Canadians left waiting for vision on health care

OTTAWA, March 22 – The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) responded to the federal budget with a fresh sense of urgency for the federal government to create an overall health-care vision for Canada.
The budget featured some health-related announcements that represent steps in the correct direction: for example, the Family Caregiver Tax Credit, initiatives to support palliative care, and the plan to relieve student debt for new nurses and physicians who locate in rural and remote settings. However, more action is needed to address challenges in this and other areas of health care.
“The initiative to address the shortage of primary care physicians recognizes the particular challenges of providing health care in rural and remote areas of the country,†said CMA president Dr. Jeff Turnbull.
“However, there is also an important shortage of primary health care providers in Canada’s cities that must also be addressed. That’s why Canadians are calling for a more strategic and integrated approach from their federal government to improving the health care system,†he added.
In a public opinion poll last week commissioned by the CMA and CNA, 45 per cent of Canadians thought health care their priority for the federal budget compared to 35 per cent who chose the economy and 15 per cent who ranked the environment first.
The poll also found that a large percentage of Canadians supported the introduction of a wide range of budget measures to improve the health-care system including enhanced programs to support disease prevention, healthy living, and environmental issues such as safe water. The budget allows for little in the way of these measures or a strategic vision for the future of health care.
CNA president Judith Shamian said Canada’s nurses are happy to see nursing and medical student debt relief as well as tax relief for Canadians providing care for family members.
“However, just last week Canadians indicated clearly that health care was their top priority and initiatives such as access to prescription drugs based on need and not on the ability to pay, went largely unnoticed in this budget,†she said.
The CMA and CNA say they will attempt by all means to engage Canadians positively.