This item provides for assistance to the provinces for the control of venereal diseases under regulations approved by the governor in council. If the same basis of distribution is .in effect as was in effect during the previous year, the division is based, thirty per cent on the population, forty per cent on the extent of the venereal disease problem, and thirty per cent on the financial needs of the province. Will the minister give the distribution of the money to the provinces, please?
I think it is appreciated by all hon. members that this work in combating venereal disease is largely within the jurisdiction of the provinces, and that apart from extraordinary times such as existed during the war, wyhen the federal government had an opportunity to render more active assistance in this field, in normal times the field open to the federal government is somewhat limited. But I would like to ask the minister whether, apart from making these grants out of this sum of $175,000 a year, the federal government is doing anything to encourage or assist the provinces in developing more active measures for discovering the sources and extent of venereal disease. The minister is aware, as I hope the entire committee is aware, of an important step taken in recent months in Ontario, for instance, in connection with prenatal tests. I think it is of interest to the house to learn the results of those tests. This information was given to the press by the Ontario department of health, and appeared in various newspapers on May 15 of this year. The newspaper article states:
An average of 3,900 expectant mothers per month have been taking advantage of the Ontario health department's offer of one free prenatal examination by their own physician, it is shown in figures released at Queen's Park yesterday.
While the act authorizing this examination at the expense of the province was passed at the 1946 session, it did not become operative until October 1 last. Since that time and up until April 30 last, 27,332 women in 346 municipalities have been examined on this basis by 1,243 physicians. The province pays $5 for each examination upon which a report is submitted.
Department officials said "screening" of the reports to extract significant data from them is proceeding slowly and it is too early to comment upon this phase of the work. The incidence of "V.D." however, is below that anticipated.
I should like to add this observation, that of course the compilation of information as to the incidence of venereal disease is only one of the purposes of the free prenatal test; but having regard to .the results already obtained I do suggest to the minister that if anything can be done within the proper scope and function of his department to encourage other provinces to undertake the provision of
free prenatal tests, the advantages accruing not only in connection with combating venereal disease but in connection with combating other very serious inroads on the public health of the nation will be very greatly increased.
I should like to ask the minister one question in regard to this item. I have not been paying strict attention, and he may have replied to it already. What supervision does the federal department have in connection with this grant of $175,000 to see that it is properly used for the purpose for which it is made?
As the hon. gentleman will understand, this is primarily a function of the provinces, but we do help through the distribution of funds, the collection and compilation and analysis of statistical data concerning venereal infection, through the preparation of lay and professional educational material using all appropriate media, and through the provision of consultative professional medical services. We do try to encourage any provinces which may not seem to have done as much as others, by way of suggestions. At annual meetings of the dominion council of health, where all the provincial governments are represented through their deputy ministers, we have an opportunity of bringing to their attention what has been done in particular provinces where advances have been outstanding. The hon. member for Eglinton has just referred to something which is done in one specific province. At the last meeting of the council, about four weeks ago, the representative of Ontario indicated to the others what they had done. This kind of exchange of information is carried on. Then at the end of the fiscal year each provincial government submits a detailed statement of the expenditure of federal funds and the purposes for which those funds were used, including a detailed narrative report indicating the actual accomplishments of the venereal disease control programme in that province, accompanied by substantiating statistical information. Every effort is made to meet this problem.
I am aware that this problem falls within provincial jurisdiction and that the federal department helps out. All I had in mind-and I think the minister has satisfactorily answered my question-is that if any province did not make proper use of the grants, in my opinion the grants should not be continued to that province. That was the purpose of my question.
I want to ask the minister a question regarding the statement made last night by Doctor W. E. Gallie, dean of medicine of the university of Toronto, concerning the rural portions of the country outside the cities and towns. At a dinner given in his honour last night-he has been chief surgeon of the Toronto General Hospital for many years-he proposed that zones should be mapped out all over Canada for specialists in surgery, so they could have all the facilities which modern science and medicine have produced in recent years, particularly during the war. My question to the minister follows closely along the lines of what I had to say the other evening in reference to greater medical aid to these universities throughout our land that are doing such great work. After all is said and done, medical science has played a tremendous part in the life of the country, and important discoveries have been made in recent years. We are now on the verge of a great revolution in medicine and surgery; and in order that people in remote places may have the full benefit of scientific developments I believe the government would be well advised, by bonuses, subventions and subsidies, to support the type of federal aid suggested by Doctor Gallie, which people do not now receive. We know that patriotic citizens have helped hospitals, and that they have helped medical science and dental science but, owing to the heavy taxation they cannot carry the whole burden. I wish the minister would study this matter and confer with the authorities of the university of Toronto and other universities, to see if federal aid along the lines I have indicated cannot be provided. Perhaps the minister would make a statement in the matter.
The hon. member, who is keenly interested in this matter, has spoken to me privately about it on several occasions. I believe he has spoken also to my colleague the Minister of Reconstruction and Supply under whose department the national research council operates. I too have been interested in this problem, and I may say to him that the matter to which he has referred is under active consideration.
As the hon. member knows, one of the eminent scientists of Ontario, Doctor C. H. Best, who by the way is a great friend of the hon. member, is one of the members of the medical research division of the national research council. Doctor Collip, Doctor Simard and several other distinguished scientists also serve on the committee which keeps this problem under constant review. While I am not in a position to make any further statement with regard to future prospects, I can say that the question raised by the hon. member is one of great importance and that, particularly as it affects cancer research, it is under active consideration.
Our worthy deputy chairman has been closely associated with a hospital in his own constituency, and I understand he has a daughter who is a nurse and a son-in-law who practices as a surgeon at Kamloops-Doctor Verrett, a returned soldier and former student of Doctor Gallie's. I have not had his consent to mention this fact, but I take the liberty of doing so.
Under a zoning system a young doctor who knows something about surgery would be most useful, and the poor people throughout the country would get some relief. Consider the Indians for a moment; they were here two hundred years before the English or the French, but they have not even yet any doctors or nurses to attend to their needs. In fact we have been trying for two years-to find out if they are citizens. The fact is that they were citizens long ago, and if that is so they ought to be given this service automatically.
I do hope the minister will consider this matter seriously during the recess. I am hopeful that in the supplementary estimates, before the close of the session, he will announce some kind of grant to men of science like Doctor Best, and many others. There are two or three such men at McGill and at Toronto and other universities, and there are men right across Canada engaged in medical science who could do this work.
In recent years, medical science, the brightest child of all the sciences, has made remarkable strides, with the result that today the life expectancy has been increased to the extent of ten or fifteen years. This has been brought about mainly through the development of preventive medicine, new scientific methods and new methods of surgery. I hope that instead of operating only a skeleton department which used to spend about a half a million dollars before the war,. the department will take a more active interest and expand accordingly. Before the war France and Germany operated under a plan whereby, instead of permitting their medical students to work on boats, or as cooks or in other occupations, during the summer months, they were conscripted by the state to help in scientific work. We can take a leaf out of their book in that regard and, instead of permitting these young students to do outside
Supply-Health and Welfare
work during the summer and then go to the United States, have them do some work connected with medical science.