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Healthcare gets federal funding increase

Gudie Hutchings is the MP for Long Range Mountains. – File photo

By Jaymie White Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

OTTAWA — On Tuesday, Feb. 7, following a meeting with provincial and territorial representatives, the federal government announced an increase in healthcare funding. Provinces and territories will receive an increase of $196.1 billion over 10 years, and that includes $46.2 billion in new funding. The federal government announced the following measures:

  1. An immediate, unconditional $2 billion Canada Health Transfer (CHT) top-up to address immediate pressures on the health care system, especially in pediatric hospitals and emergency rooms, and long wait times for surgeries. This builds on previous CHT top-ups that total $6.5 billion provided throughout the pandemic.

  2. A 5 per cent CHT guarantee for the next five years, which will be provided through annual top-up payments as required. This is projected to provide an additional $17.3 billion over 10 years in new support. The last top-up payment will be rolled into the CHT base at the end of the five years to ensure a permanent funding increase, providing certainty and sustainability to provinces and territories. With this guarantee, the CHT is projected to grow by 33 per cent over the next five years, and 61 per cent over the next 10 years.

  3. $25 billion over 10 years to advance shared health priorities through tailored bilateral agreements that will support the needs of people in each province and territory in four areas of shared priority: family health services; health workers and backlogs; mental health and substance use; and a modernized health system. These additional investments by the federal government carry certain stipulations, like the continued investment in health care by the provinces and territories. The funding is building on the $7.8 billion over five years for mental health and substance abuse, home and community care, and long-term care that has yet to flow through the country. That funding includes:

  4. $1.7 billion over five years to support hourly wage increases for personal support workers and related professions, as federal, provincial, and territorial governments work together on how best to support recruitment and retention.

  5. $150 million over five years for the Territorial Health Investment Fund in recognition of medical travel and the cost of delivering health care in the territories. The federal government also stated an intention to work with Indigenous partners to provide additional support for Indigenous health priorities ,which will include $2 billion over 10 years to address the unique challenges Indigenous Peoples face. These challenges surround the fair and equitable access to quality and culturally safe health care services. These investments, on top of already significant funding, will help build a health care system that includes:

  6. access to high-quality family health services when they need them, including in rural and remote areas, and for underserved communities;

  7. a resilient and supported health care workforce that provides high-quality, effective, and safe health care services;

  8. access to timely, equitable, and quality mental health, substance use, and addictions services to support Canadians’ well-being;

  9. access to a patient’s own electronic health information that is shared between the health professionals they consult; and

  10. access to home care and safe long-term care so Canadians can age safely and live in dignity. Gudie Hutchings, Minister of Rural and Economic Development, said there are issues that need to be addressed now with healthcare across the country. “We’ve heard from many people to not just throw money at this, to make sure that we address the outlying issues, and for me personally, how do we make sure that rural health care gets addressed too. That’s a component that I’m continuing to push with (Health) Minister (Jean-Yves) Duclos in his discussions with the premiers and territorial leaders because health care is different in rural Canada,” said Hutchings. “We need to make sure, and everybody agrees, that we need to have timely access to a family health team, a doctor provider, a nurse practitioner. We need to make sure that happens. We need to make sure there is a sustainable workforce as well. This can’t be a temporary fix. This needs to be a long-term fix, and we’ve got to make sure we address the mental health issues.” Access to personal health information is another part that Hutchings is adamant needs to be addressed as soon as possible. “If you have your files and everything on a secure app on your phone, that cuts down on an awful lot from needing to get it from your doctor,” said Hutchings. “The premiers and the territorial leaders have agreed to three key health care commitments: the agreement to collect, share, and use health information, reinforce the Canada Health Act in addressing the worker crisis, and enhancing pan-Canadian standards for data sharing. We’ve got to make sure that we get the information, and you have your own information that you can use.” In this province, the funding will be used in a different format than it would likely be in a province such as Ontario, where there are more urban than rural areas. “There are some suggestions on how it gets spent, but also each province is going to negotiate their own bilateral. Right now, that’s a total of $2.2 billion for Newfoundland. That’s $1.43 billion of Canadian Health Act money and $749 million for the bilateral agreements. There’s $31 million going for mental health and substance abuse, $31 million for home and community care, $43 million for long-term care, and there’s a personal support workers wage support to be determined. That’s all in the negotiation.” Hutchings sees this announcement as an important step in the right direction. “I’ve had people say to me that it’s not a ‘people problem’, it’s where the people are and how do we make sure that people are compensated and the system works better,” said Hutchings. “This has been ongoing for a while. I think the pandemic ripped the band aid off of the health care issue and now we know that we’ve got a solution on the table for the provinces and territories.” The provincial government, in a news release on Monday, Feb. 13, announced that the premier has already initiated the immediate work of negotiating the bilateral agreements on health care between the provincial and federal government. “Premier Furey, and the Honourable Tom Osborne, Minister of Health and Community Services, met with the Honourable Dominic LeBlanc, federal Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Infrastructure and Communities and the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, federal Minister of Health, today in Deer Lake to discuss their alignment on shared priorities for bilateral agreements to improve the health care system for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.” “Premier Furey has directed Minister Osborne to work with Minister Duclos to finalize those bilateral agreements in an accelerated fashion. The Government of Canada is investing nearly $200 billion over 10 years for provinces, territories, and Indigenous Governments to invest in shared priority areas which include: Expanding access to family health services, including in rural and remote areas;

  11. Supporting our health workers and reducing backlogs;

  12. Improving access to quality mental health and substance use services; and

  13. Modernizing the health care system with standardized health data and digital tools. The Provincial Government is committed to its continued work in these areas with its plan for health care that is built on the Health Accord, recognizes post-COVID health care shortages, and addresses short-term needs while creating long-term change. The focus remains the continuous improvement of a health care system – in conjunction with stakeholders – that supports the province’s health profession workforce and better health outcomes for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.”

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