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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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Building bridges: the link between health policy and economic policy in Canada : A Document prepared by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA)

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy1990
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
1996-01-30
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Last Reviewed
2019-03-03
Date
1996-01-30
Topics
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
I. PURPOSE The objective of this document is twofold: (1) to provide the federal government with a better understanding of the current issues that are of concern to physicians across Canada and are material to the preparation of the 1996-97 federal budget; and (2) to propose some solutions. As part of the government's pre-budget consultation process, the CMA has formally presented a brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance on November 23, 1995. II. POLICY CONTEXT Canada faces a number of important policy challenges as it moves toward the 21st century. First and foremost is the fiscal challenge to reduce Canada's debt and deficit levels while, at the same time, fostering an environment which provides for future economic growth within a globally-integrated marketplace. As of March 31, 1995 total public debt (federal/provincial/territorial levels of government) was $787.7 billion; the interest paid on the total debt for 1994 was $64.3 billion, and the 1994 total public deficit was $40.8 billion. At a minimum, government is faced with the challenge of addressing short- and long-term economic policy objectives while meeting defined social policy imperatives. In a time of continued fiscal restraint and scarce public sector economic resources, difficult choices will continue to be made. CMA acknowledges that there is an urgent need, now more than ever, for the federal government to balance a number of competing policy challenges. At a time when profound deficit reduction measures are required, all segments of society are being asked to do more with the same or less. Having already dealt with this reality for quite some time, the health care sector is no stranger to this burden. In making policy choices, careful and deliberate thought needs to be given to the repercussions such decisions will have on the Canada of tomorrow and the health and well-being of Canadians. Attacking Canada's federal debt/deficit for short-term economic gain must be balanced against any decision(s) that would serve to increase our longer-term "social" deficit. At a time when Canada is undergoing significant social, political and economic changes, CMA remains dedicated to the delivery of high quality health care and to safeguarding the national integrity of the system. However, given the need for the federal government to gain control over the deficit and national debt, it seems clear that putting Canada's fiscal house in order remains a high priority. That being said, the government must also be clear with Canadians on its intentions and priorities with respect to a long-term commitment to health and social programs, including a cash commitment. Canadians are deeply concerned that reducing the federal deficit will result in the shifting of costs to other levels of government which they cannot absorb. This may very well lead to reduced access to government programs and services, and at some point in the future, higher social costs. This is highlighted in a recent poll where 58% of Canadians reported that they expect the health care system will be worse in the next ten years. 1 It would appear that Canadians believe that the fiscal agenda will overwhelm the social agenda to the extent that the social values and ideals that sustain them will be forgotten or worse, be lost. Surveys indicate that 84% of Canadians view Medicare as a defining characteristic of being Canadian. Furthermore, 84% of Canadians feel that the system provides high quality care. However, 65% of Canadians are concerned about continued accessibility to a full range of publicly-financed benefits. According to the same poll, 83% of Canadians see current financing of the system as being "unsustainable" over the longer-term. 2 While Canadians are expressing strong concerns over the future viability of what we currently have in the area of health care, physicians are also voicing similar worries. In a recent poll, 76% of physicians surveyed agreed with the statement that Canada's health care will be worse in 10 years. 3 III. MANAGING CHANGE AND MEETING POLICY OBJECTIVES Recognizing that change is one constant that will characterize Canadian society for the foreseeable future, any further policy changes affecting the health care system must also be considered in the context of Canadian values and economic policy. Good health policy and good economic policy must reinforce one another. CMA is concerned that any short-term economic decisions on the part of the government which do not reinforce good health policy may be detrimental to the best interests of Canada. If change is to come within an overall policy framework that is strategic, coordinated and fair and preserves (or augments) the integrity of Canada's health care system, we must be careful to avoid short-term, stop-gap initiatives. As the Government's 1994 Throne Speech stated "...the agenda of the government is based on an integrated approach to economic, social, environmental and foreign policy". Accordingly, in establishing an appropriate fiscal framework for health and health care, change must take place within the context of a longer-term integrated view. The principle of aligning good health policy with sound economic policy is critical to managing change while serving to lay down a strong foundation for future economic growth and prosperity in Canada. Moreover, by better synchronizing health and economic policy as a national priority, opportunities can be created to meet a number of important "higher order" policy objectives. They are: (i) Canada building; (ii) economic development; (iii) well being of Canadians and the future of health and health care in Canada, and (iv) putting Canada's financial