Since 1867, the Canadian Medical Association has been the national voice of Canada’s medical profession. We work with physicians, residents and medical students on issues that matter to the profession and the health of Canadians. We advocate for policy and programs that drive meaningful change for physicians and their patients
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) appreciates this opportunity to respond to the notice as
published in the Canada Gazette, Part 1 for interested stakeholders to provide comments on Health
Canada’s proposed Vaping Products Promotion Regulations “that would (1) prohibit the promotion of vaping products and vaping product-related brand elements by means of advertising that is done in a manner that can be seen or heard by young persons, including the display of vaping products at points of sale where they can be seen by young persons; and (2) require that all vaping advertising convey a health warning about the health hazards of vaping product use.”
Canada’s physicians, who see the devastating effects of tobacco use every day in their practices, have
been working for decades toward the goal of a smoke-free Canada. The CMA issued its first public
warning concerning the hazards of tobacco in 1954 and has continued to advocate for the strongest
possible measures to control its use.
The CMA has always, and will continue to support, strong, comprehensive tobacco control legislation, enacted and enforced by all levels of government. This includes electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes). Our approach to tobacco and vaping products is grounded in public health policy. We believe it is incumbent on governments in Canada to continue working on comprehensive, coordinated and effective tobacco control strategies, including vaping products, to achieve the goal of reducing smoking prevalence.
It is imperative that the regulations concerning the promotion of vaping products be tightened sooner rather than later. While the CMA views Health Canada’s proposed regulations as a step in the right direction, they should only be considered as the start of extensive regulatory, policy and public health work required to effectively address the harms associated with vaping.
Vaping is not without risks. Evidence continues to grow about the hazards associated with the use of e-cigarettes, especially for youth and young adults. The emergence of e-cigarette, or vaping, product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) in the United States and to a lesser extent in Canada, illustrates the danger these products can pose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that as of January 7, 2020 that there were 2,602 cases of hospitalized EVALI or deaths (57 so far) reported by all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 2 U.S. territories (Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands). In an update published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, “younger age was significantly associated with acquiring THC-containing and nicotine-containing products through informal sources.” The report concludes with this warning: “Irrespective of the ongoing investigation, e-cigarette, or
vaping, products should never be used by youths, young adults, or pregnant women.”3 In Canada, as of January 7, 2020, 15 cases of severe pulmonary illness associated with vaping have been reported to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
A recent public opinion survey conducted by the Angus Reid Institute (ARI) indicates that Canadians are growing more concerned about the safety of vaping as more information on the potential harms becomes available. The survey found that the number of people saying that vaping does more harm than good rose from 35% in 2018 to 62% in 2019.5 Further, 17% of parents with children under 19 said their child either vaped or had tried it; 92% of those parents considered vaping harmful.5 Significant to this discussion is the fact that 90% of respondents support “banning advertisements of vaping products in areas frequented by young people. This includes areas such as bus shelters or parks, and digital spaces like social media.”5 As public unease continues to rise, the need for further tightening of regulations becomes vital.
Unfortunately, the federal government is still behind the curve when it comes to the proliferation of vaping and the vaping industry. Health Canada will have to step up surveillance and enforcement if tightening of the regulations is to be effective.
This brief will address the planned regulations as well as discuss important issues not covered such as nicotine levels and flavours. We have expressed concerns about these topics in previous consultations and will be reiterating them here.
Promotion of Vaping Products
The CMA appreciates Health Canada’s intent to tighten the regulations but this proposal is not sufficient, and we must reiterate our long-held position that the restrictions on the promotion of all vaping products and devices be the same as those for tobacco products. , The proposed regulations provides the vaping industry with too much latitude in their promotion activities to ensure youth are protected. As we noted in our response to Health Canada’s consultation on The Impact of Vaping Products Advertising on Youth and Nonusers of Tobacco Products, the advertisements that have been permitted to this point seem to have managed to find their way to youth, even if they are not directed at them, as has been asserted.7, We recommended vaping advertisements should not be permitted in any public places, broadcast media, and in publications of any type, with no exceptions. The CMA stands by that recommendation.7
The methods used by the vaping industry in the past succeeded in attracting more and more youth and young adults and it will no doubt continue efforts to find novel approaches for promoting their products, including the use of popular social media channels. , , , Indeed, “JUUL’s™ advertising imagery in its first 6 months on the market was patently youth oriented. For the next 2 ½ years it was more muted, but the company’s advertising was widely distributed on social media channels frequented by youth, was amplified by hashtag extensions, and catalyzed by compensated influencers and affiliates.”10
The vaping industry’s efforts to circumvent marketing restrictions in other jurisdictions are evident in view of some recent developments. A US study outlines an e-cigarette marketing technique that involves the promotion of scholarships for students. The study found 21 entities (manufacturers, e-cigarette review websites, distributors) offering 40 scholarships, ranging in value from $300 to $5000 (US).13 Most of the scholarships required “an essay submission, with most listing prompts related to e-cigarettes or eliciting information about the benefits of vaping.”13 The authors suggest “that prohibitions on e-cigarette scholarships to youth are also needed, as many of these scholarships require youth under the age of 18 years (for whom use of e-cigarettes are illegal) to write positive essays about vaping.”13
The CMA reiterates, yet again, its position that all health warnings for vaping products and devices should be similar to those presently required for tobacco packages in Canada.6, The need for such cautions is important in that we still do not understand fully the effects vaping can have on the human body.
More research is needed into the potential harms of using electronic cigarettes to understand the long-term effects users may face. , , The proposed health warnings are not strong enough in light of the research and knowledge that has emerged to date about the harms caused by e-cigarettes. For example, a recent US study highlighted the potential link between e-cigarette use and depression. It found “a significant cross-sectional association between e-cigarette use and depression, which highlights the need for prospective studies analyzing the longitudinal risk of depression with e-cigarette use.”18 As the authors note, “the potential mental health consequences may have regulatory implications for novel tobacco products.”18
Further, with respect to respiratory issues, a US study found that “use of e-cigarettes appears to be an independent risk factor for respiratory disease in addition to all combustible tobacco smoking.” The authors also don’t recommend the use of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool because “for most smokers, using an e-cigarette is associated with lower odds of successfully quitting smoking.”19
Nicotine levels and flavours are not addressed in this consultation. However, the CMA considers these issues to be vital in the effort to protect youth and young adults from the harms associated with e-cigarettes and will therefore provide comment in effort to speed movement toward resolving these problems.
The CMA remains very concerned about the rising levels of nicotine available through the vaping process. They supply “high levels of nicotine with few of the deterrents that are inherent in other tobacco products. Traditional e-cigarette products use solutions with free-base nicotine formulations in which stronger nicotine concentrations can cause aversive user experiences.”
Hammond et al noted in their 2019 study that “JUUL® uses benzoic acid and nicotine salt technology to
deliver higher concentrations of nicotine than conventional e-cigarettes; indeed, the nicotine concentration in the standard version of JUUL® is more than 50 mg/mL, compared with typical levels of 3-24 mg/mL for other e-cigarettes.”9 The salts and flavours available to be used with these devices reduce the harshness and bitterness of the taste of the e-liquids with some of the competition delivering even higher levels of nicotine.
The CMA called on Health Canada to restrict the level of nicotine in vaping products to avoid youth (and adults) from developing a dependence.20 Health Canada set the maximum level at 66 mg/ml while a European Union (EU) directive of 2014 indicates the level should not exceed 20 mg/ml. , Nicotine, among other issues, “affects the developing brain by increasing the risk of addiction, mood disorders, lowered impulse control, and cognitive impairment. , Utilizing the EU level as an interim measure until more scientific research is available to determine an optimal level is acceptable.
On December 5, 2019, the Government of Nova Scotia became the first province or territory to announce it would institute a ban on sale of flavoured e-cigarettes and juices, as of April 1, 2020. The CMA recommends that flavours banned to reduce the attractiveness of vaping to youth as much as possible; others share this sentiment.6,7, Flavours are strong factors in attracting youth, especially when coupled with assertions of lower harm. Their success in doing so is evidenced by the rise in the rates of vaping among youth.9, A recent US study found that “perceiving flavored e-cigarettes as easier to use than unflavored e-cigarettes may lead to e-cigarette use progression among youth never tobacco users. Determining the factors (including e-cigarette marketing and specific e-cigarette flavors) that lead to perceived ease of using flavored e-cigarettes would inform efforts to prevent and curb youth e-cigarette use.” The CMA recommends that flavours be banned to reduce the attractiveness of vaping to youth as much as possible.
1. The CMA recommends that vaping advertisements should not be permitted in any public places, broadcast media, and in publications of any type, with no exceptions.
2. The CMA reiterates its position that all health warnings for vaping products and devices should be similar to those for tobacco packages.
3. The CMA believes that the European Union 2014 directive indicating the nicotine concentration not exceed 20 mg/ml should be adopted as an interim measure until more scientific research is available to determine an optimum level.
4. CMA recommends flavours be banned to reduce the attractiveness of vaping to youth as much as possible.
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and its Quebec office are pleased to provide this submission to the Committee on Transportation and the Environment on Bill 44: An Act mainly to ensure effective governance of the fight against climate change and to promote electrification. The CMA maintains that governance of the fight against climate change will not be effective unless it integrates the health impacts on the Quebec population. Physicians in Quebec, across Canada, and around the world have a unique role to play in helping advance government and public understanding of the health consequences of climate change and in supporting the development of effective public health responses. The CMA’s submission provides recommendations to better prepare and mitigate the impacts of a changing climate on people’s health and the health care system in Quebec.
How Climate Change Affects Health
The World Health Organization has identified climate change as the biggest threat to global health.
1 In Canada, the immediate health effects of climate change are a growing concern. In this century, Canada will experience higher rates of warming in comparison to other countries around the world. Northern Canada, including northern Quebec (Nunavik), will continue to warm at more than triple the global rate. These warming conditions will lead to an increase in extreme weather events, longer growing seasons, melting of the permafrost, and rising sea levels.2
Physicians are at the front lines of a health care system that is seeing growing numbers of patients experiencing health problems related to climate change, including heat-related conditions, respiratory illnesses, infectious disease outbreaks and impacts on mental health. For example, the heat wave in southern Quebec in 2018 was linked to over 90 deaths.3
Examples of the extent of this issue include:
The number of extremely hot days is expected to double or triple in some parts of Canada in the next 30 years and will lead to an increase in heat-related impacts (e.g., heat stroke, myocardial infarction, kidney failure, dehydration, stroke).4
Air pollution contributes to approximately 2,000 early deaths each year in Quebec by way of heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and respiratory disease (such as aggravated asthma).5
An increase in vector-borne diseases such as Lyme disease has increased significantly in Quebec, with the number of cases increasing from 125 in 2014 to 338 in 2018.6
Extreme weather events are increasing in frequency, intensity and duration across Quebec and can negatively impact mental health (e.g., anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder),7 as well as place additional strain on the health care system.
Increasing temperatures are affecting the ice roads used in winter, and other roads built on permafrost in northern Quebec, threatening food security.8
There are sub-populations that are more susceptible to the health-related impacts of climate change. For example, in northern Quebec, climate change is already increasing health risks from food insecurity due to decreased access to traditional foods, decreased safety of ice-based travel, and damage to critical infrastructure due to melting permafrost. For the rest of Canada, the health impacts vary by geographic region, but include a list of issues such as increased risk of heat stroke and death, increases in allergy and asthma symptoms due to a longer pollen season, mental health implications from severe weather events, and increases in infectious diseases, UV radiation, waterborne diseases and respiratory impacts from air pollution. 9
Seniors, infants and children, socially disadvantaged individuals, and people with existing medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, are at greater risk of being affected by climate change. The susceptibility of a population to the effects of climate change is dependent on their existing vulnerabilities and their adaptive capacity. 10,11
Figure 1. Examples of Health Impact of Climate Change in Canada5
Climate Change: A Health Emergency
Recent polls have demonstrated that Canadians are very concerned about climate change and its impact on health. A 2017 poll commissioned by Health Canada revealed that 79% of Canadians were convinced that climate change is happening, and of those people 53% accepted that it is a current health risk and 40% believe it will be a health risk in the future.12 As well, a 2019 poll commissioned by Abacus Data reports that Quebecers are the most anxious about climate change and think about the climate more often than people living in the rest of Canada. The same poll reports that 59% of people in Quebec believe that climate change is currently an emergency and 12% reported that it will likely become an emergency in a few years.13 These numbers are not surprising considering the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events in Quebec in recent years. The CMA believes climate change is a public health crisis. Over the past few years in Canada, there have been numerous extreme climate events, such as wildfires in British Columbia,
extreme heat waves in Quebec, and storm surges on the east coast. In southern Quebec, a changing climate has also increased the range of several zoonoses, including blacklegged ticks, which are vectors of Lyme disease.14 Physicians across Quebec are seeing patient outcomes affected by the changing climate and are advocating for change. The health impacts of climate change were raised at last year’s COP25 meeting in Madrid, Spain, among an international group of leading environment and health stakeholders, including the CMA. The group collectively called on governments to broaden the scope of their climate change initiatives and investments to include health care.
A lack of progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and building adaptive capacity threatens both human lives and the viability of health systems, with the potential to disrupt core public health infrastructure and overwhelm health services, not to mention the economic and social costs. In Quebec, the research consortium Ouranos estimated in 2015 that extreme heat, Lyme disease, West Nile virus and pollen alone will cost the Quebec state an additional $609 million to $1,075 million,15 and could result in up to 20,000 additional lives lost within the next 50 years.
Canada is currently not on track to meet the international targets set out by the Paris Agreement.16 The 2019 report from Lancet Countdown, the largest international health and climate research consortium, states that continued inaction on meeting the targets set out by the Paris Agreement will result in the health of a child born today being impacted negatively by climate change at every stage of its life.
The CMA recommends that adaptation and mitigation measures be prioritized to limit the effects of climate change on public health.
Hearing Health Care Professionals on Climate Change Last June, the CMA was pleased with the announcement made by the Minister of the Environment and the Fight Against Climate Change, Benoit Charette, to create a task force to ensure effective governance of the fight against climate change, including meeting Quebec’s international climate targets.17 Climate change crosses multiple sectors and requires experts from diverse backgrounds to create solutions to adapt and mitigate the impacts of climate change. Considering the overwhelming evidence of the impacts of climate change on human health, it is paramount that a health representative sits on the committee that will be advising the Minister. Physicians and health professionals have a critical role to play in advancing public understanding of the potential impacts of climate change on health and promoting appropriate actions aimed at protecting the health of Canadians. Physicians believe that what’s good for the environment is also good for human health. Protecting human health must be at the core of all environmental and climate change strategies within Quebec.
Recommendation 2: The CMA recommends that a health representative sit on the committee that will be advising the minister.
Dedicated Funding for a Greener Health Care System
The 2019 Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change reports that Canada has the third-highest per capita greenhouse gas emissions coming from its health care sector in the world. Health care related emissions account for approximately 4.5% of the country’s total emissions. Hospitals produce a significant proportion of health sector emissions as they are always on, are resource intensive, and have strict ventilation standards. Hospital services also produce large amounts of waste through the use of single-use items (e.g., hospital gowns and surgical supplies).
To remedy this problem, the CMA recommends that experts from research, education, clinical practice, and policy work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and that funding be dedicated to measuring the carbon footprint of different institutions and addressing these issues. Health care providers are uniquely positioned to advocate for innovative solutions that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the health sector and improve public health.18 By reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the health system, the Quebec government will better position itself to be consistent with the timelines and goals of the Paris Agreement for zero-emissions for healthcare by 2050.19
The CMA recommends that a portion of the Green Fund’s budget be dedicated to the greening of health systems.
The CMA’s submission highlights the need to better prepare and mitigate the health impacts of a changing climate, as well as the need for a health representative to advise the minister, and the allocation of funding for the greening of health systems in Quebec. Physicians are in a unique position to help the government develop strategies to mitigate the impacts of climate change and ultimately improve population health.
Summary of recommendations
The CMA recommends that adaptation and mitigation measures be prioritized to limit the effects of climate change on public health.
The CMA recommends that a health representative sit on the committee that will be advising the minister.
The CMA recommends that a portion of the Green Fund’s budget be dedicated to the greening of health systems.
1 Costello A, Abbas M, Allen A, Ball S, et al. The Lancet and University College London Institute for Global Health Commission, The Lancet, 2009;373( 9676):1693-1733. Available: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(09)60935-1/fulltext (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
2 Government of Canada. Canada’s Changing Climate Report. Ottawa: Government of Canada; 2019. Available: https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/sites/www.nrcan.gc.ca/files/energy/Climate-change/pdf/CCCR_FULLREPORT-EN-FINAL.pdf (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
3 Institut national de santé publique du Québec. Surveillance des impacts des vagues de chaleur extrême sur la santé au Québec à l’été 2018 [French only]. Québec : Institut national de santé publique du Québec; 2018. Available: https://www.inspq.qc.ca/bise/surveillance-des-impacts-des-vagues-de-chaleur-extreme-sur-la-sante-au-quebec-l-ete-2018 (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
4 Guilbault S, Kovacs P, Berry P, Richardson G, et al. Cities adapt to extreme heat: celebrating local leadership. Ottawa: Health Canada Institute for Catastrophic Loss Reduction; 2016. Available: https://www.iclr.org/wp-content/uploads/PDFS/cities-adapt-to-extreme-heat.pdf (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
5 Health Canada. Health Impacts of Air Pollution in Canada--an Estimate of Premature Mortalities. Ottawa: Health Canada; 2017. Available: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/air-quality/health-effects-indoor-air-pollution.html (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
6 Santé et services sociaux Québec. Maladie de Lyme. Tableau des cas humains – Archives 2014 à 2018. [French only]. Available: https://www.msss.gouv.qc.ca/professionnels/zoonoses/maladie-lyme/tableau-des-cas-humains-lyme-archives/ (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
7 Cunsolo A, Ellis N. Ecological grief as a mental health response to climate change-related loss. Nature Climate Change 2018;8:275-81.
8 Rosol R, Powell-Hellyer S, Chan HM. Impacts of decline harvest of country food on nutrient intake among Inuit in Arctic Canada: impact of climate change and possible adaptation plan. Int J Circumpolar Health 2016;75(1):31127. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4937722/pdf/IJCH-75-31127.pdf (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
9 Howard C, Buse C, Rose C, MacNeill A, Parkes, M. The Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change: Policy Brief for Canada. London: Lancet Countdown, Canadian Medical Association, and Canadian Public Health Association, 2019. Available: https://storage.googleapis.com/lancet-countdown/2019/11/Lancet-Countdown_Policy-brief-for-Canada_FINAL.pdf. (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
10 Canadian Medical Association (CMA). CMA Policy. Climate Change and Human Health. Ottawa: CMA; 2010. Available: https://policybase.cma.ca/en/permalink/policy9809 (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
11 Health Canada. Climate Change and Health. Ottawa: Health Canada; 2020. Available: https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/climate-change-health.html (accessed 2020 Jan 26).
12 Environics Health Research. Public Perceptions of Climate Change and Health Final Report. Ottawa: Health Canada; 2017.
13 Abacus Data. Is Climate Change “An Emergency” and do Canadians Support a Made-in-Canada Green New Deal? Ottawa: Abacus Data; 2019. Available: https://abacusdata.ca/is-climate-change-an-emergency-and-do-canadians-support-a-made-in-canada-green-new-deal/ (accessed 2020 Jan 26).
14 Howard C, Rose C, Hancock T. Lancet Countdown 2017 Report: Briefing for Canadian Policymakers. Lancet Countdown and Canadian Public Health Association. Available: https://storage.googleapis.com/lancet-countdown/2019/10/2018-lancet-countdown-policy-brief-canada.pdf. (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
15 Ouranos. Vers l’adaptation. Synthèse des connaissances sur les changements climatiques au Québec [French only]. Montreal: Ouranos; 2015. Available: https://www.ouranos.ca/publication-scientifique/SyntheseRapportfinal.pdf (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
16 Government of Canada. Greenhouse Gas Emissions. Ottawa: Government of Canada; 2018. Available: https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/environmental-indicators/greenhouse-gas-emissions.html (accessed 2020 Jan 26).
