As health-care workers and advocates continue to sound the alarm on Canada’s collapsing health-care system, the Canadian Medical Association’s (CMA) newly appointed president says it’s not too late to fix the issue.

“There's a lot of opportunity to make a big difference and even though things are collapsing. We can fix things if we work together,” Dr. Alika Lafontaine told CTV’s Your Morning on Sept. 22.

Lafontaine, who is the first CMA president of Cree, Anishinaabe, Metis and Pacific Islander ancestry, says his background has helped him focus on issues for BIPOC, who are often overlooked in the health-care system.

“Being First Nation, Metis and Pacific Islander has all shaped the way that I see patients and I think it helps me to create space and see things that people might not always see,” he said.

Along with his brother, Lafontaine created the app ‘Safe Space,’ made for Indigenous patients in B.C. to anonymously report racism experienced in health-care settings. He said initiatives like these can help part of Canada’s health crisis.

The CMA recently came out with a report highlighting the current funding for health-care services on all government levels. Across the board, provinces and territories share the same priorities including workforce recruitment, reducing surgical backlog, accessible health care for all communities and innovative solutions, such as virtual care.

“One of the things about health is you don't really think about it unless you need it,” he said. “For those of us who are in the midst of it, we see what's happening and when patients come in to receive care, they realize that it takes a lot longer and sometimes they can't even get to the places that they need to get in order to get into the system.”

Lafontaine says this has been an ongoing issue as staff shortages continue to affect hospitals across the country. Statistics Canada reported a rise in job vacancies within the health-care sector in the first quarter of 2022, with vacancies increasing by more than 90 per cent compared to 2020 data.

To fix this issue, Lafontaine says governments on all levels need to prioritize not only training for new health workers and initiatives to keep current staff, but create an easier path for foreign workers to become certified in Canada.

“One of the things that I often see when working in emergency situations is people get overwhelmed and so they just get paralyzed with thinking about what they could do,” he said. “We just need to start walking forward, doing the things that we know will work and things will eventually start to fit back together.”