Federal and Nazi officials are meeting Monday to discuss health care funding
Federal government officials will be in Halifax Monday to meet with Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston and other senior members of his team to further discuss a bilateral deal on targeted healthcare funding.
In an interview, Houston said he expects the Ottawa contingent to include Secretary of State for Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc and Secretary of Health Jean-Yves Duclos.
“We’re looking to move forward somehow,” Houston said Friday.
“We obviously have significant healthcare needs and I have an incredible sense of urgency, I push an incredible sense of urgency through the team to move things forward. Talks with the federal government are no different.”
The bilateral agreements between Ottawa and the provinces and territories are part of a total 10-year funding agreement that the federal government is seeking to help ailing health systems across the country.
A necessity for long-term consistency
Houston and his colleagues learned last week in a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that Ottawa would give the provinces and territories $196 billion over 10 years, of which $46 billion would be new money.
For Nova Scotia, this translates to an increase of $52 million per year from the Canada Health Transfer. The bilateral deal with Ottawa would bring an additional $102 million to the province.
Houston said something he needed to clarify Monday is whether the bilateral deal would also last 10 years.
“We believe that the commitments we make to healthcare today must continue into the future,” he said.
“We must not get into the situation where we commit ourselves today to something that we have to stop in five years or change in five years.”
Offer is unlikely to change
The Houston government is working on its next budget. The Prime Minister has said he hopes to include the new money from Ottawa in this document.
Responses to Ottawa’s offer to the provinces and territories have not been overwhelming.
Provincial officials agree they went into last week’s meeting expecting the federal government to put a lot more money on the table.
The Prime Ministers are to meet virtually on Monday for further talks.
Houston said he would have liked to see a higher offer, but he doesn’t expect much to change from Trudeau’s proposal.
“I think what the federal government has been talking about, I think that’s pretty much it.”
Discussions still need to be held before the bilateral agreements are finalised. But Houston said the priorities the federal government has set for using that money are consistent with things the Nova Scotia government is already doing and aspiring to. These include trying to increase staff numbers, improving access to primary care, tackling waiting lists and backlogs, and introducing a digital medical records management system.
“We just want to sit down and have this discussion and make sure we work together to improve access to care for Nova Scotians,” Houston said.
“We’ll do that quickly.”
The agreements appear to be a way for Ottawa to address concerns from smaller provinces and territories about the per capita formula used to calculate Canada’s health transfers and how it fails to recognize the large numbers of complex patients in some jurisdictions who require more costly treatment, said Houston.
Houston and its administration have a lot to do when it comes to injecting new money.
System plagued by challenges
The Tories were elected on a promise to fix the health system and have faced ongoing challenges since taking office in 2021.
Circumstances of the province’s emergency department system came under closer scrutiny last month after reports of two women dying without care soon enough.
A shortage of inpatient and long-term care beds has led to recent announcements of major construction programs aimed at addressing both issues, although it is recognized the work will take years to complete. The government also plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a new electronic patient record management system.
Meanwhile, the list of people in the province who need a first responder continues to grow, and last stood at nearly 130,000 people.
The latest monthly update was due out earlier this week but has yet to be posted online.
A spokesman for Nova Scotia Health said the update will come next week.
The delay stems from a plan to add additional information to the list to help people understand how to access care if they don’t have a GP, the spokesman said.
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