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Federal leadership in health essential: panel

Federal leadership is essential to help reform the health care system, so there must be greater recognition of the importance of health care to Canadians in the current federal election campaign.

That was the consensus of all speakers at a recent sold-out panel discussion sponsored by the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and hosted by The Hill Times publication in Ottawa.

Discussants endorsed the core CMA advocacy message that all federal political parties should commit to the development of a national seniors strategy.

In an electronic poll taken at the meeting, more than half of the audience members who participated said they would change their vote if the party of their choice was not committed to development of such a strategy. In another poll, 90% characterized seniors care as a somewhat or very urgent issue to address.

“We simply want the federal government to be partners again,” said CMA Past President Chris Simpson during question period.

Simpson shared the podium with Dr. Francine Lemire, executive director and CEO of the College of Family Physicians of Canada, Karen Cohen, CEO of the Canadian Psychological Association and co-chair of the Health Action Lobby, and Douglas Angus, an economist from the Telfer School of Management at the University of Ottawa.

Touching on the fact that the economy – but not health care – has emerged as a major issue during this election campaign, Simpson said “what our politicians need to understand is that the health of our economy and the health of our population are fundamentally linked.”

“In order to guarantee the good health of our population, we need to start spending smarter,” he declared, adding "a national plan for our seniors is more important than ever before in order to protect and sustain our health care system.

“Canadians want to hear from our political leaders what they plan to do to ensure that seniors and their families receive the care they need,” he said.

While other panellists discussed the priorities in health care for their particular organizations and Angus stressed the failure of policy-makers to address the growing number of Canadians with chronic diseases, each reiterated the need for federal leadership.

“We need visionary leaders from the right and from the left,” said Angus.

Questions put to panel members dealt with topics ranging from mental health to injury prevention.

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