‘It’s a crisis’: Medical association chief warns healthcare system at risk of ‘collapse’

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

Dr. Alika Lafontaine, an anesthesiologist in Grande Prairie, Alta., and the group’s first Indigenous chair, told CBC News that health care in Canada is in a “desperate” situation, with quality care severely limited in some areas. from the country.

He pointed to recent emergency room closures in Ottawa, southwestern Ontario, Quebec and other locales and the eye-popping wait times in emergency rooms in major cities like Toronto and Montreal. as terrible precedents undermining Canada’s long-standing promise of timely access to care for all who need it.

“We’ve been saying for a while that we’re concerned about the collapse. And in some places the 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 the Canadian Medical Association)

“All of these things are not normal things for Canadians, so we’re at a tipping point right now. If you can’t access services, it literally means a meltdown.”

Doctors on the front line are at breaking point and have been for almost two and a half years, he said.

“We’re all trained to deal with sharpness. We’re all trained to deal with critical situations. But what’s happening now is way beyond anything we’ve experienced before,” Lafontaine said.

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

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

One of Lafontaine’s proposed solutions is to introduce what he calls “pan-national licensure,” which would allow doctors to work across the country with fewer regulatory burdens.

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 an obstacle.

A “national human resources plan” for health care

A national doctor’s license could provide a single, streamlined process for verifying the credentials of foreign-trained doctors, he said.

“We have to rethink the idea that we can continue with 13 separate health systems that don’t collaborate with each other on a really deep level,” he said.

He said the federal government must convene a meeting with provincial and territorial governments to develop some kind of “health human resource plan” to address staffing gaps and other pressing issues.

In addition to playing a coordinating role, Lafontaine said, Ottawa should also inject more money into the system.

“We definitely need more resources in the system to move forward. But what’s important is where those resources go,” he said, adding that past federal efforts to specifically allocate funds for mental health or home care for the elderly have been successful.

Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos has hinted that more money will flow into provincial coffers over the next few months, but he said it won’t be a blank cheque.

Duclos has already identified Ottawa’s top five priorities for new health care spending: ending service backlogs, increasing the number of health care workers, better access to primary care, a better health care system long-term and home care services for seniors, more resources for mental health and addictions, and a new push to digitize health data and facilitate more virtual care.

The issue of burdensome licensing for doctors trained outside the country has recently come to a head in several provinces.

Last month, Ontario Health Minister Sylvia Jones asked the province’s regulators to develop plans to register internationally trained doctors and nurses more quickly.

Other provinces, including Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, are working to streamline their procedures as they welcome Ukrainian doctors fleeing war to their country.

Comments are closed.