Canadian Medical Association

Medical organizations call on governments to reimagine primary care to help stabilize, rebuild health systems

One year ago today, the federal government announced the most significant investment in health care in more than two decades. This investment followed years of health systems struggling to provide timely, equitable care, a crisis exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic that ravaged health care in Canada.

One year later, our health systems continue to struggle to provide the care that Canadians need, where and when they need it. More than six million Canadians do not have a family physician. Lengthy wait times for surgeries and diagnostic and life-saving treatments remain. Physicians, nurses, and other providers continue burning out, faced with insufficient system supports, overwhelming administrative burden, and inadequate remuneration. Emergency departments across the country routinely operate well beyond capacity. This cannot continue.

We need action. We need it now.

A significant portion of the federal government’s investment depends on provinces and territories creating action plans and setting targets to strengthen their respective health systems, with accountability measures in place to monitor progress. To date, only four provinces have reached agreements with the federal government. Meanwhile, Canadians continue to suffer, and they are rapidly losing faith that positive change is coming.

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC), speaking on behalf of physicians and medical learners across the country, are calling on governments to act urgently to address Canadians’ concerns. Health care providers can no longer be called upon to prop up systems that are on the verge of collapse.

Critical to stabilizing and rebuilding health care is fixing its front door: primary care. Family physicians, working with other primary care providers, offer comprehensive, continuous care while helping patients navigate complex health systems. Having a dedicated family doctor significantly improves patient health outcomes and system efficiency, keeping costs low and emergency departments available to treat emergencies. The demands placed on primary care providers — from managing growing administrative demands to caring for patients in a system in need of more support — have never been greater. We need leadership and collaboration between jurisdictions to reimagine family medicine and move to interdisciplinary team-based care.

While the CFPC and CMA urge action, we are also providing solutions including the Health Human Resource Policy Recommendations; the CMA’s Improving Accountability in Health Care for Canadians; and the CFPC’s Prescription for Primary Care and Family Practice Reform Policy Proposal Package.

The CFPC and the CMA are urging the public and health care professionals to join us in demanding action from their local elected officials by using the CFPC’s letter writing tool and participate in the conversation on social media using the hashtag #stopwaiting.

We need action. We need it now.

Dr. Kathleen Ross
CMA President

Dr. Michael Green
CFPC President

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