Many constituents e-mailed my office recently about the need for a National Pain Management Strategy.
Since Nanaimo-Cowichan has more seniors than other areas of Canada, as well as a large number of First Nations — who are 19 times more likely to have arthritis than other Canadians — I understand why this issue is important to many people who live here.
New Democrats believe that people in pain have a right to fully adequate pain relief treatment and that the federal government has an obligation to ensure pain relief treatment is readily available to all Canadians who need it.
New Democrats also believe that a national pharmacare plan would reduce health costs for all Canadians including those living with pain.
I am a member of the Parliamentary Committee on Palliative and Compassionate Care, and we heard from a number of stakeholders on the issue of pain management.
Some six million Canadians live with unrelenting and under-managed pain. The social and societal costs of pain are immense:
• The risk of suicide doubles for people with chronic pain.
• Chronic pain is very costly, with estimates of direct health care costs for Canada being some $6 billion per year.
• Inadequate control of acute pain is the leading cause of post-discharge visits to the emergency room and early re-admission to hospital.
• 90 per cent of patients could obtain effective pain control, yet only 50 per cent get such treatment.
Professional schools give pain management a low priority in terms of classroom hours. It is a sad irony that veterinarians receive five times more education on pain control than do doctors who treat humans.
Given the lack of pain control education, it is not surprising that physicians, nurses and related professionals are not adequately equipped to deal with people’s pain control needs.
Our recommendation is that all levels of government, the Canadian Pain Society and the various professional associations must work together to develop a National Pain Strategy, laying out the blueprint of how we as a country can proceed towards the goal of adequate pain management for all Canadians.
People with both acute and chronic pain must be included in the dialogue leading up to the development of the strategy.
As one correspondent to my office said, “The saddest part of it is that we have the knowledge and the tools needed to take care of most pain in an economical way and yet these tools are not being used.”
I hope that together we can ensure that knowledge and those tools are put to good use.