types of birds, horses and some other animals. Most people who become infected with WNV will have either no symptoms or only mild ones. However, on rare occasions, WNV infection can result in severe and sometimes fatal illnesses. Certain people, including seniors, the young and those with weak immune systems, are at greater risk for serious health effects. In 2002, West Nile Virus was documented in five provinces (Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec and Saskatchewan). Further to this, the United States Centre for Disease Control and Prevention reported the first documented cases of person-to-person West Nile Virus transmission through organ transplantation, blood and blood product transfusion and possibly breastfeeding. It is imperative that the risk associated with the transmission of West Nile Virus through blood transfusions be minimized. We understand that the Canadian Blood Services (CBS) is working towards a validated laboratory test which may be available by the next mosquito season and that in the absence of this test there are a number of contingency plans. It appears that the CBS and Hema Quebec are maintaining vigilance and maximizing efforts towards controlling contamination through blood. This is commendable. We believe that these efforts are one component of what is required to maintain the health and safety of Canadians from the spread of known and emerging diseases. A second component is to ensure that communication about WNV to the public is accurate, timely and consistent. Effective risk communication is imperative not only to promote a safe blood supply, but also to manage risk perception associated with a positive test for WNV. A comprehensive approach is required to protect the public from emerging health problems such as the WNV. A strong public health infrastructure is necessary to ensure that governments are able to protect and promote health and to prevent illness. This involves prevention, early detection, containment, communication and information dissemination. STRENGTHENING PUBLIC HEALTH Through its public health infrastructure, society protects and promotes health and works to prevent illness, injury and disability. In today’s world these public health functions require an increasingly specialized and well-trained workforce; sophisticated surveillance, monitoring and information systems; and adequate and continuously available laboratory support. Its ultimate effectiveness, however, depends upon the ability of the system to communicate crucial information and health advice to the right professionals in real time, when they need it. The devastating impact of the failure to effectively communicate essential information is evident in examples as diverse, yet dramatic, as the tragedy of Walkerton and the untimely death of Vanessa Young. In both cases the information health professionals needed to make optimum decisions was not accessible in a reliable and timely manner. Reports indicate that across this country public health workers are stretched to the limit to perform routine work. The public health infrastructure is put to the test further whenever there is a disaster, large or small, in Canada and, not withstanding best efforts, it does not always pass. The public health system is also challenged by the potential for a disconnect in communications between differing jurisdictions that may be found when, for example, First Nations communities under federal jurisdiction overlap areas of provincial/territorial jurisdiction. In the aftermath of 9/11 and the anthrax scare in the United States, Canadians must be assured of a rapid, knowledgeable, expert response to emergency public health challenges. Commissioner Roy Romanow suggests in the recent report of the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care that “a portion of the proposed new Primary Health Care Transfer should be targeted to expanding efforts by provinces and territories to prevent illnesses and injuries, promote good health, and integrate those activities with primary health care.” The Fifth Report of the Senate Committee on Science, Technology and Social Affairs, chaired by Senator Kirby, notes that “The major problem with public health programs is that funding is low, and usually unstable or inconsistent. As a result, the public health infrastructure in Canada is under considerable stress and has deteriorated substantially in recent years.” The Senate Committee recommended that the federal government, “ensure strong leadership and provide additional funding of $200 million to sustain, better coordinate and integrate the public health infrastructure in Canada as well as relevant health promotion efforts.” During the First Ministers’ meeting in September 2000, the First Ministers committed to strengthening their investments and commitments to public health, including the development of strategies and policies that recognize the determinants of health, enhance disease prevention and improve public health. They made several commitments towards achieving the goal, including: * Promoting those public services, programs and policies that extend beyond care and treatment and which make a critical contribution to the health and wellness of Canadians; * Addressing key priorities for health care renewal and supporting innovations to meet the current and emerging needs of Canadians; * Reporting regularly to Canadians on health status, health outcomes, and the performance of publicly funded health services, and the actions taken to improve these services. In 1999, the Auditor General found Health Canada unprepared to fulfill its responsibilities in public health; communication between multiple agencies was poor and weaknesses in the key surveillance system impeded the effective monitoring of communicable and noncommunicable diseases and injuries. In 1997, Justice Horace Krever reported that the “public health departments in many parts of Canada do not have sufficient resources to carry out their duties.” RECOMMENDATIONS The capacity of the public health care sector to deliver disease prevention and health promotion programs in Canada is currently inadequate, and its ability to respond varies from coast to coast. This is due to a lack of trained professionals and a lack of operational funds. Enhanced commitments are needed from governments at all levels to ensure that adequate human resources and infrastructure are in place to respond to public health issues when they arise. This includes the expansion of the public health training programs to enhance the resources in this field. The ability of the public health system to respond to these issues has a direct impact on the wellbeing of the people of Canada in a manner as important as the ability of the acute care system to respond to medical emergencies. Therefore the CMA recommends that: The federal government invest in human resources and infrastructure needed to develop an adequate and effective public health system capable of responding to emerging public health issues. The public health system is complex and multifactorial. It is therefore imperative that different departments and sectors coordinate and communicate effectively to coordinate efforts and avoid duplication. The development of an adequate surveillance system and consideration of mandatory reporting of WNV infections in humans is one component of this requirement. In addition to collecting these data, a more extensive communication and dissemination plan should be developed to enhance the impact of skilled professionals, programs and policies. Responsible messaging should be developed in a timely manner, for the public and for individuals who are detected to have (or previously had) a WNV infection. Such messaging must carefully balance public awareness of risk against threats to the CBS/Hema Quebec donor pool and the creation of anxiety in people who need to use blood or blood products. It is essential that the federal government take a leadership role to ensure that the communication tools and information technology necessary to enable a more rapid and informed response to situations such as identification of emerging diseases in the blood supply, natural disasters, disease outbreaks, newly discovered adverse drug reactions, and man-made disasters or bio-terrorism are accessible in real time in all regions of the country. In its pre budget submission, the CMA called on the government to strengthen the public health system to ensure that governments are able to protect and promote health and to prevent illness. This involves the detection of emerging health problems, like West Nile Virus transmission, as well as containment, communication and information dissemination. Therefore the CMA recommends that: The federal government provide a one-time infusion of $30 million for the creation of a R.R.E.A.L (Rapid, Reliable, Effective, Accessible and Linked) Health Communication and Coordination Initiative which would strengthen Canada’s public health infrastructure and enhance coordination and communication amongst all levels of government, public health officials, health educators, community service providers, physicians and organizations such as the Canadian Blood Service/Hema Quebec, Canadian Public Health Association and the Canadian Medical Association.
