Federal Leaders: Where is the Plan on First Nations' Health?

OTTAWA, April 26 /CNW/ - The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) today called on federal leaders to commit to defending and modernizing the Canada Health Act and enhancing the health of First Nations peoples across Canada.

"There's a misconception that Ottawa's role in health care is limited to funding, but nothing could be further from the truth," said CMA President Dr. Jeff Turnbull. "Ottawa is responsible for providing for health care services for First Nations and Inuit communities and, given the health outcomes we see among this population, its efforts fall far short of acceptable."

The federal government is also responsible for providing health services for veterans, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and in federal penitentiaries.

The CMA has called on federal party leaders to tell Canadians how they plan to lead a transformation of Canada's health care system and ensure the federal government fulfills its role as custodian of the Canada Health Act and in ensuring the provision of high-quality health care services to those under its jurisdiction.

With the spotlight shining on the federal candidates until voting day next week, the CMA and AFN want to make it clear that there is still time to commit to transforming the health care system to make it patient-centred, as Canadians have identified health care as their number-one priority in this campaign.

"First Nations are embarking on a path of positive change and re-building our Nations, but this change is hampered by a fear of someone getting sick because of limited access to medical services and the prospect of having a family member taken far from home," said AFN National Chief Shawn A-in-chut Atleo. "With tuberculosis rates among First Nations peoples at 31 times the rate for the rest of Canada, too often the fear of getting sick is not a question of if, but when.

"We have called on all parties in this election to commit to working with First Nations to support sustainable health systems at rates equivalent to the 6.6% increase already promised to the provinces," added Mr. Atleo. "We maintain that First Nations must be at the table in the upcoming discussions on the renewal of the 2004 Health Accord to ensure our unique situation and challenges are addressed."

Based on resolutions from Chiefs in-Assembly, the AFN has set out specific national priorities for this election reflecting the broad theme of 'working together now to build success for the future'.  The priorities include safety and community health for First Nations.

The CMA and AFN contend that the federal government can move to fulfill its responsibility to enforce and modernize the Canada Health Act, while also fulfilling its responsibility as the fifth-largest health care provider in the country. However, the vision and the will must come now and extend beyond funding for health care to uphold the principles of the Canada Health Act, such as accessibility and universality.

The CMA is carrying out a National Dialogue on Health Care Transformation giving Canadians the opportunity to provide their ideas for building a patient-centred health care system, online at www.healthcaretransformation.ca and through a series of public town hall meetings.

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is the national voice of Canadian physicians.  Founded in 1867, CMA's mission is to serve and unite the physicians of Canada and be the national advocate, in partnership with the people of Canada, for the highest standards of health and health care. The CMA is a voluntary professional organization representing over 74,000 of Canada's physicians and uniting at the national level the voices of 12 provincial and territorial medical associations.

The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing First Nations citizens in Canada. The Assembly of First Nations is holding a town hall forum on April 27th in Toronto and has invited all candidates.   Follow AFN and National Chief Atleo on Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/@AFN_Updates, http://twitter.com/#!/@AFN_Comms and http://twitter.com/#!/@NCAtleo.


For further information:

Lucie Boileau, Manager, Media Relations
Tel.: 1 800 663-7336/ 613 731-8610 x1266
Cell.: 613 447-0866

Jenna Young, Assembly of First Nations Communications Officer
cell: 613-314-8157 or email jyoung@afn.ca

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