17 Gouvernment du Québec. Press Release: Minister Benoit Charette announces an unprecedented process to develop the forthcoming Electrification and Climate Change Plan. Québec: Gouvernment du Québec;
2019. Available: http://www.environnement.gouv.qc.ca/infuseur/communique_en.asp?no=4182 (accessed 2020 Jan 26).
18 Eckelman MJ, Sherman JD, MacNeill AJ. Life cycle environmental emissions and health damages from the Canadian healthcare system: An economic-environmental-epidemiological analysis. PLoS Med 2018;15(7):e1002623. Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6067712/pdf/pmed.1002623.pdf (accessed 2020 Jan 25). (accessed 2020 Jan 26).
19 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Global Warming of 1.5C--Summary for Policymakers, France: IPCC; 2018. Available: https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/ (accessed 2020 Jan 25).
Primary care is the backbone of our health care system in Canada and a national priority for this government.
The echoing words of the Speech from the Throne certify that the Government will strengthen health care and “Work with provinces, territories, health professionals and experts in industry and academia to make sure that all Canadians can access a primary care family doctor.” The Health Minister’s mandate letter further confirms that the Government will work “with the support of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Seniors, to strengthen Medicare and renew our health agreements with the provinces and territories” to “ensure that every Canadian has access to a family doctor or primary health care team”.
We recognize that strengthening primary care through a team-based, inter-professional approach is integral to improving the health of all people living in Canada. This belief is consistent across our alliance of four major groups: the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Nurses Association, the Canadian Association of Social Workers and the College of Family Physicians of Canada. There is nothing more suiting or fortunate than for a team-based approach to be wholeheartedly supported by an even larger team of teams.
We commend the Government’s commitment
to increasing Canadians’ access to primary care.
We have a model to make it happen.
The Primary Health Care Transition Fund 2, a one-time fund over four years, would provide the necessary funding to help establish models of primary care based on the Patient’s Medical Home, a team-based approach that connects the various care delivery points in the community for each patient. This model is rooted in the networking of family physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, social workers and other health professionals as a team. This is the only way to provide comprehensive primary care to patients. It will enable a more exhaustive approach to patient care, ultimately leading to increased prevention and better health outcomes for Canadians. Consider it the main artery
in meeting the needs of patients and communities.
A commitment to the Primary Health Care Transition Fund 2 gives substance to the promise of building a network of care that addresses immediate health needs while connecting to ongoing social and community health services. This Fund model bolsters Canadians. It is backed by doctors, nurses, and social workers. A phalanx of Canadian care providers stand behind it. An entire country will benefit from it.
In support of the federal government’s commitment to improve Canadians’ access to primary care,
we recommend a one-time fund in the amount of $1.2 billion over four years to expand the establishment of primary care teams in each province and territory.
It is with a sense of urgency that the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) submits
the recommendations herein for emergency federal measures that, taken together,
will ensure Canadians receive appropriate care and that supportive measures are
implemented for public health protection during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While Canada has made significant strides since SARS to establish and implement
effective public health infrastructure, resources and mechanisms, the significant
resource constraints across our health systems present a major challenge in our
current response. Federal emergency measures must be developed in the context
of the current state of health resources: hospitals across the country are already at
overcapacity, millions of Canadians lack access to a regular family doctor, countless
communities are grappling with health care shortages, virtual care is in its infancy,
and so on.
Another core concern is the chronic underfunding and ongoing budget cuts of
public health resources and programming. Public health capacity and leadership at
all levels is fundamental to preparedness to respond to an infectious disease threat,
particularly one of this magnitude.
It is in this context that the Canadian Medical Association recommends that the
following emergency measures be implemented by the federal government to
support the domestic response to the COVID-19 pandemic:
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1) FEDERAL RECOMMENDATION AND SUPPORT FOR SOCIAL DISTANCING
In this time of crisis, Canadians look to the federal government for leadership and guidance.
The single most important measure that can be implemented at this time is a consistent
national policy calling for social distancing. This recommendation by the federal government
must be paired with the resources necessary to ensure that no Canadian will be forced to choose
between financial hardship — whether by losing employment or not being able to pay rent —
and protecting their health.
The CMA strongly recommends that the federal government immediately communicate guidance
to Canadians to implement social distancing measures. The CMA further recommends that the
federal government deliver new financial support measures as well as employment protection
measures to ensure that all Canadians may engage in social distancing.
2) NEW FEDERAL EMERGENCY FUNDING TO BOOST PROVINCIAL/
TERRITORIAL CAPACITY AND ENSURE CONSISTENCY
It is the federal government’s role to ensure a coordinated and consistent national response across
jurisdictions and regions. This is by far the most important role for the federal government in
supporting an effective domestic response, that is, protecting the health and well-being of Canadians.
The CMA strongly recommends that the federal government deliver substantial emergency funding to
the provinces and territories to ensure health systems have the capacity to respond to the pandemic.
Across the OECD, countries are rapidly stepping up investment in measures to respond to COVID-19,
including significant investment targeting boosting health care capacity. In considering the
appropriate level of federal emergency funding to boost capacity in our provincial/territorial
systems, the CMA urges the federal government to recognize that our baseline is a position of deficit.
New emergency federal funding to boost capacity in provincial/territorial health systems should
be targeted to:
rapidly enabling the expansion and equitable delivery of virtual care;
establishing a centralized 24-hour national information hotline for health care workers to obtain
clear, timely and practical information on clinical guidelines, etc.;
expanding the capacity of and resources for emergency departments and intensive care units;
coordinating and disseminating information, monitoring and guidance within and across
rapidly delivering income stabilization for individuals and families under quarantine.
Finally, the inconsistencies in the provision and implementation of guidance and adoption of
public health measures across and within and jurisdictions is highly concerning. The CMA strongly
encourages the federal government enable consistent adoption of pan-Canadian guidance and
measures to ensure the health and safety of all Canadians.
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3) ENSURING AN ADEQUATE SUPPLY OF PERSONAL PROTECTIVE
EQUIPMENT FOR CANADIAN HEALTH CARE WORKERS AND
ENSURING APPROPRIATE USAGE
The CMA is hearing significant concerns from front-line health care workers, including physicians,
about the supply and appropriate usage of personal protective equipment. It is the CMA’s
understanding that pan-Canadian efforts are underway to coordinate supply; however, additional
measures by the federal government to ensure adequate supply and appropriate usage are required.
Canada is at the outset of this public health crisis — supply issues at this stage may be exacerbated
as the situation progresses. As such, the CMA strongly recommends that the federal government
take additional measures to support the acquisition and distribution throughout health systems of
personal protective equipment, including taking a leadership role in ensuring our domestic supply via
international supply chains.
4) ESTABLISH EMERGENCY PAN-CANADIAN LICENSURE FOR
HEALTH CARE WORKERS
In this time of public health crisis, the federal government must ensure that regulatory barriers
do not prevent health care providers from delivering care to patients when and where they need
it. Many jurisdictions and regions in Canada are experiencing significant shortages in health
The CMA urges the federal government to support piloting a national licensure program so that
health care providers can opt to practice in regions experiencing higher infection rates or where
there is a shortage of providers. This can be accomplished by amending the Canadian Free Trade
Agreement (CFTA) to facilitate mobility of health care workers.
Specifically, that the following language be added to Article 705(3) of the CFTA:
(j) A regulatory authority of a Party* shall waive for a period of up to 100 days any condition of
certification found in 705(3)(a) - (f) for any regulated health care worker to work directly or
indirectly to address the Covid-19 pandemic or any health care emergency. Any disciplinary matter
emanating from work in any province shall be the responsibility of the regulatory authority of the
jurisdiction where the work is performed. Each Party shall instruct its regulatory authorities to set-up
a rapid check-in/check-out process for the worker.
*Party refers to a signatory of the CFTA
To further enable this measure, the CMA recommends that the federal government deliver targeted
funding to the regulatory colleges to implement this emergency measure as well as targeted funding
to support the provinces/territories in delivering expanded patient care.
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5) ESTABLISH AN EMERGENCY NATIONAL MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT
SERVICE FOR HEALTH PROVIDERS
Health care providers may experience trauma and hardship in meeting the increasing health needs
and concerns of Canadians in this time of crisis. The CMA strongly recommends that the federal
government establish an emergency National Mental Health Support Services hotline for all health
care providers who are at the front lines of patient care during the pandemic. This critical resource
will ensure our health care providers have the help they may need as they care for patients,
including helping them to deal with an increasing patient load.
6) IMPLEMENT A TARGETED TAX CREDIT FOR HEALTH PROVIDERS
EXPERIENCING FINANCIAL LOSS DUE TO QUARANTINE
In addition to supporting income stabilization measures for all Canadians who may benefit from
support, the CMA recommends that the federal government establish a time-limited and targeted
tax credit for health providers who may experience financial loss due to quarantine.
Many health care providers operate independently and may face significant fixed expenses as part of
their care model. As health care providers may have an increased risk of contracting COVID-19, this
may result in significant financial loss. A time-limited tax credit to ease this loss may help ensure
the continued viability of their care model. Further, the CMA supports extending the federal tax
filing timeline in recognition of the fact that health care workers and all Canadians are focused
on emergency matters.
The CMA’s recommendations align with the OECD’s call to action: “Governments need to ensure
effective and well-resourced public health measures to prevent infection and contagion, and implement
well-targeted policies to support health care systems and workers, and protect the incomes of vulnerable
social groups and businesses during the virus outbreak.”
Now is the time to ensure that appropriate leadership continues and that targeted investments are
made to protect the health of Canadians.
The current global pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus has presented the international medical community with unprecedented ethical challenges. The most difficult of these has involved making decisions about access to scarce resources when demand outweighs capacity.
In Canada, it is well accepted that everyone should have an equal opportunity to access and receive medical treatment. This is possible when there are sufficient resources. But in contexts of resource scarcity, when there are insufficient resources, difficult decisions have to be made about who receives critical care (e.g., ICU beds, ventilators) by triaging patients. Triage is a process for determining which patients receive treatment and/or which level of care under what circumstances in contexts of resource scarcity. Priority-setting for resource allocation becomes more ethically complex during catastrophic times or in public health emergencies, such as today’s COVID-19 pandemic, when there is a need to manage a potential surge of patients.
Physicians from China to Italy to Spain to the United States have found themselves in the unfathomable position of having to triage their most seriously ill patients and decide which ones should have access to ventilators and which should not, and which allocation criteria should be used to make these decisions. While the Canadian Medical Association hopes that Canadian physicians will not be faced with these agonizing choices, it is our intent, through this framework, to provide them with guidance in case they do and enable them to make ethically justifiable informed decisions in the face of difficult ethical dilemmas. Invoking this framework to ground decisions about who has access to critical care and who does not should only be made as a last resort. As always, physicians should carefully document their clinical and ethical decisions and the reasoning behind them.
Generally, the CMA would spend many months in deliberations and consultations with numerous stakeholders, including patients and the public, before producing a document such as this one. The current situation, unfortunately, did not allow for such a process. We have turned instead to documents, reports and policies produced by our Italian colleagues and ethicists and physicians from Canada and around the world, as well as provincial level documents and frameworks.
The CMA is endorsing and recommending that Canadian physicians use the guidance provided by Emmanuel and colleagues in the New England Journal of Medicine article dated from March 23rd, as outlined below. We believe these recommendations represent the best current approach to this situation, produced using the highest current standard of evidence by a panel of internationally recognized experts. We also recognize that the situation is changing constantly, and these guidelines may need to be updated as required.
The CMA will continue to advocate for access to personal protective equipment, ventilators and ICU equipment and resources. We also encourage physicians to make themselves aware of any relevant provincial or local documents, and to seek advice from their regulatory body or liability protection provider. It should be noted that some provinces and indeed individual health care facilities will have their own protocols or frameworks in place. At the time of its publication, this document was broadly consistent with those protocols that we were given an opportunity to review.
The CMA recognizes that physicians may experience moral distress when making these decisions. We encourage physicians to seek peer support and practice self-care. In addition, the CMA recommends that triage teams or committees be convened where feasible in order to help separate clinical decision making from resource allocation, thereby lessening the moral burden being placed on the individual physician.
The CMA recommends that physicians receive legal protection to ensure that they can continue providing needed care to patients with confidence and support and without fear of civil or criminal liability or professional discipline. In this time of uncertainty, physicians should be reassured that their good faith efforts to provide care during such a crisis will not put them at increased medical-legal risk. Providing such reassurance is needed so that physicians have the confidence to continue to provide care to their patients.
Recommendation 1: In the context of a pandemic, the value of maximizing benefits is most important. This value reflects the importance of responsible stewardship of resources: it is difficult to justify asking health care workers and the public to take risks and make sacrifices if the promise that their efforts will save and lengthen lives is illusory. Priority for limited resources should aim both at saving the most lives and at maximizing improvements in individuals’ post-treatment length of life. Saving more lives and more years of life is a consensus value across expert reports. It is consistent both with utilitarian ethical perspectives that emphasize population outcomes and with nonutilitarian views that emphasize the paramount value of each human life. There are many reasonable ways of balancing saving more lives against saving more years of life; whatever balance between lives and life-years is chosen must be applied consistently.
Limited time and information in a Covid-19 pandemic make it justifiable to give priority to maximizing the number of patients that survive treatment with a reasonable life expectancy and to regard maximizing improvements in length of life as a subordinate aim. The latter becomes relevant only in comparing patients whose likelihood of survival is similar. Limited time and information during an emergency also counsel against incorporating patients’ future quality of life, and quality-adjusted life-years, into benefit maximization. Doing so would require time-consuming collection of information and would present ethical and legal problems. However, encouraging all patients, especially those facing the prospect of intensive care, to document in an advance care directive what future quality of life they would regard as acceptable and when they would refuse ventilators or other life-sustaining interventions can be appropriate.
Operationalizing the value of maximizing benefits means that people who are sick but could recover if treated are given priority over those who are unlikely to recover even if treated and those who are likely to recover without treatment. Because young, severely ill patients will often comprise many of those who are sick but could recover with treatment, this operationalization also has the effect of giving priority to those who are worst off in the sense of being at risk of dying young and not having a full life.
Because maximizing benefits is paramount in a pandemic, we believe that removing a patient from a ventilator or an ICU bed to provide it to others in need is also justifiable and that patients should be made aware of this possibility at admission. Undoubtedly, withdrawing ventilators or ICU support from patients who arrived earlier to save those with better prognosis will be extremely psychologically traumatic for clinicians — and some clinicians might refuse to do so. However, many guidelines agree that the decision to withdraw a scarce resource to save others is not an act of killing and does not require the patient’s consent. We agree with these guidelines that it is the ethical thing to do. Initially allocating beds and ventilators according to the value of maximizing benefits could help reduce the need for withdrawal.
Recommendation 2: Irrespective of Recommendation 1, Critical Covid-19 interventions — testing, PPE, ICU beds, ventilators, therapeutics, and vaccines — should go first to front-line health care workers and others who care for ill patients and who keep critical infrastructure operating, particularly workers who face a high risk of infection and whose training makes them difficult to replace. These workers should be given priority not because they are somehow more worthy, but because of their instrumental value: they are essential to pandemic response. If physicians and nurses and RTs are incapacitated, all patients — not just those with Covid-19 — will suffer greater mortality and years of life lost. Whether health workers who need ventilators will be able to return to work is uncertain but giving them priority for ventilators recognizes their assumption of the high-risk work of saving others. Priority for critical workers must not be abused by prioritizing wealthy or famous persons or the politically powerful above first responders and medical staff — as has already happened for testing. Such abuses will undermine trust in the allocation framework.
Recommendation 3: For patients with similar prognoses, equality should be invoked and operationalized through random allocation, such as a lottery, rather than a first-come, first-served allocation process. First-come, first-served is used for such resources as transplantable kidneys, where scarcity is long-standing, and patients can survive without the scarce resource. Conversely, treatments for coronavirus address urgent need, meaning that a first-come, first-served approach would unfairly benefit patients living nearer to health facilities. And first-come, first-served medication or vaccine distribution would encourage crowding and even violence during a period when social distancing is paramount. Finally, first-come, first-served approaches mean that people who happen to get sick later on, perhaps because of their strict adherence to recommended public health measures, are excluded from treatment, worsening outcomes without improving fairness. In the face of time pressure and limited information, random selection is also preferable to trying to make finer-grained prognostic judgments within a group of roughly similar patients.
Recommendation 4: Prioritization guidelines should differ by intervention and should respond to changing scientific evidence. For instance, younger patients should not be prioritized for Covid-19 vaccines, which prevent disease rather than cure it, or for experimental post- or pre-exposure prophylaxis. Covid-19 outcomes have been significantly worse in older persons and those with chronic conditions. Invoking the value of maximizing saving lives justifies giving older persons priority for vaccines immediately after health care workers and first responders. If the vaccine supply is insufficient for patients in the highest risk categories — those over 60 years of age or with coexisting conditions — then equality supports using random selection, such as a lottery, for vaccine allocation. Invoking instrumental value justifies prioritizing younger patients for vaccines only if epidemiologic modeling shows that this would be the best way to reduce viral spread and the risk to others.
Epidemiologic modeling is even more relevant in setting priorities for coronavirus testing. Federal guidance currently gives priority to health care workers and older patients but reserving some tests for public health surveillance could improve knowledge about Covid-19 transmission and help researchers target other treatments to maximize benefits.
Conversely, ICU beds and ventilators are curative rather than preventive. Patients who need them face life-threatening conditions. Maximizing benefits requires consideration of prognosis — how long the patient is likely to live if treated — which may mean giving priority to younger patients and those with fewer coexisting conditions. This is consistent with the Italian guidelines that potentially assign a higher priority for intensive care access to younger patients with severe illness than to elderly patients. Determining the benefit-maximizing allocation of antivirals and other experimental treatments, which are likely to be most effective in patients who are seriously but not critically ill, will depend on scientific evidence. These treatments may produce the most benefit if preferentially allocated to patients who would fare badly on ventilation.
Recommendation 5: People who participate in research to prove the safety and effectiveness of vaccines and therapeutics should receive some priority for Covid-19 interventions. Their assumption of risk during their participation in research helps future patients, and they should be rewarded for that contribution. These rewards will also encourage other patients to participate in clinical trials. Research participation, however, should serve only as a tiebreaker among patients with similar prognoses.
Recommendation 6: There should be no difference in allocating scarce resources between patients with Covid-19 and those with other medical conditions. If the Covid-19 pandemic leads to absolute scarcity, that scarcity will affect all patients, including those with heart failure, cancer, and other serious and life-threatening conditions requiring prompt medical attention. Fair allocation of resources that prioritizes the value of maximizing benefits applies across all patients who need resources. For example, a doctor with an allergy who goes into anaphylactic shock and needs life-saving intubation and ventilator support should receive priority over Covid-19 patients who are not frontline health care workers.
Approved by the CMA Board of Directors April 2020
During these unprecedented times, Canada’s physicians, along with all front-line health care workers (FLHCWs), have not only put themselves at risk but have made enormous personal sacrifices while fulfilling a critical role in life-threatening circumstances.
The CMA recognizes and strongly supports the measures the federal government has taken to date to mitigate the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 on Canadians. However, given the unique circumstances that Canada’s FLHCWs face, additional measures are required to acknowledge their role, the risks to themselves and their families, and the financial burden they have taken on through it all.
To gain a better understanding of this issue, the CMA commissioned MNP LLP (MNP) to conduct a thorough economic impact study. They assessed the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on physician practices in Canada and identified policy options to mitigate these effects.
This brief summarizes the findings, provides an overview of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on physician practices across the country and highlights targeted federal measures that can significantly mitigate the evident challenges physicians are experiencing. It is important to note that the recommended measured were developed through the lens of recognizing the important contribution of Canada’s FLHCWs.
