QUESTION PERIOD — Pediatric Health Care
This question is for the Government Representative.
Senator Gold, as you know, there is a crisis in pediatric health centres across the country. Last Friday at the Hospital for Sick Children, half of the children were in ICU on ventilators, and this spike of respiratory illnesses has prevented surgeries, cancelled emergency room access and flooded intensive care wards. Halifax’s IWK Health Centre set a record a week ago with the highest number of seriously ill patients. CHEO — the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario — opened a second ICU with unprecedented demand.
Senator Gold, I understand and I agree with the federal government’s position that money is not the only solution and there needs to be a systemic change. Nevertheless, we are in a crisis.
Despite the failure to make progress on health funding at the recent Federal-Provincial-Territorial Health Ministers’ meeting, has the Minister of Health re-engaged with his provincial and territorial colleagues to seek pathways for meaningful collaboration to address this pediatric health crisis?
Senator, thank you for raising this issue. It’s a concern to all of us, parents, grandparents and citizens alike. You’re right; it’s not just money, even though the federal government has made enormous investments in health recently, as I’ve outlined on other occasions.
You mentioned the recent meetings of the federal health ministers. It was the first meeting since 2018. It did not result in the progress that the government planned or hoped for. Since the beginning of the year, the federal, provincial and territorial officials worked collaboratively to prepare concrete action plans to advance the use of health data and digital health for Canadians and to support health workers.
Regrettably, instead of allowing health ministers to do their work and engage in a constructive and meaningful collaboration and conversation about the future of health care in this country, the premiers forced them to speak only of money and not the means of improving the system. This is not a plan.
The Government of Canada calls on the premiers to allow their health ministers to do the work with Canada’s Minister of Health to ensure that the long-term survival of Canada’s universal and publicly funded health care system survives and flourishes.
The crisis in pediatric health care, Senator Gold, is not limited to the hospital but to the drugstore, where Canadian parents have struggled to find basic medications for their children for a number of weeks now. For added context, a recent article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal argued that Canada has very little pharmaceutical security — that is, the ability to ensure our supply of drugs is not disrupted by supply chains.
Senator Gold, the government announced yesterday that it has secured a shipment of drugs in severe shortage right now. This is obviously welcome. Is there a plan coming to ensure Canadians can be confident that they will have access to basic pharmaceuticals when they or their loved ones need it?
Thank you for your question. The government is pleased that it was able to secure an additional foreign supply of children’s acetaminophen. It will be available for sale in retail and community pharmacies in the coming weeks to help address the immediate situation.
The longer-range solution requires not only federal and provincial government action but also that of the private sector to increase our already-significant capacity in research into drugs and the drug production facilities. That is something that is in the long-term interests of Canada.