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Canada’s nurses push Parliament for new seniors’ commission

Ottawa, November 26, 2013 — The Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) wants the federal government to establish a collaborative aging and seniors care commission of Canada (ASCCC) to promote the health and well-being of Canadians as they age, enhance chronic disease prevention and management, and increase system capacity around frailty and vulnerability. According to recent population statistics, nearly 5.2 million Canadians were over the age of 65 in 2012 — a number projected to double by 2036. CNA is expecting immediate action on seniors’ health given the growth of the aging population and their needs. With a federal election on the horizon in 2015, nearly two-thirds (65.8 per cent) of Canadians say a strong commitment to aging and seniors’ care will be important in determining who to vote for, according to a new national poll conducted for CNA.

“We need a focused, concerted and collaborative effort by governments and health-care providers today if we are to safeguard the health and well-being of seniors,” said CNA president Barb Mildon. “This commission would indeed be a large investment of time and resources, but these are in keeping with the scope and magnitude of the demographic shift we are seeing. It’s what is required to enable seniors to age with dignity and with the care they deserve and to provide the support Canadian families need.”

Modelled on the groundbreaking and successful Mental Health Commission of Canada, the ASCCC would have a 10-year mandate to develop and implement a strategy on healthy aging in seniors’ care and include greater support for caregivers. The commission would also feature a health innovation fund to advance its implementation and infrastructure. With collaboration from governments, service providers, caregivers and others, the commission would serve as a catalyst to

  • drive the exchange of knowledge and facilitate access to important resources, such as tools to help patients navigate the system and the creation of a knowledge repository;
  • scale up evidence-based, cost-effective models and best practices;
  • build the capacity of health-care providers to lead quality-improvement initiatives at the population, community and individual levels;
  • increase the engagement and participation of seniors in Canadian society; and
  • protect the dignity and safety of frail seniors, particularly in dementia and end-of-life care.

CNA presented the recommendation for a commission today during its annual Hill Day while meeting with more than 40 MPs and senators.

Another focus of the day’s meetings was the withdrawal of Bill C-2, the Respect for Communities Act. CNA is concerned that new rules for establishing supervised injection services — first unveiled by the federal government in June — will only build more barriers instead of enhancing access to vital prevention and treatment. CNA’s national poll also found that 68 per cent of Canadians support supervised injection services as a harm reduction approach.

“If the government truly wants to demonstrate a commitment to public health and safety, it must develop public policies grounded in evidence, not ideology,” says Mildon. “Supervised injection services and other harm reduction strategies have proved successful in connecting health and social services to people experiencing poverty, mental illness and homelessness. Moreover, they have a large positive impact on the health of the whole community.”

As it stands, Bill C-2 takes a prohibitionist, tough-on-crime approach instead of prioritizing public health and rehabilitation. However, research indicates that this prohibitionist approach only increases problems associated with drug use, such as increasing the risk of transmitting HIV and hepatitis C. In turn, these diseases and infections can lead to a greater need for costly emergency and chronic treatment services. According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, the estimated lifetime direct health-care costs for treating each person with HIV are about $200,000 to $300,000. Research on Insite’s cost benefits shows it has prevented 35 new cases of HIV and three deaths per year on average, an annual savings of $6 million.

CNA is asking that Bill C-2 be withdrawn and replaced by legislation that will create favourable conditions for supervised injection services to be established in communities where they can decrease death and disease.

CNA is the national professional voice of registered nurses in Canada. A federation of 11 provincial and territorial nursing associations and colleges representing more than 150,000 registered nurses, CNA advances the practice and profession of nursing to improve health outcomes and strengthen Canada’s publicly funded, not-for-profit health system.


For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Kate Headley, External Communications Coordinator
Canadian Nurses Association
Telephone: 613-237-2159, ext. 561
Cell: 613-697-7507
E-mail: kheadley@cna-aiic.ca