The Government of Canada has acted promptly to put in place far-reaching measures intended to support the safety and security of all Canadians, including the professionals working to serve those made vulnerable by the COVID-19 crisis. While it has taken significant steps toward mitigating the physical, psychological and economic concerns of the nation, more must be done to support and protect all Canadians through this time of grave uncertainty. We also have a unique opportunity and responsibility to implement longer-term structural changes to our healthcare systems.
Our recommendations focus on the need to mitigate further impacts of future COVID-19 waves, in particular on Canadian seniors. The lasting effects of the pandemic on the mental health and the substance use of Canadians, and the ongoing lack of access to care, must also be at the forefront of Canada’s efforts.
Canada has had unacceptable rates of COVID-19-related deaths in Long Term Care (LTC). These tragic deaths, nearly 80% of COVID-19 related deaths in Canada by September 2020, are in part a result of decades of neglect of the LTC sector including the devaluing of home care, caregivers, and the structural flaw that the increased costs of an aging population is carried disproportionately by some provinces and territories.
The COVID-19 crisis has also challenged the mental health and problematic substance use of Canadians as they deal with uncertainty and stress. HEAL feels it is time to recognize mental health to the same extent as physical health by having federal and provincial/territorial governments formally recognize parity between mental health and physical health.
Further to COVID-19, recent events affirm, once again, that Canada has far to go in pursuing justice for racialized people, including fighting for safety from violence and discrimination, access to income, and accessible health care and many other basic human rights.
The September 28th, 2020 death of 37 year old Joyce Echaquan at Centre hospitalier de Lanaudiere in Joliette, Quebec has drawn calls to confront systemic racism in health care across the country. She died screaming for help while enduring verbal abuse in the final moments of her life. COVID 19 has also shed a bright light on the gaps that exist in health care in Indigenous communities – which lack basics, such as clean drinking water, inadequate over -crowded housing, lack of access to broad band – all of which make frequent hand washing, social distancing and virtual care impossible.
As a coalition of 40 national health organizations dedicated to improving the health of Canadians and the quality of care they receive, each member organization, as well as the coalition itself, commits to engaging in ongoing and meaningful journeys of reconciliation that will support the recovery from the ongoing colonization of Canada.
HEAL also recognizes the sense of urgency to address climate change. To quote the World Health Organization in its February 2019 online report: “the overall health effects of a changing climate are likely to be overwhelmingly negative. Climate change affects social and environmental determinants of health – clean air, safe drinking water, sufficient food and secure shelter.”
As we prepare for future impact of the COVID-19 crisis as well as look forward to recovery, we must support not only the economy, but also the health of our nation.