Mamadosewin (meeting place, walking together)

Third reading of Bill S-248, An Act respecting National Physicians’ Day

Third reading of Bill S-248, An Act respecting National Physicians’ Day

Third reading of Bill S-248, An Act respecting National Physicians’ Day

Hon. Jane Cordy moved third reading of Bill S-248, An Act respecting National Physicians’ Day.

She said: Honourable senators, it is my pleasure to speak at third reading as sponsor of Bill S-248, An Act respecting National Physicians’ Day, which would declare May 1 of each year as national physicians’ day in Canada.

I must thank Senator Eggleton, the original sponsor of the bill, for his work on introducing Bill S-248 in the Senate. I am pleased to continue as the bill’s sponsor.

Why was May 1 selected as the day to recognize national physicians’ day? Honourable senators, May 1 is the birthday of one of the most influential doctors in Canada’s medical history. May 1 is the birthday of Dr. Emily Stowe, the first woman to practise medicine in Canada. Dr. Stowe was born in Norwich Township, Ontario, in 1831. She was inspired to pursue a career in medicine following a loved one’s illness from tuberculosis.

At the time, Canadian colleges and universities would not accept women to study medicine. This did not stop Emily Stowe from acquiring a medical degree as she went to study at the New York Medical College for Women in the United States. Following her studies, she came back to Canada to open a medical practice in Toronto.

Dr. Stowe perfectly embodies the dedication and caring our physicians show in delivering health care to Canadians. Her legacy also lives on in the Canadian women who have followed in her footsteps to study medicine. Today, nearly two thirds of family physicians under the age of 35 are women, and that same trend is found among medical students and residents.

Honourable senators, Canadian physicians work tirelessly to deliver our health care. However, physicians sometimes face challenges doing their job that the public doesn’t see. As Senator Seidman indicated in her remarks on the bill:

A CMA study showed that 54 per cent of physicians were at or near the burnout level and failed to have the kind of work/life balance that would allow them not only to provide the highest level of care to their patients but also for them to have good mental health in order for them to function well for all of us.

This tends to be of particular concern, honourable senators, to those physicians working in rural and remote communities.

In her testimony before committee, Dr. Sandy Buchman, President-Elect of the Canadian Medical Association, spoke of Canadian doctors who are doing great work. She spoke of Dr. David Kim, who is a young emergency doctor working in Vancouver. Dr. Kim recognized that the long hours and demands of his profession were having a negative effect on him and his colleagues. He established supports for his colleagues so they can stay physically and mentally healthy.

Honourable senators, I have had the privilege over the past several years to work closely with the sickle cell community. My involvement with the sickle cell community has given me the opportunity to see firsthand the great work being done by our health care professionals. Last year I had the opportunity to visit the Toronto General Hospital’s Sickle Cell/Thalassemia clinic. I believe the Toronto clinic is the largest of its kind in Canada and it treats over 700 sickle cell patients. It was a privilege to meet Dr. Jacob Pendergrast and his medical team while I was there and to see firsthand the great work they are doing.

Honourable senators, establishing a national physicians’ day will provide an excellent opportunity for Canadians to show their appreciation to those physicians who provide us with our world-class health care. We are all very proud of the reputation of Canada’s universal health care, but it takes many people to deliver that system and to make it work. A national physicians’ day will remind Canadians of the work of our physicians and it will provide an opportunity to show our appreciation for their dedication to our well-being.

A national physicians’ day will also highlight a time for physicians to communicate with Canadians to help us understand what they face while providing our health care. We ask a lot of our physicians, and a better understanding on our part could help alleviate some of their challenges.

Honourable senators, with the passage of Bill C-248, Canada will officially recognize on a national scale what is currently celebrated in Ontario and in my home province of Nova Scotia — a physicians’ day. It is a positive step. With your support, I look forward to the passage of Bill C-248 in the Senate and, in the future, celebrating with you the first national physicians’ day.

I thank you.