Patients get floor at Canadian Medical Association's inaugural health summit in Winnipeg

Hundreds of doctors from across the country are in Winnipeg this week for the Canadian Medical Association AGM.

25 patients were invited to participate as doctors' conference aims to be more inclusive

The Canadian Medical Association's inaugural health summit in underway in Winnipeg. (John Einarson/CBC)

Hundreds of doctors from across the country are in Winnipeg this week for the Canadian Medical Association annual general meeting, but unlike in years past, patients and others in the health field were invited to join in. 

​Winnipegger Sandra Dudych is one of 25 patients invited to participate at the two-day inaugural Health Summit.

"I think the patient voice is really important in healthcare. Often overlooked," said Dudych, who is an eight-year cancer survivor.
Sandra Dudych is an 8-year cancer survivor and one of the patient advocates participating in the summit. (John Einarson/CBC)

What Dudych hopes to get across is the need for better communication between doctors and patients. She said not every patient is comfortable in developing a rapport with their physician.

"I hope they are receptive to hearing what we have to say because everyone's a patient sooner or later, even doctors," she said. "Until you have walked in those patients shoes, you can't fully know what it's like to be receiving the health care."

CMA board chair Dr. Brian Brodie said this is the first time in CMA history that patients get to ask questions at the physician-led event.

"We are really having discussions with all the stakeholders, around issues and causes that matter to Canadians," he said.

Including the patient voice is just one of the changes to this year's AGM, which is now being called a health summit to be more inclusive. The CMA has opened up registration to include others in related fields like policy-makers and health innovators.

Brodie said the CMA was expecting around 250 participants, but has maxed out capacity at 750.

In the past, hundreds of motions would be debated on and passed. He said this year the CMA canvassed all Canadian doctors in advance to pick the biggest issues to focus on.

He said going forward motions will be made throughout the year and voted on online.

"This meeting, once a year, is not the best place and shouldn't be the only place where we form policy," he said. "We are going to have engagement, e-panels and polling throughout the year so that when we need an opinion on something like medical aid and dying, or legalization of marijuana, we're able to tap into the voice of Canadian physicians."

Up for debate on Wednesday is whether or not the CMA should downsize the board from 26 members to 19. Members will also vote on whether or not hearing from patients should become a regular thing, by adding one to the board.

with files from Erin Brohman


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