house in order. Each is discussed in turn. i. Canada Building In many ways, Canada is at a social, political and economic crossroads. The challenge to this government is to balance short-term fiscal pressures against the longer-term need to re-position Canada to take advantage of greater economic opportunities while preserving that which is of fundamental importance to Canadian society as a whole. In this context, of the range of social programs that the federal government supports, Medicare is strongly viewed as a defining characteristic of being Canadian. Medicare is a high priority for Canadians. Some have argued that the declining federal cash commitment to funding Medicare serves to further fragment our health care system and speeds the process of government decentralization. What better opportunity for the federal government to clarify its funding support and relationship to health care in this country? In making a clear, significant and stable financial commitment in support of health care, the government will serve notice that it is prepared to play a leadership role in ensuring that Canadians will have a sustainable, high quality "national" health care system, a value they hold deeply as Canadians. ii. Economic Development From an international perspective, Canada's Medicare system has been acknowledged as one of our greatest assets. Agencies such as the World Economic Forum tell us that Canada's method of financing health care is one of our comparative economic advantages in an evolving new world economic order. Compared to the United States, this takes the form of lower public and private expenditures on health care while maintaining the same or better health status. In terms of our European trading partners, the fact that health insurance programs are financed primarily through consolidated revenues (rather than employment-based taxes), also confers a unit cost advantage to Canadian exporters. In this sense, good health policy and good economic policy reinforce each other and the bridge between the two should be strengthened. By producing "healthier" individuals at lower cost, this relative cost advantage can translate into economic benefits that all Canadian can share in terms of expanded employment opportunities, wealth creation and economic growth. As a 1995 report form the Conference Board of Canada stated "[Canadian business is] unequivocal in terms of the high value they place on the Canadian health care system. Their support rests on their faith that the system has the capacity to deliver high-quality care while keeping public costs under control. They are also aware that Canada's health insurance system seems to provide employers with a competitive advantage over companies in the United States". 4 While the CMA is in support of a publicly-financed health system, there are serious concerns that the series of recent reforms have not been carried out in a reasonable and rational manner. Prior to implementing any further reforms, there is a pressing need to evaluate the effects of these changes. Cutting alone should not continue to be considered a catalyst for change; as an investment in the future of Canada health care is far too valuable. If health policy and economic policy are to be better synchronized, governments must not only consider the level of current public sector resources that are allocated to the health care system, but they must also re-examine the current roles of the public and private sectors. iii. Well-Being of Canadians and the Future of Health and Health Care in Canada For over twenty-five years, the Medicare system has provided all Canadians with the assurance that "it will always be there when you need it", without fear of an individual or family being forced into bankruptcy due to their health care needs. However, the security that Canadians have enjoyed in knowing that their health care system was always there when they needed it is being challenged daily. For example, Canadians are experiencing difficulties in access because of hospital closures, lengthening waiting lists and the departure of physicians from their communities. As well, physicians and patients are increasingly experiencing difficulties in accessing new medical technologies. Canadians are becoming more and more concerned that the universal Medicare system which they have known and supported through their tax dollars may not be available when they need it the most. In stepping forward and playing a leadership role, the federal government can serve to reassure Canadians that preserving the fundamentals of our health care system remains a high priority by making a significant and predictable financial cash contribution. iv. Putting Canada's Financial House in Order CMA recognizes that the federal government must attend to its own fiscal house and is meeting its fiscal targets. CMA believes that we must not pass this massive debt burden - one in which 36 cents of every federal tax dollars goes to debt servicing - onto future generations. This is not, however, to suggest that a "slash and burn" strategy should be adopted: but rather we should seek a measured approach that gains control over spending while fostering an environment of economic growth. This would bring with it increased employment opportunities and expanding societal wealth. Such an approach should be measured, deliberate and responsible. Deficit reduction should not be fought disproportionately on the back of health care, which, if viewed in its proper context, should be considered as an investment good not a consumption good. Health care is an asset to all Canadians, not a liability. IV. CONCLUSION The CMA has attempted to set out a framework that serves as a basis for defining policy objectives to which the government should give serious consideration. These "four pillars" are: (1) Canada building; (2) economic development; (3) well-being of Canadians and the future of health and health care in Canada; and (4) putting Canada's fiscal house in order. In seeking to build stronger bridges between these policy objectives is the unshakeable principle that good health and good economic policy should go hand-in-hand, reinforcing rather than neutralizing one another. The CMA's four pillars are consistent with government policy objectives