About the CFMSThe CFMS is an organization representing over 8,000 medical students from 15 Canadian medical student societies from coast to coast. We represent medical students to the public, to the federal government, and to national and international medical organizations.
On October 21st, 2019, Canada elected a Liberal minority government in the 2019 Federal Election. The Canadian Federation of Medical Students (CFMS) would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the new government, and to renew our call for the government to increase their efforts to improve access to healthcare. The CFMS has been active in our call to ensure equitable access to healthcare. In keeping with the foundational vision set forth in the Canada Health Act, healthcare should be equitable regardless of gender, geography, religion and socioeconomic status. Our 2015 position paper Preserving Medicare and Optimizing the Healthcare System outlines a number of recommendations including the importance of governments clearly re-committing to a publicly-funded, universal, single-payer healthcare system. Unfortunately there continues to be examples where the full extent and potential of the Canada Health Act in supporting Canadian healthcare rights have not been fully realized.
On October 10th, 2019 it was announced that the only free standing abortion clinic in New Brunswick, Clinic 554, will close. The cited reason for closure is due to a lack of funding for abortion services performed at the clinic, as the provincial government does not fund abortions performed outside of hospital (2).
The closure of this clinic negatively affects all persons in New Brunswick requiring reproductive health services, including abortion. Access to abortion is fundamental to the health and wellness of all persons who may become pregnant and has been confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada as a right guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms (3). Additionally, it is a publicly insured procedure under the Canada Health Act (4) and, as such, the CFMS fully supports its coverage by public funding. The CFMS more broadly supports robust access to reproductive health services, as outlined in our 2013 Position Paper (1). Specifically regarding access to abortion and the duties of the provinces under the Canada Health Act, the CFMS: “Believes that all women, regardless of age, religion, SES or marital status have the right to obtain a legal, safe and voluntary abortion” and “Opposes restrictions on the availability of funds for family planning clinics that offer, counsel for, or refer for abortion”.
The CFMS urges all governments to consider the closing of this clinic not only in relation to reproductive healthcare, but in the context of access to healthcare more broadly. Clinic 554 not only provided access to abortion services, it also provided a wide range of LGBTQ+ health services, care for people with HIV, and kept a register of family medicine patients totaling almost 3000. The loss of these services is of great concern to the people of New Brunswick, the CFMS, and the broader medical community.
As such, the CFMS calls on provincial and federal governments to provide equitable funding for all publically ensured services. We further call on the new Federal Government to use the provisions of the Canada Health Act to ensure all citizens have equitable access to healthcare and fully enforce the Canada Health Act.
As Tomorrow’s Physician Leading for Health Today the CFMS is committed to advocating for healthcare rights of Canadians. We look forward to continued advocacy and a productive relationship with the Federal government on this issue.
“The health and well-being of marginalized populations should be a top priority for the newly elected Federal Government. Clinic 554 sought to ensure that marginalized populations in New Brunswick had had equitable access to health care. Not only does the closing of Clinic 554 impact women seeking to make decisions on their own medical care, it further disadvantages individuals who have traditionally been underserved, such as the LGBTQ community, and people living with HIV/AIDS.”
_-_Achieng Tago, Director of Global Health
For further information or to request an interview, please contact Adel Arezki, CFMS Vice President Communications at [email protected]