As Members of Parliament wrap up the spring session and head home to their respective communities, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is reminding them that Canada’s health system is in deep crisis and will not get a seasonal break. With burnout and exhaustion at record highs among health care workers and lengthy surgical and clinical backlogs plaguing the system, we can’t take a break on finding dedicated, long-term solutions to these challenges.
The CMA is asking every Member of Parliament to use the summer months to investigate health care issues in their respective ridings so they have a better understanding of current challenges and can bring a renewed focus to the fall parliamentary session. To support this work, the CMA is offering them the following themes to explore:
- Addressing family physician shortages: With numerous reports of family doctors leaving the profession or their practices, and burnout levels doubling through the pandemic, the list of orphan patients continues to grow from coast-to-coast-to-coast. Members of Parliament are encouraged to speak to their constituents about their challenge in finding a family doctor or accessing primary care, what their ideas are to address the issue and how the federal government could support pan-Canadian initiatives to ensure every Canadian has access to a family doctor or primary health team.
- Fixing backlogs and wait times: Delayed care and a depleted workforce have created the perfect storm to raise backlogs and wait times to new highs. The consequences are significant for suffering patients and their families and will be felt for years to come. While health care delivery is a provincial/territorial responsibility, we ask MPs to engage their constituents to understand their health system experiences and to use these insights to inform the ongoing dialogue between the federal and provincial/territorial governments on health matters.
- Promoting pandemic management and public health measures: With COVID-19 still very present in our communities, Members of Parliament have an opportunity to support local public health capacity to address the pandemic. As key influencers in their respective communities, they can lead by example, embracing local public health measures and promoting the benefits of vaccines and boosters.
- Engaging with and supporting marginalized populations: The evidence is clear – marginalized populations have suffered disproportionately throughout the pandemic. It is critical that elected officials collaborate to understand the unique circumstances and barriers to accessing health care that these populations face and find solutions to addressing these inequities.
- Supporting health workers: A CMA survey conducted in November 2021 shows that Canadian physicians are burning out at an alarming rate, with more than 53% indicating a high level of exhaustion compared to 30% in a 2017 survey. Burnout rates are just as worrisome for nurses and other health workers. Members of Parliament are encouraged to engage with health workers to learn first-hand about the conditions in which they practise. Health workers want to be seen and heard, and their insights are key to solving the health care crisis before us.
“While the delivery of care may be under provincial or territorial government jurisdiction, the responsibility of fixing the many problems in our health system is shared between the federal and provincial/territorial governments,” says Dr. Katharine Smart, CMA president. “Federal leadership is required, and it’s time for our MPs to take ownership in learning about and discussing the health issues that affect their ridings. Bring those issues and solutions back in the fall, so we can start addressing the issues facing our health system together.”