Last month the CMPA introduced the Member Support Program (MSP), a significant enhancement to our assistance services. The MSP recognizes that some of our physician colleagues are struggling and helps to get them back on track. As part of the continuum of CMPA services, the MSP addresses the factors that have contributed to a physician’s rate of medical-legal difficulties that exceeds that of their peers, and aims to enhance the quality of a physician’s practice and contribution to the healthcare system.
Canada consistently ranks near the bottom of surveys comparing the state of healthcare in affluent nations, placing ninth out of eleven countries in the latest Commonwealth Fund study. Health outcomes continue to be among the challenges confronting Canadian healthcare, and we at the CMPA are working steadfastly to support physicians and to enable them to provide the best care possible.
I believe that at the core of many of the challenges facing our healthcare system is a shortfall of trust. Governments, patients, and physicians all want the same thing, yet they often have different priorities and conflicting viewpoints. The focus of governments is to contain costs while meeting rising demand and expectations—doing more with less. Patients, meanwhile, expect access to safe, quality healthcare when they need it. And physicians and other care providers desire rewarding careers in their chosen profession, working congenially alongside colleagues to deliver high-quality care.
The future success of our healthcare system depends on the extent to which we can reconcile fiscal constraints, access, and the need for safe and supportive healthcare workplaces. How do we restore trust between governments, patient advocates, and physician groups? There is no easy answer, but I believe the CMPA has an important role to play.
For many years the CMPA has stood by our member physicians when they faced difficulties so that they could regain their focus on the practice of medicine. The Member Support Program takes that commitment a step further and, without making judgement, seeks to rebuild trust in physicians and their unique role. I have yet to meet a health provider who sets out to do harm, and yet we all know that things don’t always go as planned. When we see a pattern of recurring medical-legal experiences, possibly leading to restriction or revocation of a medical licence, the affected physician may benefit from the CMPA’s help.
The MSP offers tailored support to specific members and the opportunity for them to continue to have a meaningful practice. Awareness is a cornerstone of our enhanced approach, and is a necessary first step toward self-improvement. When individual members know their experiences aren’t typical, they can start the path toward positive change. Doing nothing is rarely a good option.
While the MSP will affect only a small number of members, we hope the impact for the healthcare system, and indeed for Canadians generally, will be significant. Members will be referred to our MSP team when appropriate—and will receive individualized education and support and regular follow-up. When a physician in distress returns to practising with confidence and satisfaction, everyone wins.
Hartley Stern, MD, FRCSC, FACS