as set out in the Red Book, and its 1994 throne speech. Using the four pillars as a guide, the key issues that are of immediate concern to the medical profession in a pre-budget consultation context are as follows: * the Canadian Health and Social Transfer (CHST); * Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP); * the Goods and Services Tax (GST); * Non-Taxable Supplementary Health Benefits (NTSHB); * the National Health Research Program (NHRP); and, * Tobacco Taxation. The CMA is prepared to work with the government and others in a collaborative effort, within the above framework to meet sound social, health, economic and fiscal policy objectives. CANADIAN HEALTH AND SOCIAL TRANSFER (CHST) ISSUE The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is concerned that the decreasing federal cash commitment to health care will eventually result in no federal cash flowing to some provinces in the future. This will seriously undermine the federal government's ability to set and maintain goals and standards in the health care system across the country. CONTEXT * The CMA recognizes that federal finances must be brought under better control. However, 60% of Canadians feel that social programs require federal protection while expenditures are being reduced. 5 Reforms to social programs must be phased in over a defined planning horizon. * Beginning in 1996-97, the Canadian Health and Social Transfer (CHST), a combination of the Established Programs Financing and the Canadian Assistance Plan, will result in a reduction of cash transfers to the provinces and territories of $7 billion. PHYSICIAN PERSPECTIVE * Access to Quality Health Care: Our First Priority Canadian physicians want to maintain and enhance the delivery of high quality health care services. Canadians are experiencing difficulties in access due to hospital closures, lengthening waiting lists and communities losing physicians. Furthermore, physicians and their patients are increasingly experiencing difficulty in accessing new health technologies. Canadians are becoming concerned that the universal Medicare system which they have supported through their tax dollars may not be available when they need it the most. * The CHST Threatens The Principles Of National Health Insurance Continued reductions in the CHST will make it increasingly difficult for the federal government to maintain national standards in health care. Earmarked funding for health care will enable the federal government to ensure the principles encompassed under the Canada Health Act are protected. * A Strong Federal Role Must Be Maintained The Medicare system provides all Canadians with the assurances that "it will be there when you need it"; and "you and your family won't be forced into financial ruin". Surveys indicate that 84% of Canadians see Medicare as a defining characteristic of being Canadian. Furthermore, 84% of Canadians feel that the system provides high quality care. Canadians want governments to spend more energy on the protection of Medicare and other social programs. 6 From an international perspective, Canada's Medicare system has been acknowledged as one of our greatest assets. Compared to the U.S. this takes the form of lower public and private expenditures on health care while maintaining the same or better health status. CMA RECOMMENDS... * Stable, predictable and ear-marked cash transfers with a formula for growth is required to enable all provinces and territories to plan and deliver a defined set of comparable high quality health care services to all Canadians. * A $250 per capita cash transfer for health care for the next 5 years should be established and guaranteed within the CHST framework. After the 5 year period, the federal government must preserve the real value of the cash transfer by means of an appropriate escalator. RATIONALE * Considering all options, a per capita transfer is the fairest, most equitable method of allocating cash for the health care system. It will also operationalize the CHST in such a way so as to reassure Canadians that the federal dollars will continue to be available to sustain the health system. * The Medicare system is a unifying value and defining characteristic that is recognized as a valuable resource by business and provides Canadians with an important sense of well-being. * The above recommendations would assist in ensuring a strong federal role in setting and maintaining national health care standards as promised in the Red Book. Acting on these recommendations will demonstrate to Canadians that the federal government has listened to their concerns about the CHST and the future of the health care system. A federal cash contribution to health care in Canada is important for economic reasons. * Business is growing increasingly concerned that the competitive advantage provided by the Canadian health care system is eroding. Furthermore, the universal nature of the coverage provided by our health system means it cannot be viewed as a subsidy under current trade agreements (e.g., NAFTA). REGISTERED RETIREMENT SAVINGS PLANS (RRSP) ISSUE The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is concerned about the ability of Canadians to accrue retirement savings that will enable them to retire in dignity. CONTEXT * The numbers of those over the age of 65 continue to expand, in 1994 11.9% of the population was over the age of 65, in 2016 this will increase to 16% and by 2041 increase to 23%. The numbers of those under 18 are shrinking, in 1994 they represented 25% of the population and by 2016 they will represent 20%. 7 These demographic trends are of concern to governments and taxpayers. Employment trends indicate that an increasing number of Canadians are self-employed. In 1994, self-employment accounted for an increasingly large share of total employment growth, 25% of the overall employment gain. In 1993, 35% of the total labour force were in employment situations that provide registered pension plans (RPPs). 