UNDERSTANDING HOW THE PANDEMIC
IS IMPACTING PHYSICIAN PRACTICES
Canada’s physicians are highly skilled professionals, providing an important public service and making a significant contribution to the health of Canadians, our nation’s health infrastructure and our knowledge economy. In light of the design of Canada’s health care system, the vast majority of physicians are self-employed professionals operating medical practices as small business owners. Like most small businesses in Canada, physician practices have been negatively impacted by the necessary measures governments have established to contain this pandemic.
Under the circumstances of the pandemic, the provinces postponed non-emergent procedures and surgeries, indefinitely. According to data from the 2019 Physician Workforce Survey conducted by the CMA, approximately 75% of physicians reported practising in settings that would be expected to experience a reduction in patient volumes as a result of COVID-19 measures. This suggests “the vast majority of physicians in Canada anticipate declines in earnings as a result of COVID-19 restrictions.”
Physician practices include a variety of structures, which relate to the practice setting or type. In their economic impact study, MNP estimates that across the range of practice settings, the after-tax monthly earnings of physician practices are estimated to decline between 15% and 100% in the low-impact scenario, and between 25% and 267% in the high-impact scenario. These two scenarios are in comparison to a baseline scenario, prior to the pandemic. The low-impact scenario is based on the reduction of physician services reported during the 2003 experience with the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) while the high-impact scenario estimates more significant impacts, being approximately double those observed during SARS.
Unlike salaried public sector professionals, such as teachers, nurses or public servants, most physicians operate as small business owners who are solely responsible for the management of their practices. They employ staff, rent office space and have numerous other overhead costs related to running a small business, which they are still responsible for regardless of decreased earnings. According to data published by Statistics Canada in 2019 there were 120,241 people employed in physician offices in Canada and an additional 28,054 employed in medical laboratories. Additionally, physicians manage significant overhead expenses that are unique to medical practice such as practice insurance, licence fees and continuing medical education. It’s important to understand that even hospital-based physicians may be responsible for significant overhead expenses, unlike other hospital staff. Like any small business owner grappling with drastic declines in revenue, physicians may be forced to reduce their staffing levels or even close their practices entirely in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
ADDRESSING THE GAPS: ENSURING THAT FEDERAL ECONOMIC PROGRAMS CAPTURE PHYSICIAN PRACTICES
To reiterate, the CMA supports the federal government’s decisive and meaningful response to the pandemic, including delivering critical economic relief programs. However, more detailed analysis is revealing that segments of physician practices are not eligible for these critical economic programs, because of technicalities.
At this time, the CMA has identified three key segments of physician practice models who may
not currently be eligible for the economic relief programs because of technicalities. These are:
1. hospital-based specialists
2. physician practices that operate as a small business but may not meet technical criteria
3. physicians delivering locum medical care
These technical factors reflect the complexity of the health system infrastructure in Canada. Although hospital-based specialists may receive some form of salary, they may still be structured as a small business and be responsible for paying overhead fees to the hospital. Many physicians may operate as a small business and remit a statement of self-employment, and they may not have a business number or a business bank account. As is common amongst other self-employed professionals, many physicians operate practices within cost-sharing structures. The CMA is deeply concerned that these structures are presently being excluded for the federal government’s critical economic relief programs. As a result, this exclusion is affecting the many employees of practices structured as cost-sharing arrangements. Finally, physicians providing care in other communities, known as locum practice, would also be responsible for overhead expenses.
It is the CMA’s understanding that the federal government is seeking to be inclusive in delivering economic relief programs to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic, such as closures or unemployment. For physician practices, eligibility for federal economic relief programs would extend the reach of these mitigation measures to maintaining Canada’s critical health resources and services, as physician practices are responsible for a
significant portion of health system infrastructure.
As such, the CMA respectfully recommends that the federal government ensure that these critical economic programs be made available to all segments of physician practices.
To this end, the CMA recommends that
the federal government expand eligibility
for the federal economic relief program to:
1. Include hospital-based specialists paying fees for overhead expenses to the hospitals
(e.g., staff, equipment, space);
2. capture physician-owned medical practices using a “personal” banking account as well
as those in cost-sharing structures to access programs; and,
3. include physicians who provide locum medical care.
NEW FEDERAL TAX MEASURES TO SUPPORT AND RECOGNIZE FRONT-LINE HEALTH CARE WORKERS
It is also important to note that the impact of COVID-19 on FLHCWs goes well beyond the financial impacts.
All FLHCWs face numerous challenges trying to carry out their work during these difficult times. They put their health and the health of their families at risk. They make enormous sacrifices, sometimes separating themselves from their families to protect them. These risks and sacrifices can strain an individual’s mental health, especially when coupled with anxiety over the lack of proper personal protective equipment (PPE). A survey conducted by the CMA at the end of April showed that almost 75% of physicians who responded to the survey indicated feeling very or somewhat anxious about the lack of PPE. FLHCWs deserve to be recognized for their unique role during
Given the enormous sacrifices and risks that FLHCWs are making every day, the federal government should enact measures to recognize their significant contributions during these unprecedented times.
The CMA recommends that the federal government implement the following
new measures for all FLHCWs:
1. An income tax deduction for FLHCWs put at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic,
in recognition of their heroic efforts. All FLHCWs providing in-person patient care during the pandemic would be eligible to deduct a designated amount against their income earned. This would be modelled on the deduction provided to members
of the Canadian Armed Forces serving in moderate- and high-risk missions.
2. A non-taxable grant to support the families of FLHCWs who die in the course of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic or who die as a result of an occupational illness or psychological impairment related to this work. The grant would also apply to cases in which the death of an FLHCW’s family member is attributable to the FLHCW’s work in responding to the pandemic. The CMA is recommending that access to the Memorial Grant program, or a similar measure, be granted to FLHCWs and
their family member(s).
3. A temporary emergency accommodation tax deduction for FLHCWs who incur additional accommodation costs as well as a home renovation credit in recognition of the need for FLHCWs to adhere to social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to their family members. The CMA recommends all FLHCWs earning income while working at a health care facility or in a capacity related thereto
(e.g., paramedics or janitorial staff) be eligible for the deduction and credit.
4. Provide additional child-care relief to FLHCWs by doubling the child-care deduction.
The CMA recommends the individuals listed above be eligible for the enhanced deduction.
It is important that any measures enacted be simple for the government to implement and administer as well as simple for FLHCWs to understand and access. The recommendations above will ensure that relief applies to a wide range of Canada’s FLHCWs who are battling COVID-19.
More details on these recommendations are provided in Appendix A to this brief.
INCREASING FEDERAL HEALTH FUNDING
TO SUPPORT SYSTEM CAPACITY
It is due to the action of the federal and provincial/territorial governments, together with Canadians, in adhering to public health guidance that our health systems have been able to manage the health needs of Canadians during the pandemic. However, as governments and public health experts consider how we may proceed in lifting certain restrictions, we are beginning to comprehend the enormity of the effort and investment required to resume health care services. During the pandemic, a significant proportion of health care services, such as surgeries, procedures and consults considered “non-essential” have been delayed. As health services begin to resume, health systems will be left to grapple with a significant spike in already lengthy waiting times. Further, all health care facilities will need to adopt new guidance to adhere to physical distancing, which may necessitate longer operating hours, increasing staff levels and/or physical renovations. Given these issues, the CMA is gravely concerned that Canada’s already financially struggling health systems will face significant funding challenges at a time when provincial/
territorial governments are grappling with recession economies. The CMA is strongly supportive of new
federal funding to ensure Canada’s health systems are resourced to meet the care needs of Canadians
as the pandemic continues.
As outlined in this brief, the overwhelming majority of Canada’s physician practices will be
negatively impacted financially by COVID-19. The indefinite postponement of numerous medical procedures, coupled with restrictions related to physical distancing resulting in reduced patient
visits, will have a material effect on physician practices, risking their future viability. As well,
all FLHCWs will be severely impacted by COVID-19 personally, through risks to themselves and their families. Many families of FLHCWs will also be impacted financially, from increased child-care costs
to, tragically, costs associated with the death of a loved one because of COVID-19.
In light of these substantial risks and sacrifices, the CMA urges the adoption of the above-mentioned recommendations designed to recognize the special contribution of Canada’s FLHCWs during these
The CMA has always taken an interest in and a stand on various health issues affecting the medical profession and patients. Access to health care is one such issue.
The CMA recently commissioned Ipsos to conduct an extensive survey on the population’s concerns regarding access to health care. The data indicates that Quebecers are the most pessimistic in the country—and this sentiment is even more pronounced when respondents think about the future. Forty percent of survey respondents are concerned about access to health care, and more than half (55%) have a negative perception of the future of the health care system, compared with 26% and 47%, respectively, for the rest of Canada.1 It also appears that Quebecers are significantly affected by the shortage of health professionals and the increase in system costs due to the aging population and the growing number of seniors with health care needs.
The public’s worries are also shared by our members and physicians in Quebec, who are concerned by the fact that their patients are not receiving the care and services they need in a timely manner.
The government of Quebec is making a significant investment in the health care network, a budget item that accounts for almost 50% of total program expenditures.2 The CMA applauds this effort.
The CMA submission proposes certain measures that have a two-fold objective: improving the health of Quebecers and ensuring the sustainability of the health care system for future generations.
The CMA submission is divided into three parts: improving support to elderly patients and caregivers; tobacco and vaping control; and reducing unnecessary examinations and treatments to optimize use of the health care system’s financial and human resources.
Seniors and caregivers
It is no secret that Quebec’s population is aging rapidly. According to data from the Institut de la statistique du Québec cited in the Plan stratégique du ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux, seniors are expected to make up 25% of the population in 2031 and 28% in 2066, compared with 18% in 2016.3
Although aging is not necessarily synonymous with poor health or disability, the likelihood of both of these conditions increases with age. Close to seven out of ten Quebecers aged 65 and over report two or more long-term health conditions, and 93% of these individuals take medication.4 The most common health issues among people aged 65 and over are arthritis and hypertension.5 Moreover, the incidence of cancer rises significantly with age.6
The aging population thus exerts additional pressure on a health care system that is already stretched thin. The CMA has long been lobbying the federal government to increase the Canada Health Transfer to take into account the needs of the aging population when calculating the Transfer. Consequently, the CMA supports the Quebec government’s negotiations with the federal government to secure an increase in federal health transfer payments.
To ensure a sustainable health care system, it is important to invest in measures that will allow the public to maintain their health as they age, and that foster seniors’ independence—such as a healthy lifestyle, adequate nutrition and treatment adherence, where applicable. The Quebec government has already taken steps to foster the well-being of elderly persons, such as implementing the senior assistance tax credit and increasing support for home support services. The Minister Responsible for Seniors and Informal Caregivers has announced the development of a provincial policy for caregivers in 2020–2021, as indicated in the recently submitted strategic plan.3
These initiatives aimed at improving the lives of seniors and caregivers are to be commended. The CMA believes that the scope of these initiatives should be widened.
Support for seniors
In its economic update presented on December 3, 2018, the Quebec government announced a new tax credit for seniors over age 70. More specifically, this tax credit provides annual assistance of up to $200 per senior and $400 per couple.
The CMA welcomes this initiative, but it should be noted that seniors aged 65 and overspend more than $2,200 on health care fees each year7 (health care items, medication, dental care, insurance premiums, etc.). Given that this level of spending is significant and that 60% of seniors have an annual income under $30,000,8 this tax credit appears to be insufficient for those who have to bear these additional daily health expenses. We must collectively
ensure that certain seniors will not have to forego treatment because they cannot afford it.
Quebecers’ health care expenses have been increasing in recent years,9 and the CMA believes it is essential that this growing problem be dealt with right now. The CMA recommends that the Quebec government create an allowance for seniors aged 65 and over. This new allowance, which would be modelled after the family allowance, would provide financial assistance to low- and medium-income seniors to help them manage additional health-related expenses.
The CMA also believes that the senior assistance tax credit should be extended to people ages 65 to 69.
Like seniors’ advocacy groups, the CMA recommends greater recognition of family caregivers’ contribution to the Quebec health care system. This could take the form of a greater tax credit for caregivers offered in Quebec.
Family caregivers are an integral part of the health care system, as they play an active role in enabling seniors to stay at home—which is what most seniors prefer.10
The Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux plans to increase home support services as part of its 2019–2023 strategic plan.10 The CMA believes that this initiative should be combined with increased assistance for family caregivers.
In 2016, the demographic portrait of caregivers in Quebec indicated that 35% of Quebecers, or 2.2 million people, provided care to a senior. Of these, around 15% acted as caregivers for more than 10 hours a week. With the aging of the population set to accelerate in the coming years and decades, caregivers’ unpaid working hours will increase significantly. In Canada, according to a 2011 study, close to 80% of all assistance to recipients of long-term care was provided by family caregivers. This represents a contribution of over five billion dollars’ worth of unpaid services for the public health network.11
According to the CMA, the tax credit for caregivers is an indispensable and necessary financial contribution for these people and the seniors receiving care, but this measure in no way reflects the costs assumed by caregivers. More support should be provided to people who give their time every day, sustain financial losses and compensate for the lack of resources in the health care system.
Given the indispensable role family caregivers play, the CMA recommends that the government increase the tax credit for caregivers so that it better reflects their contribution to society—and this should apply to all four types of family caregivers defined by Revenu Québec:12
Caregivers who take care of a senior spouse who is unable to live alone
Caregivers who house an eligible relative
Caregivers who cohabit with an eligible relative who is unable to live alone
Caregivers who support an eligible relative whom they regularly and continuously assist in carrying out basic activities of daily living
The CMA recommends:
1. Expanding the senior assistance tax credit to support people who are between the ages of 65 and 69
2. Creating a seniors’ allowance to provide financial assistance to low- and medium-income seniors to help them manage additional health-related expenses
3. Increasing the tax credit for caregivers, for all types of family caregivers recognized by Revenu Québec
Smoking and vaping prevention
Although the government of Quebec must pay specific attention to seniors’ care to lighten the burden on the health care system, prevention is still just as important. Prevention has proven to be useful in reducing health care costs by eliminating the need for certain treatments and hospitalizations.13 Measures to control smoking and vaping fall under this category.
For decades, the CMA has been promoting the benefits of a smoke-free society with the support of our physician members, who are witnesses to tobacco’s harmful effects on health. The CMA issued its first public health warning on the risks associated with tobacco use in 1954, and since then has made a significant contribution to the development of public policies related to the industry. One needs only to think of the role that the CMA played in the federal government’s decision to require that tobacco products be sold in plain packaging and standard sizes.
Every government in the country has been actively committed to the fight against tobacco for years, and there has been a significant drop in tobacco use over time. However, regular tobacco use in Quebec has settled at around 15% of the population aged 12 or older.14 Unfortunately, this proportion is still too high.
There is another growing phenomenon among young people that we believe merits the attention of the Minister of Finance: e-cigarettes, also referred to as vaping devices. According to the Enquête québécoise sur la santé des jeunes du secondaire 2016-2017 [Quebec health survey of high school students 2016-2017], one third of youths have used e-cigarettes.15 Although these types of products do not contain tobacco, they do contain nicotine and aromatic substances that could be harmful to people’s health. The CMA recommends increasing research on the potential health consequences these devices can have on people, and the validity of claims that they are an effective means to quit smoking. We also support prohibiting e-cigarette sales to minors, enforcing strict regulation of the sale of these products and prohibiting vaping in locations where smoking is currently forbidden. We also recommend that the marketing restrictions on tobacco products be applied to vaping products and devices as well.
The CMA also believes that governments would be well advised to draw inspiration from strategies that have been successful in curbing tobacco use and reducing the appeal of e-cigarettes, particularly among young people. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a 10% increase in the price of tobacco results in a 4% to 8% drop in consumption. Taxes on vaping products could therefore have the same deterrent effect, especially among young people, who are more sensitive to price variations.16 This is why it is imperative that we do not wait for the outcome of the work carried out by the special vaping intervention group led by the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux (MSSS) before taking action.
Effective January 1, 2020, the government of British Columbia raised the sales tax on vaping products from 7% to 20%17 to prevent and reduce the use of these products by young people. The CMA recommends that the government of Quebec emulate this policy by increasing taxes on vaping and tobacco products.
The right care at the right time
According to data from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), up to 30% of tests, treatments and procedures in Canada are potentially unnecessary. Unnecessary tests, treatments, and procedures not only add zero value to care, but they may also expose patients to additional risks and waste health resources.18
In 2012, as certain treatments were being overused or not adding value for patients, the CMA was a leading partner in the Choosing Wisely Canada campaign, which was launched in Quebec in 2014. This program helps health care professionals and patients engage in a dialogue about unnecessary tests and treatments and helps them make smart and effective choices to ensure quality health care. Guides and recommendations for patients and health
care professionals have been developed through this campaign to make them aware of overuse and overdiagnosis.
The ultimate goal of Choosing Wisely is to improve the performance of the health care system.
A survey indicates that almost half of physicians (48%) agree that they need more support and tools to help them determine which services are not suitable for their patients.19 The tools provided by the Choosing Wisely campaign have proven effective. The CMA believes that their use by Quebec physicians and patients is beneficial.
Publicizing campaigns and developing and updating tools and recommendations require significant financial resources. Elsewhere in the country, several provinces are providing financial support to Choosing Wisely. However, Quebec ended its financial commitment in the past year.
Given the Quebec government’s commitment regarding the appropriateness of care, the CMA recommends supporting the Choosing Wisely Quebec campaign with a long-term financial commitment.
Summary of CMA recommendations
Senior and caregiver support
The CMA is proposing three main recommendations to support seniors and their caregivers. The recommended measures are aimed at ensuring healthy aging and recognizing family caregivers’ economic and social contribution in Quebec.
1. Expand the senior assistance tax credit to support people who are between the ages of 65 and 69.
2. Create an allowance for seniors to help them manage private health care costs.
3. Increase the tax credit for caregivers, for all types of caregivers recognized by Revenu Québec.
Implementation of a tax on tobacco and vaping products
The government of British Columbia announced its intent to increase the sales tax on vaping products from 7% to 20%, effective January 1, 2020,20 to prevent and reduce the use of these products by young people. The CMA recommends that the government of Quebec emulate this policy by heavily taxing vaping and tobacco products.
Contribution to the Choosing Wisely Canada program
Given the Quebec government’s commitment regarding the appropriateness of care, the CMA recommends supporting the Choosing Wisely Quebec campaign with a long-term financial commitment.
1 Ipsos, Canadian Medical Association (CMA). Canadians are Nervous About the Future of the Health System. Ottawa: CMA; 2019. Available: https://www.cma.ca/sites/default/files/pdf/news-media/Canadians-are-Nervous-About-the-Future-of-the-Health-System-E.pdf (accessed 2020 Jan 13).
2 Gouvernement du Québec. Update on Québec’s Economic and Financial Situation. Quebec: Gouvernement du Québec; Fall 2019. Available : http://www.finances.gouv.qc.ca/documents/Autres/en/AUTEN_updateNov2019.pdf (accessed 2020 Jan 13).
3 Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux. Plan stratégique 2019-2023(French only). Quebec : Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux; December 2019. Available : https://cdn-contenu.quebec.ca/cdn-contenu/adm/min/sante-services-sociaux/publications-adm/plan-strategique/PL_19-717-02W_MSSS.pdf (accessed 2020 Jan 13).
4 Institut de la statistique du Québec. Enquête québécoise sur les limitations d’activités, les maladies chroniques et le vieillissement 2010-2011(French only). Quebec : Institut de la statistique du Québec; October 2013. Available: http://www.stat.gouv.qc.ca/statistiques/sante/services/incapacites/limitation-maladies-chroniques-utilisation.pdf (accessed 2020 Jan 13). 5 Statistics Canada. Table 13-10-0096-01 Health characteristics, annual estimates. Ottawa: Statistics Canada; 2019. Available: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=1310009601&%3BpickMembers%5B0%5D=1.6&%3BpickMembers%5B1%5D=2.6&%3BpickMembers%5B2%5D=3.1&request_locale=en. (accessed 2020 Jan 13).
