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October 28, 2020 – Canada’s healthcare system must learn the lessons of the first wave of COVID-19 and make the changes required to improve our capacity to tackle infectious disease outbreaks in future, says a new report from the C.D. Howe Institute.

The Public Health and Emergency Measures Working Group notes as case numbers grow across Canada, insights from the first wave can be applied to better manage infection risks, while also minimizing social and economic disruption caused by public health and social distancing-related restrictions on activity.

The group of health academics, professionals and business leaders is co-chaired by Janet Davidson, Chair of the Board of the Canadian Institute for Health Information and C.D. Howe Institute Senior Fellow; and Tom Closson, Chair of the C.D. Howe Institute Health Policy Council. In the report, they note the pandemic has resulted in drastic changes to how Canadians access health care services, and offers the opportunity to incorporate positive change into the “new normal” of health system operations as it continues to adapt.  

The group made a range of short- and longer-term observations, including:

  • As case numbers rise, governments should be proactive in setting public expectations to align with the imposing of further restrictions, how long they will be in place and the possibility of further government support in the form of subsidies, cash transfers, and tax and loan payment deferrals.
  • Ensuring ongoing preparedness to manage COVID-19 by maintaining some excess capacity for affected patients, adapting care practices to maintain continuity, securing sufficient supplies of PPE, testing inputs and other medical resources and actively improving health information and contact tracing comprehensiveness and availability.
  • To enable more rapid and informed response to emerging health crises, significant improvements in health data and information comprehensiveness, timeliness and standardization must be made.
  • Innovation in seniors care is required including infection preparedness and control procedures, which should become a routine aspect of residential care. Reduced COVID-19 morbidity and mortality for seniors in the community along with individuals’ preferences, quality of life and many other reasons encourage investment in home and community care for seniors.
  • Developing a comprehensive strategy for coordinated leadership during a crisis. While there are benefits to different responses to the COVID-19 crisis across the country, some aspects would have benefited from a nationally coordinated approach: such as securing personal protective equipment, strategic investments in information technology/infrastructure, research and development of treatments and vaccines and policy strategies to manage the pandemic.

For more information contact: Rosalie Wyonch, Policy Analyst; or David Blackwood, Communications Officer, the C.D. Howe Institute 416-873-6168, dblackwood@cdhowe.org

The C.D. Howe Institute is an independent not-for-profit research institute whose mission is to raise living standards by fostering economically sound public policies. Widely considered to be Canada's most influential think tank, the Institute is a trusted source of essential policy intelligence, distinguished by research that is nonpartisan, evidence-based and subject to definitive expert review.

Full Communiqué: CWGR_2020_1028.pdf