Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House of Commons today. As a lifetime resident of a rural community, it is a pleasure to talk about rural health care and rural issues.
Just talking with different health care providers in the riding, talking to farmers in our communities and what we see in the news, mental health issues in our rural communities are probably the most significant we have ever seen. I do not mean to point farmers out, but people in the agriculture sector feel this due to the stresses of finances, crop prices, trade, last year's harvest and this year's spring planting. Therefore, when we look at the entire package of health care, mental health needs to be a priority. Of course, the proposed study will not happen in this Parliament, but hopefully it will in the 43rd parliament.
Youth suicide is another issue. The youth suicide rate in rural communities is higher than anywhere else. Any information or strategies we can put together to dovetail mental health and youth suicide rates would be very important.
Another topic is addiction. There is an opioid addiction crisis from coast to coast in our small communities. Opioids are a big issue as is crystal meth. It does not really matter what part of the country we are in at this point in time, it is in every one of our communities. Therefore, addiction and mental health treatment and having facilities that are world class and state of the art would help people of all ages deal with these issues, but primarily in a rural area where one has to go so far. People cannot just go down the street for their treatment; it could be several hours away.
Another issue is the number of health care providers who provide a certain service. If we look at mental health, people may require treatment, but they might be told it could take three months to get an appointment. When people are at the point where they have come forward and have asked for help, to tell them that can get that help in three months is not a solution to the problem. Getting hard data to put into this report would be fantastic and would build out these action plans. I know there is lot of it out there, but we need to hammer this home.
In rural Ontario, where I am from, there have been higher rates of diabetes, heart disease and obesity for years and decades. Numerous strategies have been put together with respect to this, but we need proactive health care in our rural communities. We need facilities that will promote a healthy lifestyle and get people out exercising.
COPD are is unique to communities as are some forms of cancer. We need further information on that moving forward.
Baby boomers are getting to the age where they have a different set of health care requirements than they once had. In my community, there is now a geriatrician, which is a vital specialist, to provide help to our aging population. I am from a rural community, Huron County and Bruce County, which is on Ontario's west coast. It is a favourite destination for retirees to head to when they are of that age. We have a higher proportion of seniors than other communities. Therefore, a geriatrician is a vital physician.
A couple of weeks ago, one of our beloved members from British Columbia talked about the issue of palliative care doctors. We could use a lot of palliative care doctors in our rural communities, which would help provide a fitting tribute to some of our hard-working Canadians.
Doctor attraction and retention has been an issue in our rural communities. Going back 20 years ago, for example, Goderich, with a population of over 10,000 people, needed doctors. It put together a great doctor attraction and retention program.
Many may know of Gwen Devereaux from Seaforth, Ontario. From coast to coast, she has been educating and informing Canadians on how to attract doctors to rural communities. She has been on CBC and different radio stations, talking about what she has done.
Someone else mentioned that having a beautiful state-of-the-art clinic would attract physicians to the area. Spouses having meaningful employment would go a long way in attracting a physician to a certain community. The provision of services, which can be as basic as broadband Internet or a community centre with a fitness centre, would also help. All of these things contribute to attracting well-educated physicians, nurses, radiologists or whatever position to go into communities, plant roots and live there.
When most doctors and other health practitioners make a commitment to rural communities, they love it and want to stay, and people are happy to have them.
There has been a lot of improvement with e-health records from coast to coast. It defies logic to look at our phones and see what the technology sector can do, yet health continues to lag behind. It is making innovations, but it is lagging behind. Another good innovation is the Ontario Telehealth Network, which we are happy to have. It is changing outcomes in people's lives.
I think we can all agree that we need hard infrastructure. For example, communities need CT scanners. For people who have strokes or heart attacks, scanners can make a difference in their lives. However, does it make sense that a community has to fundraise to have a CT scanner in its hospital? It defies logic. When we talk about ways the federal government can work with all jurisdictions, why make a community pay for that? There may be strategic ways to provide funding for CT scanners.
Something else communities desire are hospices. They are few and far between. Communities have to fundraise to build them. In Ontario, where I am from, if communities are fortunate enough to have funding for the land, which is only 60%, they have to continue to fundraise in perpetuity for the other 40%. The federal government could play a role in working on a national plan to change this and be a little more fair to communities.
It is the same thing for long-term care. Many long-term care facilities are way out of date and need serious upgrades. There are no addiction treatment centres in my area. They are regional, yes, but there is a whole pile of changes we could make to that.
Last, and probably most important, if we do this study in the 43rd Parliament, the Gateway Centre of Excellence in Rural Health should be invited. It is in my riding and it is the only research facility like this in Canada. It was modelled on a U.S. idea. It does rural health research in partnership with universities. The best and brightest minds come to my community every year to do rural health research, and people are so happy for it. Again, they do it on their own dime. It would great if the federal government and the provinces could come together and provide operational funding to different research facilities like this, which provide great research to rural Canada and, in some cases, encourage these bright, young minds to stay in the area.
I look forward to coming back in the 43rd Parliament. I am sure my colleagues across the way would like otherwise. Regardless of the outcome, it would be great if the health committee would do this study and look at moving beyond jurisdictions.
National defence provides health care and we provide all sorts of health care to indigenous Canadians. There is a role for us. If we all work together, we could rise above the partisan lines.
I wish all my colleagues the very best this summer and in the election in October.