6 Canadian Cancer Statistics Advisory Committee. Canadian Cancer Statistics, September 2019. Toronto: Canadian Cancer Society; September 2019. Available: https://www.cancer.ca/~/media/cancer.ca/CW/cancer%20information/cancer%20101/Canadian%20cancer%20statistics/Canadian-Cancer-Statistics-2019-EN.pdf?la=en-CA (accessed 2020 Jan 13). 7 Institut de la statistique du Québec. Dépenses moyennes des ménages déclarants, selon le groupe d'âge de la personne de référence, Québec, 2006 (French only). Quebec: Institut de la statistique du Québec; 2006. Available: http://www.stat.gouv.qc.ca/statistiques/conditions-vie-societe/depenses-avoirs-dettes/depenses/depdeclar_age.htm (accessed 2020 Jan 13). 8 Santé et des Services sociaux. Les aînés du Québec - Quelques données récentes (2e édition)(French only). Quebec: Santé et des Services sociaux; June 2018. Available: https://publications.msss.gouv.qc.ca/msss/fichiers/ainee/aines-quebec-chiffres.pdf (accessed 2020 Jan 13).
9 Santé et des Services sociaux. Dépenses moyennes des ménages en dollars courants, selon le poste de dépenses, ensemble des ménages, Québec, 2010-2017(French only): http://www.stat.gouv.qc.ca/statistiques/conditions-vie-societe/depenses-avoirs-dettes/depenses/tab1_dep_moy_menage.htm (accessed 2020 Jan 13).
10 Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux, Plan stratégique 2019-2023 [2019–2023 Strategic plan] (French only). Quebec: Santé et des Services sociaux; December 2019. Avalable: https://cdn-contenu.quebec.ca/cdn-contenu/adm/min/sante-services-sociaux/publications-adm/plan-strategique/PL_19-717-02W_MSSS.pdf (accessed 2020 Jan 13).
11 Fast J, Lero D, Duncan K, et al. Employment consequences of family/friend caregiving in Canad. Population Change and Lifecourse Strategic Knowledge Cluster Research/Policy Brief, Vol. 1, No. 2 , Art. 2. Edmonton: Research on Aging, Policies and Practice, University of Alberta; 2011. Available: https://ir.lib.uwo.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1004&context=pclc_rpb (accessed 2020 Jan 13).
12 Revenu Québec. Tax Credit for Caregivers. Quebec: Revenu Québec; 2019. Available: https://www.revenuquebec.ca/en/citizens/tax-credits/tax-credit-for-caregivers/ (accessed 2020 Jan 13).
13 Public Health Agency of Canada. Investing in Prevention: The Economic Perspective. Ottawa: Public Health Agency of Canada; May 2009. Available: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/ph-sp/pdf/preveco-eng.pdf (accessed 2020 Jan 13).
14 Statistics Canada. Table 13-10-0096-10 Smokers, by age group. Ottawa: Statistics Canada; 2018. Available:
https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=1310009610 (accessed 2020 Jan 13).
15 Institut de la statistique du Québec. Enquête québécoise sur la santé des jeunes du secondaire 2016-2017. Résultats de la deuxième édition. La santé physique et les habitudes de vie des jeunes, Tome 3 (French only). Quebec: Institut de la statistique du Québec; December 2018. Available: https://www.stat.gouv.qc.ca/statistiques/sante/enfants-ados/alimentation/sante-jeunes-secondaire-2016-2017-t3.html(accessed 2020 Jan 13).
16 World Health Organization (WHO). Tobacco Free Initiative: https://www.who.int/tobacco/economics/taxation/en/
17 Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, Bill 45 – 2019: Taxation Statutes Amendment Act. Geneva: WHO; 2019. Available: https://www.leg.bc.ca/parliamentary-business/legislation-debates-proceedings/41st-parliament/4th-session/bills/first-reading/gov45-1 (accessed 2020 Jan 13).
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20 Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. Bill 45 – 2019: Taxation Statutes Amendment Act. Vancouver: Legislative Assembly of British Columbia; 2019. Available: https://www.leg.bc.ca/parliamentary-business/legislation-debates-proceedings/41st-parliament/4th-session/bills/first-reading/gov45-1 (accessed 2020 Jan 13).
Racism is a structural determinant of health and drives health and social inequities. The recent incidents of anti-Black violence, racism and discrimination in the US and Canada also shed light on the structural inequities and racism that exist within the medical profession and the health system.
The profession of medicine is grounded in respect for all people. This commitment recognizes that everyone has equal and inherent worth, the right to be valued and respected, and the right to be treated with dignity.
It’s critical that our medical culture – and society more broadly – upholds these values. But today, we’re reminded that there’s much more to do as a profession, and as a global community, to get us there.
Earlier this year, we launched our first-ever policy on equity and diversity in medicine Opens in a new window to help break down the many broad and systemic barriers that remain, to reduce discrimination and bias within our profession, and to create physically and psychologically safe environments for ourselves, our colleagues and our patients.
Alongside this policy comes a commitment to holding ourselves accountable to recognizing and challenging behaviours, practices and conditions that hinder equity and diversity, including racism.
Instances of racism, intolerance, exclusion, violence and discrimination have no place in medicine, and no place in our society. The Canadian Medical Association condemns racism in all its forms. Today, we stand alongside all those who have been affected by these appalling and inexcusable actions and beliefs.
Dr. Sandy Buchman
President, Canadian Medical Association
Subject: Improving Long-term Care for People in Canada
Dear Minister Hajdu and Minister Schulte,
We are writing to you with recommendations for responding to the staggering effects COVID-19 has had on our health-care system, particularly in long-term care (LTC) homes across Canada. These recommendations were recently unveiled by the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) on May 27 through a report entitled 2020 Vision: Improving Long-term Care for People in Canada (attached to this letter). We invite you to read it and consider the proposals we are bringing forward.
As you know, Canada has had unacceptable rates of COVID-19-related deaths in LTC; by late April, 79% of the country’s deaths due to COVID-19 were linked to outbreaks in these homes. These tragic numbers are in part a result of decades of neglect of the LTC sector and a growing mismatch between the level of care required by people living in those settings, and the level of care available. Furthermore, the recent reports from the military deployed to Ontario and Quebec’s long-term care homes have emphasized the shocking and horrific conditions that exist in some nursing homes in Canada.
We applaud the Prime Minster’s recent commitment to work closely and support the province’s efforts to improve standards of care for older people in long-term care
homes across the country. Moreover, further decisive action needs to be undertaken. To address the flaws COVID-19 has revealed in the support and care systems available to Canada’s older people, we recommend that your Government take immediate action on three important fronts:
The Government of Canada should immediately appoint a commission of inquiry on aging;
Federal public health leaders must work with provincial, territorial and Indigenous governments and public health leaders to review the country’s COVID-19 response and organize preparations for the next pandemic;
Federal, provincial and territorial governments must increase investments in community, home and residential care to meet the needs of our aging population.
As the Prime Minister indicated last week, providing support in the short term and having broader discussions in the long term is critical. We believe many solutions can be put in place now in some long-term care homes if they had better funding, for example. In the long term, a deeper look to identify the best models for delivering better health and social services will support safe and dignified aging for every person in Canada.
We recognize the challenges involved to address the issues in the support and care systems for older people in Canada. The benefits of redesigning how we provide care for older people (Canada’s largest growing demographic) and others with complex continuing care needs will go beyond improving their lives and health. A good long-term care system, in tandem with effective, well-organized community and home care, will ease pressure on the acute-care system and eliminate many of the gaps in the continuum of care that too often result in previously independent older people landing in the hospital or long-term care.
Acting on these three recommendations will help to provide a solid foundation on which to build a safe and dignified future for Canada’s older people. Canada is known
for its humanitarian work around the world. It’s time we brought those values home, to care for the people to whom this country and each one of us owes so much.
We look forward to discussing these proposals with you and your staff as soon as possible. Sincerely,
RN, MN, PhD, CCHN(C) President Canadian Nurses Association
RN, BSN, MN, PhD(c) President,
Canadian Association for Rural and Remote Nursing
Canadian Association of Social Workers
RN, BN, ASMH, Med President Canadian Family Practice Nurses Association
RPN, MN, PhD(c)President,
Lori Schindel Martin,
RN, PHD President
Canadian Gerontological Nursing Association
BN, RN, CPMHN(C) Past President
Canadian Federation of Mental Health Nurses
RN, BScN, President
Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association
MD CCFP (PC) FCFP President Canadian Medical Association
Canadian Public Health Association
Miranda R Ferrier
MD CM, CCFP, FCFP, CAE, ICD. D
Executive Director & Chief Executive Officer College of Family Physicians of Canada
Ontario Personal Support Workers Association
Canadian Support Workers Association
RPN-GPNC(C), BAHSc (Hons), MHSc(c)
Professional Advocacy Director
Gerontological Nursing Association
MN, NP, President NPAC-AIIPC
Nurse Practitioner Association of Canada
Re: Federal measures to recognize the significant contributions of Canada’s front-line health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic
Dear Ministers Morneau and Hajdu:
On behalf of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and HEAL’s member organizations, representing 650,000 health care workers in Canada, we are writing to you with recommendations for new federal measures to support the financial hardships and risks posed to front-line health care workers (FLHCWs) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To begin, we strongly support the measures the federal government has taken to date to mitigate the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. However, given the unique circumstances that FLHCWs face, additional measures are required to acknowledge their role, the risks being posed to themselves and their families, and the financial burden they have taken on through it all. All FLHCWs face numerous challenges trying to carry out their life-saving work during these incredibly difficult times and they deserve to be recognized for their significant contributions.
As such, we are recommending that the federal government implement the following new measures for all FLHCWs:
1) An income tax deduction for FLHCWs put at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic, in recognition of their heroic efforts. All FLHCWs providing in-person patient care during the pandemic would be eligible to deduct a designated amount against their income earned. This would be modelled on the deduction provided to members of the Canadian Armed Forces serving in moderate- and high-risk missions.
2) A non-taxable grant to support the families of FLHCWs who die in the course of responding to the COVID-10 pandemic or who die as a result of an occupational illness or psychological impairment related to this work. The grant would also apply to cases in which the death of a FLHCW’s family member is attributable to the FLHCW’s work in responding to the pandemic. We are recommending that access to the Memorial Grant program, or a similar measure, be granted to FLHCWs and their family member(s).
3) A temporary emergency accommodation tax deduction for FLHCWs who incur additional accommodation costs as well as a home renovation credit in recognition of the need for FLHCWs to adhere to social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to their family members. We are recommending all FLHCWs earning income while working in a health care facility or public health unit or in a capacity related thereto (e.g. paramedics or janitorial staff) be eligible for the deduction and credit.
1410, pl. des tours Blair / Blair Towers Place, bur. / Suite 500
Ottawa ON K1J 9B9
Ministers Morneau and Hajdu
June 2, 2020
4) Provide additional child-care relief to FLHCWs by doubling the child-care deduction. We recommend the individuals listed above be eligible for the enhanced deduction.
We recognize that it is important that any measures enacted be simple for the government to implement and administer, as well as simple for FLHCWs to understand and access. The recommendations above will ensure that relief applies to a wide range of Canada’s FLHCWs who are battling COVID-19, where the primary intention is to be as inclusive as possible.
Once again, we commend the federal government for its decisive and meaningful response to the pandemic. Now is the time to ensure comprehensive supports are provided to those who have stepped up to protect the health and safety of all Canadians. We welcome the opportunity to discuss these recommendations with you.
Sandy Buchman, MD, CCFP(PC), FCFP
President, Canadian Medical Association
This letter is signed by the following organizations:
1410, pl. des tours Blair / Blair Towers Place, bur. / Suite 500
Ottawa ON K1J 9B9
Ministers Morneau and Hajdu
June 2, 2020
Canadian Medical Association
Canadian College of Health Leaders
Canadian Podiatric Medical Association
Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada
Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association
Canadian Psychiatric Association
Canadian Association of Community Health Centres
Canadian Psychological Association
Canadian Association for Interventional Radiology
Canadian Dental Association
Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists
Canadian Dental Hygienists Association
Canadian Society for Medical Laboratory Science
Canadian Society of Nutrition Management
Canadian Association of Midwives
Canadian Association of Nuclear Medicine
Canadian Massage Therapist Alliance
Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists
Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists
Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada
College of Family Physicians of Canada
Canadian Association of Optometrists
Canadian Nurses Association
Dietitians of Canada
Canadian Association of Social Workers
Canadian Ophthalmological Society
Canadian Cardiovascular Society
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Paramedic Association of Canada
Canadian Chiropractic Association
Canadian Pharmacists Association
Canadian Physiotherapy Association
Speech-Language & Audiology Canada
Submission in Response to the Consultation on the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy: Keeping Medical Clinic Employees on the Payroll June 5, 2020
Since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the CMA has been actively engaged as part of Canada’s domestic response. In addition to our engagement on key public health issues such as the supply and distribution of personal protective equipment, the CMA has addressed physician practice needs, including releasing a
Virtual Care Playbook to support the rapid conversion of medical practices to virtual care delivery.
In the context of physician practices operating as small businesses, the CMA strongly supports the federal government’s emergency economic relief programs. Access to these programs is critical to the viability of
many physician practices — and the ability of medical clinics across Canada to retain vital front-line health care workers (FLHCWs) and keep their doors open to continue serving the needs of their patient population.
However, despite the dire need for these programs by medical professionals — who constitute a strategic
resource and sector at the best of times, but particularly in a pandemic — presently, the CMA is concerned
that many physicians are experiencing administrative barriers to accessing these critical federal support
programs for their employees.
This submission provides a briefing on physician practices and the need to access the CEWS, an overview of
the technical and administrative factors impeding access, as well as proposed remedies to enable a rapid
Physician Practices and Access to the CEWS
While health care in Canada is predominantly publicly funded, it is primarily privately delivered. In Canada’s health care system, the vast majority of physicians are self-employed professionals operating medical practices as small business owners. Physician-owned and -run medical practices ensure that Canadians are able to access the health care they need, in communities across all jurisdictions. In doing so, Canadian physicians are directly responsible for 167,000 jobs across the country, contributing over $39 billion to Canada’s GDP. Including the expenses and overhead associated with running physician practices, nearly 289,000 jobs indirectly relate to physician practices.
However, as much as physician practices resemble small businesses on the basis of key criteria like employing staff and paying rent, it is imperative to recognize that they are in fact core stewards of a substantial portion of Canada’s health care system and critical health system infrastructure.
It is a national imperative to ensure the viability of such a core component of Canada’s health care system as our medical clinics and the staff they employ. To this end, both federal and provincial/territorial governments have a role in ensuring Canada’s medical clinics are there to serve the health care needs of Canadians, through the pandemic and beyond.
Physician practices have experienced significant impacts related to changing volumes of patient care and delivery models of care in light of public health restrictions since the pandemic was declared on Mar. 11, 2020. The CMA commissioned an economic impact analysis to better understand the impacts across various practice settings. This analysis reveals that across the range of practice settings, the after-tax monthly earnings of physician practices are estimated to decline between 15% and 100% in the low-impact scenario, and between 25% and 267% in the high-impact scenario.
Despite meeting the revenue reduction and employer eligibility factors, the CMA is concerned that many physicians are ineligible for the CEWS because of technical and administrative factors that are inconsistent with other existing federal legislative frameworks.
The CMA conducted a survey of its membership between May 22 and June 1 to better understand physicians’ experiences accessing the federal economic relief programs; 3,730 physicians participated in this survey. Overall, about a third (32%) of physicians polled had attempted to apply to at least one of the federal programs available and 15% of all physicians who responded applied for the CEWS, making it the second most applied-to program.
Of those physicians who applied to the CEWS, 60% were successful, 7% were denied and the remaining 33% were still awaiting response at the time of the survey. Of those who applied but were denied the CEWS, a third (33%) indicated it was because of their cost-sharing structure, 3% responded it was because they worked in a hospital-based setting and a further 22% simply didn’t know. Finally, as part of the survey, physicians shared comments that speak to the issues outlined in this brief. A few excerpts are below:
“We are a group of 4 surgeons and have a cost sharing agreement to pay our office expenses. Our office is outside of the hospital. We tried to apply for the CEWS but have recently received accounting advice supported by legal advice that cost sharing agreements will not be candidates for the CEWS. We are therefore presently exploring other options such as a work share situation or temporary/permanent layoffs.” CMA member, survey respondent
“I work in a group with 11 other OBGYNs. We are still unsure to this point about whether the CEWS applies to our situation. Our revenue is certainly down by ~30% or more. The issue is that our structure doesn't fall into one of the neat categories for CEWS … We are awaiting clarification from our accountant on our status but it seems that the way the rules are currently written, we will not benefit from CEWS, and unfortunately, we are reducing staff hours to cope with our reduction in revenue.” CMA member, survey respondent
“My main frustration is that I can't find a clear answer on whether a clinic made up of multiple doctors with a cost sharing agreement is eligible for CEWS for our employees. I imagine many family practice clinics are set up this way … So as it stands we have not been able to access any financial programs in order to help pay our overhead/staff despite 50% reduction in patient volume.” CMA member, survey respondent
A. Cost-Sharing Arrangements — Front-Line Health Care Workers Employed in Physician Clinics
One of the main types of practices that are unable to access the CEWS because of technical administrative barriers, despite meeting the key eligibility criteria, are physicians operating independently within a cost-sharing business structure.
Like many other independent professionals, physicians operate in group settings. In fact, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, in 2019, 65% of family practices operated in a group setting. However, unlike other independent professionals, physicians have been encouraged to operate in a group setting, both by accreditation bodies as well as by provincial health authorities, to meet system delivery goals.
Appendix A provides a case study based on Sudbury Medical Associates (SMA), an illustrative example of three doctors (Dr. Brown, Dr. Lee and Dr. Assadi) who coordinated the operations of their medical practices together to open an integrated health care clinic. While they provide care to their own respective patient rosters, these three physicians share in the clinic space rent and employ 10 employees together. Because
of the way SMA is structured, these physicians are unable to access the CEWS for their proportionate share
of their employees’ salaries. Each physician has met all the CEWS criteria except for the fact that SMA administers the payroll for their 10 employees under its own payroll number.
SMA illustrates a typical family medicine clinic representative of the many medical practices in Canada who employ numerous FLHCWs.
B. Cost-Sharing Arrangements — Front-Line Health Care Workers Employed by Specialist Physicians Practising in a Hospital-Based Environment
Another type of physician structure unable to access the CEWS because of the use of cost-share arrangements are specialist physicians practising in a hospital-based environment or academic health science centre (an “AHSC”). The purpose of an AHSC is to provide specialized health care services, carry out medical research and train the next generation of Canada’s health care professionals.
Provincial funding agreements are designed to align the interest of all parties in an AHSC (clinical care, teaching, research and innovation) and often contain governance and accountability requirements. In order to discharge responsibilities under provincial funding agreements and to run a practice that can meet certain metrics, physicians are required to hire their own staff. Consequently, cost-sharing arrangements are utilized by these physicians to efficiently hire staff while meeting their other responsibilities.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals have implemented strategies designed to protect the health care system from collapsing or being overwhelmed. For example, many hospitals have cancelled elective surgeries; coupled with the fear many patients have of going to the hospital, this has resulted in a decline in patient care volume as hospitals and physician practices adhere with public health guidelines. This has led to a significant decline in revenue, requiring physicians to access the CEWS program in order to continue to employ their staff.
Like all physicians in Canada, specialist physicians practising in a hospital-based health care setting are responsible for significant levels of fixed overhead expenses related to a medical practice. This includes medical insurance, licensing fees, maintaining an office and other professional fees. As a standard practice, employees of physicians who practise in AHSCs are often paid by a third party. In many instances, physicians have established an agency relationship pursuant to which they delegate authority to the hospital to act as their agent with respect to withholding taxes, source deductions and filing T4 returns. The main reason for this agency is to ensure that the physician focuses on teaching, researching and patient care. For clarity,
the administrator (hospital) has no legal authority to conclude on any employment matter such as the determination of a bonus or a wage increase or the payout of any severance. All these matters would
be the responsibility of the physician in his/her capacity as employer.
