Health

Revamp national cancer, mental health groups, panel tells minister

Two policy experts have recommended to Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor that she wind down the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, the Mental Health Commission of Canada and the Canadian Centre for Substance Use and Addiction as part of a broader reorganization.

Dramatic overhaul urged to role of Ottawa and its arm's-length organizations in health care

Eight federally funded health organizations need to be reorganized to meet their objectives, policy experts have told the health minister. (Shutterstock)

Two policy experts have recommended to Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor that she wind down the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, the Mental Health Commission of Canada and the Canadian Centre for Substance Use and Addiction as part of a broader reorganization.

Dr. Pierre-Gerlier Forest and Dr. Danielle Martin explored the future role of eight federally funded organizations that provide national leadership on matters such as drugs and technology, mental health, cancer, substance use and addiction, electronic health records and patient safety.

Substance abuse, cancer and mental health are still key areas, Martin said. The authors suggested the expertise and resources from the organizations should be allocated differently.

"It is not because we believe that these problems or issues have been dealt with and are finished that we make this recommendation," Martin said.

"It is because they are such critical areas where action is needed that we think that we need to ensure that the organizations and structures that support these issues need to be of the appropriate scale and with the appropriate missions and mandates to be successful."

The eight organizations under review are:

  • Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction.
  • Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH).
  • Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).
  • Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement.
  • Canada Health Infoway.
  • Canadian Patient Safety Institute.
  • Canadian Partnership Against Cancer.
  • Mental Health Commission of Canada

In the case of CIHI, Canada Health Infoway and CADTH, the policy experts recommended merging the organizations to modernize them and to take advantage of more data.

Martin suggested less of a top-down approach for the organizations and moving toward a partnership network with strong bodies to intervene at the policy and regulatory levels.

"They compete for attention and they compete for money instead of working together in the same direction," Forest said.

The external experts weren't asked to cut costs, Martin said.

There is no timeline for a decision, a spokesperson for the minister said. 

Their report comes on the heels of the federal government's announcement in this month's budget to establish the Advisory Council on the Implementation of National Pharmacare.

Last April, Dr. David Naylor's blue-ribbon panel into federal science called for $1.3 billion in new money and an overhaul of how research is overseen.

Louise Bradley, president and CEO of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, said in a statement it's clear the reviewers set a bold vision to transform the health-care system.

"We embrace any and every opportunity to advance mental health and wellness for all," Bradley said. "In particular, we echo the reviewers' aspirations to work in full partnership with National Indigenous Organizations and communities."

The eight organizations received $306 million from the federal government in the 2017/18 fiscal year. They collectively employ almost 1,400 people.

With files from CBC's Susan Lunn and The Canadian Press