For more than two years, health care providers have worked tirelessly to keep the Canadian health system from buckling under the strain of a global pandemic, massive surgical backlogs, and a depleted workforce. Unfortunately, the health system was struggling before COVID-19. Today, with more health workers burning out and leaving their professions, the system has reached a point where immediate action is needed to prevent total collapse.
In response, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), in partnership with the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) and the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC), have collaborated to develop health human resources solutions designed to rebuild Canada’s health care workforce in a proactive and sustainable way. The plan offers immediate, medium and long-term policy recommendations for the federal government to adopt and collaborate with its provincial/territorial counterparts.
Immediate action plan (next six months):
- Create retention incentives for health care workers, especially in areas of greatest need.
- Address issues that prevent health care workers from spending more time caring for patients by creating administrative and mental health supports in primary and secondary care settings.
- Scale up collaborative, interprofessional primary care so that more Canadians can access timely care provided by family doctors together with other primary care practitioners in a team-based model.
Medium-term plan (7-12 months):
- Build on existing virtual care models to increase access and remove barriers to appropriate care in a safe, secure virtual space.
- Invest in new training and education infrastructure to increase the supply of physicians, nurses and nurse practitioners.
- Support internationally trained physicians, nurses and nurse practitioners in getting licensed and into the workforce.
Long-term plan (13-18 months):
- Initiate a long-term, sustainable pan-Canadian mental health plan for health care workers.
- Improve workforce data collection across health systems to support creating a health human resource plan for Canada.
The CMA, CNA and CFPC recently presented these recommendations to the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Health and the federal/provincial/territorial Committee on Health Workforce. The complete presentation with further details on the recommendations can be found here in English and here in French.
Our organizations are calling on immediate action to begin implementing these critical policy measures. We are prepared to work in collaboration with governments and other stakeholders to support and grow the health workforce needed to care for Canadians.
“Our organizations are unified in calling for timely action to address the health care worker crisis before us. The people who care for Canadians have been stretched to the point of exhaustion. No one government or organization can solve the critical challenge that we are facing alone. That is why our organizations collaborated to come up with tangible ways of supporting our existing workforce while planning for the future.”
– Dr. Katharine Smart, president, Canadian Medical Association
“When it comes to looking at how we provide better health care in Canada, we need to first look at our health workforce. They are the backbone of the system and make everything else work. Retaining and caring for them is at the heart of resolving many challenges of our health care system. We need to ‘stop the bleeding’ and create better environments that attract and keep health care workers. This is an urgent national issue and pan-Canadian collaboration is needed to address this multi-faceted crisis.”
– Dr. Sylvain Brousseau, president, Canadian Nurses Association
“Prior to the pandemic our health care systems were already struggling. Now with the unprecedented pressure of the pandemic, many family physicians are at or past their breaking point. Our organizations are united in calling for urgent intervention to address both the immediate health care worker crisis, as well as to ensure the longer-term sustainability of our health workforce. Our plan provides concrete, actionable steps to help get us to ‘better.’”
– Dr. Brady Bouchard, president, College of Family Physicians of Canada