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The Right Drugs, at the Right Times, for the Right Prices: Toward a Prescription Drug Policy for Canada : CMA Presentation to House of Commons Standing Committee on Health

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1955
Last Reviewed
2011-03-05
Date
2003-11-06
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Population health/ health equity/ public health
  2 documents  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2011-03-05
Date
2003-11-06
Topics
Pharmaceuticals/ prescribing/ cannabis/ marijuana/ drugs
Population health/ health equity/ public health
Text
Every year, three hundred million prescriptions – about 10 for every man, woman and child – are filled in Canada. Prescription drugs have benefited both the health of Canadians, and the health care system itself; they have meant dramatically improved quality of life for many Canadians, and have saved the country a great deal in hospitalization, social benefits and other expenses. However, it could be questioned whether all of Canada’s prescription drug use is appropriate; patients may be receiving too few medications, too many medications or suboptimal medications for their conditions. In addition, prescription drugs carry a price tag of their own. Since 1975, expenditures on prescription medication have risen faster than any other category in the health sector in Canada, and more is now spent on prescription drugs than on physician services. Governments, health care providers, drug manufacturers and the public must constantly strive to ensure that Canadians receive optimal and appropriate prescription drug therapy: the right drugs, at the right times, for the right prices. A considered, coherent, comprehensive, “made in Canada” approach to prescription drug policy should: * Put the health of the patient first; * Promote and enhance quality prescribing; * Respect, sustain and enhance the therapeutic relationship between patients and health professionals; * Promote patient compliance with drug therapy; * Respect the principles of patient confidentiality and the privacy of patient and prescriber information. Prescription drug policy in Canada should address: Access: to * efficacious new drugs within an appropriate time; * coverage for medically necessary drugs for catastrophic care; * generic drugs at reasonable prices; * a patient/physician consultation as part of the prescribing process; * continued research and development capacity in Canada. Information for health care providers and the public that is balanced and accurate. Safety: through mechanisms for the systematic monitoring of prescription drugs and their effects. Canada’s doctors are committed to working with others to ensure that Canadians receive the right drugs, at the right times, for the right prices. Summary of CMA Recommendations: 1. That the federal government implement a timely and efficient drug review process to reduce review times to a level at or better than that in other OECD countries. 2. That the pharmaceutical industry give priority to research and development on drugs and delivery mechanisms that demonstrate a substantial improvement over products already on the market. 3. That Health Canada apply a priority review process to all drugs that demonstrate a substantial improvement over products already on the market. 4. That governments and insurance providers conduct research to identify the current gaps in prescription drug coverage for all Canadians, and develop policy options for providing this coverage, including consideration of the roles of public and private payers. 5. That the federal government monitor and, if necessary, regulate the export of prescription medications to ensure their continued availability to Canadians. 6. That prescribing of medication be done within the context of the therapeutic relationship which exists between the patient and the physician. 7. That brand-specific direct to consumer prescription drug advertising (DTCA) not be permitted in Canada. 8. That the federal government enforce the existing restrictions on DTCA found in the Food and Drug Act to the full extent of the law. 9. That the federal government develop and fund a comprehensive program to provide accurate, unbiased prescription drug information to patients. 10. That all stakeholders join in supporting and encouraging outcome-based research to ascertain best practices in prescribing. 11. That government accelerate activities to establish the Patient Safety Institute using a systems approach to support a culture of safety. 12. That a post-marketing surveillance system be implemented to monitor the ongoing safety of marketed drugs. PURPOSE The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) has prepared this submission for the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health’s review of prescription drugs in Canada. We applaud this review and welcome the opportunity to present the views of Canada’s medical community. Our vision is simple: that all Canadians should receive, if appropriate, the right drugs for their conditions, at the right times, for the right prices. Governments, health care providers, drug manufacturers and the public should all work together to develop a “made in Canada” prescription drug policy to realize this vision. This policy must be considered, coherent and comprehensive, and should: * Put the health of the patient first; * Promote and enhance quality prescribing; * Respect, sustain and enhance the therapeutic relationship between patients and health professionals; * Promote patient compliance with drug therapy; * Respect the principles of patient confidentiality and the privacy of patient and prescriber information. In developing this policy we consider it particularly important to address the issues of: Access to quality health care In this context, the CMA’s vision of a National Access Strategy includes appropriate access to * efficacious new drugs within an appropriate time, * coverage for medically necessary drugs for catastrophic care, * generic drugs at reasonable prices, * a patient/physician consultation as part of the prescribing process, * continued research and development capacity in Canada. * Information for health care providers and the public that is balanced and accurate. * Safety: through mechanisms for the systematic monitoring of prescription drugs and their effects. Canada’s doctors look forward to working with others to realize our vision. In this submission we will discuss the steps that the CMA recommends be taken. INTRODUCTION The value of prescription medications Prescription drugs play an important role in preventing and treating health conditions. Every year, three hundred million prescriptions – about 10 for every man, woman and child – are filled in Canada1. In recent years, powerful new medications have meant dramatically improved quality of life, or substantial change in modes and patterns of treatment, for many Canadians. Anti-retroviral treatment has saved thousands of people with HIV infection from rapid, fatal progression to AIDS. Thanks to selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) millions of people with chronic depression who might otherwise have been incapacitated or institutionalized can lead normal, productive lives in the community. Drugs to treat peptic ulcer disease have changed its treatment profile from one based mainly on surgery to a largely medical one. Though the cumulative savings on hospital care, lost workforce productivity, social benefits and disability insurance payments due to prescription drug use have not been quantified, they have undoubtedly been significant. Areas of Concern In short, prescription drugs have benefited both the health of Canadians, and the health care system itself. However, they have also created concerns that must be addressed. Utilization: is it Appropriate? Experts have questioned whether all of Canada’s prescription drug use is appropriate: are patients receiving too many medications, too few medications, or suboptimal medications for their conditions? Over-utilization of prescription drugs has been a topic of some attention, but under-utilization also exists. For example, as many as 60% of people with high blood pressure may not be receiving treatment; many of these people do not even know they have the condition.2 In addition, patient compliance with prescription drug therapy is increasingly recognized as a problem, especially for long-term or chronic conditions. Compliance is a potential issue in all treatments but is of special concern in conditions where few clinical symptoms are present: for example in hypertension, where lack of treatment over the long term may result in kidney damage, vascular and opthalmological damage, stroke or heart disease. One study found that only 50% of patients comply with long-term drug therapy, and an even smaller percentage comply with lifestyle alterations.3 Partial compliance with antibiotic therapy for infectious diseases is well recognized as one cause of anti-microbial resistance to common infectious pathogens. Cost: is it too high? More is now spent on prescription medicine than on physician services. Since 1975, expenditures on prescription medication have risen faster than any other category;4 during the 1990’s they rose more than twice as quickly as overall spending on health care.5 In 2002 retail spending on drugs in Canada (prescribed and non-prescribed) was estimated to be at least 16% of total health care spending. Prescription medication accounts for 80% of this category, up from 70.3% in 1990. What drives drug expenditure in Canada? There is considerable debate on this subject, but some of the drivers are believed to be: * Increased utilization: as the population ages there is an increased prevalence of conditions such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes mellitus and osteoarthritis, which often require pharmacological treatment. * Newer (patented) drugs, which are more expensive than generics, dominate the prescription market. Between 1995 and 2000, five drug categories (including cholesterol lowering agents, high blood pressure drugs, acid-reducing agents and anti-depressants) contributed significantly