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Medical Matters – Challenges also mean opportunities

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Medical Matters, Messenger October 2020 | Posted October 9, 2020

I think it’s fair to say the medical profession in Alberta is struggling at the moment. One year ago, I doubt anyone would have anticipated we would be dealing with a pandemic, addressing racism and discrimination, grieving a colleague murdered in a clinical setting and trying to manage the complexities of a struggling economy.

I routinely have the opportunity to work with several national organizations which allows me the opportunity to see the broader national perspective. I can assure you many of the struggles in Alberta are shared across Canada. With that in mind, I would like to share a couple things happening on the national stage that have been driven by the events of the past six-to-nine months. I believe some important changes to health care in Canada will arise from these challenges.

As many of you know, when COVID-19 arrived back in the spring, the national certifying and examining bodies—such as the RCPSC, CFPC and MCC—all suspended their exams until they could move forward safely. They had to look for new and innovative ways to assess our learners. The MCC, for example, introduced remotely proctored exams for some of the Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Examination (MCCQE) Part I. There were a couple of glitches along the way, but the MCC pushed the boundaries of what was once thought to be impossible and made it happen. 2,771 Canadian Medical Graduates (CMGs) completed their MCCQE Part I so far and first-time CMGs had a pass rate of 98.6 per cent. It was nice to see that MCC saw no difference in pass rates between in-person exams or remotely proctored exams. MCC should be commended for their innovation during such uncertain times.

Telemedicine or virtual care has taken on a whole new life in a very short period of time. This has created a great deal of concern, but it has also pushed us to advance this technology faster than expected. As a result, Alberta has established a Virtual Care Working Group and the Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada (FMRAC) has established a working group on virtual care. Both of these groups intend to support access to high-quality virtual care, safely meeting the needs of Canadians.

The concerns raised here in Alberta, and across Canada, about racism and discrimination have started some incredibly important discussions that will bring substantial and important change to the health care system. FMRAC has also established a national working group to address this problem and Alberta will definitely benefit from this work.

The tragic loss of Dr. Reynolds has also raised real concerns about the safety of physicians in Canada. We’ve heard that several physicians and care providers just don’t feel safe, or the emotional stress of harassment and threats has led doctors to leave medicine entirely. To better understand this issue, one of CPSA’s Councillors, Dr. Daisy Fung, and her colleagues have developed a national survey (in English and in French) that will help us better understand the scope of the problem, and find ways to protect doctors while maintaining trusting and caring relationships with their patients.

Although there’s no question these are challenging times, these are also the times where we can address some very complex problems. I’ve shared a few things happening at the national level, but I can assure you much more is happening. I encourage everyone to find a way to support our profession and the health care system during these challenging times. That may be taking time to respond to a survey on violence in the workplace, becoming involved in some important initiatives such as voting in CPSA’s Council Election or simply doing all you can to look after your own health so you can provide the best care possible for your patients. Whatever action you take, it will help us all move forward to more positive days.

Scott

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