With overburdened health care systems across the country experiencing chaos and the prospect of collapse as the number of flu, COVID-19, and RSV illnesses rise further in the wintry months ahead, the Canadian Medical Association is calling on health ministers to take urgent action.
CMA President Dr. Alika Lafontaine wants health ministers to focus on staff retention.
“We really need to make sure that people within the system end up staying in the system and that they thrive and end up working in ways that are sustainable,” said Dr. Lafontaine told CTV’s Your Morning on Friday.
In a statement released Friday, ahead of a meeting of health ministers slated for Vancouver this weekend, the CMA says that Canada’s health ministers have a “golden opportunity” to create “tangible action” to stabilize health systems across the country.
It is asking 14 health ministers, from the federal, provincial and territorial levels, to increase staff retention through incentives, gather workforce data and allow employees to “work their full scope of practice.”
As well, it is asking for pan-Canadian licensure for doctors, further investment in physical and digital infrastructure, improving access to care through virtual systems and streamlining international licensing processes so that healthcare professionals who are immigrants can get into the system faster.
Hospitals across the country are reporting staff shortages and have had to face emergency room closures throughout the summer and into the fall.
In Toronto, a union representing frontline workers told reporters at the end of September that approximately 15,000 health care workers and 500 paramedics need to be hired this year to address staffing shortages.
Emergency department members of CUPE also said that Ontario needs to hire 46,000 workers immediately in order to keep services running.
An investigation by CTV News in October found that nurses are leaving Ontario’s health care system, lured away by better paycheques and benefits.
“This is just a cycle. And the reason we continue to enter these cycles is because we don’t solve our problems,” said Lafontaine.
To retain workers, it’s really about changing the workplace environment, to ensure that people feel supported and valued, he explained.
The health care system can become more flexible to benefit all Canadians, as it would be able to meet needs faster, he said. Pan-Canadian licensure of physicians would be part of that possible change.
For instance, to provide work in other provinces as an anesthesiologist, Lafontaine said he’s had to deal with a nine- to 12-month registration process he feels was unnecessary red tape that slowed his ability to help.
“If we open up these opportunities for us to work more closely to support each other and to be more mobile, I think you’re going to see people migrating to places where patients live,” he said.
Getting internationally educated physicians and health care workers into the system faster is one part of the solution, along with allowing workers in general to be more mobile in practicing health care across the country, said Lafontaine.
“All of these things really have the opportunity to really improve the experience of Canadian patients,” he said.
Source: CTV News