Anticipating a second wave of COVID-19, many physicians are concerned about maintaining their staff during a future work stoppage given their current inability to apply for the CEWS. As employers, physicians can appreciate that the hospital’s payroll number is creating additional administrative complexity for the
Canada Revenue Agency (CRA). However, as an employer and small business, their ability to access
the CEWS program is an integral part of their strategy to retain and maintain their staff.
C. Technical Analysis — CEWS Legislation and the Principal-Agent Relationship
i) CEWS Legislation — Qualifying Entity
Pursuant to the COVID-19 Emergency Response Act, an entity will qualify for CEWS to the extent that it is a Qualifying Entity under ss. 125.7(1) of the Income Tax Act (ITA). One of the criteria to be a qualifying entity is that the entity had, on Mar. 15, 2020, a business number in respect of which it is registered with the Minister to make remittances required under ITA s. 153. By virtue of how cost-sharing arrangements are structured, the administrator (agent) handles the payroll filings using their own payroll number, which can be different from the employing physician (principal). On the basis of the uniqueness of cost-sharing structures and the definition in the legislation, physicians who employ individuals under these arrangements need to rely on principal-agent concepts in order to qualify
for the CEWS provided all other criteria are met.
Presently, the CEWS application portal does not recognize principal-agent arrangements, which are common among physician practices as they employ FLHCWs. It is recognized that each participant or physician in a cost-sharing arrangement is in fact its own business and that physicians share the costs
of certain overhead expenses, which include wage-related costs for FLHCWs. In these structures, the payroll number for the employee(s) may be associated with one of the independently operating physicians or it may be associated with a separate entity. As such, these physicians are not likely to have a distinct payroll number associated with their eligible employee under the CEWS. The case law and the administrative position of the CRA demonstrate the following:
1. The principals in a cost-sharing arrangement are the employers; and
2. The agent’s payroll number should be considered the payroll number for the principal for the purposes of making a CEWS application.
ii) Case Law
Subsection 9(1) of the ITA provides for the basic rules as they relate to computing the income or loss from business or property. In both Avotus Corporation v The Queen and Fourney v The Queen , the Tax Court of Canada determined that where a person carries on business as agent for another, it is the principal that is carrying on the business and not the agent.
The Fourney case provides for several concepts that extend to the unique nature of cost-sharing arrangements. These concepts should provide clarity about a principal’s ability to make a CEWS claim if it had a payroll agent that had a business number to make remittances before Mar. 15, 2020. The concepts are summarized as follows:
1. Corporations can act as Agent
In Fourney, at paragraphs 41 and 42, it was concluded that a corporation can act as its shareholder’s agent:
It is established, then, that corporations can act as agents, and this concept is not repugnant to the rule that corporations have separate legal personality a matter addressed in the oft-cited Salomon case.
2. Business Activities belong to the Principal
At paragraphs 60 and 65 of Fourney, the Tax Court examined the following activities and ultimately concluded that the activities were in fact the activities of the principal and not the agent. The following conclusions can be drawn from the case:
Payments made to the corporate agent were found to be revenues of the principal.
Contracts entered into by the corporate agent were contracts entered into by the principal.
T4s issued under the corporate agent’s name were deductible expenses to the principal.
Lastly, at paragraph 65, the Tax Court characterized the corporate agent as a mere conduit for the appellant.
iii) Administrative Policy
For GST/HST purposes, the CRA accepts the concept of an agency relationship typically utilized by physicians in cost-sharing practices. In RITS 142436 “Implementation of Cost Sharing Arrangement,” the CRA concluded that GST/HST does not apply to payments made to “Company A” because it was an agent in relation to remuneration paid to the employees of Company B and Company C. In this ruling, Companies A, B and C were all employers with Company A administrating the payroll as agent.
The CRA’s conclusions appear to take the follow matters into account:
Employees are jointly employed by the principals in the cost-sharing arrangement.
Principals have legal responsibility for the employees.
The principals would delegate responsibility or authority to an agent, which could be a corporation or another physician.
That agent would be given discretion to pay the employees, withhold and remit the appropriate amount of taxes, file T4 slips, hire and terminate at the determination of the principals.
Each principal would pay the agent for their proportionate share of payroll and report such payroll on their respective financial statements and tax returns.
The CRA also concluded that the “employment status of a person for GST/HST purposes is the same for income tax purposes.”
The Department of Finance provides that the CEWS helps businesses keep employees on the payroll, encourages employers to rehire workers previously laid off, and better positions businesses to bounce back following the crisis. In keeping with this objective, a payroll number for an agent should extend itself to the principals for the purposes of applying for the CEWS because it is supported by case law and the administrative practices of the CRA. Application of any federally legislated program should be conceptually consistent with historical frameworks already established.
The CMA holds that the legislation as written can remain as currently drafted as it provides for the majority of applicants looking to access the CEWS. However, to address the unintended exclusion of cost-sharing arrangements, the CMA recommends that the CRA provide administrative guidance consistent with and based on existing case law and administrative positions.
The CMA recommends that the Federal Government and the CRA enable physicians to claim their proportionate share of eligible remuneration paid through a cost-sharing arrangement provided all other program eligibility criteria are met.
Administratively, this may be achieved by the following:
a “check-box” on the application denoting the applicant is a participant in a cost sharing arrangement
identification of the cost-sharing arrangement payroll number
a joint election between the agent and employer allowing the employer to utilize the agent’s payroll number and denoting the percentage allocation of salary costs to the particular employer
If this recommendation is not feasible, the CMA recommends that the Federal Government and the CRA implement an alternate approach whereby a cost-share administrator is permitted to make a CEWS claim in their capacity as agent on behalf of each eligible entity (principal). Since period 3 is almost complete, there could be less administration regarding these claims as agents have not made application.
Similar to the preferred remedy above, this may be achieved by the following:
a “check box” on the application indicating that an “agent” is filing the claim on behalf of eligible employers
the applicant could also provide (either initially or upon desk audit) the business numbers to CRA for each employer
a joint election among the agent and the employers allowing the agent to act on behalf of the employers for purposes of the CEWS
This would provide ease of audit for the CRA as the claim can be verified against the T4 and payroll remittances. The election and disclosure requirements would also alleviate any concerns the CRA or Department of Finance may have regarding potential abuse of the program.
In Appendix B we also outline supporting documentation to be retained for a CEWS Claim by a Cost-Sharing Entity, which will ensure cost-sharing entities have the appropriate documentation to submit a claim and also assist the CRA in conducting pre-assessment audits.
The CMA would be pleased to provide further detail on this issue or consider other alternatives to ensure FLHCWs receive wages during these unprecedented times.
Canada’s physicians are important employers. Not only are they responsible for almost 167,000 in direct employment, together with their staff, they are at the front lines of Canada’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our health care system cannot withstand loss of employment or risks to the viability of medical clinics, at this crucial time — and indeed at any time. The CMA strongly encourages the Federal Government to address the issues outlined above in preventing physicians from accessing this critical economic relief program. On behalf
of the doctors of Canada, the CMA stands ready to collaborate in resolving these technical and administrative barriers.
Appendix A: Welcome to Sudbury Medical Associates (SMA)
Dr. Christopher Brown (60) settled in his hometown of Sudbury to practise family medicine about 30 years ago. He operated in his own space, with his own employees until SMA was formed. Dr. Jennifer Lee (45) has been practising in Sudbury for her entire career. Dr. Lee handles all family patients with a special focus on maternity and young family care. Dr. Sarah Assadi (30) recently completed her residency. Dr. Assadi spent time in Sudbury as a locum and enjoyed the strong community feel.
Dr. Brown and Dr. Lee are long-time colleagues and recently approached Dr. Assadi to open an integrated health care clinic. Together they would require 10 employees (comprised of nurse practitioners, medical assistants and receptionists) to effectively operate the clinic. Optically, SMA appears to be one business when in fact it is comprised of three distinct medical practices. Each physician or their professional corporation maintains their own distinct patient list. Upon the advice of professional advisors, the physicians entered into a cost-sharing agreement to realize cost efficiencies related to the integrated health care clinic (administration and lease). This structure will ensure the needs of the community are met by the expansion of operating hours facilitated by a flexible staffing model. Understanding that cost-sharing arrangements are accepted by provincial health authorities and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), Dr. Brown, Dr. Lee and Dr. Assadi documented this arrangement, which includes the following details:
Dr. Brown Dr. Lee Dr. Assadi SMA
Legal entity Prof corp Prof corp Sole-proprietor Corp
Proportionate share of costs 20% 40% 40%
Legal employer (10 staff) ü ü ü
Legally responsible — all contracts ü ü ü
Payroll, T4 and remittances ü
Report for income tax purposes:
Proportionate share of costs administered by SMA including payroll ü ü ü
The impact of COVID-19 resulted in a significant slowdown of patient visits between Mar. 15 and May 31 as the residents of Sudbury were social distancing and were only leaving their homes for urgent matters. Dr. Brown, Dr. Lee and Dr. Assadi are concerned about keeping their front-line health care workers employed and at the same time maintaining a sufficient level of family health care in the community. Considering a possible second wave of COVID-19, these physicians need to ensure that their community health clinic remains open and safe so there is no unintended stress on hospitals.
Like many small businesses that have experienced significant revenue declines, these physicians are hopeful to access the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) to ensure they can retain their specialized employees and pivot to the new environment they need to operate within. Upon further review, only Dr. Lee and Dr. Assadi experienced sufficient revenue declines to access the CEWS, but currently they do not qualify because of how they structured the payroll for these 10 employees. They are concerned that without the CEWS, they will not be able to retain all of their staff or see as many patients. The following table summarizes the CEWS analysis:
CEWS criteria Dr. Brown Dr. Lee Dr. Assadi SMA
Eligible entity ü
Prof corp ü
Prof corp ü
Sole proprietor ü
Revenue decline test: March 2020 Not met ü ü No revenues to report
(eligible remuneration ) ü ü ü
Qualified for the CEWS No
(revenue decline test not met) No
(payroll account number held by SMA, which manages payroll on behalf of Dr. Lee) No
(payroll account number held by SMA, which manages payroll on behalf of Dr. Assadi) No
(has no revenue and is not the legal employer)
As employers, Dr. Lee and Dr. Assadi do not understand why their businesses are unable to access the CEWS for their proportionate share of their employees’ salaries. Each has met all of the CEWS criteria except for the fact that SMA administers the payroll for their 10 employees under its own payroll number.
Appendix B: Illustration of Supporting Documentation to be Retained for a
CEWS Claim by Cost-Sharing Entity
To the extent that employers operating through a cost-sharing structure are permitted to make a CEWS claim, the following documentation could be requested by the CRA to verify the claim upon desk audit.
For illustrative purposes, let’s assume that Dr. Lee and Dr. Assadi both made a CEWS claim.
Supporting Documentation Request
1. The legal documentation establishing the agency relationship pursuant to which Dr. Lee and Dr. Assadi delegated authority to SMA to handle the income tax remittances, source deductions and T4 reporting.
2. The employment contracts, which clearly indicate that each of Dr. Lee, Dr. Assadi (and Dr. Brown) are the employers.
Alternatively, confirmation from the employees that SMA is not the employer and that they are employed
by Drs. Lee, Assadi and Brown.
3. SMA’s accounting records or financial statements, which clearly support its position as an agent. Note: Typically, most cost-share administrators will have NIL revenue and account for all cash inflows and outflows on their balance sheet in a manner similar to a lawyer’s trust account.
4. An analysis demonstrating the revenue decline for the relevant period for Dr. Assadi’s business and Dr. Lee’s business.
5. Calculations supporting the proportionate share of “baseline remuneration” and “eligible remuneration” paid to the employees by Dr. Assadi’s business and Dr. Lee’s business.
6. A reconciliation of the wage subsidy received along with their proportionate share of the wage subsidy so it can be properly accounted for and taxed.
That the government create a one-time Health Care and Innovation Fund to resume health care services, bolster public health capacity and expand primary care teams, allowing Canadians wide-ranging access to health care.
That the government recognize and support the continued adoption of virtual care and address the inequitable access to digital health services by creating a Digi-Health Knowledge Bank and by expediting broadband access to all Canadians.
That the government act on our collective learned lessons regarding our approach to seniors care and create a national demographic top-up to the Canada Health Transfer and establish a Seniors Care Benefit.
That the government recognize the unique risks and financial burden experienced by physicians and front line health care workers by implementing the Frontline Gratitude Tax Deduction, by extending eligibility of the Memorial Grant and by addressing remaining administrative barriers to physician practices accessing critical federal economic relief programs.
Five months ago COVID-19 hit our shores. We were unprepared and unprotected. We were fallible and vulnerable. But, we responded swiftly.
The federal government initiated Canadians into a new routine rooted in public health guidance.
It struggled to outfit the front line workers. It anchored quick measures to ensure some financial stability.
Canadians tuned in to daily updates on the health crisis and the battle against its wrath.
Together, we flattened the curve… For now.
We have experienced the impact of the first wave of the pandemic. The initial wake has left Canadians, and those who care for them, feeling the insecurities in our health care system.
While the economy is opening in varied phases – an exhaustive list including patios, stores, office spaces, and schools – the health care system that struggled to care for those most impacted by the pandemic remains feeble, susceptible not only to the insurgence of the virus, but ill-prepared to equally defend the daily health needs of our citizens.
The window to maintain momentum and to accelerate solutions to existing systemic ailments that have challenged us for years is short. We cannot allow it to pass. The urgency is written on the faces of tomorrow’s patients.
Before the onset of the pandemic, the government announced intentions to ensure all Canadians would be able to access a primary care family doctor. We knew then that the health care system was failing.
The pandemic has highlighted the criticality of these recommendations brought forward by the Canadian Medical Association. They bolster our collective efforts to ensure that Canadians get timely access to the care and services they need. Too many patients are succumbing to the gaps in our abilities to care for them. Patients have signaled their thirst for a model of virtual care. The magnitude of our failure to meet the needs of our aging population is now blindingly obvious. Many of the front line health care workers, the very individuals who put themselves and their families at risk to care for the nation, are being stretched to the breaking point to compensate for a crumbling system.
The health of the country’s economy cannot exist without the health of Canadians.
Long wait times have strangled our nation’s health care system for too long. It was chronic before COVID-19. Now, for far too many, it has turned tragic.
At the beginning of the pandemic, a significant proportion of health care services came to a halt. As health services are resuming, health care systems are left to grapple with a significant spike in wait times. Facilities will need to adopt new guidance to adhere to physical distancing, increasing staff levels, and planning and executing infrastructure changes. Canada’s already financially atrophied health systems will face significant funding challenges at a time when provincial/territorial governments are concerned with resuscitating economies.
The CMA is strongly supportive of new federal funding to ensure Canada’s health systems are resourced to meet the care needs of Canadians as the pandemic and life continues. We need to invigorate our health care system’s fitness to ensure that all Canadians are confident that it can and will serve them.
Creating a new Health Care and Innovation Fund would focus on resuming the health care system, addressing the backlog, and bringing primary care, the backbone of our health care system, back to centre stage.
The CMA will provide the budget costing in follow-up as an addendum to this submission.
RECOMMENDATION 1 Creating a one-time Health Care and Innovation Fund
It took a global pandemic to accelerate a digital economy and spark a digital health revolution in Canada. In our efforts to seek medical advice while in isolation, Canadians prompted a punctuated shift in how we can access care, regardless of our location or socio-economic situation. We redefined the need for virtual care.
During the pandemic, nearly half of Canadians have used virtual care. An incredible 91% were satisfied with their experience. The CMA has learned that 43% of Canadians would prefer that their first point of medical contact be virtual.
The CMA welcomes the $240 million federal investment in virtual care and encourages the government to ensure it is linked to a model that ensures equitable access.
A gaping deficit remains in using virtual care. Recently the CMA, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and the College of Family Physicians of Canada established a Virtual Care Task Force to identify digital opportunities to improve health care delivery, including what regulatory changes are required across provincial/territorial boundaries. To take full advantage of digital health capabilities, it will be essential for the entire population, to have a functional level of digital health literacy and access to the internet.
The continued adoption of virtual care is reliant on our ability to educate patients on how to access it. It will be further contingent on consistent and equitable access to broadband internet service.
Create a Digi-Health Knowledge Bank
Virtual care can’t just happen. It requires knowledge on how to access and effectively deliver it, from patients and health care providers respectively. It is crucial to understand and promote digital health literacy across Canada. What the federal government has done for financial literacy, with the appointment of the Financial Literacy Leader within the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, can serve as a template for digital health literacy.
We recommend that the federal government establish a Digi-Health Knowledge Bank to develop indicators and measure the digital health of Canadians, create tools patients and health care providers can use to enhance digital health literacy, continually monitor the changing digital divide that exists among some population segments.
Pan-Canadian broadband expansion
It is critical to bridge the broadband divide by ensuring all those in Canada have equitable access to affordable, reliable and sustainable internet connectivity. Those in rural, remote, Northern and Indigenous communities are presently seriously disadvantaged in this way. With the rise in virtual care, a lack of access to broadband exacerbates inequalities in access to care. This issue needs to be expedited before we can have pride in any other achievement.
RECOMMENDATION 2 Embedding virtual care in our nation’s health care system
Some groups have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Woefully inadequate care of seniors and residents of long-term care homes has left a shameful and intensely painful mark on our record. Our health care system has failed to meet the needs of our aging population for too long.
The following two recommendations, combined with a focus on improving access to health care services, will make a critical difference for Canadian seniors.
A demographic top-up to the Canada Health Transfer
The Canada Health Transfer (CHT) is the single largest federal transfer to the provinces and territories. It is critical in supporting provincial and territorial health programs in Canada. As an equal per-capita-based transfer, it does not currently address the imbalance in population segments like seniors.
The CMA, hand-in-hand with the Organizations for Health Action (HEAL), recommends that a demographic top-up be transferred to provinces and territories based on the projected increase in health care spending associated with an aging population, with the federal contribution set to the current share of the CHT as a percentage of provincial-territorial health spending. A top-up has been calculated at 1.7 billion for 2021. Additional funding would be worth a total of $21.1 billion to the provinces and territories over the next decade.
Seniors care benefit
Rising out-of-pocket expenses associated with seniors care could extend from 9 billion to 23 billion by 2035. A Seniors Care Benefits program would directly support seniors and those who care for them. Like the Child Care Benefit program, it would offset the high out-of-pocket health costs that burden caregivers and patients.
RECOMMENDATION 3 Ensuring that better care is secured for our seniors
The federal government has made great strides to mitigate the health and economic impacts of COVID-19. Amidst the task of providing stability, there has been a grand oversight: measures to support our front line health care workers and their financial burden have fallen short.
The CMA recommends the following measures:
1. Despite the significant contribution of physicians’ offices to Canada’s GDP, many physician practices have not been eligible for critical economic programs. The CMA welcomes the remedies implemented by Bill C-20 and recommends the federal government address remaining administrative barriers to physicians accessing federal economic relief program.
2. We recommend that the government implement the Frontline Gratitude Tax Deduction, an income tax deduction for frontline health care workers put at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic. In person patient care providers would be eligible to deduct a predetermined amount against income earned during the pandemic. The Canadian Armed Forces already employs this model for its members serving in hazardous missions.
3. It is a devastating reality that front line health care workers have died as a result of COVID-19. Extending eligibility for the Memorial Grant to families of front line health care workers who mourn the loss of a family member because of COVID-19, as a direct result of responding to the pandemic or as a result of an occupational illness or psychological impairment related to their work will relieve any unnecessary additional hardship experienced. The same grant should extend to cases in which their work contributes to the death of a family member.
RECOMMENDATION 4 Cementing financial stabilization measures for our front line health care workers
Those impacted by COVID-19 deserve our care. The health of our nation’s economy is contingent on the health standards for its people. We must assert the right to decent quality of life for those who are most vulnerable: those whose incomes have been dramatically impacted by the pandemic, those living in poverty, those living in marginalized communities, and those doubly plagued by experiencing racism and the pandemic. We are not speaking solely for physicians. This is about equitable care for every Canadian impacted by the pandemic.
Public awareness and support have never been stronger. We are not facing the end of the pandemic; we are confronting an ebb in our journey. Hope and optimism will remain elusive until we can be confident in our health care system.
