(Vancouver) Two new provinces, Saskatchewan and British Columbia, have reached a bilateral agreement with Ottawa on health care funding, leaving only Quebec and the three territories to reach an agreement with the federal government. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has hinted, however, that these latest deals could come sooner rather than later.
Ottawa has so far concluded bilateral agreements with Ontario, the four Atlantic provinces, Manitoba, Alberta and now Saskatchewan and British Columbia.
Mr. Trudeau, however, seems confident that Quebec, the Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories will soon be added to the list.
“We have now concluded an agreement with nine provinces and we expect to announce agreements very soon with the last and the three territories. Each agreement reached represents another step in the right direction to improve health care delivery,” he said at a press briefing on Wednesday in Vancouver.
These bilateral agreements with each of the provinces are the first step in the comprehensive offer of federal health care funding of $196 billion over 10 years that Mr. Trudeau presented to the premiers of the provinces and territories last month in Ottawa. .
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe previously said the federal offer was far less than the provinces were asking for, but none were in a position to refuse it.
As part of its agreement with the Prairie Province, the federal government is committing to invest nearly $6 billion in Saskatchewan’s health care system over the next 10 years.
The agreement provides $1.11 billion for a new bilateral agreement “focused on shared health care priorities.” It also provides for a one-time, one-time payment of $61 million to meet “urgent needs,” particularly in pediatric hospitals and emergency rooms, as well as long wait times for surgeries.
“This agreement in principle with the federal government is a major step towards improving and accelerating the work already begun,” Saskatchewan Health Minister Paul Merriman said in a joint statement on Wednesday.
The provincial government says the funding will be used to accelerate or improve new measures underway to increase access to front-line health care, surgery, and mental health and addictions services.
Minister Merriman says this is a positive step and will help build a stronger, more resilient health care system that will work for all residents of the province.
“Saskatchewan is continuing to make major investments in the health care system to address priority issues such as reducing surgery delays and wait times, while improving access to mental health services,” said the minister.
On the British Columbia side, the agreement in principle provides for $27.47 billion from Ottawa, including $3.32 billion for a new bilateral agreement based on common priorities.
The agreement with the province in the west of the country also includes a one-time, one-time amount of 273 million to meet “urgent needs” and long waiting times for surgeries.
Similar to Saskatchewan, the federal government says British Columbia’s priorities include access to high-quality health services when residents need them, particularly in rural and remote areas, health services addictions and mental illness in a timely manner and access for the public to their electronic personal health information.
British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix says the agreements support his province’s efforts to improve care.
“We will continue to support public funding of BC’s health care system to ensure people have access to the programs and services they need, when they need them,” he said. in a press release.
Mobility of professionals
As part of these new bilateral agreements, Ottawa is also committed to working with Saskatchewan and British Columbia to simplify the recognition of credentials for internationally trained health professionals “and to promote the mobility of leading health professionals.
Both provinces have also agreed to collect, use and share de-identified health information to track progress in key areas of health care using common key indicators.
Federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc said the new agreements build “on our common goal to ensure that all Canadians, regardless of where they live or their ability to pay, can access the care they need, when they need it”.