8 * It appears that Canadians are becoming increasingly more self-reliant when it comes to providing for their retirement years. We understand the government's concerns with respect to the retirement income system, the CMA eagerly anticipates the release of the government's intentions in relation to seniors and pension reform. PHYSICIAN PERSPECTIVE * Ensuring Dignity in Retirement Canadian physicians treat retired patients on a daily basis and are aware of the challenges many of them face. In this context, Canadian physicians are concerned that all Canadians should have the opportunity to achieve a state of financial well-being to provide for themselves in their retirement years. Recognizing Canada's demographic trends and its current fiscal challenges, governments must ensure that suitable financial incentives are in place to encourage a greater reliance on private savings vehicles. * Equal Opportunities to Accumulate Retirement Savings The vast majority of Canadian physicians are self-employed professionals and therefore are not members of an employer/employee sponsored RPP. They, like many other individuals must plan for and fund their own retirement. The principle of equity demands that the self-employed and those employed but reliant on registered retirement savings plans (RRSPs) be afforded the same opportunities and incentives to plan for their retirement as those in employment situations that provide RPPs (i.e., pension equity). * Fair Treatment Of Retirement Savings For those individuals that may suffer the misfortune of declaring bankruptcy, creditors may seize the annuitant's RRSP assets. This is patently unfair. If an employed individual declares personal bankruptcy their RPP is currently protected from creditors, however, they too run the risk of loosing their RRSP to their creditors. CMA RECOMMENDS... * The federal government should strive for equity between RRSPs and RPPs. * The federal government should refrain from making changes to the retirement income system pending a review of the system. * The federal government should consider legislation that would deem RRSP assets credit proof. * The federal government should consider gradually raising the foreign investment limits applicable to RRSPs and/or RPPs. At the end of a defined period of gradual increases, the federal government should consider removing the foreign investment limit completely. RATIONALE * All Canadians should have an equal ability to accumulate retirement savings regardless of their employment status. Assuming the current demographic and employment trends persist, it is important to recognize the role that RRSPs will play in assisting Canadians to live healthy and dignified lives well past their retirement from the labour force. * In keeping with the principles of fairness and equity, retirement income plans should be treated equally under federal legislation (e.g., Tax Act , Bankruptcy Act). Sound investment decisions and strategies are required that will enable Canadians to accumulate retirement savings and achieve financial security in their retirement. * Given the complexity of the retirement income system, changes to RRSPs and or RPPs should only be considered in the context of a thorough review of the pension system and include a thoughtful, open and meaningful consultation process. * For the past ten years the government has supported the laudable objective of attaining equity between RRSPs and RPPs. * Experts have assured Canadians that: "The two fundamental goals (of retirement savings) are: (1) to guarantee a basic level of retirement income for all Canadians, and (2) to assist Canadians to avoid serious disruption of their pre-retirement living standards upon retirement". * As governments' continue to reduce publicly funded benefits and encourage greater self-reliance, there is a need to ensure that Canadians have the ability to invest and save private dollars for their retirement years. * RRSPs and RPPs are legitimate tax deferral mechanisms and should not be viewed as tax avoidance. Income set aside for retirement should be taxed when it is received as a pension. The tax system should encourage and assist Canadians to arrange for their financial security in retirement. GOODS AND SERVICES TAX (GST) ISSUE The CMA has strong concerns regarding the effect of treating most medical services as GST exempt. Unlike other self-employed professionals, physicians are disadvantaged by the fact that they are not able to claim refunds or collect Input Tax Credits (ITCs) for GST paid. Given that medical services are designated as tax exempt, physicians are forced to absorb the additional tax payable as a result of the GST. Moreover, if the government is to proceed with harmonization, this situation will be compounded. CONTEXT * The GST was designed as a tax on "consumers" and not businesses who provide goods and services. Approximately 95% of physicians' services are paid for by the provinces. Provinces do not pay GST based on their constitutional exemption and by agreement with the federal government. In making medical services exempt, GST is payable by the provider of the service and not recoverable as an input tax credit. Therefore physicians are in the position of paying non-recoverable GST on their inputs. Attempts to recover the GST from provincial governments through increased fees have not been possible since the provinces refuse to reimburse for increased costs due to GST since they are constitutionally exempt from GST. * Unlike other professional medical groups such as dentist, physicians do not have the ability to pass increased GST costs along in the form of higher fees. Unlike other institutional health care providers such as hospitals, physicians do not recover these extra GST costs through a rebate mechanism. Therefore, given that most medical services are exempt, physicians are forced to absorb the additional tax payable as a result of the GST. * Because most medical services are treated as exempt, an independent study estimated that self-employed physicians have been forced to absorb an additional $57.2 million of incremental sales tax (net of the Federal Sales Tax) on an annual basis. The study was submitted to the Department of Finance. By the end of 1995, it is estimated that the profession will have absorbed in excess of $286 million because of the current situation. * In the government's Red Book it states: "A Liberal government will replace the GST with a system that generates equivalent revenues, is fairer to consumers and small businesses, minimizes disruptions to small business, and