Remarks by Paul-Émile Cloutier, President & CEO of HealthCareCAN (Feb. 16, 2022)
Thank you, Mr. Chair., members of the committee, my fellow presenters.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to speak to you today. I am joined by my colleague Elaine Watson, who is the Chief Human Resources Officer at Covenant Health in Alberta, one of Canada’s largest Catholic healthcare providers. Ms. Watson is Co-Chair of HealthCareCAN’s Health Human Resources Advisory Committee and is available to help answer questions you may have during the Q&A session.
As the national organization representing hospitals, health research institutes and healthcare organizations, what I repeatedly hear from health leaders is that human resources is the number one challenge facing healthcare organizations right across Canada today.
This is a serious issue because healthcare is a people business and healthcare workers are the foundation of our health system. I commend the Committee for taking on this important and timely study on an issue that has been neglected for far too long.
Healthcare workers are more than simply nurses, physicians, and personal support workers. They also include support, custodial, and administrative staff, the researchers, the lab techs, and leadership teams that work in the health system. They are all needed for the health system to function and deliver quality care to Canadians. When we look to develop health workforce solutions, we must consider all these people rather than take a siloed approach by profession.
The exhaustion and burnout of far too many healthcare workers brought about by the pandemic has made a previously tenuous situation critical. There are significant vacancies across the country and throughout the entire system and likely more to come once the pandemic subsides, as many healthcare workers are choosing to retire early, move to less demanding roles in the health system, or leave the system entirely.
While the waves of the pandemic increased demand on the system, healthcare needs remain even once the worst of COVID-19 recedes. There is still heightened demand on the system as healthcare workers continue addressing medical procedure backlogs, caring for people who have delayed treatment and who come in sicker, and treating a population that is living longer but often with more complex and chronic conditions.
We must rethink our entire health system and addressing health human resources challenges must be central to this to ensure a more resilient system that can respond to peoples’ care needs.
We need innovative short-term and long-term solutions to address health workforce concerns. Having the right mix and number of healthcare workers, in the right place at the right time to meet the needs of people across Canada is paramount. HealthCareCAN is recommending that the federal government work on:
- Improving the immigration process to better leverage the skills of newcomers to help meet existing health system needs over the short- and medium-term;
- Collaborating with other levels of government, regulators, and educational institutions to increase the number of Canadian-trained healthcare professionals in the right roles to meet long-term needs;
- Collaborating with provincial and territorial governments and healthcare organizations across the country to support the health, wellness, safety and resiliency of the healthcare workforce. This could include increased federal investments in mental health and wellness research, programs, and resources specific to healthcare workers; and,
- Establishing a pan-Canadian health workforce agency responsible for strategic and standardized health workforce data gathering, research and planning to help us better understand the current workforce and future needs. This agency could work with provincial and territorial governments, regulators, and healthcare stakeholders using the information it collects to develop and implement strategies to address systemic health workforce concerns.
Failing to act now will lead to lower quality care, longer wait times and worse outcomes.
Canadians need federal leadership to address these issues in collaboration with provinces, territories and healthcare stakeholders.
Again, Ms. Watson and I are happy to take any questions.