The COVID-19 pandemic was a one-two punch to the gut of our beloved health system. As healthcare institutions and researchers geared up to care for Canadians and seek out a cure, non-COVID-related research was stalled due to the necessary lockdown. With labs closed and research postponed indefinitely, layoffs for research personnel loomed. With the federal government’s decision to exclude research institutions from the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, our nation’s health research enterprise teetered on the brink of collapse.
Prior to the pandemic, Canada’s system was already struggling badly. Hallway healthcare had become the norm rather than the exception, hospital infrastructure was falling further into disrepair, and health innovation was badly hindered by dwindling research budgets year after year. Then came the COVID-19 assault.
HealthCareCAN, seeing the cracks beginning to give way, mobilized to launch an aggressive advocacy campaign aimed at securing research funding, protecting the safety of care providers, and ensuring hospitals had the resources needed to weather the pandemic’s assault.
As COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations surged throughout the months of March and April, HealthCareCAN made numerous appearances in prominent media outlets to underscore the urgent need for federal action and limit the damage to our health system. This push also included a request for hospitals to be eligible to apply for support under the federal Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program – a program from which they had been unjustly excluded.
HealthCareCAN amplified our call for federal action by reaching out to key political influencers, including the Prime Minister and his federal ministers. We stressed that failing to invest in Canada’s health research sector would have catastrophic implications on Canada’s capacity to respond to COVID-19.
In early May, HealthCareCAN appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health to advocate for federal support for the health research community and hospital eligibility for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program.
Just over one week later, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau heeded HealthCareCAN’s call for action and announced $450-million in urgent federal financial support for research staff working in universities and health research institutions shuttered because of COVID-19.
“With this federal support, thanks in large part to the excellent efforts of HealthCareCAN, we can now work to ensure that we can maintain other critically needed research on other diseases even as we pursue what promises to be a lengthy battle against COVID-19.”
– Dr. David Hill, Scientific Director, Lawson Health Research Institute
“The federal government’s recent announcement of $450M for health research is good evidence of HealthCareCAN’s hard work and perseverance in advocating that health research in Canada be a top priority for federal decision-makers, now and in the future.”
– Mr. Rob MacIsaac, President & CEO, Hamilton Health Sciences Centre
Just as the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic continues, so too does HealthCareCAN’s advocacy work to build a better healthcare system. The COVID-19 crisis has exposed the fragility of our system and the weaknesses of our national policy on health surveillance, management, data and infection control. Canada’s healthcare and health research institutions need more federal financial support and HealthCareCAN is the national champion dedicated to ensuring it comes.