to the overall rise in drug costs.5 These categories are dominated by newer, patented drugs, many of which are heavily promoted. * Prices of generic drugs, though lower than those of patented drugs, are higher in Canada than in some other countries. For example, generic drug prices are 26% lower in Germany and 68% lower in New Zealand.6 * Marketing practices such as mass media direct to consumer advertising (DTCA) in the United States, and its attendant “spillover” into the Canadian marketplace, may contribute to increased utilization. In Canada the Patent Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB) maintains price controls on brand-name drugs. Similar price-control mechanisms exist in European Union countries. However, no such controls exist for generic medications in Canada. All in all, prescription medications can be costly for Canadians, especially for those who lack any kind of insurance coverage. The Role of Physicians and the Canadian Medical Association Canada’s doctors are committed to ensuring that Canadians have access to the right drugs, at the right times, at the right prices, to help them achieve the right results – in other words, the best possible health outcomes. The goal of drug therapy is to improve patients’ health and quality of life by preventing, eliminating or controlling diseases or symptoms. Patients, physicians and pharmacists must work in collaboration to achieve this goal. The physician’s role in drug therapy goes well beyond the act of writing out a prescription; it encompasses: * Diagnosing diseases, assessing the need for drug therapy and designing the medication regime; * Working with patients to set treatment goals and monitor progress toward them; * Monitoring the patient’s response to drug therapy, revising the care plan when necessary to support compliance and achieve the best possible health outcomes; * Sharing with the patient specific information about the diseases and the drug therapy, including its effects and potential side effects (including, in some cases, the potential for prescription drug addiction).7 The CMA’s activity has been focused on promoting excellence in prescribing, and on disseminating drug information to physicians.8 In 1999, the CMA worked with Health Canada and the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) to convene an expert roundtable on the subject of “Best Practices in Prescribing”. This was but one effort of the profession to explore why some therapies appear to be under-prescribed, while others may be over-prescribed. CMA has developed principles on the issues of physician information and of providing information on prescription drugs to consumers; both these documents will be discussed later in this submission. CMA and CPhA have also developed a joint policy statement on approaches to enhancing the quality of drug therapy (attached as Appendix I). In addition CMA is co-funding, with the Canadian Institute of Health Research, an interdisciplinary research team focussed on Drug Policy Futures. The team’s identified areas of study include: financing and public expectations; improving quality; health care evaluation and technology assessment; and public advice-seeking in the era of e-health. The CMA publishes Drugs of Choice, a definitive Canadian guide to first- and second-line drug therapies for hundreds of clinical conditions. It is now in its third edition. In addition CMA maintains an extensive database of clinical practice guidelines, including prescribing guidelines, available to physicians and the public through the CMA Web site, and has developed an on line course for physicians on Safe Medication Practices. The cma.ca web site also provides access to a Canadian online drug database that can be downloaded and used with state-of-the-art PDA (personal device) technology at the point of clinical care. CMA’S PRIORITIES FOR ACTION A) Access to quality health care CMA’s history of advocating for access to needed health care services goes back many years. In 2004, a National Access Strategy will be one of the association’s highest-priority activities. With respect to prescription drugs there are several access-related problems: slow approval of new drugs, uneven insurance coverage, and the possible consequences of cross-border shopping on the availability of drugs in Canada. i) Drug Approvals: The Right Drug at the Right Time CMA recommends: 1. That the federal government implement a timely and efficient drug review process to reduce review times to a level at or better than that in other OECD countries. 2. That the pharmaceutical industry give priority to research and development on drugs and delivery mechanisms that demonstrate a substantial improvement over products already on the market. 3. That Health Canada apply a priority review process to drugs that demonstrate a substantial improvement over products already on the market. Stakeholders have repeatedly drawn attention to the slowness of Canada’s drug review process. Between 1996 and 1998 Canadian approval times (median 518 days) were significantly longer than Sweden (median 371 days), the UK (median 308 days) and the United States (median 369 days). These have not improved significantly even after Health Canada implemented a cost-recovery approach to funding the drug review process. Delays in the drug review process mean delays in access to new, potentially life-saving medications. For example, 15 other countries approved Singulair, a major breakthrough in asthma therapy, before it was approved in Canada, even though the drug was developed in Montreal! Approximately 10% of children between 5 and 14 years of age have asthma and could have benefited from this relatively safe drug. Intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), a medication for treatment of acute stroke, was approved for use in the United States in 1996 but was not approved in Canada until 1999. Canada’s long drug review times are mainly attributed to lack of resources at Health Canada. CMA recommends that Canada implement a timely and efficient drug review process to reduce these times to an appropriate level. The 2003 federal budget announcement of $190 million over five years to improve the timeliness of the regulatory process was encouraging. We hope that this will soon translate into a significant reduction in drug review times. Many drugs submitted for approval are not genuinely innovative; some are virtual copies of drugs already on the market. Others, however, could offer substantial improvement over what is currently available. They could be more clinically effective; or they could have fewer side effects; or their mechanism of delivery could increase compliance (for example, medication that can be taken only once a day instead of three or four times a day). CMA recommends that the pharmaceutical industry give priority to research and development on products and delivery mechanisms that offer substantial additional benefit to Canadian patients. It seems logical that drugs that offer benefits not yet available to Canadians should reach patients who need them more quickly. Recently, Health Canada implemented a priority review process for drugs to treat serious, life threatening or debilitating conditions, for which there is substantial evidence that the drug is a significant improvement over existing therapies. This is a promising step. CMA recommends that Health Canada apply a priority review process to all drugs deemed to offer substantial improvement over what is already on the market. This will also serve as an incentive to the pharmaceutical industry to emphasize drugs that offer substantial benefit in their research and development plans. ii) Coverage: Making the System Work CMA recommends: 4. That governments and insurance providers conduct research to identify the current gaps in prescription drug coverage for Canadians, and develop policy options for providing this coverage, including consideration of the roles of public and private payers. Coverage for all Canadians. Prescription drugs are Canada’s most notable example of a public/ private partnership in health services delivery. Our country’s blend of public and private drug insurance coverage has worked reasonably well; but there is room for improvement. The Canada Health Act’s mandate covers “drugs, biologicals and related preparations when administered in the hospital”. Provincial and territorial drug programs vary with most covering only seniors and people on social assistance.9 Many Canadians get their drug coverage through private plans offered by their employers. But many people in Canada lack any kind of drug coverage. We do not know exactly how many. According to a report prepared for the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association, 2% to 4% of Canadians have no coverage, but other reports place the number closer to 10%.10,11 At a minimum, 1 million to 3 million Canadians are in need of basic prescription drug coverage. Drug therapy may be more cost-efficient than some forms of hospital care. Is the current health care system promoting inefficiency by covering hospital services more completely than prescription drug therapy? In 1997 the National Forum on Health recommended that drugs become part of the publicly funded system. However, such a system would be prohibitively expensive; estimates range from $12.4 billion for a combined public and private model (with co-payments) to $13.8 billion for fully funded, public only model (no co-payments).12 The report of the Romanow Commission acknowledged this when it emphasized the need to “move in a gradual but deliberate and dedicated way to integrate prescription drugs more fully into the continuum of care”. For the short term, the report recommended a Catastrophic Drug Transfer to ensure that Canadians who face the greatest financial burden can continue to access the medications they need. The Trillium program in Ontario is an example of such a program. We need to know more about both the number of people who need drug coverage and the best means of providing them with it. As a first step, CMA recommends that the government, insurance providers and all partners in the public and private sectors conduct research to more accurately identify current gaps in prescription drug coverage, and develop policy options for bridging them. Given the ever larger role that prescription drug therapy is playing in health care in Canada, governments should consider expanding the current basket of “core services” to include prescription drugs. Under the Canada Health Act provinces and territories must ensure that medically necessary physician and hospital services are provided on a first-dollar basis. CMA has recommended that the scope of the basket of core services be updated regularly to reflect the realities of health care delivery and the needs of Canadians. Given the potential of prescription drugs to improve the system’s cost-effectiveness, we believe that Canadian governments must consider whether the concept of “core services” needs to be revised to reflect their importance, provided that this does not further compromise access to medically necessary hospital and physician services. Drug Pricing Policies: Toward a Policy for All Drugs in Canada. As mentioned previously, PMPRB controls the prices of brand-name patent medications in Canada. However, generic drug make up 40% of the drugs prescribed in this country. Canada has no mechanism to control the prices of generic drugs, as do some other countries (France, for example, has a decree stating that the price of a generic product must be at least 30% less than the price of the original patented brand.) 