promotes federal-provincial cooperation and harmonization". As self-employed professionals delivering quality health care services to Canadians, physicians face the same financial realities as do other small businesses. As such, the status of medical services as tax exempt is patently unfair to these small businesses. PHYSICIAN PERSPECTIVE * Access To Quality Health Care While hospitals have been afforded an 83% rebate, self-employed physicians must absorb the full GST load on equipment and other purchases. As a result of this differential tax arrangement, a number of physicians are leaving their community-based practices and moving back into institutions. Therefore, the GST is having an adverse effect on movement towards community-based care, and is impeding patient access to physicians who re-locate from the community to institutions. In this regard, good health policy is not reinforced by good economic policy. * Good Health Policy Should Reinforce Good Economic Policy Most of Canada's premiere medical researchers are employed by hospitals. As part of their research, physicians purchase goods and services that are inputs to their investigative activities. Given that physicians work within a facility, hospitals are eligible to claim the 83% on GST paid on input costs. However, some researchers have grown increasingly concerned that the GST that is recoverable by the hospitals is not returned for medical research and serves to "subsidize" other day-to-day activities. In essence, monies that have been earmarked for specific medical research are being allocated to other areas. Increasingly, physicians are organizing themselves within group practices. While this is, in part, a response to providing greater continuity of care to patients, it is also a reaction to the series of economic decisions that have been taken in the area of health care. Currently, it is estimated that the GST "costs" the average physician $1,500 - $2,000 per year. If physicians were able to claim ITCs, this could give them the added flexibility to employ other individuals in the provision of health care. While the direct effects of the GST are significant and measurable, the indirect effects are even more significant though less measurable. It is estimated that the 55,000 physicians employ up to 100,000 Canadians. Given the disproportionate effects of the GST on the medical profession as employers, the employment dampening effects could be significant. * Fairness For many years, the CMA has supported tax reform - provided such reform improves the overall equity and efficiency of Canada's tax system. In June 1987, for example, CMA wrote to the then-Minister of Finance stating "...we at the CMA strongly support the goals of tax reform and efforts to simplify the tax system while at the same time making it more equitable". We have subsequently reiterated our support for the broad objectives of tax reform on several occasions: it remains as strong today as ever. In the area of health care, self-employed physicians (as well as others) have not been accorded the same treatment under the GST as other health groups. For example, hospitals currently receive a rebate of 83% of GST paid on the assumption that the rebate level leaves them no worse off than under the previous tax regime (i.e., whole). As well, prescription drugs are zero-rated, with the same rationale: to ensure that they are whole. Recognizing that drug regimens can play an equally important role as some physician interventions, why would the government choose to distinguish between the two and zero-rate drugs and exempt medical services. CMA RECOMMENDS... * The CMA believes that there are three ways of proceeding to address physician concerns: (1) similar to the formula for Municipalities, Universities, Schools and Hospitals (MUSH), physicians would be accorded a rebate that would leave them no worse off under the GST; an independent study suggests that 69% would leave physicians whole; or (2) to zero-rate all medical services; or (3) to zero-rate those medical services that are funded by the government. RATIONALE The three options above serve to improve overall fairness and simplify the tax system. The CMA has submitted a proposal to the Department of Finance for consideration which recommends that health care services (including medical services) funded by the provinces be zero-rated. * The proposal to zero-rate health care services funded by the provinces means: - services provided by hospitals, charities and other provincially funded organizations would be zero-rated. - the system would treat all persons in the industry in the same manner and would thus be fairer and simpler to administer. - tax cascading would be eliminated. - in the context of the regionalization of health care in Canada difficult interpretive issues (such as what constitutes a hospital or facility) would be removed. - not all government services would become zero-rated but only those for which the provincial governments fund. The remainder would continue to be exempt and thus the government would derive revenues from the tax on inputs used in providing those services. - Some complexities would remain owing to the fact that some health care services would be zero-rated and some would continue to be exempt. Therefore, any person making a mixture of zero-rated and exempt supplies would still be required to allocate inputs between commercial and non-commercial activities. * Such a proposal would put all publicly-funded health care services on the same tax footing. * The proposal does not focus on self-employed physicians only, but has been developed in the broader context of those services that are publicly-funded. * The proposal attempts to be achieve a greater degree of flexibility in the face of regionalization of health care services in Canada. * It would reinforce the principles of fairness and simplicity in the tax system. * To summarize, the CMA has reiterated its position on several occasions. Some of the major recommendations are: (1) Canadian physicians should not pay more than other professions or occupations under the GST or its replacement; (2) all taxes on business expenses be fairly and fully removed under any replacement tax for the GST; (3) that the government assign a high