The CAR welcomes the government’s announcement today of a $2B federal investment in reducing wait times, including for diagnostics. Echoing our #Budget2022 submission, we are pleased to see that the investment would be allocated on a per capita basis to the provinces. We are committed to working with federal and provincial governments to ensure that Canadian patients have timely access to diagnostics. We would like to acknowledge the CAR Board of Directors who have had over 150 (registered) meetings with Members of Parliament.
The CAR has been advocating for these federal investments ($1.5B) for the last five years throughout the terms of four CAR Presidents; Drs. William Miller (ON), Emil Lee (BC), Mike Barry (NB) and Gilles Soulez (QC). This is a significant win for the radiology community and their patients.
The CAR will keep members abreast of any developments as we work with the Minister of Health’s Office over the course of the next few weeks. Countless meetings with MPs, many Days/ Weeks on the Hill and submissions have made an influence on this allocation of funding.
Recap of Virtual Week on the Hill
From February 14-18, the CAR hosted its second Virtual Week on the Hill, which was a great success. Prior to 2020, the CAR traditionally hosted a Day on the Hill to coincide with the International Day of Radiology (November 8), however, with the pandemic and everything shifting to virtual as well as the 2021 Fall Election, the CAR opted to hold this annual event in the winter and extend the timelines to allow for more flexibility of meetings. The purpose of this event is to advocate for the advancement of radiology at the national level and to raise awareness of the impact that radiology has on the healthcare system.
Your Board of Directors represented the association remarkably. We were fortunate to have over 20 meetings with MPs and Senators from across the country and from a range of political parties, including with the Minister of Health and Minister of Finance’s offices. We also met with various members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health. We were also invited to appear before the Committee to talk about Health Workforce Challenges in Canada and offered recommendations for radiology. Your radiology leaders effectively communicated the CAR’s top priorities for medical imaging now and in the future.
Priorities for Medical Imaging
The CAR’s 2022 Pre-Budget Submission helped to set the stage for the discussions. This, coupled with the advocacy work that was done over the years including the Conference Board of Canada’s Value of Radiology report, enabled us to provide an overview of medical imaging in Canada in the past, present and future. Additionally, in early January we commissioned Nanos Research to conduct a public opinion poll on wait times for medical imaging in Canada. The results were very telling: nine out of ten Canadians supported an additional investment in medical imaging and 53% of Canadians indicated that wait times have worsened since the onset of the pandemic. This helped to frame the discussion and demonstrate to MPs and Senators the severity of the situation in terms of wait times for medical imaging.
The CAR’s “asks” for federal government investment focused on the following areas:
- A federal investment of $1.5 billion over five years in medical imaging equipment and health human resources to support the increased capacity.
- Support the implementation of a national e-referrals program (Clinical Decision Support) to provide referring health professionals with better access to medical imaging guidelines, ensuring that patients receive the right test at the right time.
- The creation of a National Data Science Institute to harness AI for the strategic prioritization of health human resources, technology, and infrastructure for medical imaging in the wake of the pandemic and beyond.
Excessively long wait times for medical imaging and the need for an investment of $1.5 billion in imaging equipment resonated with all the MPs with whom we spoke. There was a clear understanding of our focus on health human resources and MPs also responded well to the development of a strategy for the implementation of new technologies to augment the services of radiologists. Some of the MPs offered to champion these initiatives and to write letters to the Ministers of Finance and Health with these requests. We were very pleased with the reception that we received and did see the advantages of meeting virtually as it allowed for more uninterrupted and focused time with political representatives.
It is expected that the Federal Budget will be published in early April. With today’s announcement as summarized above we are confident that we will see funding in the budget for new equipment. We also believe that we will continue to be consulted for the development of a Health Workforce strategy in Canada. We will use this opportunity to highlight the essential role that radiologists, MRTs, medical physicists and sonographers play in the healthcare system.
Spreading the Word
We received a significant amount of exposure on social media and in the traditional news media during and leading up to our Week on the Hill. In early January our news release resulted in 560 stories published across 160 news media outlets including the Globe and Mail, La Presse and Global National. We would like to thank our CAR superstar members who stepped up to represent radiology in Canada.
As a radiologist, you too can become involved by engaging in grass roots advocacy in your community. Whether it is talking about wait times, staff shortages, referral guidelines for medical imaging, we encourage you to reach out to your MP and to talk about how the pandemic has impacted your practice. The more individuals we have communicating the same message the more successful we will be in our advocacy. We are here to help and have developed the Parliamentary Outreach Program to provide our members with the tools and resources to make advocating easy. For more information, please contact us at [email protected]. To read more about our recent advocacy efforts please visit our website.