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Peter Watts: Put Canadian seniors front and centre in federal budget, CMA says

We are a year out from the next federal election and a few months ahead of the next federal budget.  When that budget is introduced, the Canadian Medical Association wants Canada’s seniors to be front and centre among the beneficiaries.

“We put in our pre-budget submission to the House of Commons standing committee on finance, on Thursday,” Dr. Gigi Osler, the new CMApresident, told me.  “We think there needs to be a topping-up of funds for seniors to be a part of the federal health care transfer to the provinces.”

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In the month since she took office, Dr. Osler has been across the country, listening and talking to doctors about the major issues.  She was in Calgary on the weekend for the annual general assembly of the Alberta Medical Association.

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“Home care is becoming more and more of a preference for seniors,” Osler said. “It’s a lot cheaper than putting people in hospitals unless patients have a need for hospital care.  More long-term beds are needed as well.  But the biggest desire of seniors I talk to is to live at home among family and friends.  To do that, providing home care becomes that much more important.”

“There’s also the evolution of digital technology and the need for the medical profession to be able to take the data being generated by such things as wearable devices and use it for any number of clinical reasons.  To make sure the data is reliable, and to be able to better serve remote patients or Indigenous patients, is something we’ve talked about at the CMA.  We want to be able to take advantage of technology and use it for the benefit of patients wherever they live in the country.”

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“We’re interested in what Dr. Eric Hoskin is going to have to say about the idea of a national pharmacare program.  He’s heading up this project for Canada’s governments and he’s due to make his initial report in the spring of 2019.  At that time, we’ll be looking at what he has to say and then figuring out how best to respond.  The one priority, though, will be to ensure that whatever is proposed will be available to every single Canadian regardless of the ability to pay.”

Dr. Osler’s term is for one year, and not all of this will be accomplished on her watch.  Indeed, some of the files she speaks about have been started by predecessors.  But if she can move them along, and if she can get other agencies to assist, it will be a worthy contribution to some of the challenges Canadians face.

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