British Columbia

Doctors want more funding for seniors' health care in next health accord

Canadian doctors want the federal government to commit more funding to seniors’ care in the next health accord, according to the Canadian Medical Association.

Proper care for the nation's aging population is a major focus in the CMA's annual meeting this week

Dr. Granger Avery, right, incoming President of the Canadian Medical Association, speaks with Mike Colledge, President, Ipsos Reid Public Affairs Canada, during the opening day of the Canadian Medical Association's General Council 2016, in Vancouver, B.C., on Aug. 21, 2016. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Canadian doctors want the federal government to commit more funding to seniors' care in the next health accord, according to the president of the Canadian Medical Association.

Dr. Cindy Forbes will be presenting a list of recommendations at the association's annual meeting this week in Vancouver that will include requests for more funding in provinces with larger populations of seniors, coverage of prescription drugs and for long-term care, home care and caregivers.

Doctors are already seeing the effects of an aging population and those issues will only continue to grow over the coming decades, she said.

"I'm a family physician from Nova Scotia and I see those problems arising in my practice — long waiting times to see specialists, long waiting times to be admitted to long-term care, patients staying in hospital longer because they don't have homecare," Forbes said. 

"We definitely know it's going to cost more to look after them in the way they need to be looked after."

Doctors aren't the only ones calling for seniors to be a predominant focus in the new deal. Provincial politicians, too, have said they need more money to care for the medical needs of their aging populations.

Premier Dwight Ball of Newfoundland and Labrador has said his province faces a spike in medical costs as the population ages, and New Brunswick Health Minister Victor Boudreau has said populations in Atlantic Canada are aging faster than other regions, which adds to health-care costs.

Canada's last health accord expired in 2014 and, after refusing to renegotiate it, the previous Conservative government declared that the annual six per cent increase in social program funding to the provinces would end in 2017.

The Liberals promised in their election platform to start negotiations on a new health accord, but the details have yet to be determined.

The CMA is "optimistic" about a new health accord, but it's important to have debate in order to make sure funding is adequate, Forbes said.

"This is a real opportunity," she said. "We really want to make sure that when it is negotiated, it will make a difference in our patients lives, that it will really impact the patients of Canada, the people that we serve."

Asked what they would like to see in a new agreement between the federal and provincial governments, doctors at the CMA's annual meeting in Vancouver Sunday said they wanted a focus on universal access to drugs, preventative medicine and emphasis on the quality of senior's care.

Dr. Granger Avery, the CMA's incoming president, told the crowd that negotiations for a new accord represent a chance to set a new vision of healthcare for all Canadians.

"[The CMA] is in a real position to get these discussions off the ground," he said.

"If we don't use this opportunity to engage various levels of government to achieve overall system change, then we'll have missed a very important opportunity."