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The Standing Committee on Health reconvened on Tuesday April 7 via teleconference to oversee and monitor the federal government’s COVID-19 response plan. I would like to thank the representatives from the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, the Canadian Pharmacists Association and the Canadian Federation of Nurses Union for joining committee, expressing their concerns and answering our questions.  

These witnesses represent physicians, nurses and health care workers who are at the front line of our fight against COVID-19 and, in doing so, putting themselves at greater risk of getting sick, becoming mentally and emotionally exhausted and dropping out. 

To help decrease this burden, we are seeing retired physicians, nurses and other health care workers come out of retirement and rejoin the field. We are also seeing the federal government put measures in place so that those with medical education and experience, whether in Canada or abroad, can also join the fight against COVID-19. 

In respect to this all-hands-on-deck situation, as Dr. Alan Drummond from the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians called it, he shared a couple of advices. The first, to retired and foreign health care workers re-entering the field, is to fully understand what the risk associated with the job means for them and their families. The second, to government at all levels, is to ensure that foreign physicians being encouraged to join the field are granted access to continue working in it beyond COVID-19. 

The present situation and our efforts to assist front line workers truly show that the limited number of health care professionals currently Canada is a concern. And, as our population ages, it is agreed that there is more to be done in the long term so we are better prepared to care for our elderly in the years to come and for all of our population during a future emergency. 

Looking ahead, witnesses called for a national health human resources strategy to establish a national entity that has the ability to put together a national database of how many physicians, nurses and other professionals are needed. This will allow for better use of the human resources we have available and better planning for the future as our elderly population dramatically increase. 

Still with our elderly population in mind, the committee also heard on a concern that has been frequently brought up to our office: limiting people to fill their prescriptions for a maximum of 30 rather than 90 days. In addition to putting themselves at a greater health risk for having to go to the pharmacy two or three times more often than before, this is also causing a financial burden for having to pay more in dispensing in the same amount of time. Dr. Barry Power from the Canadian Pharmacists Associated acknowledged this as an issue and stated that they are exploring options with stakeholders on how to best approach the issue and help those most affected. 

The meeting in full can be found in audio or text formats. 

Again, I would like to thank all the witnesses for taking the time to meet with committee and sharing their thoughts on our federal government’s response. I would also like to thank everyone within each association for their hard work during this difficult time. 

Sincerely,

Tony Van Bynen, MP

Newmarket—Aurora