6 Most provinces have policies encouraging substitution of a brand drug by a comparable generic where appropriate. CMA believes it is time for Canadian governments to explore mechanisms for ensuring appropriate pricing of generic medications. Product Substitution: Making health the first priority. Even under their current system of limited coverage, federal and provincial governments have expressed concern about the cost of their drug programs, and implemented measures to reduce this cost. One of these is drug product substitution. Generic substitution, discussed in the previous section, is now commonplace; British Columbia has taken the concept further with its system of reference-based pricing. While CMA recognizes the motives behind drug product substitution, we believe that it should only be implemented if it does not jeopardize quality of care or patient confidentiality. Doctors would be happy to participate in discussion of initiatives around drug product substitution, to ensure that the health of the patient continues to be the highest priority to all stakeholders. iii) Access and Cross-Border Prescribing CMA recommends: 5. That the federal government monitor and, if necessary, regulate the export of prescription medications to ensure their continued availability to Canadians. 6. That prescribing of medication be done within the context of the therapeutic relationship that exists between the patient and the physician. Prices of brand-name prescription drugs prices are higher in the US, where no price review body exists, than they are in Canada. As a result access to the need for prescription medication can pose considerable financial hardship, particularly for America’s elderly and poor. The rising cost of brand-name medications in the United States has led many Americans to look to Canada for less expensive alternatives. At least one US city, Springfield, Massachusetts, has begun a voluntary program to purchase prescription medication from Canada for its workers and retirees13 and the State of Illinois is examining the feasibility of following Springfield’s lead.14 US drug costs have also spurred a growth industry in Canada: Internet pharmacies. According to estimates in US media, approximately $650 million (US) worth of prescriptions are sold online every year.15 The prospect of accessing cheaper Canadian drugs is particularly appealing to elderly Americans who have turned to the Internet to purchase prescriptions they would be unable to afford at home. The burgeoning cross-border export of pharmaceuticals has had its consequences. Several brand-name multinational pharmaceutical manufactures have moved to stop or limit supplies to those Canadian pharmacies they believe are selling drugs over the Internet. They must now order directly from the manufacturer instead of from wholesalers.16 The brand-name companies have also held out the prospect of boycotting Canada in response to legislation passed by the US House of Representatives that would allow the importation of drugs by Americans.17 This legislation is now before the US Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The US Food and Drug Administration has opposed importation on safety grounds. The CMA shares the increasingly prevalent concern that cross-border export will result in reduced access to prescription drugs in Canada, and damage the research and development capacity of brand-name prescription drug manufacturers in Canada. Therefore the CMA recommends that Canada monitor and, if necessary, regulate the export of brand-name drugs to ensure their continued availability in this country. Many Internet pharmacies offer the services of physicians who will sign prescriptions without seeing the patient in a consultation. This is not acceptable to the CMA, or to the regulatory Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons or the Canadian Medical Protective Association. It is clear that, in principle, to form an appropriate therapeutic relationship a physician must take a history, perform an appropriate physical examination, and order and interpret appropriate diagnostic tests on her patients. The role of the physician in drug therapy is a complex one; to be most effective it requires a strong ongoing professional relationship between patient and physician. This relationship is the foundation of medical practice; it is key to a prescribing decision and it must be maintained. Our position is discussed in greater detail in CMA’s Statement on Internet Prescribing (attached as Appendix II). B) Consumer Drug Information: From DTCA to DTCI CMA recommends: 7. That brand-specific direct to consumer prescription drug advertising (DTCA) not be permitted in Canada. 8. That the federal government enforce the existing restrictions on DTCA found in the Food and Drug Act to the full extent of the law. 9. That the federal government develop and fund a comprehensive program to provide accurate, unbiased prescription drug information to patients. In the past few years an increasing amount of information on prescription medication has become available to consumers. Much of this reaches Canadians in the form of direct to consumer advertising (DTCA) for specific brands, transmitted across the border from the United States, where it is a billion-dollar-a-year business. DTCA is not legal in Canada, except for notification of price, quantity and the name of the drug. However, advertisers have taken advantage of loopholes in the law to promote brand-name drugs in this country – for example, the controversial television campaign for Viagra. DTCA is also transmitted by print and TV across the border from the United States, and worldwide through the Internet. There is a strong lobby for a relaxation of the DTCA restrictions in Canada. DTCA boosts sales of advertised drugs. In 1999, 25 drugs accounted for 40% of that year’s increase in retail drug spending in the US; all these drugs were advertised to the public.18 Further, DTCA adversely affects the patient/physician relationship. Doctors report feeling pressure and ambivalence when patients ask them to prescribe a specific brand-name drug. 19,20 About 20% of respondents to the CMA’s 2003 physician survey felt patients’ request for advertised drugs had a negative impact on the patient/physician relationship.21 Advocates for DTCA maintain that it provides “consumers” with the information they need to become partners in their own health care. They maintain that DTCA does not undermine the patient/physician relationship, because it does not alter the fact that ultimate prescribing authority remains in the hands of the physician. However, the CMA believes that direct to consumer advertising of prescription drugs is inappropriate. DTCA * does not communicate risk adequately, or provide enough information to allow the consumer to make appropriate drug selections. Generally it does not provide information about other products or therapies that could be used to treat the same condition, * stimulates demand by exaggerating the risks of a disease and generating unnecessary fear, * contributes to a culture of “overmedicalization” by treating normal human conditions such as aging and baldness as diseases, and offering “a pill for every ill”. Brand-specific direct to consumer prescription drug advertising should not be permitted in Canada. CMA calls on the federal government to enforce the existing restrictions on DTCA found in the Food and Drug Act and its regulations to the full extent of the law. We believe that the public has a right to accurate, unbiased direct to consumer information (DTCI) on drugs and other therapies, to enable patients to make decisions regarding their own health care. This information may increase the appropriateness of prescription drug use. For example, it may encourage consumers to get treatment for conditions that are currently under-treated. However, there are more effective ways to provide this information than brand-name advertising. CMA has developed “Principles for Providing Information about Prescription Drugs to Consumers” as an alternative to DTCA; these are attached as Appendix III. We call on Canadian stakeholders, including governments, health professionals, consumer groups and industry, to work together to provide information for the public based on these principles. Further, the CMA calls on the federal government to develop and fund a comprehensive program to provide accurate, unbiased prescription drug information to patients. C) Safety: Ensuring Best Practices in Prescribing CMA recommends: 10. That all stakeholders join in supporting and encouraging outcome-based research to ascertain best practices in prescribing. 11. That government accelerate activities to establish the Patient Safety Institute using a systems approach to support a culture of safety. 