With the House of Commons due to resume sitting in October, the CMA is reminding physicians of the need to make politicians aware of health care issues - and about its own program that makes this possible.
The MD-MP Contact Program, which was launched in 1994 as a grassroots advocacy initiative, encourages physicians to meet regularly with their member of Parliament to discuss issues that are important to both physicians and their patients.
In a recent issue of InfoCapsule, the program newsletter, Dr. Noel Grisdale explained why contact between physicians and politicians is important.
"Politicians recognize how important the issue of health care is to their constituents," said Grisdale, a family physician from Black Diamond, Alta., who has been participating in the contact program for 10 years.
"They want to be knowledgeable in the area of health care, and they also recognize that the status quo is not working. We need to develop relationships with politicians and policy-makers within governments, and within those relationships we need to communicate what is working within the health care system, and build on that."
Dr. Richard MacLachlan, who works in the Family Medicine Department at Dalhousie University and has participated in the program for about 10 years, agrees.
"To me, the number one role of the family physician is to be an advocate on behalf of our patients," he wrote in recently in InfoCapsule. "Advocacy has really risen from, 'Oh, I better speak out on behalf of my patients,' to almost an encounter-by-encounter process to advocate for our patients and their health."
Grisdale thinks the "grassroots contacts" made possible by the MD-MP Contact Program will help make transformation of the health care system possible.
"For us to transform the system, we need to do it at the grassroots level," he explained in InfoCapsule. "We need everyone on board. The framework for some of the changes can come from 'above,' but the buy-in on a day-to-day basis needs to come at the grassroots - locally! We need each of us building relationships with our local politicians, community leaders and business leaders. There is much rhetoric out there from self-interested groups that gets broadcast in the media, [but] the grassroots conversations with people who know and respect each other is where the true traction will come."
About 400 physicians currently participate in the program, but there are some ridings in which no MD-MP contacts have been established. To encourage more physician participation, new members who join the program by Sept. 30 will be eligible to win an iPad mini. (See Contest rules.)
Details about the MD-MP Contact Program are available online, or by contacting program manager Renée Belanger, firstname.lastname@example.org.