Canadian Medical Association

Good morning everyone. 
 
Today I appear before the committee as President of the Canadian Medical Association with the honour of speaking for our members - the frontline physicians. My name is Dr. Sandy Buchman. I have almost 40 years of experience practising comprehensive family medicine, with academic interests in primary care, cancer care, and palliative care, HIV/AIDS, global health and the social accountability of the medical profession. I currently practise home-based palliative care, including palliative for the homeless in Toronto. 

Since 1867, the CMA has championed improving the health of Canadians and strengthening the health care system. We represent dedicated physicians who are fighting COVID-19 alongside other health providers.
Physicians and other health care workers, represented here today, are leading the health response, caring for those afflicted by COVID-19 and keeping our health care system running along the way.

As we all know, health care workers face greater risk of contracting COVID-19 than the general population. They have put their health - and that of their families - at risk to care for others. As we look to lift public restrictions, we must ensure that the health of our frontline is not outweighed by efforts to support the health of the bottomline.

An economy cannot thrive while its healthcare system remains sick.

Our health care system has been sick for some time. The shortcomings we witnessed before COVID-19 are now glaringly obvious. Our stifled access to care. Our weakened primary care networks. The dire state of our seniors care. Insufficient and inadequate mental health services.

Long before COVID-19, too many Canadians were falling through the cracks. Too many physicians and other health professionals were stressed to the breaking point. These cracks have only grown. They have become crevasses.

The health care system pre-COVID was a patchwork of uncoordinated services. And this patchwork contributed to our lack of preparedness. it is clear that there is an urgent need to strengthen our public health capacity to ensure preparedness and response in public health emergencies.
We cannot consider ourselves civilized if we continue this way.

Madame Chair, this presentation is five minutes. It has an end. The pandemic is not something that will simply end. This is not temporary. Nor do we have the liberty of retrenching old ways. Physicians and health care workers continue to put their lives on the line. Going back is not an option. Normal will assume new meaning. We will learn to address this terrible virus but we must seize the opportunity to act on what we’ve learned to create a healthier tomorrow.

We’ve learned that we can all benefit from telemedicine and virtual health care. We’ve learned that it can work. It can enable the equitable delivery of health services to Canadians. The pandemic has irrefutably demonstrated the important role that virtual care can play in the delivery of medical care in Canada.

Our population is aging. With more than half the deaths from the virus occurring in long-term care homes, it’s time to renew the discussion of a coordinated, national seniors care strategy. So much more is needed to appropriately care for and protect our elderly.

And, we need to take care of those who care for Canadians. Our front-line health care workers face unprecedented circumstances. That personal protective equipment supply is still in critical shortage is an unfortunate fact. Physicians continue to express grave concerns about the lack of supply of PPEs. They are being told to ration and reuse and in some cases the supplies are sub-standard. This, combined with relentless hours, is increasing anxiety levels. Additional measures that acknowledge the risks and the financial burden they have taken on are sorely needed. Financial loss has no place amongst the myriad hardships already experienced by our frontline workers.

In conclusion, Madame Chair, if we don’t support our front line workers with the armour, the technological infrastructure, policies and additional measures they require to help Canadians, we will revert to our perilous perch before this transformational time. No one can afford that.

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