12. That a post-marketing surveillance system be implemented to monitor the ongoing safety of marketed drugs. The health care system is complex, involving many inter-related and interdependent factors which could influence the frequency and intensity of medication incidents. Such “systems factors” might include * shortage of qualified health professionals (physicians, nurses and others), * inappropriate use of new technology, * unclear labeling or similar-looking drug preparations, * prescription drug misuse, including over-prescribing or under-prescribing of certain medications. Canada’s doctors are working to promote drug safety on a number of fronts. For example, CMA is working with governments at all levels to ensure that we do not “enrich the nation’s urine” through unnecessary prescribing. The Canadian Medical Association Journal regularly publishes research on prescribing practices. CMA also publishes Safe Medication Practices, a physician guide to patient safety; a companion online course is available on the cma.ca web site. We propose that the health care system work to create a culture that promotes optimal prescribing, by fostering outcomes research, creating supportive infrastructures, strengthening the capacity for post-marketing surveillance, and making the best possible use of technology. Our suggestions are discussed below. Closing the Care Gap. Given our present knowledge base, it is often difficult to ascertain whether current drug utilization patterns lead to improvements in health. For example, research on compliance with drug therapy, and the factors that improve it, is in its infancy and though we know that direct-to-consumer advertising affects drug sales we have yet to determine whether it affects health outcomes. A commitment to outcome-based research on drug utilization would help us find the answers to these and other questions. Research on prescribing patterns should respect the conditions outlined in CMA’s “Principles Concerning Physician Information” (attached as Appendix IV). The CMA calls on all stakeholders (governments, health professionals and the private sector) to join in supporting and encouraging outcome-based research to ascertain best practices in drug utilization and prescribing, and close care gaps when they are identified. Creating an infrastructure for safety. The CMA has no doubt of the overall quality of the prescription medications approved for use in Canada. However, the more drugs are used, the greater their potential for unintended harm. Studies in the United States have found that almost 2% of patients admitted to hospitals experienced a significant adverse drug event, and that the number of deaths due to medications increased over 200% over five years.22 Though studies are still in progress in Canada, we assume that rates of adverse medication events are similar in the two countries. The 2003 federal budget committed $10 million per year to establish a Patient Safety Institute to monitor and prevent medical incidents. This is an important step toward building a safer health care system, and Canada’s doctors are committed to moving this initiative forward. The CMA, with 11 other health care organizations, is a member of the Canadian Coalition on Medication Incident Reporting and Prevention. This initiative is led by Health Canada and has recently been funded through the Patient Safety Initiative. The federal government has also recently funded the Canadian Medication Incident Reporting and Prevention System to collect data on medication incidents and disseminate information designed to reduce their risk. The CMA believes that to be effective a patient safety initiative must * be voluntary, * be non-punitive; and * protect the privacy and confidentiality of physicians and patients. Further, efforts towards ensuring patient safety should address in a timely manner the “systems” issues referred to above, supporting and fostering a culture of safety. CMA is calling on governments to accelerate activities to establish the Patient Safety Institute using a “systems” approach. Strengthening Post-Marketing Surveillance. No matter how rigourous the drug approval and review process, it cannot identify all of a medication’s effects; many of these are only identified once the drug is in widespread use in the general population. A strong post-marketing surveillance system is needed to gather this knowledge and ensure patient safety. A post marketing surveillance system should include timely collection of data related to * adverse drug reactions, * medication incidents, * targeted drug effectiveness studies, * optimal utilization of medications. The goal of an enhanced post-marketing surveillance system is to monitor the ongoing safety and risk/benefit ratio of medications once they have been approved and are being used in the broad population. An ideal surveillance system would go beyond collecting and collating data, to analyze it and produce information that health care professionals and policy makers can use in decision-making at the population level. For example, data could be used to * communicate product related risks to health professionals and patients, * determine the incidence of adverse drug reactions and medication incidents in the Canadian population as a whole and various subgroups over time, as well as their health and economic impact. Currently post-marketing surveillance of drugs in Canada is inadequate, relying on reporting which is often erratic and inconsistent, and for which reporters are not compensated. Canada needs a coordinated post-marketing surveillance system to monitor the ongoing safety of marketed drugs. Surveillance should include medication incidents and adverse drug reactions, and should document and consider the effect of the “systems factors” contributing to these events. Making use of supportive technology. We mentioned that the current reporting system is erratic and inconsistent. An investment in supportive technology would reduce inconsistencies by increasing physicians’ capacity to report and even prevent medication incidents. Under the September 2000 federal/provincial Health Accord, the Government of Canada announced $500 million to expand the use of health information and communications technologies, including the adoption of electronic health records (EHRs). One of the advantages cited for a pan-Canadian EHR is that it could reduce the occurrence of adverse drug events – for example, handwritten prescription and interpretation errors. Progress has been slow, but CMA will follow with interest the pilot EHR program just announced in Alberta. While we expect improvement in prescribing practices and outcomes under such programs, we expect them to respect the principles of patient confidentiality and the right of prescribers to the privacy of their prescribing information. Technology can also make real-time communication within the health care system much easier. and CMA strongly recommends an investment in systems that can link physicians to one another and to the rest of the health care system. In its 2003 brief to the Finance Committee’s pre budget hearings, CMA recommended that the federal government immediately fund dedicated Internet connectivity for all physicians in Canada. CMA has also repeatedly called for sustained and substantial investment in a “REAL” (rapid, effective, accessible and linked) Health Communications and Coordination Initiative to improve technical capacity to communicate with front-line health providers in real time. Real-time information is essential for effective day-to-day health care and will form the cornerstone of an adverse drug reaction communication program for the 21st century. Conclusion It is vital to Canada’s physicians that our patients receive the right medications for their condition, at the right times, at the right prices. CMA calls on the federal government and all other stakeholders to work together to develop a comprehensive “made in Canada” prescription drug policy to realize this vision – one that promotes optimal prescribing, puts the health of patients first, respects the relationships of patient and physician and of patient and pharmacist, and honours the principle of patient confidentiality and the privacy of patient and prescriber information. The reports of the Romanow Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada and the Senate Standing Committee on Science, Social Affairs and Technology review discussed issues surrounding prescription drug policy in Canada. We hope that the review by this parliamentary committee will lead to prompt and decisive action. APPENDIX I CMA POLICY APPROACHES TO ENHANCING THE QUALITY OF DRUG THERAPY A JOINT STATEMENT BY THE CMA ANDTHE CANADIAN PHARMACEUTICAL ASSOCIATION This joint statement was developed by the CMA and the Canadian Pharmaceutical Association, a national association of pharmacists, and includes the goal of drug therapy, strategies for collaboration to optimize drug therapy and physicians' and pharmacists' responsibilities in drug therapy. The statement recognizes the importance of patients, physicians and pharmacists working in close collaboration and partnership to achieve optimal outcomes from drug therapy. Goal of This Joint Statement The goal of this joint statement is to promote optimal drug therapy by enhancing communication and working relationships among patients, physicians and pharmacists. It is also meant to serve as an educational resource for pharmacists and physicians so that they will have a clearer understanding of each other's responsibilities in drug therapy. In the context of this statement, a "patient" may include a designated patient representative, such as a parent, spouse, other family member, patient advocate or health care provider. Physicians and pharmacists have a responsibility to work with their patients to achieve optimal outcomes by providing high-quality drug therapy. The important contribution of all members of the health care team and the need for cooperative working relationships are recognized; however, this statement focuses on the specific relationships among pharmacists, physicians and patients with respect to drug therapy. This statement is a general guide and is not