Ottawa pledging $2B for pandemic surgery delays, warns universal health care ‘at risk’

Click to play video: 'Feds pledge $2 billion in funding for surgical backlog in Canada'
Feds pledge $2 billion in funding for surgical backlog in Canada
WATCH: Canada's Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos pledged on Friday $2 billion to address surgical backlogs across the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This follows the $4 billion the federal government provided in March 2021 – Mar 25, 2022

Canada’s universal health-care system is “at risk” amid unprecedented pressures exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, says the country’s health minister.

As a result, Ottawa is pledging an additional $2 billion in top-up health transfers to the provinces in a bid to help them resolve backlogs in surgeries, Jean-Yves Duclos announced on Friday.

“Two years after the beginning of the worst pandemic the world has known in over a century, we need to acknowledge that if we do not act quickly and decisively, the long term survival of the universal and public health system Canadians cherish is at risk,” said Duclos.

Duclos said delays in surgeries, diagnostics and treatments existed before the pandemic but that after five successive waves of COVID-19 in the span of two years, provincial health systems are struggling. Hospitals had to delay non-emergency surgeries and other services throughout the pandemic to make way for urgent COVID-19 cases.

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Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Ontario facing ‘tsunami’ of backlog surgeries, Horwath says'
COVID-19: Ontario facing ‘tsunami’ of backlog surgeries, Horwath says

In a report last month, the Ontario Medical Association estimated that 21 million patient services, including surgeries for preventative care, cancer screenings and diagnostic tests, were delayed due to the pandemic.

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“These delays are a burden that can be very hard to bear for the affected patients, their families and their loved ones, as well as for the health-care workers caring for them,” Duclos said.

The expected one-time transfer is included in the newly tabled Bill C-17 and is in addition to a $4 billion top-up given to provinces in March 2021.

Provinces have been asking the federal government for an increase in health spending for years, with premiers requesting the feds to boost its share from 22 per cent to 35 per cent in February.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe’s office said in a statement that this investment does not replace or address the call for long-term funding.

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Duclos admitted that the system needs to be built up for the long term. However, he maintained that “this level of support at this time will make a difference.”

— with files from The Canadian Press

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