For the first time, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) focused its annual general council meeting in Yellowknife during August 2012 (to which GI Society CEO, Gail Attara, was an invited observer) squarely on issues of health equity, with many delegates making it very clear they felt the association should be working to address the social determinants of health.

Physician-delegates representing associations from across the country have authorized action by the CMA on a wide range of issues, including better monitoring of the environmental and adverse health impacts of industrial projects, concussions, sugar levels in commercial beverages, refugee health, and end-of-life matters, among others.

“Delegates’ motions discussed at General Council show the depth and diversity of the issues facing health and health care in Canada,” said CMA President Dr. John Haggie. “The common link, though, is physicians’ unwavering commitment to do their best to ensure Canadians have the highest quality health and health care.”


Health Care Survey Results

A majority of Canadians believe that health care should be the federal government’s top priority and that Ottawa should play a leading role in protecting and strengthening the health care system, a new Ekos Poll conducted on behalf of the CMA indicates.

Three in four (75%) Canadians said health care should be the federal government’s top priority. A large majority of respondents (87%) believe that the federal government should pay more attention to health care and 85% believe the government should play a leading role in protecting and strengthening the health care system, according to the poll.

Six out of 10 respondents viewed the federal role in health care as safeguarding national standards and enforcing the Canada Health Act. In contrast, 37% believe the federal role in health care is limited to funding while provinces lead the delivery of services.

“Our universal health care system is a defining attribute of what it means to be Canadian,” said Haggie, who finished his term as president at the conclusion of these meetings. “We must strive to ensure that, no matter where you live, Canadians can access comparable levels and standards of health care.”

Dr. Haggie added, “What this poll tells us is that Canadians see an opportunity for all levels of government to exercise leadership and collaborate to transform health care to make it focused on the needs of patients. Our health care system originated through collaboration, it is time to bring it back at all levels.”

The Ekos Research Associates telephone survey of 1,044 Canadian adults, conducted August 3-9, 2012, has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.


Into the Future

August 15th marked the first day of Dr. Anna Reid’s term as CMA President. During her term, Dr. Reid, an emergency physician from Yellowknife, will focus on innovation and transformation as key priorities.

“The Health Care Transformation initiative may be viewed by some as too big a challenge, but I refuse to believe this,” said Dr. Reid, who will be speaking at a GI Society fundraiser in Toronto on October 22nd. “We must muster up the courage to change and to take on the journey.”

Dr. Reid said physicians must continue to tackle issues such as inequity as part of the effort to transform the health care system and her experience working in the North will provide a valuable perspective on that effort.


Dealing with Drug Shortages?

When you are ill, you don’t want to be worrying about whether the medication you need is available. Many necessary drugs are in short supply in Canada and internationally. Although most of the drugs currently in shortage are generics, we all have a part to play to ensure that Canadians can have access to the right treatments when they need them. To that end, the GI Society CEO, Gail Attara, in her role as chair of the Best Medicines Coalition (, was part of the discussion on this issue before the Standing Committee on Health earlier this year. She and others were encouraging the federal government to take the lead to protect patients, who rely on these medications, from not being able to fill a prescription when needed.

The pharma industry has been working with all stakeholders, including health professionals, governments, industry, and all those in the supply chain to address the drug shortage issue. An expanded new micro site,, initiated by Canada’s Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies (Rx&D) allows all drug manufacturers (brand & generic) to report when medications they manufacture are in short supply.

First published in the Inside Tract® newsletter issue 183 – 2012