intended to describe all aspects of physicians' or pharmacists' activities. It is not intended to be restrictive, nor should it inhibit positive developments in pharmacist-physician relationships or in their respective practices that contribute to optimal drug therapy. Furthermore, this statement should be used and interpreted in accordance with applicable legislation and other legal requirements. This statement will be reviewed and assessed regularly to ensure its continuing applicability to medical and pharmacy practices. Goal of Drug Therapy The goal of drug therapy is to improve patients' health and quality of life by preventing, eliminating or controlling diseases or symptoms. Optimal drug therapy is safe, effective, appropriate, affordable, cost-effective and tailored to meet the needs of patients, who participate, to the best of their ability, in making informed decisions about their therapy. Patients require access to necessary drug therapy and specific, unbiased drug information to meet their individual needs. Providing optimal drug therapy also requires a valid and accessible information base generated by basic, clinical, pharmaceutical and other scientific research. Working Together for Optimal Drug Therapy Physicians and pharmacists have complementary and supportive responsibilities in providing optimal drug therapy. To achieve this goal, and to ensure that patients receive consistent information, patients, pharmacists and physicians must work cooperatively and in partnership. This requires effective communication, respect, trust, and mutual recognition and understanding of each other's complementary responsibilities. The role of each profession in drug therapy depends on numerous factors, including the specific patient and his or her drug therapy, the prescription status of the drug concerned, the setting and the patient physician pharmacist relationship. However, it is recognized that, in general, each profession may focus on certain areas more than others. For example, when counselling patients on their drug therapy, a physician may focus on disease-specific counselling, goals of therapy, risks and benefits and rare side effects, whereas a pharmacist may focus on correct usage, treatment adherence, dosage, precautions, dietary restrictions and storage. Areas of overlap may include purpose, common side effects and their management and warnings regarding drug interactions and lifestyle concerns. Similarly, when monitoring drug therapy, a physician would focus on clinical progress toward treatment goals, whereas a pharmacist may focus on drug effects, interactions and treatment adherence; both would monitor adverse effects. Both professions should tailor drug therapy, including education, to meet the needs of individual patients. To provide continuity of care and to promote consistency in the information being provided, it is important that both pharmacists and physicians assess the patients' knowledge and identify and reinforce the educational component provided by the other. Strategies for Collaborating to Optimize Drug Therapy Patients, physicians and pharmacists need to work in close collaboration and partnership to achieve optimal drug therapy. Strategies to facilitate such teamwork include the following. Respecting and supporting patients' rights to make informed decisions regarding their drug therapy. Promoting knowledge, understanding and acceptance by physicians and pharmacists of their responsibilities in drug therapy and fostering widespread communication of these responsibilities so they are clearly understood by all. Supporting both professions' relationship with patients, and promoting a collaborative approach to drug therapy within the health care team. Care must be taken to maintain patients' trust and their relationship with other caregivers. Sharing relevant patient information for the enhancement of patient care, in accordance and compliance with all of the following: ethical standards to protect patient privacy, accepted medical and pharmacy practice, and the law. Patients should inform their physician and pharmacist of any information that may assist in providing optimal drug therapy. Increasing physicians' and pharmacists' awareness that it is important to make themselves readily available to each other to communicate about a patient for whom they are both providing care. Enhancing documentation (e.g., clearly written prescriptions and communication forms) and optimizing the use of technology (e.g., e-mail, voice mail and fax) in individual practices to enhance communication, improve efficiency and support consistency in information provided to patients. Developing effective communication and administrative procedures between health care institutions and community-based pharmacists and physicians to support continuity of care. Developing local communication channels and encouraging dialogue between the professions (e.g., through joint continuing education programs and local meetings) to promote a peer-review-based approach to local prescribing and drug-use issues. Teaching a collaborative approach to patient care as early as possible in the training of pharmacists and physicians. Developing effective communication channels and encouraging dialogue among patients, physicians and pharmacists at the regional, provincial, territorial and national levels to address issues such as drug-use policy, prescribing guidelines and continuing professional education. Collaborating in the development of technology to enhance communication in practices (e.g., shared patient databases relevant to drug therapy). Working jointly on committees and projects concerned with issues in drug therapy such as patient education, treatment adherence, formularies and practice guidelines, hospital-to-community care, cost-control strategies, sampling and other relevant policy issues concerning drug therapy. Fostering the development and utilization of a high-quality clinical and scientific information base to support evidence-based decision making. The Physician's Responsibilities Physicians and pharmacists recognize the following responsibilities in drug therapy as being within the scope of physicians' practice, on the basis of such factors as physicians' education and specialized skills, relationship with patients and practice environment. Some responsibilities may overlap with those of pharmacists (see The Pharmacist's Responsibilities). In addition, it is recognized that practice environments within medicine may differ and may affect the physician's role. Assessing health status, diagnosing diseases, assessing the need for drug therapy and providing curative, preventive, palliative and rehabilitative drug therapy in consultation with patients and in collaboration with caregivers, pharmacists and other health care professionals, when appropriate. Working with patients to set therapeutic goals and monitor progress toward such goals in consultation with caregivers, pharmacists and other health care providers, when appropriate. Monitoring and assessing response to drug therapy, progress toward therapeutic goals and patient adherence to the therapeutic plan; when necessary, revising the plan on the basis of outcomes of current therapy and progress toward goals of therapy, in consultation with patients and in collaboration with caregivers, pharmacists and other health care providers, when appropriate. Carrying out surveillance of and assessing patients for adverse reactions to drugs and other unanticipated problems related to drug therapy, revising therapy and, when appropriate, reporting adverse reactions and other complications to health authorities. Providing specific information to patients and caregivers about diagnosis, indications and treatment goals, and the action, benefits, risks and potential side effects of drug therapy. Providing and sharing general and specific information and advice about disease and drugs with patients, caregivers, health care providers and the public. Maintaining adequate records of drug therapy for each patient, including, when applicable, goals of therapy, therapy prescribed, progress toward goals, revisions of therapy, a list of drugs (both prescription and over-the-counter drugs) currently taken, adverse reactions to therapy, history of known drug allergies, smoking history, occupational exposure or risk, known patterns of alcohol or substance use that may influence response to drugs, history of treatment adherence and attitudes toward drugs. Records should also document patient counselling and advice given, when appropriate. Ensuring safe procurement, storage, handling, preparation, distribution, dispensing and record keeping of drugs (in keeping with federal and provincial regulations and the CMA policy summary "Physicians and the Pharmaceutical Industry (Update 1994)" (Can Med Assoc J 1994;150:256A-C.) when the patient cannot reasonably receive such services from a pharmacist. Maintaining a high level of knowledge about drug therapy through critical appraisal of the literature and continuing professional development. Care must be provided in accordance with legislation and in an atmosphere of privacy, and patient confidentiality must be maintained. Care also should be provided in accordance with accepted scientific and ethical standards and procedures. The Pharmacist's Responsibilities Pharmacists and physicians recognize the following responsibilities as being within the scope of pharmacists' practice, on the basis of such factors as pharmacists' education and specialized skills, relationship with patients and practice environment. Some responsibilities may overlap with those of physicians (see The Physician's Responsibilities). In addition, it is recognized that, in selected practice environments, the pharmacists' role may differ considerably. Evaluating the patients' drug-therapy record ("drug profile") and reviewing prescription orders to ensure that a prescribed therapy is safe and to identify, solve or prevent actual or potential drug-related problems or concerns. Examples include possible contraindications, drug interactions or therapeutic duplication, allergic reactions and patient nonadherence to treatment. Significant concerns should be discussed