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Dr. Forbes Goes To Parliament Hill

Dr. Cindy Forbes, president of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA), headed to Parliament Hill on Mar. 10 with a long shopping list of items she wanted to see included in the Mar. 22 federal budget.

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These include:

  1. Support for the provinces and territories in meeting the care needs of aging populations.
  2. Expanded continuing care capacity.
  3. Reduced prescription drug costs.

In a meeting marathon, the Halifax family doctor met with Nova Scotia Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) Bill Casey, the chair of the House of Commons health committee; Manitoba Liberal MP Doug Eyolfson, a fellow physician; and NDP MP Alistair MacGregor, his party’s seniors critic.

She also met with Senators Art Eggleton and Terry Mercer, both independent Liberals.Mr. MacGregor, a co-chair of the new all-party caucus on seniors care, invited Dr. Forbes to work with this group for better seniors care.

Speaking physician to physician, Dr. Eyolfson told Dr. Forbes he was very supportive of the CMA’s pre-budget recommendations, citing the isolation and burnout faced by informal caregivers.

A fellow Nova Scotian, Sen. Mercer said the most important health issue in his province is people’s ability to access a family doctor.

Also discussed was physician-assisted death. The Liberal government plans to table legislation in June to satisfy a ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada.

In order to ensure access is consistent across the country, the CMA is advocating for a referral agency for patients whose own doctors will be opting out of physician-assisted dying out of conscience. 

Sen. Eggleton said there likely will not be such an agency in the coming federal legislation. But he said “it may be something that will be looked at during the regulation process.’’

Said Sen. Mercer: “We need to make access (to physician-assisted dying) national — not like abortion, which is not available in PEI.”

The coming federal legislation is expected to be studied in committee by both Houses of Parliament simultaneously because of time constraints.

Dr. Forbes found time to take in Question Period from the House of Commons gallery. She also had lunch with Sen. Mercer in the Parliamentary Restaurant.