Canadian Medical Association

Canadian Medical Association

May 30, 2006 11:00 ET

CMA President Visits Medical Personnel in Afghanistan

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - May 30, 2006) - Canadian Medical Association (CMA) President Dr. Ruth Collins-Nakai says her visit to Afghanistan this week gives her a first-hand look at the health care being delivered to 2,300 Canadian military personnel, as well as the challenges faced by the medical staff.

Dr. Collins-Nakai, an Edmonton-based cardiologist, was invited to visit the Canadian-led multi-national hospital at the Coalition air base in Kandahar by Commodore Margaret Kavanagh, commander of the Canadian Forces Health Services Group.

"The striking thing is the massive job involved in creating this Canadian presence on the other side of the world," said Dr. Collins-Nakai following her arrival in Kandahar. "On the medical side alone, the Canadian Forces deliver rapid trauma care, meet the day-to-day needs of a base that's the size of a small town and provide humanitarian care to people in need. I think any physician would be impressed by the care being delivered here, not only to Canadian and Coalition forces, but whenever possible to Afghan people."

Although her trip marks the first time a serving CMA president has visited an overseas Canadian base while active military operations are under way, Dr. Collins-Nakai estimated that roughly 40 of her predecessors saw military service in wartime.

Canada currently has about 70 health care personnel, including 7 physicians, deployed in Afghanistan, the majority of whom serve in the multi-national hospital with British, Dutch and American colleagues.

The deployment is taking place in the face of a serious recruiting problem that has seen the military fall 35% short in attracting medical officers.

"I am delighted to welcome Dr. Collins-Nakai to see first hand the outstanding work our military health care specialists are doing in a very challenging operational military environment," said Cmdre Margaret Kavanagh. "This experience allows us all to better understand the nature and requirements of the care our multidisciplinary team provides to our fighting troops who serve Canada overseas."

"We realize that the competition to recruit physicians is fierce throughout Canada," said Dr. Collins-Nakai. "That being said, I think all physicians agree about the need to provide the best care possible to the Canadians and other Coalition personnel who are putting their lives on the line here in Afghanistan, so recruiting within the medical service is something that should concern all of us."

Dr. Collins-Nakai said the CMA is already paying close attention to the Canadian Forces' developmental work with physician assistants (PA), a new breed of health worker who "extends" the work of physicians by providing care under their supervision. Although roughly 70,000 PAs already practise in the US, the Canadian military trains and employs almost all of this country's PAs, including several deployed in Kandahar.

Dr. Collins-Nakai said she is visiting Afghanistan to deliver a simple message on behalf of the CMA's 63,000 members. "We want the men and women who are delivering health care here to know that their work is recognized and respected by their colleagues back home, and we will do our utmost to ensure that they have support and replacement from Canada when their terms end."

Contact Information

  • Canadian Medical Association
    Carole Lavigne
    Manager, Media Relations
    (613) 731-8610 or 1-800-663-7336 ext. 1266