mother and daughter with a nurse in a Canadian hospital
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Open Access Government analyses some of Canada’s health policy priorities

When writing about health policy in Canada, focussing on the priorities of the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health, the new National Strategy for Drugs for Rare Diseases did not escape my attention. The Minister recently announced funding of up to $1.5 billion over three years to assist with more access to and affordability of drugs that work for rare diseases, aiming to better the health of patients throughout Canada, such as children.

This is against a country background where one out of 12 people has a rare disease, many of whom are children. The first of its kind Strategy will address out-of-reach and unaffordable treatments. The announced funding will help territories, and provinces access new and existing drugs and screening for rare diseases, for example. As a result, the Government of Canada ensures that people with rare diseases have the best treatment options and experience improved health outcomes.

The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos summed this all up rather nicely. “Access and affordability should never be a barrier to care. Through this new Strategy, Canadians living with a rare disease will soon have improved screening and diagnostics, and better access to affordable and effective treatments they need, no matter where they live. We will keep working with provinces and territories and all relevant partners so those living with a rare disease, including children, have the best health outcome possible while their caregivers get the support they need and deserve.” (1)

The Canada Health Act

More broadly speaking, “universal, accessible, and publicly funded” healthcare is vital for the people of Canadians, and it’s a priority for the Government. The Canada Health Act states that nobody in the country should be out of pocket for “medically necessary services.” In March this year, the Minister of Health heralded compulsory Canada Health Transfer (CHT) deductions exceeding $82 million concerning patient charges levied during 2020-21 for “medically necessary services that should be accessible to patients at no cost,” we hear. The Minister details the measures to limit paying for private medically necessary healthcare out-of-pocket, emphasising virtual care and other essential services Canadians must pay for. We are told that the people of Canada expect timely access to healthcare services.

“No Canadian should be paying out of pocket for medically necessary services and our government will not tolerate it. As the nature of care evolves, we must protect Canadians’ ability to access medically necessary services free of charge – no matter how or where care is delivered. We will continue to work with provinces and territories to improve our healthcare system in a manner that strengthens its public, accessible, and universal nature,” the Minister of Health details. (2)

COVID-19 & mental health

The Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health provided a joint message to mark Pharmacy Appreciation Month. At least 45,000 pharmacists and 9,900 pharmacy technicians work in over 11,000 pharmacies nationwide. As such, these professionals play a crucial part in healthcare provision. One interesting point in the message concerned the role of these professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmacy teams adapted quickly to their changing scope of practice to support the health care system and played a critical role including by ensuring Canadians had access to life-saving vaccines, testing, and high-quality care they needed. They have shown up each day ready to care for and guide their communities through the many challenges we have faced,” we hear.

Pharmacists work on the front line and are a trusted source of advice and information for Canada’s inhabitants, we hear. Pharmacists also work closely with other health personnel to empower the patient, providing the information necessary for their care.

“This is particularly true for patients experiencing mental health challenges, as pharmacists can be an important point of contact. Their work can include referring patients or their families to other support services, providing addictions and safe medication management, and helping patients navigate mental health and substance use resources and services,” we discover. (3)

Closing remarks on health policy priorities

Now near the end of our analysis of health policy in Canada, we examine the importance of supporting seniors’ long-term care (LTC). Looking at the broader view, we see that the Government of Canada heralded funding worth $198.6 billion over ten years to improve healthcare services in February this year. “As a government, we will continue to our work with provinces and territories to help all Canadians, including seniors, get the care they deserve when and wherever they need it. We will also always ensure that those who live or work in LTC homes do so in a positive, safe, and quality environment,” the Minister comments. (4)

The news in early March this year about the Long COVID Web research network in Canada offers hope, the Minister noted. Over three years, GRADE centres at McMaster University and Cochrane Canada will disseminate and develop guidelines concerning long COVID or post-COVID-19 condition (PCC). Let’s leave the final word to the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, who explains this further, and ends our analysis on a forward-looking note.

“The development of new clinical practice guidelines will help to support health care workers and individuals across Canada in preventing, managing, and recovering from post COVID-19 condition, leading to even better health outcomes.” (5)



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