Yesterday, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that COVID-19 is a global pandemic. The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is taking steps to respond to the situation on three levels – we are advocating at the federal level on key issues identified by the medical community; we are exchanging information and coordinating with provincial/territorial and national medical associations on issues affecting the medical community; and we are cancelling or rescheduling CMA meetings and training to limit exposure and ensure physicians are able to focus on care delivery.
Between now and mid-April, the following meetings, events and courses are cancelled or rescheduled:
- Two final Member Forums in London and Fredericton (cancelled);
- Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) roundtables (cancelled);
- All face-to face Physician Leadership Institute (PLI) courses (rescheduled), but online PLI courses will continue as usual; and
- All face-to-face Practice Management Curriculum (PMC) sessions (cancelled).
Additionally, in keeping with our business continuity plan, the CMA will be holding its regular business and governance meetings virtually and staff will be working from home. Changes to meetings, events and courses beyond mid-April will be assessed in the coming days and weeks.
Time to think differently about delivery of care
Yesterday’s announcement of federal investments into the health care system is a welcomed step. Canada’s doctors now look to provincial and territorial Premiers and our Prime Minister to focus resources and attention on national coordination. We need pan-Canadian coordination and federal commitments to ensure our health care system is able to cope, and that health providers are well supported in all that they do.
In addition, we believe that virtual access to providers should be scaled up immediately to alleviate potential exposure and to respond to growing demands. Less than a month ago, the CMA, in collaboration with the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (Royal College) and the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC), released 19 recommendations for creating a pan-Canadian approach to the virtualization of health services. The report, Virtual care: Recommendations for scaling up virtual medical services, recognizes that the biggest challenge to virtual care or telemedicine is not technology, but rather an issue of governance, policy and workflow. We therefore urge Premiers to find ways to scale up virtual care services as soon as possible.