priority to integrating provincial and federal sales taxes in a fair and equitable way; (4) that the federal government take a leadership role in ensuring that any integrated system not perpetuate existing tax inequities facing Canadian physicians; and (5) any provisions of a replacement tax should reinforce good health and economic policy. NON-TAXABLE SUPPLEMENTARY HEALTH BENEFITS (NTSHB) ISSUE The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is concerned that Canadians' access to health care services will be threatened if the tax status of supplementary health benefits is changed from their current tax treatment. CONTEXT * Approximately, 70% or 20 million Canadians rely on full or partial private supplementary health care benefits (e.g., dental, drugs, vision care, private health care, etc.). As governments reduce the level of public funding, the private component of health expenditures is expanding. Canadians are becoming increasingly reliant on the services of private insurance. In the context of funding those health services that remain public benefits, the government cannot strike yet another blow to individual Canadians and to Canadian business by taxing the very benefits for which taxes were raised. * Changes in health care technology and health care management have resulted in decreased length of stays in hospitals and an increased reliance upon expensive health technologies. Many of these services are covered by private supplementary health plans, especially when individuals are discharged from hospital (e.g., drugs, private home/health care). PHYSICIAN PERSPECTIVE * Access To Quality Health Care Services: First Priority Changing the status of supplementary health benefits from non-taxable to taxable may contribute decreased access to care, and/or possibly, increased costs to these plans coupled with a reduction in service of government funded programs. * Good Tax Policy Should Support Good Health Policy Non-taxable supplementary health benefits is a good tax policy that serves to reinforce good health policy. This incentive fosters risk pooling which reduces the overall cost of premiums for supplementary health benefit plans. * Fundamental Fairness In The Tax System Incentives that enable access to a broad range of quality health care services (beyond those publicly funded) to include all Canadians should be encouraged and expanded. CMA RECOMMENDS... * That the current federal government policy with respect to employment-related supplementary non-taxable health benefits be maintained. RATIONALE * If the supplementary health benefits become taxable, it seems likely that young healthy people would opt for cash compensation instead of paying taxes on benefits they do not receive. It follows that employer-paid premiums would increase as a result of this exodus in order to offset the additional cost of maintaining benefit levels due to diminishing ability to achieve risk pooling. * The federal government is to be congratulated with respect to last years' decision to maintain the non-taxable status of supplementary health benefits. This decision is an example of the federal governments' commitment to maintain a good tax policy that supports good health policy. The federal government should explore opportunities and incentives that would expand access to supplementary health care benefits to all Canadians. * In terms of fairness, it would seem unfair to penalize 70% of Canadians by taxing supplementary health benefits to put them on an equal basis with the remaining 30%. It would be preferable to develop incentives to allow the remaining 30% of Canadians to achieve similar benefits attributable to the tax status of supplementary health benefits. NATIONAL HEALTH RESEARCH PROGRAM (NHRP) ISSUE The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) believes that the health care system must respect and foster medical education and medical research. The CMA also believes that more emphasis should be placed on health services research focussing on health system reforms and their effect on the health of Canadians. Given the magnitude of change, now is the time for an evaluation of the impact before proceeding with any further reforms. CONTEXT * Canada has experienced rapid and significant changes with respect to health care reform which remains a priority at all levels of government. This environment provides a unique opportunity for the federal government to fund a concerted national evaluation strategy of health reform to date. * On the whole, the CMA would continue to encourage the government to protect earmarked monies dedicated for research activities. PHYSICIAN PERSPECTIVE * Improving The Quality Of The Health Care: Our First Priority For a variety of reasons , in a more forceful way over the last year, the CMA and physicians expressed their concerns with respect to the future of health and the viability of the health care system. The pace of reform has been rapid and change profound. What has been accomplished needs to be evaluated. In this context, the physicians of Canada have reiterated the need to foster health and medical research. * Health Research Policy Reinforcing Economic Policy Establishing a medical and health services research program will assist in attracting and retaining world-class researchers in Canada. There are positive effects that may occur in the economy as a result of this type of research with respect to the health technology sector -- creating a demand for highly skilled jobs in addition to increasing exports in high-tech, value-added goods and services. CMA RECOMMENDS... * That the federal government continue its commitment to medical education, biomedical and health services research. * That the federal government provide funding for a national initiative in evaluating health reforms. RATIONALE * Changes within the Canadian health care system, a system that is viewed as a model around the world, should not be implemented without a sound evaluation strategy. However, with the limited funding available to health researchers and health policy analysts this aspect of health care reform is often neglected or, at best, given cursory acknowledgement. We should not undertake systemic reforms without analyzing the effects that these will have upon the quality of the