with the prescriber. Ensuring safe procurement, storage, preparation, distribution and dispensing of pharmaceutical products (in keeping with federal, provincial and other applicable regulations). Discussing actual or potential drug-related problems or concerns and the purpose of drug therapy with patients, in consultation with caregivers, physicians and health care providers, when appropriate. Monitoring drug therapy to identify drug-related problems or concerns, such as lack of symptomatic response, lack of adherence to treatment plans and suspected adverse effects. Significant concerns should be discussed with the physician. Advising patients and caregivers on the selection and use of nonprescription drugs and the management of minor symptoms or ailments. Directing patients to consult their physician for diagnosis and treatment when required. Pharmacists may be the first contact for health advice. Through basic patient assessment (i.e., observation and interview) they should identify the need for referral to a physician or an emergency department. Notifying physicians of actual or suspected adverse reactions to drugs and, when appropriate, reporting such reactions to health authorities. Providing specific information to patients and caregivers about drug therapy, taking into account patients' existing knowledge about their drug therapy. This information may include the name of the drug, its purpose, potential interactions or side effects, precautions, correct usage, methods to promote adherence to the treatment plan and any other health information appropriate to the needs of the patient. Providing and sharing general and specific drug-related information and advice with patients, caregivers, physicians, health care providers and the public. Maintaining adequate records of drug therapy to facilitate the prevention, identification and management of drug-related problems or concerns. These records should contain, but are not limited to, each patient's current and past drug therapy (including both prescribed and selected over-the-counter drugs), drug-allergy history, appropriate demographic data and, if known, the purpose of therapy and progress toward treatment goals, adverse reactions to therapy, the patient's history of adherence to treatment, attitudes toward drugs, smoking history, occupational exposure or risk, and known patterns of alcohol or substance use that may influence his or her response to drugs. Records should also document patient counselling and advice given, when appropriate. Maintaining a high level of knowledge about drug therapy through critical appraisal of the literature and continuing professional development. Care must be provided in accordance with legislation and in an atmosphere of privacy, and patient confidentiality must be maintained. Products and services should be provided in accordance with accepted scientific and ethical standards and procedures. APPENDIX II CMA POLICY Statement on Internet Prescribing The act of prescribing medication is a medical act carried out in the context of a patient-physician relationship. As such, it is subject to the clinical standards of practice, as well as the ethical guidelines of the medical profession and applicable law. Physicians should be aware of and comply with the legal requirements in their province or territory. If a physician wishes to sign a prescription for an individual who has not previously been his/her patient or a patient of his/her group practice or shared call group, basic principles of assessment and diagnosis must be applied. It is incumbent upon the physician to obtain an adequate history and perform an appropriate physical examination to reach a diagnosis which will ensure that the prescribed medications are appropriate. The physician should be expected to provide advice about any prescribed medication, and, where appropriate, would be expected to provide advice about appropriate monitoring requirements. The physician is advised to fully document the encounter. It is not acceptable for a physician to sign a prescription without properly assessing the patient. APPENDIX III CMA POLICY Principles for Providing Information about Prescription Drugs to Consumers Approved by the CMA Board of Directors, March 2003 Since the late 1990’s expenditures on direct to consumer advertising (DTCA) of prescription drugs in the United States have increased many-fold. Though U.S.-style DTCA is not legal in Canada23, it reaches Canadians through cross-border transmission of print and broadcast media, and through the Internet. It is believed to have affected drug sales and patient behaviour in Canada. Other therapeutic products, such as vaccines and diagnostic tests, are also being marketed directly to the public. Proponents of DTCA argue that they are providing consumers with much-needed information on drugs and the conditions they treat. Others argue that the underlying intent of such advertising is to increase revenue or market share, and that it therefore cannot be interpreted as unbiased information. The CMA believes that consumers have a right to accurate information on prescription medications and other therapeutic interventions, to enable them to make informed decisions about their own health. This information is especially necessary as more and more Canadians live with chronic conditions, and as we anticipate the availability of new products that may accompany the “biological revolution”, e.g. gene therapies. The CMA recommends a review of current mechanisms, including mass media communications, for providing this information to the public. CMA believes that consumer information on prescription drugs should be provided according to the following principles. 24 Principle #1: The Goal is Good Health The ultimate measure of the effectiveness of consumer drug information should be its impact on the health and well-being of Canadians and the quality of health care. Principle #2: Ready Access Canadians should have ready access to credible, high-quality information about prescription drugs. The primary purpose of this information should be education; sales of drugs must not be a concern to the originator. Principle #3: Patient Involvement Consumer drug information should help Canadians make informed decisions regarding management of their health, and facilitate informed discussion with their physicians and other health professionals. CMA encourages Canadians to become educated about their own health and health care, and to appraise health information critically. Principle #4: Evidence-Based Content Consumer drug information should be evidence based, using generally accepted prescribing guidelines as a source where available. Principle #5: Appropriate Information Consumer drug information should be based as much as possible on drug classes and use of generic names; if discussing brand-name drugs the discussion should not be limited to a single specific brand, and brand names should always be preceded by generic names. It should provide information on the following: * indications for use of the drug * contraindications * side effects * relative cost. In addition, consumer drug information should discuss the drug in the context of overall management of the condition for which it is indicated (for example, information about other therapies, lifestyle management and coping strategies). Principle #6: Objectivity of Information Sources Consumer drug information should be provided in such a way as to minimize the impact of vested commercial interests on the information content. Possible sources include health care providers, or independent research agencies. Pharmaceutical manufacturers and patient or consumer groups can be valuable partners in this process but must not be the sole providers of information. Federal and provincial/territorial governments should provide appropriate sustaining support for the development and maintenance of up-to-date consumer drug information. Principle #7: Endorsement/ Accreditation Consumer drug information should be endorsed or accredited by a reputable and unbiased body. Information that is provided to the public through mass media channels should be pre-cleared by an independent board. Principle #8: Monitoring and Revision Consumer drug information should be continually monitored to ensure that it correctly reflects current evidence, and updated when research findings dictate. Principle #9: Physicians as Partners Consumer drug information should support and encourage open patient-physician communication, so that the resulting plan of care, including drug therapy, is mutually satisfactory. Physicians play a vital role in working with patients and other health-care providers to achieve optimal drug therapy, not only through writing prescriptions but through discussing proposed drugs and their use in the context of the overall management of the patient’s condition. In addition, physicians and other health care providers, and their associations, can play a valuable part in disseminating drug and other health information to the public. Principle #10: Research and Evaluation Ongoing research should be conducted into the impact of drug information and DTCA on the health care system, with particular emphasis on its effect on appropriateness of prescribing, and on health outcomes. APPENDIX IV CMA POLICY PRINCIPLES CONCERNING PHYSICIAN INFORMATION In an environment in which the capacity to capture, link and transmit information is growing and the need for fuller accountability is being created, the demand for physician information, and the number of people and organizations seeking to collect it, is increasing. Physician information, that is, information that includes personal health information about and information that relates or may relate to the professional activity of an identifiable physician or group of physicians, is valuable for a variety of purposes. The legitimacy and importance of these purposes varies a great deal, and therefore the rationale and rules related to the collection, use, access and disclosure of physician information also varies. The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) developed this policy to provide guiding principles to those who collect, use, have access to or