A score of BCMA directors and several staff formed the BC delegation to the Canadian Medical Association annual meeting, held in Yellowknife over 4 days in August.
Yellowknife’s secondary schools doubled nicely as a conference centre and lunch venue, as did its sports multiplex, which was used to host evening functions. The social program included participation in a fundraising walk/run associated with the 2012 Overlander Sports Marathon and Fish Fry. More than half the $12 000 raised from CMA delegates came from members of the NWT Medical Association, with our British Columbia Medical Association in second place.
By the end of the meeting, General Council had adopted 90 resolutions, about a third of which were contributed by BC. Subjects included the environment (DM 5-32, 5-33, 5-34) refugee health (DM 5-44), trainee duty hours (DM 5-38), our various colleges (DM 5-8, 5-11), protection from intimidation (SS3 9-11), provincial negotiations (DM 5-36, 5-39), and last but not least, a $50 increase in annual dues (BD 1-2). The full resolutions can be viewed at cma.ca by searching for “resolutions 2012.”
The meeting theme for General Council 2012 was “health equity through action on the social determinants of health.” That our Northwest Territories possess only 57 CMA members underscores the challenges in Canada’s North. The goal of bringing up the low end of health outcomes will evade us until we devise better solutions to improving the circumstances of the disadvantaged. As expressed by invited speaker Sir Michael Marmot, we must turn attention to the “causes of the causes” of poor health. On that, there is no disagreement.
Our personal reservations with the “social determinants” theme were in its dominance over the meeting agenda. Only within our own BC caucus, for example, was there frank questioning by at least one of our colleagues of our roles and limited capacities as physicians to improve patients’ actual socioeconomic reality.
While it is true that a professional organization can achieve what an individual cannot, we must carefully consider how far to extend ourselves as a profession. In foraying beyond our core business—delivery of professional health care services—to become champions of socioeconomic equity, we risk distracting ourselves from our strengths and being construed as co-owners of the problem. The ongoing incapacity of governments to fund health care resources needed to reduce ever-burgeoning waitlists poses an important question: what is Canada’s preparedness and desire to move in the direction of those European countries where limitations on personal income and higher tax rates reflect the true cost of addressing such inequity?
Our profession is starved of clear direction, objectives, and action. Until we remedy the inequities that pervade our professional practices at the level of hospitals, health authorities, and provinces, we must limit our mandate over societal inequity to that of an interested stakeholder. Let’s not lose sight of the core business issues currently assailing our profession.
—Charles Webb, MBChB
—Jim Busser, MD
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