In the absence of leadership and resources from the Harper government, doctors in the Liberal caucus have outlined specific actions to help Canadians through the H1N1 flu pandemic.
“Government’s most important job is protecting the public,” said Liberal Health Critic Dr. Carolyn Bennett. “The Harper Conservatives didn’t order H1N1 vaccines on time, haven’t kept Canadians informed, and aren’t planning or funding the pandemic response.”
Dr. Bennett and Liberal Public Health Critic Dr. Kirsty Duncan called on the government to:
• Put back the $400 million set aside for pandemic response in the 2006 budget to support additional medical staff for vaccinations and patient care
• Support emergency planning to help local health authorities cope with long line-ups, shortages of vaccines and health care workers
• Divert the $60 million being spent on Conservative partisan advertising to a new public awareness advertising campaign to give Canadians clear advice throughout the pandemic
“Since the discovery of H1N1 last spring, we have been calling for decisive action,” said Dr. Duncan. “But now that the pandemic is here, we’re running out of time. We need a firm commitment from the government that it will do what it takes to protect Canadians.”
While the provinces are doing their best to inform the public, vaccine shortages and public confusion were causing stress for health care workers as vaccinations began yesterday.
“An ad campaign would have helped ensure that only people who are in a high-risk group show up for a vaccine this week and next,” said Dr. Duncan.
In Vancouver, MP Dr. Hedy Fry said health-care workers are turning away at-risk patients as they ration the people need to be vaccinated, but poor planning and vaccine shortages have put us in an unacceptable position where there aren’t enough vaccines for everyone.”
Federal funding cuts to pandemic preparedness means that public health programs are being cancelled as front-line workers are reassigned to vaccination clinics.
“The Conservative government is not there to help when Canadians need them most,” Dr. Bennett said.
• In Ottawa, only 10,000 people have received the flu shot. At this rate, it will take over three months to get half of the population vaccinated.
• Since August, the Canadian Medical Association has charged the government with lack of leadership and having no clear, comprehensive plan.
vaccinations. “Health care workers should not be forced to pick and choose which at-risk Half of Canadians don’t plan to get the H1N1 flu vaccine, and among young adults, 64% said they are unlikely to get vaccinated.