Putting Patients First
A new phrase has been making the rounds on the internet in 2023 — ‘polycrisis,’ meaning multiple, simultaneous crises that are deeply interconnected and able to thwart even the best leaders’ intentions to effectively govern. It’s a term we can certainly apply to Ontario’s health care sector. Most days, it feels like we’re inside a scary confluence of calamities: workforce shortages and closed emergency rooms, lingering effects of COVID-19 and ongoing disinformation campaigns against those trying to help, aging populations and outdated systems, and funding shortfalls and accountability questions.
As the new CPSO Council President, I am certainly not exempt from these anxieties. From the head of our Council table, I am constantly reminded of the role we play in addressing the polycrisis facing the province’s health system. We are well-aware of the authority for and expectations of our work, set out in in the Regulated Health Professions Act (RHPA) and the Medicine Act.
I can state with confidence that everyone at CPSO — from our governing Council and senior leadership team to every member of our staff — has embraced the sense of urgency facing the profession as we grapple with the twin issues of burnout/moral injury on the part of physicians, and the unsettled confidence in the system from patients and the public at large. Our mandate is clear, but so too is our strategic direction. This plan, for 2020 to 2025, provides us with not only a blueprint for fulfilling our statutory obligations, but also a True North of values and commitments to help us do our part in addressing the polycrisis facing Ontario’s health sector. It is Council’s job to ensure CPSO follows and fulfills this strategic plan — that we, in short, live up to these values.
One of CPSO’s responsibilities, of course, is to register qualified physicians to practise in Ontario. Last year, the Ministry of Health asked us to respond to the crisis in physician supply by finding ways to expeditiously register out-of-province and internationally educated physicians in this province. In this issue of Dialogue, you will learn more about the creative and innovative ways we’ve responded in our efforts to get more doctors practising in Ontario.
We also recognize system collaboration is fundamental to our success and we acknowledge that we are just one player among many in this system. Addressing current pressures and underlying problems requires cooperation from governments, faculties of medicine, national certification bodies, hospitals, associations representing the interests of health-care professionals, and other key stakeholders.
As you’ve read in previous issues of Dialogue, CPSO has also begun the long journey of putting equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) at the heart of so much of what we do. It may be tempting to limit EDI to the “Meaningful Engagement” aspect of our strategic plan, but the more I reflect on it, the more I realize EDI really lives at the core of “Quality Care.” Addressing bias, bigotry and discrimination, rooting out the legacy of inequality, and contributing to a more equitable health care system isn’t something to simply retrofit onto the profession. It is fundamental to our relationship with our patients to ensure they will receive consistently excellent care. EDI is an extension of what we’ve always been taught to do as physicians: approach our patients with empathy and compassion, putting them and their unique circumstances at the heart of everything we do. This is essential to providing both excellent health outcomes and patient experiences.
On the issue of EDI, I’d also like to acknowledge International Women’s Day, which was March 8. While women account for half of all physicians in Canada, studies show women physicians earn less, are less represented at the leadership table and face higher risks of burnout. There is also a significant gender bias against women surgeons. Allyship is crucial in forging gender equity. I call on the men in the profession to work harder to raise our women colleagues up and #EmbraceEquity.
During a polycrisis, it’s tempting to forget or sideline one’s core principles, losing sight of the real reason we’re all here to begin with. Fortunately, our mandate and strategic plan are clear: we are here for the patients and public of Ontario, providing them with trusted doctors, who in turn will provide excellent care. In the end, it’s all about putting patients first. And it is my commitment as CPSO Council President to keep these values and promises top of mind throughout 2023.