Taking care of Primary Reservists

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A health and well-being assessment plan is now in place to better monitor the health care needs of the Primary Reserve Force.

Without Primary reservists receiving regular health assessments, the CAF cannot guarantee they are fit to train, to participate in exercises, to be employed, or to be ready to respond to domestic emergencies, such as flooding evacuations and fire-fighting support.

With a total strength of almost 27 000, the Primary Reserve Force is an essential component of the Canadian Armed Forces and Defence community. Over the past 20 years, more than 21 000 reservists have participated in international and domestic operations, facing different levels of risk. But up to 26 per cent of Primary Reservists are facing these risks with outdated medical information.

Facing higher risks

Primary reservists could also be facing higher risks should they have an undiagnosed condition that, if it remains unchecked, could lead to illness or injury during operations or training. It may also make it difficult for them to access and receive the services they are entitled to should they become ill or injured as a result of their service and are unable to provide sufficient medical proof.

DND and Canadian Forces Ombudsman’s Office partnered with the Canadian Forces Health Services Group (CF H Svcs Gp) to better understand this issue for their recently released study, The Feasibility of Providing Periodic Health Assessments to All Primary Reservists.

Structured health review

A Periodic Health Assessment (PHA) is a structured health review given at fixed intervals to ensure CAF personnel are medically fit for military duties.

“This past year, I’ve met with Reserve members and their families in Eastern and Western Canada where I was able to hear first-hand the issues and challenges they are facing,” says DND/CF Ombudsman Gary Walbourne. “They are an important part of our constituency and I am committed to ensuring fair and equitable treatment for reservists and all members of the Canadian Armed Forces.”

There are over 30 Canadian Forces Health Services Centres located throughout Canada; and 18 Field Ambulances or Detachments in the Health Services Reserve Force. Several have identified possible resource constraints should they be required to take on the additional assessments which could amount to over 6000 additional medical assessments per year.

“This study will allow us to make an informed decision when considering the options and cost of ensuring members of the Primary Reserve Force are medically fit and ready to serve,” says Colonel Scott McLeod, Deputy Surgeon General, CF H Svcs Gp.

Reserve Force well-being

The health and well-being of our Reserve Force members has long been a concern for the CAF and DND; Class A reservists are entitled to and primarily receive their healthcare from their provincial or territorial healthcare system, unless they are receiving care from the CAF for a service related illness or injury. The Health Services Group is continuing, in accordance with the initial study, to examine potential options to meet the full demand of providing Primary reservists with an assessment of medical fitness to meet operational requirements.

To view the report visit: www.ombudsman.forces.gc.ca.

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