disclose physician information. Such people are termed “custodians,” and they should be held publicly accountable. These principles complement and act in concert with the CMA Health Information Privacy Code,25 which holds patient health information sacrosanct. Physicians have legitimate interests in what information about them is collected, on what authority, by whom and for what purposes it is collected, and what safeguards and controls are in place. These interests include privacy and the right to exercise some control over the information; protection from the possibility that information will cause unwarranted harm, either at the individual or the group level; and assurance that interpretation of the information is accurate and unbiased. These legitimate interests extend to information about physicians that has been rendered in non-identifiable or aggregate format (e.g., to protect against the possibility of individual physicians being identified or of physician groups being unjustly stigmatized). Information in these formats, however, may be less sensitive than information from which an individual physician can be readily identified and, therefore, may warrant less protection. The purposes for the use of physician information may be more or less compelling. One compelling use is related to the fact that physicians, as members of a self-regulating profession, are professionally accountable to their patients, their profession and society. Physicians support this professional accountability purpose through the legislated mandate of their regulatory colleges. Physicians also recognize the importance of peer review in the context of professional development and maintenance of competence. The CMA supports the collection, use, access and disclosure of physician information subject to the conditions outlined below. 1. Purpose(s): The purpose(s) for the collection of physician information, and any other purpose(s) for which physician information may be subsequently used, accessed or disclosed, should be precisely specified at or before the collection. There should be a reasonable expectation that the information will achieve the stated purpose(s). The policy does not prevent the use of information for purposes that were not intended and not reasonably anticipated if principles 3 and 4 of this policy are met. 2. Consent: As a rule, information should be collected directly from the physician. Subject to principle 4, consent should be sought from the physician for the collection, use, access or disclosure of physician information. The physician should be informed about all intended and anticipated uses, accesses or disclosures of the information. 3. Conditions for collection, use, access and disclosure: The information should: * be limited to the minimum necessary to carry out the stated purpose(s), * be in the least intrusive format required for the stated purpose(s), and its collection, use, access and disclosure should not infringe on the physician’s duty of confidentiality with respect to that information. 4. Use of information without consent: There may be justification for the collection, use, access or disclosure of physician information without the physician’s consent if, in addition to the conditions in principle 3 being met, the custodian publicly demonstrates with respect to the purpose(s), generically construed, that: * the stated purpose(s) could not be met or would be seriously compromised if consent were required, * the stated purpose(s) is(are) of sufficient importance that the public interest outweighs to a substantial degree the physician’s right to privacy and right of consent in a free and democratic society, and * that the collection, use, access or disclosure of physician information with respect to the stated purpose(s) always ensures justice and fairness to the physician by being consistent with principle 6 of this policy. 5. Physician’s access to his or her own information: Physicians have a right to view and ensure, in a timely manner, the accuracy of the information collected about them. This principle does not apply if there is reason to believe that the disclosure to the physician will cause substantial adverse effect to others. The onus is on the custodian to justify a denial of access. 6. Information quality and interpretation: Custodians must take reasonable steps to ensure that the information they collect, use, gain access to or disclose is accurate, complete and correct. Custodians must use valid and reliable collection methods and, as appropriate, involve physicians to interpret the information; these physicians must have practice characteristics and credentials similar to those of the physician whose information is being interpreted. 7. Security: Physical and human safeguards must exist to ensure the integrity and reliability of physician information and to protect against unauthorized collection, use, access or disclosure of physician information. 8. Retention and destruction: Physician information should be retained only for the length of time necessary to fulfill the specified purpose(s), after which time it should be destroyed. 9. Inquiries and complaints: Custodians must have in place a process whereby inquiries and complaints can be received, processed and adjudicated in a fair and timely way. The complaint process, including how to initiate a complaint, must be made known to physicians. 10. Openness and transparency: Custodians must have transparent and explicit record-keeping or database management policies, practices and systems that are open to public scrutiny, including the purpose(s) for the collection, use, access and disclosure of physician information. The existence of any physician information record-keeping systems or database systems must be made known and available upon request to physicians. 11. Accountability: Custodians of physician information must ensure that they have proper authority and mandate to collect, use, gain access to or disclose physician information. Custodians must have policies and procedures in place that give effect to the principles in this document. Custodians must have a designated person who is responsible for monitoring practices and ensuring compliance with the policies and procedures. 1 Romanow R. Building on Values: the Future of Health Care in Canada. Report of the Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada; November 2002. 2 Chobanian et al. Seventh report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of High Blood Pressure. JAMA 2003; 289. 3 Butler C, Rollnick S, Stott N. The practitioner, the patient and resistance to change. Recent Ideas on Compliance 1996;14(9):1357-62. 4 Canadian Institute for Health Information. Health spending to top $112 billion in 2002, reports CIHI. Media release. December 18, 2002. http://secure.cihi.ca/cihiweb/dispPage.jsp?cw_page=media_18dec2002_e 5 Patent Medicine Prices Review Board. Pharmaceutical Trends, 1995/96 – 1999/00. Prepared for the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Working Group on Drug Prices; September 2001. 6 Patent Medicine Prices Review Board, A study of the Prices of the Top Selling Multiple Source Medicines in Canada. November 2002. 7 Approaches to Enhancing the Quality of Drug Therapy.” Joint policy of the Canadian Medical Association and Canadian Pharmacists Association. 8 It should be noted that the CMA does not have the authority to enforce directives on physicians with regard to prescribing. The provincial and Territorial Colleges of Physicians handle licensing and regulatory matters. 9 Manitoba, British Columbia and Saskatchewan provide some coverage to all residents after the co-payments and deductibles are paid. Quebec provides universal coverage to those not in a private plan. 10 Fraser Group/Tristat Resources. Drug Expense Coverage in the Canadian Population – Protection from Severe Drug Expenses. CLHIA. August 2002. 11 Palmer D’Angelo Consulting Inc. National Pharmacare Cost Impact Update Study. Executive Summary. September 4, 2002. 12 Ibid 13 Tynan T. Cash-strapped Springfield, Mass., begins buying Canadian prescription drugs. Edmonton Journal July 29, 2003. http://www.canada.com/edmonton/story.asp?id=21FB8445-1143-4C13-B282-76F380CB4FE1 14 CBSNews.com. Illinois looks to Canada for drugs. CBS News September 15, 2003. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/07/29/health/main565611.shtml 15Kedrosky P. Dangerous popularity of online pharmacies. National Post August 13, 2003. 16 Harris G. Pfizer moves to stem Canadian drug imports. New York Times August 7, 2003. http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/07/business/07DRUG.html 17 Cusack B., Stinson S. US drug firms set to boycott Canada. National Post August 7, 2003. http://www.nationalpost.com/home/story.html?id=363CC2EA-1832-42F2-954C-0F52D1828E23 18 “Prescription Drugs and Mass Media Advertising.” National Institute for Health Care Management Research. Washington, DC, 2001. 19 Mintzes B, Barer ML, Kravitz RL at al. How does direct to consumer advertising affect prescribing? a survey in primary care environments with and without legal DTCA. CMAJ 169 (2003): 405 –412. 20 Food and Drug Administration. Direct to consumer advertising of prescription drugs: physician survey preliminary results. Accessed at www.fda.gov/cder/ddmac. 21Survey shows strong opposition to direct to consumer advertising. Accessed at http://www.cma.ca/cma/ 22 Canadian Coalition on Medication Incident Reporting and Prevention. A medication incident reporting and prevention system for Canada: business Plan. March 2002. 23 DTCA is not legal in Canada, except for notification of price, quantity and the name of the drug. However, “information-seeking” advertisements for prescription drugs, which may provide the name of the drug without mentioning its indications, or announce that treatments are available for specific indications without mentioning drugs by name, have appeared in Canadian mass media. 24 Though the paper applies primarily to prescription drug information, its principles are also applicable to health information in general. 25 Canadian Medical Association. Health Information Privacy Code. CMAJ 1998;159(8):997-1016.
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