Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario


Ontario nurses applaud two federal parties for backing national drug plan


TORONTO, Sept 22, 2015 – Ontario nurses say they're pleased two parties campaigning in the federal election have pledged, if elected, they will introduce a national drug plan.

In July, Green Party leader Elizabeth May announced she would expand and co-ordinate the patchwork of public and private plans that already provide drug coverage to millions of Canadians, describing it as the 'second phase' of Canada's universal health system. May added she would work with the other federal parties, the provinces and other stakeholders to offer Canadians greater coverage while saving millions.

Last Friday, NDP leader Tom Mulcair said if his party wins on Oct. 19, he would use the government's purchasing power to negotiate lower prescription costs and pass the savings onto the provinces and territories. Pledging to spend $2.6 billion over four years, the NDP says its plan would work towards universal comprehensive public drug coverage.

The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO), which represents, registered nurses (RN), nurse practitioners (NP), and nursing students, says action on a national pharmacare plan is key to health system sustainability because drug costs are the second largest health expenditure. RNAO, which has long advocated for a national pharmacare program, is eager to work with the federal, provincial and territorial governments to ensure all Canadians can soon enjoy the benefits of a drug program that is universally accessible without user-fees or co-payments.

"We know this is an important issue for Canadians because 23 per cent have said access to medications and affordability are problems for them," says RNAO President Vanessa Burkoski.

RNAO is part of a coalition of more than 80 groups calling for a national drug coverage plan.

"As it stands right now, Canadians have uneven access to medications across this country. If we truly believe in universal access to health services, then we must make sure people have universal access to medications," says RNAO's Chief Executive Officer Doris Grinspun.

RNAO says the evidence shows that a pharmacare plan would contribute to better health care for Canadians, make the system more patient-centred and more effective, and would deliver substantial savings. A report in the Canadian Medical Association Journal concludes that such a plan would result in savings of $7.3 billion.

Grinspun says the fact that two federal parties recognize this as a serious issue illustrates the need for the Liberals and Conservative parties to step up to the plate. "This is a critical issue that requires evidence-based leadership," says Grinspun.

She added that Ontario's health minister Eric Hoskins has gotten the ball rolling by meeting with his counterparts but the provinces and territories need a partner in Ottawa to make pharmacare a reality.

This year marks the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario's (RNAO) 90th anniversary. RNAO is the professional association representing registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and nursing students in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve. For more information about RNAO, visit or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Marion Zych, Director of Communications, RNAO
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