Canadian Medical Association

The pandemic exposed troubling gaps in Canada’s health care system and left many people on the sidelines. The 2021 CMA Health Summit was a three-part virtual series on building a better future, including:

  • a more sustainable, accessible health system, where patients are partners 
  • a society where every individual has an equal opportunity to be healthy
  • a new medical culture that elevates physician well-being, and embraces equity and diversity

“The worst outcomes of this pandemic have been felt by those who have been least able to speak up, or least likely to be heard and taken seriously. We have watched the real-time impact of ableism, ageism, racism and other structures of oppression.” — Dr. Jane Philpott, Keynote speaker

Canada’s Universal Health Care System – Myth or Reality?

May 18, 2021 

Canadians take great pride in our universal health system. But COVID-19, highlighted longstanding inequities in access to care. How can we build a system that truly serves all Canadians?

Check out our key takeaways from session one.

Video Transcript

Dr. Danielle Martin, Family physician and Exec. VP, Women’s College Hospital

We all know that our health systems had pre-existing cracks of all kinds, but in Canada, as in the rest of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has really forced those cracks into chasms.

Dr. Nadine Caron, General surgeon

I think the concept of a universal health care system is what we aspire to. But I think we all knew in our gut that we didn't have it.  

André Picard, Globe and Mail health reporter

We've left a lot of people by the curb, mostly elders in institutional care. That's not really part of our Medicare system.

Sudi Barre, Patient advocate

Some services are not covered, especially when it relates to mental health support. With the COVID, that's been very serious because a lot of people are suffering from depression, anxiety.


The challenge to us then is going to be how do we rebuild systems that are stronger and more equitable?  


I think in Canada, we have the least universal universal health care system in the world. To me, I think we have to expand this Medicare basket. Make it much more large and perhaps in the process, make it a little less deep.


One way to make the system more patient-centered is to invite more patients voices to the table.


To me, the ideal health system begins with the broadest possible definition of health and an acknowledgement that all of the decisions that we make in public policy and in the private sector, ultimately have an impact on health. 


I think we need to go back to the basics and start to really root out institutional racism within our health care system and start to erase the past by going forward in a health care system that treats every citizen, every individual that walks through our doors, with respect.  


Will the pandemic be severe enough that it finally gives us the impetus to act. I hope so. You know, again, if I take the example of elder care, if 16,000 dead doesn't bring about change, I'm not sure that anything ever will. 


We've shown that we can unjam these log jams and actually create really rapid and effective change. The question is, how do we maintain that momentum?   

Lessons learned from COVID-19: How do we close Canada’s health gap?

June 17, 2021 

The pandemic underlined the significant social determinants of health – and the need for a fundamental shift from reactive hospital-based care to a model that integrates preventative care as well as supports such as housing and food security.

Check out our key takeaways from session two.

Video Transcript


Health Summit panelists Dr. Jane Philpott, Dr. Naheed Dosani and patient advocate Nicole Nickerson, discuss the theme of session two: Lessons learned from COVID-19: How do we close Canada’s health gap?

Dr. Naheed Dosani, Palliative care physician

It's time to dig deeper, it's time to have some of these harder conversations.

Nicole Nickerson, Patient advocate

We need to learn from these mistakes so that it doesn't happen again in the future.

Dr. Jane Philpott, Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences, Queen’s University

We will fail the future generations if we don't take those lessons and amend our ways on the basis of what we've done wrong this time.

Text on screen: 

CMA Health Summit series

Session 2: June 17

Lessons learned from COVID-19: How do we close Canada’s health gap?

Dr. Naheed Dosani

COVID-19 shined a light on health inequities in our societies and how not every person in this country has adequate access to the kind of health care and supports that they actually need.

Dr. Jane Philpott

There's no question that the rates of COVID infection have been higher amongst people from racialized communities, and they've also been often the last groups to be able to have access to, to the vaccine.  

Nicole Nickerson

It's really brought to light everything that was wrong with equity in health care, and it wasn't good to start with, and now it's even worse. Now you have women who are not only working from home, they have to teach their children at home.

Dr. Naheed Dosani

Certain communities who were already marginalized before COVID-19 have become further marginalized. Multi-generational households, people who work in production plants and factories, people who experience homelessness.

Nicole Nickerson

We have silenced our elderly for so long. We've silenced rural Canada, and I think it's time for us to speak up.

Dr. Naheed Dosani

It's time for action. We need policies to address health equity in Canada.

Dr. Jane Philpott 

We need to find ways that ideally people can stay at home and receive care in the safety and comfort of their own homes, surrounded by their loved ones, for as long as possible.

Dr. Naheed Dosani

We're talking about paid sick leave, we're talking about paid time off for vaccination, we're talking about decent wages. It's going to require this entire country to look in the mirror and really look at what happened during this pandemic and who fell through the cracks and do the right thing.

Thriving in a reimagined culture of medicine: What does it mean to be “healthy”?

August 22, 2021 

To alleviate high rates of burnout, depression and stress in the medical profession, physicians may need "new eyes” to prioritize wellness in learning and clinical environments.

Check out our key takeaways from session three.

Video Transcript


Health Summit panelists Dr. Jillian Horton, Dr. Aditi Amin and patient advocate Michelle Hamilton-Page discuss the theme of session three: Thriving in a reimagined culture of medicine – What does it mean to be ‘healthy?’

Dr. Aditi Amin, Occupational medicine expert

COVID, in a lot of ways, has been a tipping point. It's really exposed for us that, as individuals, we are kind of being taxed to the max.

Michelle Hamilton-Page, Patient advocate

I've never felt more separate from the health care community. We are so separate and so distant, and I don't think that we've ever sort of needed each other more in terms of healing as a community.

Text on screen:

CMA Health Summit Series
Session 3: Aug. 22
Thriving in a reimagined culture of medicine – What does it mean to be ‘healthy?’

Dr. Jillian Horton, Health and wellness expert

What we're actually doing is allowing the system to continue to take take take take from each of us, without ever forcing the conversation about how else can we do this? Is everything that I am doing really necessary for a physician to do?

Dr. Aditi Amin 

The culture of medicine is, I think, undergoing a huge upheaval at this time. We're starting to see people demanding more aspects of physician time, we're starting to see that there are equity, diversity and inclusion challenges.

Michelle Hamilton-Page

How do we find a way to come back together around our collective health and wellness? How do we bridge across the inequities as we create something new?

Dr. Aditi Amin 

I think to be healthy in medicine, when we think about health, we need to look at it as an all-encompassing term. What we need to be looking at more broadly is the health of our social relationships within our workplace environment. 

Dr. Jillian Horton

For me, when I think of being healthy, it means that I feel socially connected to my peers, that I have people that I can have friendly interactions with at work that are positive, that are stimulating, that feel mutually respectful. It means that I feel that I can serve my patients in a way that I can be fully present with them.

Michelle Hamilton-Page

I think it starts with taking a good look at our own identity, our own places of privilege, our own places of power, the ways in which that it gets enacted in how we relate together as health care providers and people who are either advocates or patients. 

Dr. Aditi Amin 

We have been having these conversations for a long time, but I do think that a seed has been planted here and I do think that it can and will grow. I do think there’s hope and I do think there is potential.

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