Weekly Top Stories: CMA’s Concerns on Healthcare Access, Pressing Workforce Crisis, New Consultant to Ontario’s Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions

Published on
September 25, 2023
Written by
Delphic Research
Read time
5 min

As we navigate another week filled with pivotal developments in healthcare, we're excited to explore the latest stories influencing the landscape. Join us as we delve into concerns raised by the Canadian Medical Association about healthcare access, tackle the pressing workforce crisis, and introduce you to a seasoned consultant joining Ontario’s Ministry of Mental Health and Addiction. These stories shed light on the challenges and opportunities in our healthcare system, offering valuable insights into its evolution.

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) paints a stark and troubling picture of healthcare. In an alarmingly illuminating survey conducted in partnership with CMA in August 2023, they unveil a chilling reality— the diminishing confidence of Canadians in the healthcare system. Shockingly, only 25% expressed optimism, while a staggering 80% believed that both federal and provincial/territorial governments must prioritize healthcare more. CMA drew attention to the alarming fact that six million Canadians lack a regular primary care provider. In response, they advocate for collaborative solutions with the government, including enhancing physician mobility and promoting team-based care as essential steps to address this healthcare crisis.

As we strive for improvements in our healthcare system, we cannot ignore the pressing issues within our workforce. The Canadian federal government, acutely aware of the relentless toll inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ceaseless pressures on our healthcare system, which have caused significant burnout, absences, and turnover among healthcare workers.  

In response to these formidable challenges they have initiated collaborations with provincial and territorial governments, as well as key stakeholders, committing a budget of nearly $200 billion in health investments, including funding for wage increases and modernization. Their plan encompasses recruitment, retention, and system modernization, emphasizing improved access to healthcare services. To drive significant change in the health workforce sector, the government established a Coalition for Action for Health Workers. This coalition, comprised of experts and representatives from various healthcare sectors, is advising the government on addressing health workforce challenges. In a related move, Ontario is extending the Temporary Locum Program to prevent rural and northern hospital ER closures, providing relief amid staffing shortages.

In addition to the concerns raised by CMA regarding healthcare access, the federal government's plan to introduce a national pharmacare plan has also come under scrutiny. Two experts at the Fraser Institute, Bacchus Barua, Director of Health Policy Studies, and Jake Fuss, Director of Fiscal Studies, caution that a more cautious approach might be necessary. This cautiousness is partly due to concerns about the cost, as estimates for a universal single-payer pharmacare program range from $15.0 billion to $32.7 billion annually, and the federal deficit is already projected to surpass $40 billion in 2023.  

Barua and Fuss also pointed out that it's unclear whether a national pharmacare program covering all Canadians, regardless of income or existing coverage, will achieve its intended goals, as many Canadians already have private coverage for outpatient drugs, while provincial plans assist low-income individuals and those with chronic conditions. They recommend targeting assistance to the 8.2 to 23 percent of Canadians struggling with medication costs or expanding coverage through private sector partnerships. They caution that the implementation of a national pharmacare plan without precise targeting might lead to elevated government spending, increased debt levels, and potential challenges in ensuring access to medications for those with genuine medical needs.

In parallel to these discussions on healthcare access and the national pharmacare plan, it's noteworthy that Gilbert Sharpe, a seasoned health law consultant, has assumed a pivotal role as a consultant to Ontario's Minister for Mental Health and Addictions, Michael Tibollo. With over three decades of expertise in healthcare advisory, including significant contributions to international projects for esteemed organizations like the World Bank and the World Health Organization, Sharpe brings a wealth of experience to his new role. During his tenure as the Director of Legal Services for the Ontario Ministry of Health, he played a crucial role in shaping legislation governing healthcare facilities and professionals. He boasts an impressive track record, having authored books on health law, numerous published articles, and a background in academia, having held esteemed positions at the University of Toronto and McMaster University.

Ensuring the welfare of every Canadian demands nothing less than a concerted and cooperative effort. It hinges on the unwavering commitment of healthcare practitioners, the resolute determination of policymakers, and the profound expertise of individuals like Gilbert Sharpe. These factors play vital roles in shaping the future of healthcare.  

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