OTTAWA, Sept. 17 /CNW Telbec/ - Canada's leading health care associations are calling on federal and provincial/territorial health ministers to tackle a number of pressing issues at the ministers' annual meeting, taking place in Winnipeg September 17. The groups - the Canadian Healthcare Association (CHA), the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) and the Canadian Pharmacists Association (CPhA) - are ready to assist governments.
"Our organizations share with Canada's health ministers the goal of ensuring Canadians are healthy and have access to the highest quality health care," said Pamela Fralick, President and CEO of the Canadian Healthcare Association. "Even during these fiscally challenging times, there are a number of issues that can and must be addressed to deliver on this commitment to Canadians."
Perhaps the most pressing issue to be addressed is preparing for - and responding to - a possible increase in the severity of the influenza pandemic this fall. Health care providers and health facilities across the continuum of care are ready to further assist governments in their preparations.
Beyond the urgent need to plan for a potentially more severe flu pandemic, governments must recognize and fulfill their commitments to implement wait time guarantees by the end of March 2010. Lack of timely access to primary care, emergency department care and lengthy delays for scheduled procedures continue to be issues of concern.
Similarly, access to pharmaceuticals for acute and chronic illness has become even more challenging in this recessionary period. More than one-in-ten Canadians (14%) report that financial concerns have caused them to delay or stop buying some prescription drugs.
"Five years after the 2004 accord, progress has stalled on improving access to needed medications," said Jeff Poston, Executive Director of the CPhA. "The economic downturn has heightened the urgency of addressing disparities in pharmaceutical coverage."
Canada also remains woefully short of physicians, nurses and other health care providers. Increasing training capacity, improving workforce productivity, better planning and coordinating across jurisdictions, and attention to appropriate scope and mix of health professionals could improve access to health care services.
"Shortages of registered nurses and other health care professionals limit access to health care services," said Kaaren Neufeld, CNA President. "We are ready to work with governments on this pressing issue. The solutions lie in optimizing the role of health professionals in a team-based approach, in enhancing training capacity and better coordinating HR planning."
Underinvestment in health information technology also contributes to longer wait times, reduced quality, duplication of services and a lack of accountability. Canada urgently needs more capital investment in health facilities across the entire continuum of care to meet the health needs of our growing and aging population. Aging physical infrastructure in health facilities across Canada also threatens patient safety and limits timely access to health care.
"Canada's doctors share the desire of governments to see electronic medical records implemented rapidly and with accountability for public funds," said Dr. Anne Doig, CMA President. "The federal government must transfer the $500 million promised to Canada Health Infoway so front-line providers can harness their potential to improve patient care and manage costs."
First Ministers committed to address many of these critical needs when they signed the 2004 health accord and, as we pass the mid-point of the accord, more progress is needed.
Despite the current fiscal climate, health budgets must be maintained. Provincial-territorial health ministers committed to conduct consultations on sustainability beginning in 2009. Our organizations applaud this promise and are ready to contribute.
Together, the CHA, CMA, CNA and CPhA represent the breadth of Canada's health care system, including provincial and territorial health associations and organizations, as well as 70,000 physicians, 133,000 registered nurses and 31,000 pharmacists.
SOURCE Canadian Medical Association
For further information: For further information: Theresa Neuman, CHA: (613) 241-8005 x 205; Lucie Boileau, CMA: (613) 731-8610 or 1-800-663-7336 ext. 1266; Paul Watson, CNA: (613) 237-2159 ext. 283; Jenn Hood, CPhA: (613) 523-7877 ext 219