Dear First Ministers:
Re: Protecting and supporting Canada’s health-care providers during COVID-19
Given the rapidly escalating situation both globally and in our country, we know that the health and safety of all people and health-care providers in Canada is uppermost on your minds. We appreciate the measures that have been taken by all levels of government to minimize the spread of COVID-19. However, we must ensure those working directly with the public, including physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and social workers, are properly protected and supported, so that they can continue to play their role in the response.
First and foremost, we urge all levels of government to put measures in place to ensure the personal protective equipment that point-of-care providers require to deliver care safely throughout this outbreak is immediately deployed and ready to use. Coordinated measures and clear, consistent information and guidelines will ensure the appropriate protection of our health-care workforce.
Given the increased pressure on point-of-care providers, we ask that all governments support them by providing emergency funding and support programs to assist them with childcare needs, wage losses due to falling ill or having to be quarantined, and support of their mental health needs both during and after the crisis has subsided.
We also expect all governments to work together to provide adequate, timely, evidence-based information specifically for health-care providers. Clear, consistent and easily accessible guidance will enable them to do their jobs more efficiently and effectively in times of crisis. This can and should be
done on various easily accessible platforms such as online resources, an app, or through the creation of a hotline.
We know there will be challenges in deploying resources and funding, particularly around the supply of personal protective equipment. We ask that you consider any and all available options to support health-care providers through a coordinated effort both during and following this crisis. Our organizations look forward to continuing to work with you in these difficult times. If there is anything we can do to help your teams, you need only ask.
Claire Betker, RN, MN, PhD, CCHN(C)
President, Canadian Nurses Association
Jan Christianson-Wood, MSW, RSW
President, Canadian Association of Social Workers
kinanâskomitin (I’m grateful to you)
Lea Bill, RN BScN
President, Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association
Sandy Buchman, MD, CCFP(PC), FCFP
President, Canadian Medical Association
Dear Prime Minister,
We are writing to you today to ask you to bring attention and resources to Canada’s drug supply challenges. These shortages have existed for the past decade but have been greatly exacerbated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As frontline pharmacists and physicians, we have seen and heard of serious shortages of essential, critical medications. These drugs are often used simultaneously in ORs, ERs and palliative care wards, as well as ICUs. And while our ICUs are thankfully seeing fewer COVID-19 patients, the pandemic has been placing a heavy burden on their drug supply, where patients often require weeks’ worth of treatment on ventilators.
The shortages of these drugs imperil the lives of patients seeking care all over the country. Currently, the vast majority (24/32) of the drugs on Health Canada’s own Tier 3 list, which represents drugs for which there are no suitable alternatives, are essential for treating COVID-19. With the likely upcoming second wave in Canada, the potential for further exacerbation of these shortages is inevitable unless we implement rigorous preparedness measures.
At first glance, the federal government may conclude that this is a provincial and territorial area of jurisdiction. We can assure you, that there is a considerable role for the federal government to play on this issue of national concern if you so choose to take action. We believe you should.
Many of these critical care drugs should be part of the National Strategic Emergency Stockpile. However, it is clear that Canada simply did not invest enough into its stockpiles to meet the demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. In order for the stockpiling strategy to be effective, it is vital that the federal, provincial, and territorial governments work closely with hospitals, long-term care facilities, hospices and primary care facilities nationwide to establish a
comprehensive list of critical medicines and develop a plan to procure medicines
in a coordinated manner to prevent unintended competition for resources.
The 2019 budget had earmarked funds for a new Canada Drug Agency which
would have oversight over a national formulary. This proposed agency could
similarly identify essential medicines to aid in an efficient stockpiling response,
whether through stimulating domestic production or through importation and
coordination of purchasing strategies to ensure that jurisdictions that have a
greater need for medications gain access to them. We know that COVID-19’s
impact on the health system across provinces and territories and within each and
every jurisdiction was not equal or consistent.
We appreciate the active efforts of Health Canada to resolve current or projected
shortages of critical drugs through its Tier Assignment Committees. Furthermore,
Ontario has a Critical Care COVID-19 Command Centre and has created a
Critical Care Drug Shortage Task Team. Certainly, the short-term deficit will need to
be resolved through this mechanism and importing from all available suppliers.
However, to support the system at large, provincial and territorial governments will
need national support, resources and (where welcomed by provinces) a certain
level of national coordination.
Regardless of well-established Federal-Provincial-Territorial dynamics, without
concrete preventative action, Canada will perpetually face drug shortages. This is
why we recommend that your government commit to working on a long-term
solution involving a three-pronged strategy:
1. Stockpiling of a Critical Medications List which the government commits to
ensuring are always in stock for long enough to meet the needs in an emergency
(likely through the Canada Drug Agency). a. A Critical Medications List would
allow the parties involved in addressing the drug shortages to have a clear picture
of what drugs to monitor closely, and provides a more comprehensive approach
to the problem.
2. A publicly owned generic, critical drugs manufacturer, or at the bare minimum,
public support for spare capacity by Canadian-based and controlled drug
manufacturers to be used for critical drugs. a. This manufacturer or manufacturers
would specialize in manufacturing the critical drugs on the Critical Medications List,
and would be primarily involved in satisfying significant portions of our national
3. Greater transparency and communications to and from governments and
the health sector around the essential drug supply. This would include efforts to
better track the supply of drugs in hospitals across the country and push
notifications on shortages through the appropriate channels to frontline workers.
We encourage your government to give this urgent issue attention and efforts
now, so that Canadians can have the confidence that their healthcare system
will be there when they most need it.
Re: Recommendations for Canada’s long-term recovery plan
Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,
We would like first to thank and commend you for your leadership throughout this pandemic. Your government’s
efforts have helped many people in Canada during this unprecedented time and have prevented Canada from facing
outcomes similar to those seen in other countries experiencing significant pandemic-related hardship and suffering.
We are writing to you with recommendations as you develop a plan for Canada’s long-term recovery and the
upcoming Speech from the Throne on September 23rd.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed and amplified many healthcare shortfalls in Canada such as care for
older adults and mental health-care. Added to that, the economic fallout is impacting employment, housing, and
access to education. These social determinants of health contribute to and perpetuate inequality, which we see the
pandemic has already exacerbated for vulnerable groups. Action is needed now to address these challenges and
improve the health-care system to ensure Canada can chart a path toward an equitable economic recovery.
To establish a foundation for a stronger middle class, Canada must invest in a healthier and fairer society by
addressing health-care system gaps that were unmasked by COVID-19. We firmly believe that the measures we are
recommending below are critical and should be part of your government’s long-term recovery plan:
1. Ensure pandemic emergency preparedness
2. Invest in virtual care to support vulnerable groups
3. Improve supports for Canada’s aging population
4. Strengthen Canada’s National Anti-Racism Strategy
5. Improve access to primary care
6. Implement a universal single-payer pharmacare program
7. Increase mental health funding for health-care professionals
We know the months ahead will be challenging and that COVID-19 is far from over. As a nation, we have an
opportunity now, with the lessons from COVID-19 still unfolding, to bring about essential transformations to our
health-care system and create a safer and more equitable society.
1. Ensure pandemic emergency preparedness
We commend you for your work with the provinces and territories to deliver the $19 billion Safe Restart Agreement
as it will help, in the next six to eight months, to increase measures to protect frontline health-care workers and
increase testing and contact tracing to protect Canadians against future outbreaks. Moving forward, as you develop a
plan for Canada’s long-term recovery, we strongly recommend the focus remains in fighting the pandemic. Beyond
the six to eight months rollout of the Safe Restart Agreement, it is critical that a long-term recovery plan includes provisions to ensure a consistent and reliable availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) and large-scale
capacity to conduct viral testing and contact tracing.
2.Invest in virtual care to support vulnerable groups
The sudden acceleration in virtual care from home is a silver lining of the pandemic as it has enabled increased
access to care, especially for many vulnerable groups. While barriers still exist, the role of virtual care should
continue to be dramatically scaled up after COVID-19 and Canada must be cautious not to move backwards. Even
before the pandemic, Canadians supported virtual care tools. In 2018, a study found that two out of three people
would use virtual care options if available.i During the pandemic, 91% of Canadians who used virtual care reported
We welcome your government’s $240 million investment in virtual health-care and we encourage that a focus be
given to deploying technology and ensuring health human resources receive appropriate training in culturally
competent virtual care. We also strongly recommend accelerating the current 2030 target to ensure every person in
Canada has access to reliable, high-speed internet access, especially for those living in rural, remote, northern and
3.Improve supports for Canada’s aging population
Develop pan-Canadian standards for the long-term care sector
The pandemic has exposed our lack of preparation for managing infectious diseases anywhere, especially in the longterm
care sector. The result is while just 20% of COVID-19 cases in Canada are in long-term care settings, they
account for 80% of deaths — the worst outcome globally. Moreover, with no national standards for long-term care,
there are many variations across Canada in the availability and quality of service.iii We recommend that you lead the
development of pan-Canadian standards for equal access, consistent quality, and necessary staffing, training and
protocols for the long-term care sector, so it can be delivered safely in home, community, and institutional settings,
with proper accountability measures.
Meet the health-care needs of our aging population
Population aging will drive 20% of increases in health-care spending over the next years, which amounts to an
additional $93 billion in spending.iv More funding will be needed to cover the federal share of health-care costs to
meet the needs of older adults. This is supported by 88% of Canadians who believe new federal funding measures
are necessary.v That is why we are calling on the federal government to address the rising costs of population aging
by introducing a demographic top-up to the Canada Health Transfer. This would enhance the ability of provinces and
territories to meet the needs of Canada’s older adults and invest in long-term care, palliative care, and community
and home care.
4.Strengthen Canada’s National Anti-Racism Strategy
Anti-Black racism exists in social structures across Canada. Longstanding, negative impacts of these structural
determinants of health have created and continue to reinforce serious health and social inequities for racialized
communities in Canada. The absence of race and ethnicity health-related data in Canada prevents identification of
further gaps in care and health outcomes. But where these statistics are collected, the COVID-19 pandemic has
exploited age-old disparities and led to a stark over-representation of Black people among its victims. We are calling
for enhanced collection and analysis of race and ethnicity data as well as providing more funding under Canada’s
National Anti-Racism Strategy to address identified health disparities and combat racism via community-led
5. Improve access to primary care
Primary care is the backbone of our health-care system. However, according to a 2019 Statistics Canada surveyvi,
almost five million Canadians do not have a regular health care provider. Strengthening primary care through a teambased,
interprofessional approach is integral to improving the health of all people living in Canada and the
effectiveness of health service delivery. We recommend creating a one-time fund of $1.2 billion over four years to
Page 3 of 4
expand the establishment of primary care teams in each province and territory, with a special focus in remote and
underserved communities, based on the Patient’s Medical Home visionvii.
6. Implement a universal single-payer pharmacare program
People across Canada, especially those who are vulnerable, require affordable access to prescription medications that
are vital for preventing, treating and curing diseases, reducing hospitalization and improving quality of life.
Unfortunately, more than 1 in 5 Canadians reported not taking medication because of cost concerns, which can lead
to exacerbation of illness and additional health-care costs. We recommend a comprehensive, universal, public system
offering affordable medication coverage that ensures access based on need, not the ability to pay.
7.Increase mental health funding for health-care professionals
During the first wave of COVID-19, 47% of health-care workers reported the need for psychological support. They
described feeling anxious, unsafe, overwhelmed, helpless, sleep-deprived and discouraged.viii Even before COVID-
19, nurses, for instance, were suffering from high rates of fatigue and mental health issues, including PTSD.ix
Furthermore, health-care workers are at high risk for significant work-related stress that will persist long after the
pandemic due to the backlog of delayed care. Immediate long-term investment in multifaceted mental health supports
for health-care professionals is needed.
We look forward to continuing to work with you and your caucus colleagues on transforming the health of people in
Canada and the health system.
Tim Guest, M.B.A., B.Sc.N., RN
Canadian Nurses Association (CNA)
Tracy Thiele, RPN, BScPN, MN,
Canadian Federation of Mental Health
Lori Schindel Martin, RN, PhD,
Canadian Gerontological Nursing
E. Ann Collins, BSc, MD
Canadian Medical Association (CMA)
Canadian Support Workers Association
Dr. Cheryl L. Cusack RN, PhD
Community Health Nurses of Canada
Lenora Brace, MN, NP
Nurse Practitioner Association of
~ r. Cheryl
Hon. Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Finance
Hon. Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health
Hon. Deb Schulte, Minister of Seniors
Hon. Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry
Ian Shugart, Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to Cabinet
Dr. Stephen Lucas, Deputy Minister of Health
Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada
Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation (OTDT) is a rapidly changing area of medical science and practice. Organ and tissue transplantations represent significant lifesaving and life-enhancing interventions that require careful consideration by multiple stakeholders spanning medical disciplines. Technological and pharmacological advancements have made organ and tissue transplantation increasingly viable for treating related medical conditions. Changing social norms have also led to shifting perceptions of the acceptability of organ and tissue donation. Within this context, there is a need for renewed consideration of the ethical issues and principles guiding organ and tissue donation and transplantation in Canada.
The overarching principle that guides OTDT is public trust, which requires that the expressed intent either for or against donation will be honoured and respected within the donation and medical systems, and that the best interests of the potential donor are always of paramount importance; policies and mechanisms that guide OTDT should aim to maintain and foster that public trust. The CMA acknowledges and respects the diverse viewpoints, backgrounds, and religious views of physicians and patients and therefore encourages physicians to confront challenges raised by OTDT in a way that is consistent with both standards of medical ethics and patients’ values and beliefs.
This policy identifies foundational principles to address the challenges surrounding deceased and living donation. In conjunction with applicable laws and regulations in Canada, the Declaration of Istanbul, the World Health Organization (WHO) Guiding Principles on Human Cell, Tissue and Organ Transplantation, and leading clinical practices this policy aims to inform physicians and other interested parties on the guiding principles of OTDT in Canada. This policy is intended to address OTDT in adult populations; the challenges, considerations, legislation, and policy surrounding pediatric and neonatal OTDT are unique and deserve focused attention.
Physicians should be aware of relevant legislation, regulatory requirements, and policies in the jurisdiction in which they practice. Physicians are encouraged to refer to the various Canadian specialty societies that deal directly with OTDT for up-to-date information and policy, as well as innovative techniques and approaches.
The practice of OTDT is of great value to patients and society. The CMA supports the continued development of greater capacity, efficiency, and accessibility in OTDT systems in co-ordination with comprehensive and compassionate end-of-life care for Canadians while acknowledging the importance of justice, informed consent, beneficence, and confidentiality to this practice.
There is a continuous need to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of OTDT in an effort to narrow the gap between demand and supply in what remains a scarce, lifesaving resource. The principle of justice should continue to guide the equitable allocation of organs and tissues in a manner that is externally justifiable, open to public scrutiny, and balances considerations of fairness (e.g., medical need or length of time on the wait-list) with medical utility (e.g., transplantation success). There should be no discrimination based on social status or perceived social worth. Lifestyle or behavioral factors should only be considered when clear evidence indicates that those factors will impact the medical probability of success. OTDT should also not rely on the patient’s ability to pay; such actions are inconsistent with the principles that underlie Canada’s publicly-funded health system. Of note, living donation to a loved one or acquaintance (via a directed donation) is regarded as ethically acceptable if potential donors are informed of all options, including that of donating in a non-directed fashion.
All levels of government should continue to support initiatives to improve the OTDT system, raise public awareness through education and outreach campaigns, and fund ongoing research, such that any Canadian who may wish to donate their tissues or organs are given every reasonable opportunity to do so. Potential donor identification and referral, while legislated in many jurisdictions, is an important area of continued development as failure to identify donors deprives families of the opportunity to donate and deprives patients of potential transplants.
To diminish inequities in the rates of organ donation between jurisdictions, federal and provincial governments should engage in consultations with a view to implementing a coordinated, national strategy on OTDT that provides consistency and clarity on medical and legal standards of informed consent and determination of death, and institutes access to emerging best practices that support physicians, providers, and patients. Efforts should be made to ensure adequate engagement with potential donors from communities that have historically had lower living donor rates to help reduce inequities in access to living donation. Policymakers should also continue to explore and appraise the evidence on policy interventions to improve the rates of organ donation in Canada – for example, see a brief overview of opt-in vs. opt-out donation systems in the background to this policy.
2. INFORMED CONSENT AND VOLUNTARINESS
Organ and tissue donation must always be an autonomous decision, free of undue pressure or coercion. By law, the potential organ donor, or their substitute decision-maker, must provide informed consent. Physicians should direct patients to appropriate resources if that patient has expressed interest to become a donor after their death. If a potential donor has not made an expression of intent for or against donation, substitute decision-makers, families, or loved ones may be approached to provide authorization for donation. It should also be noted that consent indicates a willingness to donate, but that donation itself hinges on factors such as medical suitability and timing.
End-of-life decisions must be guided by an individual's values and religious or philosophical beliefs of what it means to have a meaningful life and death. The autonomy of an individual should always be respected regarding their wish, intent, or registered commitment to become a donor after death. Input from family and loved-ones should always be considered in the context of the potential donor’s wishes or commitments – these situations must be handled on a case-by-case basis with respect for cultural and religious views while maintaining the autonomously expressed wishes of the potential donor. Physicians should make every reasonable effort to be aware and considerate of the cultural and religious views of their patients as they pertain to OTDT. Likewise, Canadian medical schools, relevant subspecialties, and institutions should provide training and continuing professional development opportunities on OTDT, including both medicolegal implications and cultural competency.
To protect the voluntariness of the potential donor’s decision, public appeals to encourage altruistic donation should not seek to compensate potential donors through payment and should not subvert established systems of organ allocation. Any exploitation or coercion of a potential donor must be avoided. However, remuneration from officially sanctioned sources for the purpose of reimbursement of costs associated with living donation (e.g., transfer to another location or lost wages during the procedure), may be considered when no party profits financially from the exchange. The CMA supports proposed amendments to the Criminal Code and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act that criminalizes or otherwise seeks to prevent the coercive collection and transplantation of organs domestically and internationally (i.e., organ trafficking – see relevant guidelines on trafficking ). The CMA also discourages Canadians from participating in organ tourism as either a recipient or donor; physicians should not take part in transplantation procedures where it is reasonable to suspect that organs have been obtained without the donor’s informed consent or where the donor received payment (from WHO Guiding Principle 7); however, in accordance with physicians’ commitment to the well-being of the patient and the professional responsibilities relating to the patient-physician relationship in the CMA Code of Ethics and Professionalism, physicians have an obligation to treat a post-tranplant patient if requested after the patient has participated in organ tourism; physicians should be aware of any legal or regulatory obligations they may have to report a patient’s organ tourism to national authorities, taking into consideration their duties of privacy and confidentiality to the patient. ,
3. BALANCING BENEFICENCE AND NON-MALEFICENCE
Balancing beneficence and non-maleficence means to: Consider first the well-being of the patient; always act to benefit and promote the good of the patient; provide appropriate care and management across the care continuum; take all reasonable steps to prevent or minimize harm to the patient; disclose to the patient if there is a risk of harm or if harm occurs; recognize the balance of potential benefits and harms associated with any medical act; and act to bring about a positive balance of benefits over harms.
Prospective donors can benefit from the knowledge that they can potentially save lives after their own deaths. However, potential donors must not be harmed by the act of donating. In accordance with the Dead Donor Rule, organ or tissue procurement should never be the cause of death. Moreover, the care of the dying patient must never be compromised by the desire to protect organs for donation or expedite death to allow timely organ retrieval. Physicians determining that a potential donor has died should not be directly involved in tissue or organ removal from the donor or subsequent transplantation procedures, nor should they be responsible for the care of any intended recipients of such tissues and organs (from WHO Guiding Principle 2). Leading clinical criteria, in conjunction with legally prescribed definitions of death and procedures, should inform the determination of death before donation procedures are initiated.
