‘This is a crisis’: head of medical association warns health system is in danger of collapsing | TBEN News


The new president of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) said on Wednesday he fears the country’s fragile health care system will deteriorate further without an injection of cash — and a plan to increase the number of doctors and other health care professionals.

dr. Alika Lafontaine, an anesthesiologist in Grande Prairie, Alta., and the group’s first Indigenous president, told TBEN News that health care in Canada is in “dire” difficulties, and quality care is severely limited in some parts of the country.

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He pointed to recent emergency room closures in Ottawa, southwestern Ontario, Quebec, and other places, and dazzling emergency room wait times in major cities like Toronto and Montreal as dire precedents that undermine Canada’s long-standing promise of timely access to care. for everyone who needs it.

“We’ve been saying for a while that we’re concerned about collapse. And in some places, collapse has already happened,” Lafontaine said.

dr. Alika Lafontaine, the new president of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), was born and raised in Treaty 4 Territory in Saskatchewan. (Submitted by Canadian Medical Association)

“All these things are not normal things for Canadians to experience, so we are now at a critical point. If you can’t access services, it literally means collapse.”

Doctors on the frontline are at a breaking point and have been for nearly two and a half years, he said.

“We are all trained to deal with sharpness. We are all trained to deal with critical situations. But what is happening now goes way beyond anything we have experienced before,” said Lafontaine.

Lafontaine’s comments came after the CMA released a new report Thursday warning that all provincial and territorial systems are grappling with similar issues, most notably staffing.

The problem is essentially one of human resources, he said, and not enough doctors and nurses are available to staff existing facilities, let alone serve a growing population.

One of the solutions Lafontaine proposes is the introduction of what he calls “pan-national licensure,” which would allow doctors across the country to work with less regulatory burden.

This kind of portability would give doctors more flexibility to practice where they are needed most. It could also make it easier for foreign-trained doctors to travel around the country.

He said the current system — in which each province has its own licensing system — is a barrier.

A national ‘staff plan’ for healthcare

A national physician license could provide a single, streamlined process for verifying the credentials of internationally trained physicians, he said.

“We need to rethink the idea that we can continue with 13 separate health systems that don’t interact at a very deep level,” he said.

He said the federal government should convene a meeting with provincial and territorial governments to develop some sort of “human resources health plan” to address staff shortages and other pressing issues.

In addition to playing some sort of coordinating role, Lafontaine said, Ottawa should also be pumping more money into the system.

“We definitely need more resources in the system to move forward. But what’s important is where those resources are going,” he said, adding that previous federal efforts to specifically earmark money for mental health or home care for older people have been successful.

Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos has suggested more money will flow into provincial treasuries in the coming months, but he has said it won’t be a blank check.

Duclos has already outlined Ottawa’s top five priorities for new health care spending: ending service backlogs, increasing the number of health workers, improving access to primary care, improving long-term care and home care systems for seniors, increasing resources for mental health and substance abuse, and a renewed push to digitize health data and facilitate more virtual care.

The issue of cumbersome licensing for doctors trained abroad has recently come to a head in several provinces.

Last month, Ontario Health Secretary Sylvia Jones instructed the province’s regulatory colleges to develop plans to speed up registration of internationally trained doctors and nurses.

Other provinces, including Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, are working to streamline their procedures while welcoming Ukrainian doctors fleeing war in their countries.