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Canada’s doctors call on new health minister to address ‘health workforce crisis’

By Alexandra Mae Jones, CTVNews.ca Writer

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    TORONTO, Ontario (CTV Network) — Following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet shuffle and the addition of a new cabinet role to address mental health, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is calling on the new health ministers to address the ‘health workforce crisis’ caused by pandemic burnout and stress.

In a statement Tuesday, the organization outlined how many health-care workers have left their jobs or are stretched thin due to the continuous pressure of dealing with COVID-19.

“The pandemic has merely highlighted and exacerbated what we already knew: our health care system needs focus and attention,” the CMA stated.

“There are no quick fixes, and this crisis has escalated beyond what any province or territory can manage on their own. The CMA looks to the federal government for urgent leadership and investment in the integrated, pan-Canadian health workforce planning necessary to ensure a strong and sustainable health workforce.”

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The new cabinet was unveiled Tuesday morning in what turned out to be a dramatic shakeup, with only seven ministers unchanged in their role.

After 19 months serving during the COVID-19 pandemic, Patty Hajdu is no longer the minister of health, and has been shifted to minister of Indigenous services. Assuming her role is former Treasury Board President Jean-Yves Duclos, with Carolyn Bennett taking over as associate minister of health.

Bennett, who was a family physician, has another role as well, having been tapped to take on the brand new position of minister of mental health and addictions.

The CMA said in their statement that they applauded the inclusion of a minister of mental health, and hoped that Bennett would assist in addressing the issues facing health-care workers.

“Health care workers are burned out, exhausted and demoralized, all of which is exacerbated by the increasing shortage of health human resources,” the statement said. “It’s critical to invest in health worker well-being. Many health workers have dealt with extreme working conditions throughout the pandemic and the toll it has taken will be long-lasting.”

The statement called for the federal government to assist in ensuring that there is the infrastructure necessary to allow Canadians timely access to health-care providers while also ensuring that health-care workers themselves are being supported.

“The number of Canadians without access to a family physician or care team is at a record high, causing trickle-down effects throughout the health system and hinders patients’ ability to receive timely care,” the statement added.

The CMA also urged the government to live up to election promises regarding improving health care, and to create a “nation-wide anti-racism plan” to help address structural inequities.

“We count on the government to translate welcome election commitments into reality as soon as possible to see a $6 billion investment to help address backlogs, $9 billion to improve long-term care, and $3 billion to increase access to vital primary care providers,” the statement said.

One of Duclos’ first responsibilities as he steps into the new role will be negotiating with provinces and territories who have demanded the federal government take on a greater share of the cost for delivering health care.

The Liberals’ platform also promised a new federal transfer of $4.5 billion over five years to provinces and territories to develop free and accessible mental health services.

With files from the Canadian Press

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