health care delivered to Canadians. * It is in the government's best interest to ensure that change within the health care system does not continue without evaluating the effect this will have on Canadians' access to quality health services. Once a certain course is set it may be impossible to turn the ship around. TOBACCO TAXATION ISSUE The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is concerned that the 1994 reduction in the federal cigarette tax will have a significant effect in slowing the decline in cigarette smoking in the Canadian population, particularly in the youngest age group (15-19). CONTEXT * In an effort to combat the smuggling of cigarettes into in Canada, the federal government announced, in early 1994, a reduction in the federal tax on cigarettes in the amount of $5 per carton. In addition, the federal government offered an additional matching reduction of up to $5 per carton for those provinces making reductions in provincial taxes. * At about the same time, in an attempt to counter the effects of the reduction in tobacco taxation, the government announced increased efforts to reduce the accessibility of tobacco products, particularly to minors, and also launched the Tobacco Demand Reduction Strategy in February, 1994. PHYSICIAN PERSPECTIVE * Smoking is the leading preventable cause of premature mortality in Canada. The most recent estimates suggest that more than 40,000 deaths annually in Canada are directly attributable to tobacco use. * Physicians are concerned that the reduction in tobacco taxation may reverse more than two decades of progress in reducing smoking rates. Based on an examination of four population-based surveys and data on tobacco consumption, a workshop convened by Health Canada in 1994 concluded that, in all likelihood, the prevalence of smoking in the Canadian population continued to decline from 1991 to 1993, reversed itself in 1993 and increased from 1993 to 1994. 9 * The effects of smoking on nonsmokers are of major concern to the CMA. More than 20% of Canadians have a health condition such as heart disease or acute respiratory disease, that is aggravated by secondary exposure to tobacco smoke. CMA RECOMMENDS * It is a matter of longstanding policy that the CMA supports the taxation of tobacco products at a level that will discourage their purchase, the revenue to be earmarked for health care budgets. 10 * The CMA has also recommended to the federal government (1994) that it institute a federal health protection assessment (a specially designated tax) on all Canadian cigarettes at the point of manufacture, regardless of their ultimate site of sale. * The CMA is also a co-signatory, along with eight other national medical and health organizations, of the brief Tobacco Taxation in Canada: New Directions, which was presented to the Honourable Paul Martin in February, 1995, and which sets out eight recommendations for the restoration of tobacco taxes, support for the Tobacco Demand Reduction Strategy and the taxation of the tobacco industry. RATIONALE * the government has made in health promotion campaigns against smoking, and which it has continued through the Tobacco Demand Reduction Strategy. _____________ 1 Posner M., Condition Critical. Maclean's. Vol. 108 No. 46, November 13, 1995, p. 46-59. 2 The Angus Reid Group, The Reid Report. Vol. 8, No. 7, July/August, 1993 and Vol. 8. No. 8. September, 1993. 3 The Medical Post 1995 National Survey of Doctors, Fall 1995, page 24. 4 Alvi S.: Health Costs and Private Sector Competitiveness, The Conference Board of Canada, Report 139-95, Ottawa, June, 1995, page 11. 5 Southam News/CTV/Angus Reid, Public Opinion On Government Cutbacks And The Policy Challenges Facing Canada, December 27, 1995. 6 The Angus Reid Group, The Reid Report. Vol. 8, No. 7, July/August, 1993 and Vol. 8. No. 8. September, 1993. 7 Mitchell, A. Population to hit 30 million in 1996: Globe and Mail, January 10, 1996. pp. B1-2. 8 Frenken, H. Capitalizing on RRSPs: Canadian Economic Observer, December 1995. p. 3.1-3.9. Statistics Canada - Cat. No. 11-010. 9 Stephens T. Workshop report: trends in the prevalence of smoking, 1991-1994. Chronic Diseases in Canada 1995; 16(1): 27-32 10 Canadian Medical Association. Smoking and Health: 1991 Update. Can. Med. Assoc. Journal 1991; 142 (2): 232A-232B.
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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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Maintaining Ontario’s leadership on prohibiting the use of sick notes for short medical leaves

https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy13934
Date
2018-11-15
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Health systems, system funding and performance
  1 document  
Policy Type
Parliamentary submission
Date
2018-11-15
Topics
Physician practice/ compensation/ forms
Health systems, system funding and performance
Text
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) submits this brief to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs for consideration as part of its study on Bill 47, Making Ontario Open for Business Act, 2018. The CMA unites physicians on national, pan-Canadian health and medical matters. As the national advocacy organization representing physicians and the medical profession, the CMA engages with provincial/territorial governments on pan-Canadian health and health care priorities. As outlined in this submission, the CMA supports the position of the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) in recommending that Schedule 1 of Bill 47 be amended to strike down the proposed new Section 50(6) of the Employment Standards Act, 2000. This section proposes to reinstate an employer’s ability to require an employee to provide a sick note for short leaves of absence because of personal illness, injury or medical emergency. Ontario is currently a national leader on sick notes In 2018, Ontario became the first jurisdiction in Canada to withdraw the ability of employers to require employees to provide sick notes for short medical leaves because of illnesses such as a cold or flu. This legislative change aligned with the CMA’s policy position1 and was strongly supported by the medical and health policy community. An emerging pan-Canadian concern about the use of sick notes As health systems across Canada continue to grapple with the need to be more efficient, the use of sick notes for short leaves as a human resources tool to manage employee absenteeism has drawn increasing criticism in recent years. In addition to Ontario’s leadership, here are a few recent cases that demonstrate the emerging concern about the use of sick notes for short leaves:
