Ottawa (Jan. 29, 2015) — Canada’s premiers need to lock on to the urgent need for a national seniors strategy not only for the sake of seniors, their families and the growing legion of caregivers looking after aging relatives, but also for the economy of our country, Dr. Chris Simpson, president of the Canadian Medical Association, said today.
Dr. Simpson said the CMA is delighted that not only the economy but Canada’s aging population will also be on the agenda when Canada’s provincial and territorial premiers sit down in Ottawa on Friday for a special meeting of the Council of the Federation because health and the economy are interrelated.
“With 5.2 million Canadian seniors and that proportion doubling in the next 15 years combined with reductions in federal transfers by tens of billion dollars starting in 2017, it is clear that without a national strategy for seniors, the economic impact will be massive, ” Dr. Simpson said. “For these reasons, not only should health and seniors ministers pay attention to this but so too should finance ministers and prime ministers.”
The Council of the Federation’s Fiscal Arrangements Working Group reports that federal changes to the Canada Health Transfer in 2011 will result in a shortfall for the provinces and territories of $36 billion between 2014-15 and 2023-24, while the number of seniors will almost double by 2036.
“Let me be clear: money alone will not address the needs of our seniors and the support they and their families need. These resources need to support a strategy built on a national vision for the prevention, the wellness and the care our seniors deserve,” Dr. Simpson added.
Furthermore, Dr. Simpson noted the alarming numbers presented by the Mental Health Commission of Canada in regards to the impact of mental illness on patients, families and their role as caregivers. Almost 17% of family caregivers over age 15 are reporting being under severe stress as validation of the urgency of a national seniors strategy. Statistics Canada reports 35 per cent of the workforce is providing care to a relative, accounting for $5 billion in unpaid labour and an annual loss in productivity of $1.3 billion.
“The lack of a national strategy for seniors, the impact of insufficient support to families caring for seniors are all contributing factors to the gridlock we experience in our hospitals,” said Dr. Simpson.
Code Gridlock is what hospitals call overcapacity and results when seniors are forced to occupy hospital beds because there is not enough long term care or home care services available. And it is fast becoming the norm in Canadian hospitals.
“Working together on a national seniors strategy is a unique opportunity for our leaders at all levels of government to step up and engage in a true nation building project. We do not have the luxury of time,” said Dr. Simpson.
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is the national voice of Canadian physicians. Founded in 1867, the CMA is a voluntary professional organization representing more than 80,000 of Canada’s physicians and comprising 12 provincial and territorial medical associations and 60 national medical organizations. CMA’s mission is helping physicians care for patients. The CMA will be the leader in engaging and serving physicians and be the national voice for the highest standards for health and health care.