DCD should be practiced in compliance with the regulations of individual transplant centers, relevant legislation, and leading Canadian clinical guidelines including the national recommendations for donation after cardiocirculatory death in Canada and the guidelines for the withdrawal of life-sustaining measures. Patients undergoing medical assistance in dying (MAiD) may also be eligible for organ and tissue donation – see relevant policy guidelines.
Living donors are motivated to act primarily for the benefit of the recipient. The perceived acceptability of living donation varies from person to person; living donation is deemed to be ethically acceptable when the potential benefits outweigh the potential risks of living donation; living donation is not ethically acceptable where there is a material risk of death of the donor; living donors must provide informed consent, meet medical and psychological requirements, and receive appropriate follow-up care. It is not necessary for the potential donor to be biologically or emotionally related to the recipient.
4. CONFIDENTIALITY AND PRIVACY
Current practice protects the privacy of both donor and recipient and does not allow donation teams, organ donation organizations, or transplant teams to inform either party of the other’s identity. The continuation of this practice is encouraged at the present time to protect the privacy of both donors and recipients. In addition, healthcare providers should consider the privacy and confidentiality implications of practices employed throughout the assessment and post-operative periods – patient consent should be obtained for practices involving any loss of privacy or confidentiality (e.g. group education sessions, etc.).
A person’s choice about whether or not they intend to donate organs and tissues after their death is individual and, like other health-related information, should be considered private. The right to privacy regarding personal health information extends beyond the declaration of death.
Whenever possible, potential donor and recipients should be cared for and evaluated by separate medical teams. In the case of non-directed donations, it may be necessary for information to be shared between donor and recipient teams (e.g. recipient’s underlying disease and risk for recurrence); however, such information should be limited to what is necessary for making an informed choice. Conversely, the CMA recognizes that the choice and process of directed donation is one that is deeply personal, which is likely to result in the intersection of both donor and recipient pathways of care. In such cases, the same onus of confidentiality may not apply given the choices of the donor and recipient involved.
Approved by the CMA Board of Directors December 2019
The objective of this policy is to provide guidance to physicians and institutions by identifying a set of guiding principles and commitments to promote equity and diversity in medicine (as defined in the Guiding Principles section). We address equity and diversity in medicine to improve circumstances and opportunities for all physicians and learners as part of our efforts to create a more collaborative and respectful culture and practice of medicine. To achieve this, we must redress inequities, bias, and discrimination in learning and practice environments.
Individual protection from bias and discrimination is a fundamental right of all Canadians. By embracing the principles of equity and diversity, we can systematically address root causes and reduce structural barriers faced by those who want to enter the medical profession and those practicing medicine. In so doing, we improve their opportunities for advancement, health, and livelihood.
The principles of equity and diversity are grounded in the fundamental commitment of the medical profession to respect for persons. This commitment recognizes that everyone has equal and inherent worth, has the right to be valued and respected, and to be treated with dignity. When we address equity and diversity, we are opening the conversation to include the voices and knowledge of those who have historically been under-represented and/or marginalized. It is a process of empowerment—where a person can engage with and take action on issues they define as important. Empowerment involves a meaningful shift in experience that fosters belonging in the profession and draws on community supports.
As part of equity and diversity frameworks, inclusion is often articulated to refer to strategies used to increase an individual’s ability to contribute fully and effectively to organisational structures and processes. Inclusion strategies are specific organisational practices or programs focused on encouraging the involvement and participation of individuals from diverse backgrounds to integrate and value their perspectives in decision-making processes. Robust processes for inclusion are a vehicle to achieving equity and diversity. Thus, in this policy, the process of inclusion is understood to be positioned at the nexus of the overarching principles of equity and diversity.
Equity and diversity initiatives can be carefully structured to complement and strengthen merit-based approaches. Enhanced support and appropriate methods of evaluation that increase equity of opportunity (for example, equity in training, hiring processes, and in access to resources) provide all physicians and learners with a fair opportunity to cultivate and demonstrate their unique capabilities and strengths, and to realize their full potential.
Promoting equity and diversity fosters a just professional and learning culture that cultivates the diverse perspectives within it, reflects the communities physicians serve, and promotes professional excellence and social accountability as means to better serve patients. An increasingly diverse medical population provides opportunities for underserviced populations to receive better access to medical services and bolsters the management of clinical cases through the contribution of different points of view. Evidence indicates that when demonstrably more equity and diversity in medicine is achieved, physicians experience greater career satisfaction, health and wellness, and a sense of solidarity with the profession while patients experience improved care and a more responsive and adaptable health care system. Evidence further indicates that realizing the full potential of human capital is an essential driver of innovation and health system development.
This policy is consistent with the CMA Code of Ethics and Professionalism and the CMA Charter of Shared Values and strives to be in the spirit of the recommendations relevant to health made in the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The policy is informed by a body of evidence described in the accompanying Background document that includes a Glossary of terms.
A clear set of principles and commitments to improving equity and diversity demonstrates that we hold ourselves accountable to recognizing and challenging behaviours, practices, and conditions that hinder equity and diversity and to promoting behaviours, practices, and conditions that will achieve these goals.
Achieving equity in medicine
Equity refers to the treatment of people that recognizes and is inclusive of their differences by ensuring that every individual is provided with what they need to thrive, which may differ from the needs of others. It is a state in which all members of society have similar chances to become socially active, politically influential, and economically productive through the absence of avoidable or remediable differences among groups of people (defined socially, economically, demographically, or geographically). Equity in the medical profession is achieved when every person has the opportunity to realize their full potential to create and sustain a career without being unfairly impeded by discrimination or any other characteristic-related bias or barrier. To achieve this, physicians must 1) recognize that structural inequities that privilege some at the expense of others exist in training and practice environments and 2) commit to reducing these by putting in place measures that make recruitment, retention, and advancement opportunities more accessible, desirable, and achievable. To that end, physicians must apply evidence-based strategies and support applied research into the processes that lead to inequities in training and practice environments.
Fostering diversity in medicine
Diversity refers to observable and non-observable characteristics which are constructed—and sometimes chosen—by individuals, groups, and societies to identify themselves (e.g., age, culture, religion, indigeneity, ethnicity, language, gender, sexuality, health, ability, socio-economic and family status, geography). The barriers to diversity in medicine are broad and systemic. Individuals and groups with particular characteristics can be excluded from participation based on biases or barriers. Even when they are included, they are often not able to use the full range of their skills and competencies. As with improving equity, the benefits of a more diverse medical profession include improved health outcomes, system-level adaptation, and physician health and wellness. To achieve these benefits, the medical profession must become increasingly diverse by striving to create, foster, and retain physicians and learners who reflect the diversity of the communities they serve and it must be responsive to the evolving (physical, emotional, cultural, and socioeconomic) needs of patients.
Promoting a just professional and learning culture
Physicians value learning and understand that it reflects, and is informed by, the professional culture of medicine. A just professional and learning culture is one of shared respect, shared knowledge, shared opportunity, and the experience of learning together. An environment that is physically and psychologically safe by reducing bias, discrimination, and harassment is critical to creating and sustaining such a culture. To achieve this, the profession must strive to integrate cultural safety by fostering and adopting practices of cultural competence and cultural humility. Physicians and leaders across all levels of training, practice, and health settings, and through formal and informal mentorships, must also promote and foster environments where diverse perspectives are solicited, heard, and appreciated. In this way, diverse individuals are both represented in the professional culture of medicine and actively involved in decision-making processes in all aspects of the profession.
Fostering solidarity within the profession
Solidarity means standing alongside others by recognizing our commonality, shared vulnerabilities and goals, and interdependence. It is enacted through collective action and aims. To show solidarity within the profession means making a personal commitment to recognizing others as our equals, cultivating respectful, open, and transparent dialogue and relationships, and role modelling this behaviour. Solidarity enables each of us to support our colleagues in meeting their individual and collective responsibilities and accountabilities to their patients and to their colleagues. Being accountable to these goals and to each other means taking action to ensure the principles that guide the medical profession are followed, responding justly and decisively when they are not, and continually searching for ways to improve the profession through practice-based learning and experience.
Promoting professional excellence and social accountability
Engaged and informed research and action on equity and diversity is critical to promoting professional excellence and social accountability in medicine as means to better serve patients. Professional excellence is a fundamental commitment of the profession to contribute to the development of and innovation in medicine and society through clinical practice, research, teaching, mentorship, leadership, quality improvement, administration, and/or advocacy on behalf of the profession or the public. Social accountability is a pillar of the commitment to professional excellence by focusing those efforts on fostering competence to address the evolving health needs of the patients and communities physicians are mandated to serve. For care to be socially accountable, and to achieve professional excellence, physicians must provide leadership through advocacy and through action: advocacy about the benefits of addressing equity and diversity to achieve equitable health outcomes; and actions to be responsive to patient, community, and population health needs through high-quality evidence-based patient care.
To accomplish equity and diversity in medicine, organizational and institutional changes will be required across many facets of operation and culture including leadership, education, data gathering/analysis, and continuous improvement through feedback and evaluation of policies and programs. To achieve this, the CMA seeks to provide direction on broad action areas that require further specific actions and development measures in specific recruitment, training, and practice contexts. The CMA recommends:
All medical organizations, institutions, and physician leaders:
A. Take a leadership role in achieving greater equity and diversity by co-creating policies and processes that apply to them, and the individuals therein, in an accountable and transparent manner. This includes:
1. Identifying and reducing structural inequities, barriers, and biases that exist in training and practice environments to create fair opportunities for all physicians and learners; and providing the appropriate platforms, resources, and training necessary to do so to effect change collaboratively.
2. Practicing and promoting cultural safety, cultural competence, and cultural humility.
3. Providing training on implicit bias, allyship, cultural safety, cultural competence, and cultural humility, structural competence, and the value of diversity in improving health outcomes.
4. Ensuring a process is in place to review all workforce and educational policies, procedures, and practices toward considering their impact on equity and diversity. Areas of consideration include (but are not limited to) recruitment, promotion, pay, leave of absence, parental leave, resources and support, and working/learning conditions and accommodations.
5. Ensuring safe, appropriate, and effective avenues exist for those who may have experienced discrimination, harassment, or abuse in training and practice environments to report these events outside of their supervisory/promotional chain. Those experiencing these events should also be able to seek counselling without the fear of negative consequences.
6. Working towards creating and appropriately funding equity and diversity Chairs, Committees, or Offices with a mandate to investigate and address issues in equity and diversity.
7. Promoting and enabling formal and informal mentorship and sponsorship opportunities for historically under-represented groups.
B. Encourage the collection and use of data related to equity and diversity through research and funding, and, specifically, review their data practices to ensure:
1. Historically under-represented groups are meaningfully engaged through the co-development of data practices.
2. Data regarding the representation of under-represented groups is being systematically and appropriately collected and analyzed.
3. Information collected is used to review and inform internal policy and practice with the aim of reducing or eliminating system-level drivers of inequity.
4. Findings relating to these data are made accessible.
C. Support equity and diversity in recruitment, hiring, selection, appointment, and promotion practices by:
1. Requesting and participating in training to better understand approaches and strategies to promote equity and diversity, including implicit bias and allyship training that highlights the roles and responsibilities of all members of the community with emphasis on self-awareness, cultural safety, and sensitivity to intersectionalities.
2. Studying organizational environments and frameworks and identifying and addressing hiring procedures, especially for leadership and executive positions, that perpetuate institutional inequities and power structures that privilege or disadvantage people.
3. Adopting explicit criteria to recruit inclusive leaders and to promote qualified candidates from historically under-represented groups in selection processes.
Additional recommendations for institutions providing medical education and training:
1. Establishing programs that espouse cultural safety, cultural competence, and cultural humility.
2. Encouraging all instructors develop competencies including non-discriminatory and non-stereotyping communication, awareness of intersectionality, and cultural safety.
3. Providing training programs, at the undergraduate level onwards, that include awareness and education around stereotypes (gender and otherwise), intersectionalities, and the value of diversity in improving health outcomes.
4. Providing diversity mentorship programs that aim to support diverse candidates through education and training to graduation.
5. Promoting and funding student-led programs that create safe and positive spaces for students and principles of equity and diversity.
6. Ensuring recruitment strategies and admission frameworks in medical schools incorporate more holistic strategies that recognize barriers faced by certain populations to enable a more diverse pool of candidates to apply and be fairly evaluated.
7. Developing learning communities (such as undergraduate pipelines described in the background document) to promote careers in medicine as a viable option for individuals from historically under-represented communities.
Approved by the CMA Board of Directors December 2019
Dear Minister Freeland:
We are a national consortium of experts who serve and advocate for the needs and rights of older people. We are delighted by the recent appointment of a new Minister of Seniors, and send our congratulations to the Honourable Filomena Tassi. We are also encouraged by our Government’s commitment to support the health and economic well-being of all Canadians, and heartened by your promise to listen to, and to be informed by feedback from Canadians. It is in this spirit that we are writing today regarding the need for Canada to provide support and leadership with a goal of developing and ratifying a United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Older Persons.
In the context of massive global demographic shifts and an aging population, insightful and careful reflection by the leaders of our organizations has led to universal and strong support for the creation and implementation of a UN Convention to specifically recognize and protect the human rights of our older persons.
A UN Convention on the Rights of Older Persons will:
enshrine their rights as equal with any other segment of the population with the same legal rights as any other human being;
categorically state that it is unacceptable to discriminate against older people throughout the world;
clarify the state’s role in the protection of older persons;
provide them with more visibility and recognition both nationally and internationally, which is vitally important given the rate at which Canadian and other societies are ageing;
advance the rights of older women at home and as a prominent factor in Canada’s foreign policy;
have a positive, real-world impact on the lives of older citizens who live in poverty, who are disproportionately older women, by battling ageism that contributes to poverty, ill-health, social isolation, and exclusion;
support the commitment to improve the lives of Indigenous Peoples; members of the LGBTQ community, and visible and religious minorities; and,
provide an opportunity for Canada to play a leadership role at the United Nations while at the same time giving expression to several of the Canadian government’s stated foreign policy goals.
We have projected that the cost and impact of not having such a Convention would have a significant negative impact on both the physical and mental health of older Canadians. The profound and tragic consequence would have a domino effect in all domains of their lives including social determinants of health, incidence and prevalence of chronic diseases, social and psychological functioning, not to mention massive financial costs to
society. There is recognition of this need internationally and ILC-Canada, along with other Canadian NGOs and organizations have been active at the UN to help raise awareness of the ways a UN Convention on the Rights of Older Persons would contribute to all countries.
Changes have already been implemented by our Government that are consistent and aligned with a UN Convention, such as improving the income of vulnerable Canadian seniors, funding for long term care and support for community based dementia programs. These initiatives are all in keeping with support for a Convention on the Rights of Older Persons. They are also reflective of our country’s commitment to engage more fully with the United Nations and provide Canada the stage to demonstrate leadership on a vital international issue. It is an opportunity to champion the values of inclusive government, respect for diversity and human rights including the human rights of women.
Scientific evidence demonstrates that human rights treaties help to drive positive change in the lives of vulnerable groups of people. In many countries in the world, older people are not adequately protected by existing human rights law, as explicit references to age are exceedingly rare. Even in countries like Canada, where there are legal frameworks that safeguard older people, a Convention would provide an extra layer of protection, particularly if the Convention has a comprehensive complaints mechanism.
Older adults need to be viewed as a growing but underutilized human resource. By strengthening their active role in society including the workforce, they have tremendous capacity, knowledge, and wisdom to contribute to the economy and general well-being of humankind.
We are requesting you meet with our representatives, to discuss the vital role of a UN Convention on the Rights of Older Persons and the role your government could play in improving the lives of older people in Canada and around the world. The fact that Canada is ageing is something to celebrate. We are all ageing, whether we are 20 or 85. This is a ”golden opportunity” to showcase Canada as a nation that will relentlessly pursue doing the “right thing” for humanity by supporting a UN Convention that ensures that our future is bright.
Please accept our regards, and thank you for your attention to this request. We await your response. Sincerely,
Margaret Gillis, President, International Longevity Centre Canada
Dr. Kiran Rabheru, Chair of the Board, International Longevity Centre Canada
Linda Garcia, Director, uOttawa LIFE Research Institute
cc: The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau Prime Minister of Canada
The Honourable Filomena Tassi Minister of Seniors
The Honourable Jean Yves Duclos
Minister for Families, Children and Social Development
Ambassador Marc-Andre Blanchard
Permanent Representative to Canada at the United Nations
The Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor
International Longevity Centre Canada
Dr. Kiran Rabheru
Chair of the Board, International Longevity Centre Canada
Linda Garcia, PhD
LIFE Research Institute
Dr. Laurent Marcoux
Canadian Medical Association
Andrew Padmos, BA, MD, FRCPC, FACP
Chief Executive Officer
Dani Prud’Homme Directeur général FADOQ
Peter Lukasiewicz Chief Executive Officer Gowling WLG
Dr. Dallas Seitz, MD, FRCPC
Dr. Frank Molnar
President, Canadian Geriatrics Society
Dr. David Conn
Canadian Coalition for Senior’s Mental Health
Director - Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health
Chief Executive Officer, Speech-Language & Audiology Canada
President Canadian Nurses Association
Janice Christianson-Wood, MSW, RSW Title/Organization: President, Canadian Association of Social Workers / Présidente, l’Association canadienne des travail-
Chief Executive Officer/Chef de la direction
Ondina Love, CAE
Chief Executive Officer Canadian Dental Hygienists Association
National Association of Federal Retirees /Association nationale
des retraités fédéraux
Laura Tamblyn Watts
National Initiative for the Care of the Elderly
Dr. Keri-Leigh Cassidy
Founder Fountain of Health
Dr. Beverley Cassidy Geriatric Psychiatris Seniors Mental Health
Dalhousie University Dept of Psychiatry
Jenny Neal and Janet Siddall
CO Chairs, Leadership Team Grandmothers Advocacy Network (GRAN)
President and CEO
Dr. Becky Temple, MD, CCFP, CCPE
Medical Director Northeast, Northern Health Medical Lead Privilege Dictionary Review, BCMQI
J. Van Aerde, MD, MA, PhD, FRCPC
Clinical Professor of Pediatrics - Universities of Alberta & British Columbia, Canada
Associate Faculty - Leadership Studies - Royal Roads Univ, Victo- ria, BC, Canada
Past-President - Canadian Society of Physician Leaders Editor-in-Chief / Canadian Journal of Physician Leadership
Dr. Rollie Nichol, MD, MBA, CCFP, CCPE
Associate Chief Medical Officer, Alberta Health Services
Dr. Shannon Fraser, MSc, FRCSC, FACS
Secretary / Treasurer, CSPL Chief General Surgery Jewish General Hospital
Linda Gobessi MD FRCPC
Geriatric Psychiatry Community Services of Ottawa Ottawa
Executive Director / Directrice générale
Services communautaires de géronto- psychiatrie d’ Ottawa Geriatric Psychiatry Community Services of Ottawa
Ging-Yuek Robin Hsiung, MD MHSc FRCPC FACP FAAN
Ralph Fisher and Alzheimer Society of BC Professor Director of Clinical Research
Director of Fellowship in Behavioural Neurology UBC Hospital Clinic for Alzheimer and Related Disorders
Division of Neurology, Department of Medicine University of British Columbia
Senior Social Worker Baycrest Health Sciences
Harinder Sandhu, D.D.S., Ph.D
Professor and Past Director
Schulich Dentistry & Vice Dean, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry
Dr. Christopher Frank,
Chair of Geriatric Education and Recruitment Initiative
Jennie Wells, MD
Associate Professor, University of Western Ontario Department of Medicine
Chair/Chief Division of Geriatric Medicine Parkwood Institute
Laura Diachun, MD
Program Director, Undergrad Geriatric Education University of Western Ontario
Department of Medicine, Division of Geriatric Medicine Parkwood Institute
Sheri-Lynn Kane, MD Program Director Internal Medicine Dept of Medicine Education Office
Niamh O’Regan, MB ChB,
Assistant Professor, University of Western Ontario Parkwood Institute
Michael Borrie, MB ChB, FRCPC
Professor, University of Western Ontario Department of Medicine, Division of Geriatric Medicine
Jenny Thain, MRCP (Geriatrics)
Assistant Professor, University of Western Ontario Department of Medicine, Division of Geriatric Medicine Victoria Hospital
Peter R. Butt MD CCFP FCFP
Assoc. Professor, Department of Family Medicine, College of Medicine,
University of Saskatchewan
Mamta Gautam, MD, MBA, FRCPC, CCPE Dept of Psychiatry, University of Ottawa Psychiatrist, Psychosocial Oncology Program, The Ottawa Hospital
President and CEO, PEAK MD Inc.
