Many emergency rooms (ERs) across the country are overflowing and patients across Canada are waiting far too long to receive necessary care. The scene is not new but unless we make major systemic changes, it will continue to repeat itself. Despite the tireless efforts of physicians, nurses and other health providers, testimonies from around the country illustrate that patients in some jurisdictions are waiting as long as 20 hours or longer to receive care.
Staff shortages and hospital overcrowding combined with poor access to high-quality team-based primary care are leaving hospital emergency departments woefully under-resourced for the avalanche of patients with influenza, COVID-19 or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) at this time of year.
No one wants to spend 20 hours waiting for the care they or their loved ones need. Solutions to ease the pain points for patients and providers are crucial. For instance, ERs shouldn’t be substitutes for walk-in clinics or primary care. We are facing a primary care crisis in this country, and we urgently need to find solutions.
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) believes it is well past time to transform and rebuild the health care system, including investing upstream in team-based primary care.
The CMA is calling on provinces and territories to prioritize signing and implementing health care action plans to significantly increase access, improve working conditions, and modernize Canada’s health systems. One in five people in Canada do not have access to a primary care provider and cannot access timely care for episodic or urgent conditions, or comprehensive care for chronic conditions. As parliamentarians prepare for the winter session, we urge continued attention on health care with a particular focus on access to high-quality team-based primary care. Without concerted collaboration and focus, we will continue to endure endless cycles of deterioration of our health systems and the people working within it.
Dr. Kathleen Ross