Ottawa, Nova Scotia nearing completion of a bilateral health financing agreement
Nova Scotia and Ottawa could be weeks away from finalizing the terms of a bilateral deal for more healthcare funding, says Secretary of State for Intergovernmental Affairs Dominic LeBlanc.
LeBlanc and Federal Secretary of Health Jean-Yves Duclos were in Halifax Monday to meet with Prime Minister Tim Houston and Nova Scotia Secretary of Health Michelle Thompson to discuss the proposed agreement.
“We don’t expect this to be a difficult or complicated process in Nova Scotia,” LeBlanc told reporters after the meeting.
“The prime minister wants it to happen quickly. He made it very clear to us that he wants to act quickly. We want that too.”
The meeting came on the same day that Canada’s prime ministers announced they would accept a federal government proposal for an increase in Canada’s health transfers as part of a 10-year deal that would bring in $46.2 billion in new funds flow to the provinces and territories.
The bilateral agreements with the provinces and territories are intended to provide additional, targeted means of support on key issues. Nova Scotia’s agreement provides for an additional $102 million from Ottawa each year. This is on top of the $52 million increase it will receive as part of the federal government’s increased health care transfers.
Thompson said knowing the bilateral money will last for 10 years also helps with long-term planning to improve health systems.
Ottawa’s priorities for using the bilateral money align with areas the province is already targeting, she told reporters.
“We want to look at investing in people. We want to look at basic services, access to operations, accountability and… real-time data so we can make decisions.”
The minister said she was confident, based on Monday’s meeting, that the new money from Ottawa would be ready to be included in the upcoming provincial budget.
Opposition politicians said there are many areas where the additional funds could be used, although some stand out.
“We need to find out why full-time nurses are now going part-time,” liberal health critic Brendan Maguire said in an interview.
“We need to find out why we have so many health workers with long-term and short-term disabilities. We have to do things to actually get people to stay here in Nova Scotia, and that means being a little creative.”
The Liberals issued a press release on Monday saying the Tory government is almost certain to fail on its promise to bring surgical waiting times in line with national benchmarks by this month.
Meanwhile, the provincial health authority is expected to release an updated tally of the number of people without a family doctor or nurse later this week.
NDP health critic Susan Leblanc said at a time when the list is hitting record highs – it was nearly 130,000 last month – the government must do everything it can to ensure people are cared for when they need it.
Leblanc said her party is calling on the government to expand the use of community clinics, which employ doctors, nurses, orderlies and other health professionals.
“We know that in the long run it will save money, it will save suffering and it’s what’s expected,” she said in an interview.
“We can use virtual care, we can use mobile clinics, but the fact of the matter is that everyone needs to have someone they are attached to, who they can turn to for their basic care needs.”
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