Statements & Speeches

National Social Work Month

March 28, 2014

Honourable senators, in the last few years,  experts from across the country have been questioning the use of the word  “system” to describe Canada’s health care sector, some calling it a “misnomer.”  In 2011, then CMA president Dr. Jeffrey Turnbull put it this way: The health  care system is fractured to such a degree that it is, in some ways, a system in  name only.

Professional silos — as they are described by health experts — may be most  visible in the transition between acute and community care. In 2007-08, outside  of Quebec and Manitoba, more than 1.7 million hospital days were attributed to  people waiting to be moved to more appropriate care settings. Often it is  seniors who occupy these beds, no longer in need of acute care but unable to be  discharged with no support.

One study included in a 2012 CIHI report found that more than one in four  people over the age of 75 had been in this position and that 35 per cent of them  were in need of home care.

Recently, the integration of care across sectors has become a mantra for  health system reform. Yet, it is important to consider what this means in  practice. How do we ensure quality services across a broad continuum of care?

Social workers are in a unique position to help. In a hospital setting, they  address the psychosocial needs of both patients and families. This includes  caregiver support, grief and loss counselling, and community resource  information and referral. Social workers also provide discharge planning, a  critical support during the transition from acute to community care.

Honourable senators, in practice, social workers bridge gaps between sectors  and bring us closer to the meaning of a “health care system.”

As we shift focus away from the delivery of acute care in hospital settings  and towards a holistic community approach, we must ensure that the points of  transition between sectors are seamless. Social workers are essential to the  success of this transition.

Please join me in recognizing March as National Social Work Month.

Thank you.