Ministerial Question Period: Children’s Medication Shortage

By: The Hon. Brian Francis

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Hon. Brian Francis: Hello, Minister Hajdu.

Last week in The Globe and Mail, Tanya Talaga reported that last September, an Ontario regional pharmacist for the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, which is a part of Indigenous Services Canada, sent a memo asking nursing staff to save expired children’s pain and fever medication due to ongoing shortages.

Not only is there no evidence of a similar directive being made in other jurisdictions, but Health Canada has advised against doing so since safety and effectiveness are not guaranteed. This is yet another unacceptable example of First Nations children being provided with a different standard of care than their peers.

Could you confirm whether the directive to stockpile expired medication for First Nations children remains in effect in Ontario or elsewhere? Could you also tell us what percentage of the foreign supply of medication recently secured by Canada will be allocated to Indigenous children, including those in rural and northern communities, where the need is greater?

Hon. Patty Hajdu, P.C., M.P., Minister of Indigenous Services and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario: Thank you very much, senator. I asked that question myself of the department when I read Ms. Talaga’s report.

I will start by first reassuring people that we do not have a shortage of children’s medication in First Nations. It’s very important that we understand that is not the case, and that community health centres not only have children’s pain medication in stock, but we also have many of the compounds needed should we get to a place where we need to compound those medications, obviously with professionals at hand.

In terms of the report, what I understood from the department’s briefing to me was that the information that Ms. Talaga had was incorrect. There was that directive by other provincial health authorities to save medications that were out of date for potential use. Again, we are not there by any stretch of the imagination, and I am glad for that. We have a very sophisticated team at the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch that regularly monitors medication shortages and works closely with the Public Health Agency of Canada, Health Canada and provincial partners to make sure that we will have the supplies we need.

As of today, we are certain we do.

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