Dr. Shabbir Amanullah
Arun V. Ravindran, MBBS, MSc, PhD, FRCPC, FRCPsych
Professor and Director, Global Mental Health and the Office of Fellowship Training, Department of Psychiatry,
Graduate Faculty, Department of Psychology and Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Toronto
Sarah Thompson, MD, FRCPC Geriatric Psychiatrist Seniors’ Mental Health Team
Addictions and Mental Health Program
Louise Plouffe, Ph.D.
Director of Research, ILC Canada (retired)
Kimberley Wilson, PhD, MSW
Assistant Professor, Adult Development & Aging, Department of Family Relations & Applied Nutrition, University of Guelph
Andrew R. Frank M.D. B.Sc.H. F.R.C.P.(C)
Cognitive and Behavioural Neurologist Medical Director, Bruyère Memory Program Bruyère Continuing Care
Diane Hawthorne Family Physician BSc, MD, CCFP, FCFP
Dr. Ken Le Clair
Prof Emeritus Queens University and. Lead Policy Physician Consultant to Ontario. Seniors Behavioral Support Initative Queens University
Electronic tools are now being used more widely in medicine than ever before. A majority of physicians in Canada have adopted electronic medical records (EMRs)-75% of physicians use EMRs to enter or retrieve clinical patient notes, and 80% use electronic tools to access laboratory/diagnostic test results. The increased use of point-of-care tools and information repositories has resulted in the mass digitization and storage of clinical information, which provides opportunities for the use of big data analytics.
Big data analytics may come to be understood as the process of examining clinical data in EMRs cross-referenced with other administrative, demographic and behavioural data sources to reveal determinants of patient health and patterns in clinical practice. Its increased use may provide opportunities to develop and enhance clinical practice tools and to improve health outcomes at both point-of-care and population levels. However, given the nature of EMR use in Canada, these opportunities may be restricted to primary care practice at this time.
Physicians play a central role in finding the right balance between leveraging the advantages of big data analytics and protecting patient privacy. Guiding Principles for the Optimal Use of Data Analytics by Physicians at the Point of Care outlines basic considerations for the use of big data analytics services and highlights key considerations when responding to requests for access to EMR data, including the following:
* Why will data analytics be used? Will the safety and effectiveness of patient care be enhanced? Will the results be used to inform public health measures?
* What are the responsibilities of physicians to respect and protect patient and physician information, provide appropriate information during consent conversations, and review data sharing agreements and consult with EMR vendors to understand how data will be used?
As physicians will encounter big data analytics in a number of ways, this document also outlines the characteristics one should be looking for when assessing the safety and effectiveness of big data analytics services:
* protection of privacy
* clear and detailed data sharing agreement
* physician-owned and -led data collaboratives
* endorsement by a professional or recognized association, medical society or health care organization
* scope of services and functionality/appropriateness of data
While this guidance is not a standalone document-it should be used as a supplemental reference to provincial privacy legislation-it is hoped that it can aid physicians to identify suitable big data analytics services and derive benefits from them.
This document outlines basic considerations for the use of big data analytics services at the point of care or for research approved by a research ethics board. This includes considerations when responding to requests for access to data in electronic medical records (EMRs).
These guiding principles build on the policies of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) on Data Sharing Agreements: Principles for Electronic Medical Records/Electronic Health Records,1 Principles Concerning Physician Information2 and Principles for the Protection of Patients' Personal Health Information,3 the 2011 clinical vignettes Disclosing Personal Health Information to Third Parties4 and Need to Know and Circle of Care,5 and the Canadian Medical Protective Association's The Impact of Big Data on Healthcare and Medical Practice.6
These guiding principles are for information and reference only and should not be construed as legal or financial advice, nor is this document a substitute for legal or other professional advice. Physicians must always comply with all legislation that applies to big data analytics, including privacy legislation. Big data analytics in the clinical context involves the collection, use and potential disclosure of patient and physician information, both of which could be considered sensitive personal information under privacy legislation.
Big data analytics has the potential to improve health outcomes, both at the point of care and at a population level. Doctors have a key role to play in finding the right balance between leveraging the advantages of big data (enhanced care, service delivery and resource management) and protecting patient privacy.7
A majority of physicians in Canada have adopted EMRs in their practice. The percentage of physicians using EMRs to enter or retrieve clinical patient notes increased from 26% in 2007 to 75% in 2014. Eighty percent of physicians used electronic tools to access laboratory/diagnostic test results in 2014, up from 38% in 2010.8 The increasingly broad collection of information by physicians at the point of care, combined with the growth of information repositories developed by various governmental and intergovernmental bodies, has resulted in the mass digitization and storage of clinical information.
Big data is the term for data sets so large and complex that it is difficult to process them using traditional relational database management systems, desktop statistics and visualization software. What is considered "big" depends on the infrastructure and capabilities of the organization managing the data.9
Analytics is the discovery and communication of meaningful patterns in data. Analytics relies on the simultaneous application of statistics, computer programming and operations research. Analytics often favours data visualization to communicate insight, and insights from data are used to guide decision-making.10
For physicians, big data analytics may come to be understood as the process of examining the clinical data in EMRs cross-referenced with other administrative, demographic and behavioural data sources to reveal determinants of patient health and patterns in clinical practice. This information can be used to assist clinical decision-making or for research approved by a research ethics board.
There are four types of big data analytics physicians may encounter in the provision of patient care. They are generally performed in the following sequence, in a continuous cycle11,12,13,14:
1. Population health analytics: Health trends are identified in the aggregate within a community, a region or a national population. The data can be derived from biomedical and/or administrative data.
2. Risk-based cost analysis: Populations are segmented into groups according to the level of risk to the patient's health and/or cost to the health system.
3. Care management: Clinicians are enabled to manage patient care according to defined care pathways and clinical protocols informed by population health analytics and risk-based cost analysis. Care management includes the following:
o Clinical decision support: Outcomes are predicted and/or alternative treatments are recommended to clinicians and patients at the point of care.
o Personalized/precision care: Personalized data sets, such as genomic DNA sequences for at-risk patients, are leveraged to highlight best practice treatments for patients and practitioners. These solutions may offer early detection and diagnosis before a patient develops disease symptoms.
o Clinical operations: Workflow management is performed, such as wait-times management, mining historical and unstructured data for patterns to predict events that may affect care.
o Continuing education and professional development: Longitudinal performance data are combined across institutions, classes, cohorts or programs with correlating patient outcomes to assess models of education and/or develop new programs.
4. Performance analytics: Metrics for quality and efficiency of patient care are cross-referenced with clinical decision-making and performance data to assess clinical performance.
This cycle is also sometimes understood as a component of "meaningful" or "enhanced" use of EMRs.
How might physicians encounter big data analytics?
Many EMRs run analytics both visibly (e.g., as a function that can be activated at appropriate junctures in the care pathway) and invisibly (e.g., as tools that run seamlessly in the background of an EMR). Physicians may or may not be aware when data are being collected, analyzed, tailored or presented by big data analytics services. However, many jurisdictions are strengthening their laws and standards, and best practices are gradually emerging.15
Physicians may have entered into a data sharing agreement with their EMR vendor when they procured an EMR for their practice. Such agreements may include provisions to share de-identified (i.e., anonymized) and/or aggregate data with the EMR vendor for specified or unspecified purposes.
Physicians may also receive requests from third parties to share their EMR data. These requests may come from various sources:
* provincial governments
* intergovernmental agencies
* national and provincial associations, including medical associations
* non-profit organizations
* independent researchers
* EMR vendors, service providers and other private corporations
National Physician Survey results indicate that in 2014, 10% of physicians had shared data from their EMRs for the purposes of research, 10% for chronic disease surveillance and 8% for care improvement. Family physicians were more likely than other specialists to share with public health agencies (22% v. 11%) and electronic record vendors (13% v. 2%). Specialists were more likely than family physicians to share with researchers (59% v. 37%), hospital departments (47% v. 20%) and university departments (28% v. 15%).
There is significant variability across the provinces with regard to what proportion of physicians are sharing information from their EMRs, which is affected by the presence of research initiatives, research objectives defined by the approval of a research ethics board, the adoption rates of EMRs among physicians in the province and the functionality of those EMRs.16
For example, there are family practitioners across Canada who provide data to the Canadian Primary Care Sentinel Surveillance Network (CPCSSN). The CPCSSN is a multi-disease EMR surveillance and research system that allows family physicians, epidemiologists and researchers to understand and manage chronic care conditions for patients. Health information is collected from EMRs in the offices of participating family physicians, specifically information about Canadians suffering from chronic and mental health conditions and three neurologic conditions, including Alzheimer's and related dementias.17
In another example, the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer's Surgical Synoptic Reporting Initiative captures standardized information about surgery at the point of care and transmits the surgical report to other health care personnel. Surgeons can use the captured information, which gives them the ability to assess adherence to the clinical evidence and safety procedures embedded in the reporting templates, to track their own practices and those of their community.18 The concept of synoptic reporting-whereby a physician provides anonymized data about their practice in return for an aggregate report summarizing the practice of others -can be expanded to any area in which an appropriate number of physicians are willing to participate.
Guiding principles for the use of big data analytics
These guiding principles are designed to give physicians a starting point as they consider the use of big data analytics in their practices:
* The objective of using big data analytics must be to enhance the safety and/or effectiveness of patient care or for the purpose of health promotion.
* Should a physician use big data analytics, it is the responsibility of the physician to do so in a way that adheres to their legislative, regulatory and/or professional obligations.
* Physicians are responsible for the privacy of their individual patients. Physicians may wish to refer to the CMA's policy on Principles for the Protection of Patients' Personal Health Information.19
* Physicians are responsible for respecting and protecting the privacy of other physicians' information. Physicians may wish to refer to the CMA's policy on Principles Concerning Physician Information.20
* When physicians enter into and document a broad consent discussion with their patient, which can include the electronic management of health information, this agreement should convey information to cover the elements common to big data analytics services.
* Physicians may also wish to consider the potential for big data analytics to inform public health measures and enhance health system efficiency and take this into account when responding to requests for access to data in an EMR.
* Many EMR vendors provide cloud-based storage to their clients, so information entered into an EMR may be available to the EMR vendor in a de-identified and/or aggregate state. Physicians should carefully read their data sharing agreement with their EMR vendor to understand how and why the data that is entered into an EMR is used, and/or they should refer to the CMA's policy on the matter, Data Sharing Agreements: Principles for Electronic Medical Records/Electronic Health Records.21
* Given the dynamic nature of this emerging tool, physicians are encouraged to share information about their experiences with big data analytics and its applications with colleagues.
Characteristics of safe and effective big data analytics services
1. Protection of privacy
Privacy and security concerns present a challenge in linking big data in EMRs. As data are linked, it becomes increasingly difficult to de-identify individual patients.22
As care is increasingly provided in interconnected, digital environments, physicians are having to take on the role of data stewardship. To that end, physicians may wish to employ conservative risk assessment practices-"should we" as opposed to "can we" when linking data sources-and obtain express patient consent, employing a "permission-based" approach to the collection and stewardship of data.
2. A clear and detailed data sharing agreement
Physicians entering into a contract with an EMR vendor or other third party for provision of services should understand how and when they are contributing to the collection of data for the purposes of big data analytics services. There are template data sharing agreements available, which include the basic components of safe and effective data sharing, such as the model provided by the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario.23
Data sharing agreements may include general use and project-specific use, both of which physicians should assess before entering into the agreement. When EMR access is being provided to a ministry of health and/or regional health authority, the data sharing agreement should distinguish between access to administrative data and access to clinical data.
Physicians may wish to refer to the CMA's policy on Data Sharing Agreements: Principles for Electronic Medical Records/Electronic Health Records.24
3. Physician-owned and -led data collaboratives
In some provinces there may exist opportunities to share clinical data in physician-owned and -led networks to reflect on and improve patient care. One example is the Physicians Data Collaborative in British Columbia, a not-for-profit organization open to divisions of family practice.25 Collaboratives such as this one are governed by physicians and driven by a desire to protect the privacy and safety of patients while producing meaningful results for physicians in daily practice.
Participation in physician-owned data collaboratives may ensure that patient data continue to be managed by physicians, which may lead to an appropriate prioritization of physicians' obligations to balance patient-centred care and patient privacy.
4. Endorsement by a professional or other recognized association or medical society or health care organization
When considering use of big data analytics services, it is best to select services created or endorsed by a professional or other recognized association or medical society. Some health care organizations, such as hospitals, may also develop or endorse services for use in their clinical environments. Without such endorsement, physicians are advised to proceed with additional caution.
5. Scope of services and functionality/appropriateness of data
Physicians may wish to seek out information from EMR vendors and service providers about how big data analytics services complement the process of diagnosis and about the range of data sources from which these services draw. While big data analytics promises insight into population health and practice trends, if it is not drawing from an appropriate level of cross-referenced sources it may present a skewed picture of both.26 Ultimately, the physician must decide if the sources are appropriately diverse.
Physicians should expect EMR vendors and service providers to make clear how and why they draw the information they do in the provision of analytics services. Ideally, analytics services should integrate population health analytics, risk-based cost analysis, care management services (such as point-of-care decision support tools) and performance analytics.
Physicians should expect EMR vendors to allocate sufficient health informatics resources to information management, technical infrastructure, data protection and response to breaches in privacy, and data extraction and analysis.27,28
Physicians may also wish to consider the appropriateness of data analytics services in the context of their practices. Not all data will be useful for some medical specialties, such as those treating conditions that are relatively rare in the overall population. The potential for new or enhanced clinical practice tools informed by big data analytics may be restricted to primary care practice at this time.29
Finally, predictive analytics often make treatment recommendations that are designed to improve the health outcomes in a population, and these recommendations may conflict with physicians' ethical obligations to act in the best interests of individual patients and respect patients' autonomous decision-making).30
1 Canadian Medical Association. Data sharing agreements: principles for electronic medical records/electronic health records [CMA policy]. Ottawa: The Association; 2009. Available: http://policybase.cma.ca/dbtw-wpd/Policypdf/PD09-01.pdf
2 Canadian Medical Association. Principles concerning physician information [CMA policy]. CMAJ 2002 167(4):393-4. Available: http://policybase.cma.ca/dbtw-wpd/PolicyPDF/PD02-09.pdf
3 Canadian Medical Association. Principles for the protection of patients' personal health information [CMA policy]. Ottawa: The Association; 2010. Available: http://policybase.cma.ca/dbtw-wpd/Policypdf/PD11-03.pdf
4 Canadian Medical Association. Disclosing personal health information to third parties. Ottawa: The Association; 2011. Available: www.cma.ca/Assets/assets-library/document/en/advocacy/CMA_Disclosure_third_parties-e.pdf
5 Canadian Medical Association. Need to know and circle of care. Ottawa: The Association; 2011. Available: www.cma.ca/Assets/assets-library/document/en/advocacy/CMA_Need_to_know_circle_care-e.pdf
6 Canadian Medical Protective Association. The impact of big data on healthcare and medical practice. Ottawa: The Association; no date. Available: https://oplfrpd5.cmpa-acpm.ca/documents/10179/301372750/com_14_big_data_design-e.pdf
7 Kayyali B, Knott D, Van Kuiken S. The 'big data' revolution in US health care: accelerating value and innovation. New York: McKinsey & Company; 2013. p. 1.
8 College of Family Physicians of Canada, Canadian Medical Association, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. National physician survey, 2014. National results by FP/GP or other specialist, sex, age and all physicians. Q7. Ottawa: The Colleges and Association; 2014. Available: http://nationalphysiciansurvey.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/2014-National-EN-Q7.pdf
9 Anonymous. Data, data everywhere. The Economist 2010 Feb 27. Available: www.economist.com/node/15557443
10 Anonymous. Data, data everywhere. The Economist 2010 Feb 27. Available: www.economist.com/node/15557443
11 Canada Health Infoway. Big data analytics in health. Toronto: Canada Health Infoway; 2013. Available: www.infoway-inforoute.ca/index.php/resources/technical-documents/emerging-technology/doc_download/1419-big-data-analytics-in-health-white-paper-full-report (accessed 2014 May 16).
12 Ellaway RH, Pusic MV, Galbraith RM, Cameron T. 2014 Developing the role of big data and analytics in health professional education. Med Teach 2014;36(3):216-222.
13 Marino DJ. Using business intelligence to reduce the cost of care. Healthc Financ Manage 2014;68(3):42-44, 46.
14 Porter ME, Lee TH. The strategy that will fix health care. Harv Bus Rev 2013;91(10):50-70.
15 Baggaley C. Data protection in a world of big data: Canadian Medical Protective Association information session [presentation]. 2014 Aug 20. Available: https://oplfrpd5.cmpa-acpm.ca/documents/10179/301372750/com_2014_carmen_baggaley-e.pdf
16 College of Family Physicians of Canada, Canadian Medical Association, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. National physician survey, 2014. National results by FP/GP or other specialist, sex, age and all physicians. Q10. Ottawa: The Colleges and Association; 2014. Available: http://nationalphysiciansurvey.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/2014-National-EN-Q10.pdf
17 Canadian Primary Care Sentinel Surveillance Network. Available: http://cpcssn.ca/ (accessed 2014 Nov 15).
18 Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. Sustaining action toward a shared vision: 2012-2017 strategic plan. Toronto: The Partnership; no date. Available: www.partnershipagainstcancer.ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/5/2015/03/Sustaining-Action-Toward-a-Shared-Vision_accessible.pdf
19 Canadian Medical Association. Principles for the protection of patients' personal health information [CMA policy]. Ottawa: The Association; 2011. Available: http://policybase.cma.ca/dbtw-wpd/Policypdf/PD11-03.pdf
20 Canadian Medical Association. Principles for the protection of patients' personal health information [CMA policy]. Ottawa: The Association; 2011. Available: http://policybase.cma.ca/dbtw-wpd/Policypdf/PD11-03.pdf
21 Canadian Medical Association. Data sharing agreements: principles for electronic medical records/electronic health records [CMA policy]. Ottawa: The Association; 2009. Available: http://policybase.cma.ca/dbtw-wpd/Policypdf/PD09-01.pdf
22 Weber G, Mandl KD, Kohane IS. Finding the missing link for big biomedical data . JAMA 2014;311(24):2479-2480. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.4228.
23 Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario. Model data sharing agreement. Toronto: The Commissioner; 1995. Available: www.ipc.on.ca/images/Resources/model-data-ag.pdf
24 Canadian Medical Association. Data sharing agreements: principles for electronic medical records/electronic health records [CMA policy]. Ottawa: The Association; 2009. Available: http://policybase.cma.ca/dbtw-wpd/Policypdf/PD09-01.pdf
25 Physicians Data Collaborative. Overview. Available: www.divisionsbc.ca/datacollaborative/home
26 Cohen IG, Amarasingham R, Shah A, Xie B, Lo B. The legal and ethical concerns that arise from using complex predictive analytics in health care. Health Aff 2014;33(7):1139-1147.
27 Rhoads J, Ferrara L. Transforming healthcare through better use of data. Electron Healthc 2012;11(1):e27.
28 Canadian Medical Protective Association. The impact of big data and healthcare and medical practice. Ottawa: The Association; no date. Available: https://oplfrpd5.cmpa-acpm.ca/documents/10179/301372750/com_14_big_data_design-e.pdf
29 Genta RM, Sonnenberg A. Big data in gastroenterology research. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol 2014;11(6):386-390.
30 Cohen IG, Amarasingham R, Shah A, Xie B, Lo B. The legal and ethical concerns that arise from using complex predictive analytics in health care. Health Aff 2014;33(7):1139-1147.