Canadian Medical Association

Highlights from Session 1 – May 18, 2021 

Canada’s Universal Health Care System – Myth or Reality?

While COVID-19 sparked rapid innovation in the health system — including the expansion of virtual care and collaboration between often siloed areas of health care — the pandemic also underscored many system failures.

During this session, host and CMA President Dr. Ann Collins highlighted the opportunity to learn from the pandemic to build a better heath care system that serves all Canadians.

Dr. Danielle Martin and fellow keynote speaker Dr. Nadine Caron emphasized the need to strengthen primary care services and address the social determinants of health.

Panelist and patient advocate Sudi Barre shared her insights on why health care isn’t universal – especially for women and racialized communities.

And panelist and Globe and Mail health columnist André Picard talked about what it would take to ensure better care for older adults.

Following the panel discussion — moderated by journalist Althia Raj — participants joined small breakout groups to discuss topics including how to better serve marginalized groups and the need to better integrate health and social services.

“How do we support patients being their own voice and not being a voice for them? Those are two very, very different things.”
— Physician participant
“If we had a well-integrated health system that cared about and partnered more closely with organisations that address the social determinants of health, we would be able to better serve racialized and vulnerable populations.”
— Participant

Other breakout sessions focused on ensuring a patient-partnered approach and communicating effectively with communities about their medical needs.

“With Indigenous populations, we need to go where they are. We need to take a leadership role to identify and address the real needs of patients and then shift the system around to make it patient-centric. That's my dream.”
— Patient participant

Finally, the topic of virtual care, both its capacity to increase access during the pandemic and its potential to disrupt in-person visits, was hotly debated in several breakout sessions, especially among physicians.

“I found patients who can’t come to the office for financial reasons are reaching out, especially the younger population, the mental health population, the elderly who are dependent on someone to drive them. I'm going to continue with virtual care for those populations.”
— Physician participant
“As a family doctor, the relationship with your patient is at the core of the work you do and has always been built in a very physical way, in a physical space. With the shift to virtual care… both physicians and patients alike have noted the challenges with communicating in a way that's virtual and just on the telephone.”
— Physician participant

All these discussions are being compiled and will be used by the CMA to help shape its future work, with a final report on the Health Summit series to be published in September.

Dr. Collins ended the session by acknowledging the value of the ideas brought forward and the opportunities to build on the positive changes to the health care system made during the pandemic, through the CMA’s Impact 2040 strategy.