BC: What are your thoughts on the recent National Pharmaceuticals Strategy report?

CM: The strategy they announced was fairly general. We look at it as promising but only a first step to where we would like it to be with specific targets and specific timetables. We are pushing for national standards that would be applied uniformly across Canada and hoping for some assistance for standardized access for patients across the country to needed drugs, not just the highprofile drugs.

BC: What, specifically, would you like to see happen with the National Pharmaceuticals Strategy?

CM: We’re basically looking at timely access to a whole range of pharmaceuticals [for] patients from across the country, not just selectively picking certain high-profile drugs or ones that may or may not be expensive. Another thing—and this could be a challenge—is to have a national formulary. We’re part of a coalition that is looking at the report. That’s about as specific as I can be just now.

BC: How would a national formulary help employers provide more access to the drugs their employees need?

CM: It simply means that there would be potential for a lot more coverage under a public system rather than companies having to insure to their employees through benefits as they do now. Basically, we’re looking for timelines and specific goals—the sooner the better. So far we haven’t seen them, but we’re prepared to watch and wait.

BC: It seems that over the past few months healthcare issues have fallen off the radar of the government. What do you think their priorities are?

CM: It’s hard to know why that is with the House of Commons back in session in September. One of the priorities is wait-times, which is one of the five pillars [of the Canada Health Act]. Unless there is some element of co-operation among the levels of government—which is our ideal— then it’s hard to know how national standards could go forward.

When the Minister of Health, Tony Clement, spoke at our annual meeting in August, he almost hinted they might be looking at regional and provincial standards, which isn’t what we are hoping to see. We’re hoping for national goals and standards on the wait-time guarantee. We haven’t heard very much about it since and we are trying to be patient.

BC: How will national guaranteed wait-times help employers?

CM: It will help diminish absenteeism, and employers will have a rough idea of what the timely period for a hip replacement or eye surgery would be.

Hopefully after that, the employees would be back and rehabilitated. Now it is open-ended and an employer can’t tell at all. It could be two, four, six or 18 months.

Additionally, what we’ve proposed is once you exceed the maximum wait there should be a separate, independent fund, the Canadian Health Access Fund, that would provide the individual or company with the money to do the service publicly or privately elsewhere. It has been on the table for quite a while, and we’re waiting to see what they say.

BC: What are other priorities of the Canadian Medical Association in the future?

CM: The second issue is the broad area of the healthcare of children. We have approached healthcare groups and government to convene a summit on children’s health in November in Ottawa. The idea is to have at the end a consensus on priorities, defined goals and a charter on children’s health.

Leigh Doyle is assistant editor of BENEFITS CANADA. leigh.doyle@rci.rogers.com.

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