In 2016, proposed legislation to end the practice was tabled in the Manitoba legislature.2
The Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association and Doctors Nova Scotia have been vocal opponents of sick notes for short leaves, characterizing them as a strain on the health care system.3,4
The University of Alberta and Queen’s University have both formally adopted “no sick note” policies for exams.5,6
The report of Ontario’s Changing Workplaces Review summarized stakeholder comments about sick notes, describing them as “costly, very often result from a telephone consultation and repeat what the physician is told by the patient, and which are of very little value to the employer.”7 Ontario’s action in 2018 to remove the ability of employers to require sick notes, in response to the real challenges posed by this practice, was meaningful and demonstrated leadership in the national context. The requirement to obtain sick notes negatively affects patients and the public By walking back this advancement, Ontario risks reintroducing a needless inefficiency and strain on the health system, health care providers, their patients and families. For patients, having to produce a sick note for an 4 employer following a short illness-related leave could represent an unfair economic impact. Individuals who do not receive paid sick days may face the added burden of covering the cost of obtaining a sick note as well as related transportation fees in addition to losing their daily wage. This scenario illustrates an unfair socioeconomic impact of the proposal to reinstate employers’ ability to require sick notes. In representing the voice of Canada’s doctors, the CMA would be remiss not to mention the need for individuals who are ill to stay home, rest and recover. In addition to adding a physical strain on patients who are ill, the requirement for employees who are ill to get a sick note, may also contribute to the spread of viruses and infection. Allowing employers to require sick notes may also contribute to the spread of illness as employees may choose to forego the personal financial impact, and difficulty to secure an appointment, and simply go to work sick. Reinstating sick notes contradicts the government’s commitment to end hallway medicine It is important to consider these potential negative consequences in the context of the government’s commitment to “end hallway medicine.” If the proposal to reintroduce the ability of employers to require sick notes for short medical leaves is adopted, the government will be introducing an impediment to meeting its core health care commitment. Reinstating sick notes would increase the administrative burden on physicians Finally, as the national organization representing the medical profession in Canada, the CMA is concerned about how this proposal, if implemented, may negatively affect physician health and wellness. The CMA recently released a new baseline survey, CMA National Physician Health Survey: A National Snapshot, that reveals physician health is a growing concern.8 While the survey found that 82% of physicians and residents reported high resilience, a concerning one in four respondents reported experiencing high levels of burnout. How are these findings relevant to the proposed new Section 50(6) of the Employment Standards Act, 2000? Paperwork and administrative burden are routinely found to rank as a key contributor to physician burnout.9 While a certain level of paperwork and administrative responsibility is to be expected, health system and policy decision-makers must avoid introducing an unnecessary burden in our health care system. Conclusion: Remove Section 50(6) from Schedule 1 of Bill 47 The CMA appreciates the opportunity to provide this submission for consideration by the committee in its study of Bill 47. The committee has an important opportunity to respond to the real challenges associated with sick notes for short medical leaves by ensuring that Section 50(6) in Schedule 1 is not implemented as part of Bill 47. 5 1 Canadian Medical Association (CMA). Third-Party Forms (Update 2017). Ottawa: The Association; 2017. Available: http://policybase.cma.ca/dbtw-wpd/Policypdf/PD17-02.pdf (accessed 2019 Nov 13). 2 Bill 202. The Employment Standards Code Amendment Act (Sick Notes). Winnipeg: Queen’s Printer for the Province of Manitoba; 2016. Available: https://web2.gov.mb.ca/bills/40-5/pdf/b202.pdf (accessed 2019 Nov 13). 3 CBC News. Sick notes required by employers a strain on system, says NLMA. 2018 May 30. Available: www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/employer-required-sick-notes-unnecessary-says-nlma-1.4682899 4 CBC News. No more sick notes from workers, pleads Doctors Nova Scotia. 2014 Jan 10. Available: www.cbc.ca/news/canada/nova-scotia/no-more-sick-notes-from-workers-pleads-doctors-nova-scotia-1.2491526 (accessed 2019 Nov 13). 5 University of Alberta University Health Centre. Exam deferrals. Edmonton: University of Alberta; 2018. Available: www.ualberta.ca/services/health-centre/exam-deferrals (accessed 2019 Nov 13). 6 Queen’s University Student Wellness Services. Sick notes. Kingston: Queen’s University; 2018. Available: www.queensu.ca/studentwellness/health-services/services-offered/sick-notes (accessed 2019 Nov 13). 7 Ministry of Labour. The Changing Workplaces Review: An Agenda for Workplace Rights. Final Report. Toronto: Ministry of Labour; 2017 May. Available: https://files.ontario.ca/books/mol_changing_workplace_report_eng_2_0.pdf (accessed 2019 Nov 13). 8 Canadian Medical Association (CMA). One in four Canadian physicians report burnout [media release]. Ottawa: The Association; 2018 Oct 10. Available: www.cma.ca/En/Pages/One-in-four-Canadian-physicians-report-burnout-.aspx (accessed 2019 Nov 13). 9 Leslie C. The burden of paperwork. Med Post 2018 Apr.
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