This week a number of your colleagues boarded planes, trains and automobiles to escape the blazes of British Columbia and enter the heated world of medical politics at this year’s Canadian Medical Association (CMA) Health Summit held in Winnipeg.
In past years, the CMA’s General Council meeting (GC) – the “medical parliament of Canada” –focused on doctors debating motions on evolving and important topics such as physician health, mandatory vaccination, Medical Assistance in Dying, cannabis, climate change. However, in its efforts to be more relevant to physician members, the CMA this year instead organized a two-day Health Summit comprised of speakers and panel discussions on innovation in healthcare, indigenous health, and patient-centred care. While most presenters were, well, present, one entrepreneur “attended” as a hologram. The theme of dreaming big while remaining humble continued when Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield spoke about the importance of planning for failure. As is usual, the federal health minister attended, but was interviewed by a non-physician rather than giving a speech, and while she repeatedly stated she was “here to listen” she did not take any questions from the audience. This was followed by the CMA’s Annual General Meeting and a pared-down GC without motions; many felt there was not enough time to debate the proposed changes to CMA governance and the Code of Ethics and Professionalism.
The Health Summit was not a substitute for a GC, because here member participation and debate was limited; this was reflected in the fact that a motion to eliminate GC was defeated. A motion to reduce the size of the CMA’s board from 26 to 19 did pass. We provided feedback in person and by writing to help guide the Code of Ethics and Professionalism to ensure that it remains a document focused on principles and written by doctors for doctors.
The past few days have shown that doctors care deeply about issues that affect us, our families, and our communities. Whether it is GC or another forum, we need a place where doctors from across the country can speak and be heard while advocating for a better healthcare system. As professionals we hold ourselves and our national association accountable. We value progress, but want to ensure everyone is brought along. We are open to innovation insofar as it supports relationships with the people we care for and about.
And if those are the takeaway messages from the Summit, then as a profession we’re getting closer to our peak.