CNA News Room

Access to health care must be ministers' top priority: health organizations

Charlottetown, P.E.I. – Oct. 10, 2023 – As Canada’s health ministers gather in Charlottetown, P.E.I., national health care organizations are calling for clear action plans to unlock federal funding and urgently improve access to care for Canadians. We need transformational changes, and the moment to act is now.

The number of Canadians who lack a family physician or nurse practitioner is growing every day, and about a third of those who do have a primary care provider are unable to see them in a timely fashion. Under-resourced emergency departments continue to be overwhelmed with people seeking care while surgical backlogs grow. Meanwhile, Canada is experiencing population growth at a rate not seen in decades and health care providers are struggling to keep up with the volume and complexity of required care.

It has been several months since most provincial and territorial governments agreed in principle to bilateral health agreements with the federal government that included a requirement for provinces and territories to create action plans to access a portion of the funding. Action plans are needed urgently as Canadians continue to struggle to access care.

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA), College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC), Canadian Nurses Association (CNA), and Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU) are calling on Canada’s health ministers to leave Charlottetown this week with a clear commitment to urgent action.

Our organizations have advocated for a number of solutions such as creating pan-Canadian licensure for physicians, optimizing scopes of practice for health professionals, training more health workers, investing in collaborative teams, and reducing administrative burden present in the system.

Recent survey data clearly illustrate that Canadians are losing hope in their health system. Canada’s health ministers have an opportunity this week to provide a dose of hope and optimism that things can and will improve. Our organizations are prepared to work with all levels of government on tangible solutions to reform our health care system and improve working conditions for providers and access to care for patients.

The time to make transformational change is now. Canadians can’t afford to wait any longer.


“Governments need to work to restore Canadians’ faith that their health care system will be there for them when they need it. This will require strategic investment and implementing proven solutions such as team-based primary care. By working together in this time of crisis, we can build a health system that is responsive to the needs of Canadians and provide a positive work environment in which health workers to thrive.”
- Dr. Kathleen Ross, CMA President

“Family doctors are experiencing first-hand the extreme strain in the health care system. Without urgent action, Canadians will continue to suffer. Now is the time for all levels of government to implement solutions and ensure Canadians have timely access to high quality care provided by a team.”
- Dr. Christie Newton, CFPC President 

“With the ratio of nurse practitioners in Canada being significantly lower compared to our neighbours to the south, provincial and territorial action plans that address access to primary care for Canadians must commit to retaining and recruiting a larger number of nurse practitioners and other designations of nurses across the country. From community health centres to nurse practitioner-led clinics, nurses are eager to play a greater, expanded role in primary care as part of a broader team of health care providers.”
- Linda Silas, CFNU President

“Canadians no longer accept the status quo with poor access to primary care, diagnostic testing, and surgical intervention. Canada’s health system lags behind other countries in its utilization of the nursing profession. We must maximize the contribution of all providers by extending their scope of practice. It is time for impactful reforms by unleashing the true potential of Canada’s largest health workforce.”
- Dr. Sylvain Brousseau, CNA President


About the CMA
The Canadian Medical Association leads a national movement with physicians who believe in a better future of health. Our ambition is a sustainable, accessible health system where patients are partners, a culture of medicine that elevates equity, diversity and wellbeing, and supportive communities where everyone has the chance to be healthy. We drive change through advocacy, giving and knowledge sharing – guided by values of collaboration and inclusion.

About the CFPC
The College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) is the professional organization representing more than 43,000 members across the country. The College establishes the standards for and accredits postgraduate family medicine training in Canada's 17 medical schools. It reviews and certifies continuing professional development programs and materials that enable family physicians to meet certification and licensing requirements. The CFPC provides high-quality services, supports family medicine teaching and research, and advocates on behalf of the specialty of family medicine, family physicians, and the patients they serve.

About the CFNU
The CFNU is Canada’s largest nurses’ organization, representing 250,000 frontline unionized nurses and nursing students in every sector of health care – from home care and LTC to community and acute care – and advocating on key priorities to strengthen public health care across the country.

About the CNA
CNA is the national and global professional voice of Canadian nursing. Our mission is to advance the nursing profession to improve health outcomes in Canada’s publicly funded, not-for-profit health system. CNA is the only national association that speaks for all types of nurses across all 13 provinces and territories. We represent nurses who are unionized and non-unionized, retired nurses, nursing students, and all categories of nurses (registered nurses, nurse practitioners, licensed and registered practical nurses, and registered psychiatric nurses).

To schedule an interview or for further information, please contact:
CMA Media Relations:
Elena Gabrysz, 514-839-7296
Eric Lewis, 506-566-1671

CFPC Media Relations:
Courtny Vaz, Media Relations
905-629-0900, ext. 573

CFNU Media Relations:
Adella Khan, CFNU Communications
613 807-2942

CNA Media Relations:
Amber Morley, Media and Communications Coordinator