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Celebrate Women: Toronto doc who schooled American senators on Canadian health care speaks in Sudbury June 13

Dr. Danielle Martin is a fan of our system, but she also has a prescription for what ails it
Dr. Danielle Martin will speak about her book “Better Now: Six Big Ideas to Improve Health Care for All Canadians” at Laurentian University June 13 during the annual Celebrate Women event. (Supplied)

Four years ago, Toronto family physician Dr. Danielle Martin made headlines after appearing at a US Senate committee investigations on health-care systems, acting as an expert on the Canadian health-care system.

She confidently fielded tough questions from Republican Senator R. Burr.

Check out that now famous exchange below. 


Martin, the vice-president of medical affairs and health system solutions at Women's College Hospital, and one of the founders of Canadian Doctors for Medicare, said she was there to “set the record straight.”

There are many myths about the Canadian health-care system propagated in the American media, she said.

“We've got lots of challenges and problems in Canada, but that doesn't mean that our system is fundamentally broken,” she said.

“I think Canadians take offence when they hear our system being thrown around as 
kind of a political football in the American health-care debate.

“My interest there was really just to set the record straight and stick to the facts about what works in our system, which is a lot of things, and what doesn't, and what we're doing about it.”

Martin said she thinks the most important thing that Canadians have to teach Americans about health-care is that they shouldn't have to face bankruptcy if they get sick.

“I think the most important, fundamental value of the Canadian health-care system that's shared by all of us,” Martin said, adding that she thinks medicare will be a hot topic of discussion in the next presidential election.

Not without its challenges

While Martin believes in the value of the Canadian health-care system, that doesn't mean it's not without its challenges.

In 2017, she published a book called “Better Now: Six Big Ideas to Improve Health Care for All Canadians.”

Martin is coming to Sudbury June 13 at the guest speaker at this year's edition of Celebrate Women, an event that provides Canadian female authors an opportunity to feature a recent book.

Besides the talk, Martin will be selling and signing her books.

The Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) Sudbury partners with YWCA and the Women’s Legal, Education and Action Fund (LEAF) to host the event, which raises funds to support services or scholarships for Sudbury women.

“I'm really looking forward to it,” Martin said.

“I think it's very important to have opportunities to showcase the leadership that women take in our communities in a whole variety of ways, and that includes in the health-care system. I'm really honoured to be able to participate and I'm looking forward to coming to Sudbury.”

Six big ideas

Martin's six big ideas to improve the Canadian health-care system are as follows: a national drug program, change the way we deliver care, reduce unnecessary tests, strengthen primary care, create a guaranteed income program and scale up successful innovation.

She said her book uses examples from her own practice to explain why each of these changes are necessary.

One of the most urgent reforms she advocates for is a national pharmacare program, instead of the piecemeal provincial pattern of buying drugs, said promotional information from her publisher, Allen Lane.

Canada could save billions if drugs were bought in bulk by a single body, which in turn could fund a national prescription program.

Patients also need a regular GP instead of overusing hospital emergency clinics. Hospitals need to take into account a patient's overall medical history, at every stage from admission to discharge.

And since poverty is the greatest predictor of ill health, Martin argues that a guaranteed income could prevent and alleviate many health problems, reducing pressure on the system and our wallets.

Martin said she's pleased to see many of these issues being discussed in the current Ontario provincial election, including pharmacare and the guaranteed income program, which is being tested in a pilot program.

She said many of these ideas can be implemented at a provincial level, although it would help to have support from the federal government.

“Pharmacare is the big one that in my view requires federal intervention because it's not possible to get the economies of scale that are required to bring the prices of drugs down without federal participation,” she said.

Get your tickets

If you're interested in attending Martin's talk, it takes place June 13 from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at Laurentian University's Fraser Auditorium.

Tickets to the event cost $10 and are available in advance at the Apollo Restaurant, the Laurentian University Bookstore and the Wellness Shoppe, as well as at the door.