After months of feuding over calls for increased transfers, the federal government says it’s willing to provide additional health-care dollars to provinces and territories.
In exchange, however, federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the jurisdictions must commit to expanding the use of common key health indicators and to building a “world-class” health data system for the country.
“In the spirit of collaborative leadership, I’m glad to confirm that the Canadian government is ready to increase healthcare investments through the Canada Health Transfer,” the minister said in a Monday news conference.
Duclos is set to meet provincial and territorial ministers in Vancouver on Monday evening and again on Tuesday. It will be the first time all of Canada’s health ministers have gathered in person since 2018.
As it stands, the federal government covers about 22 per cent of health-care costs and the rest is up to provincial and territorial governments.
Those governments have formally requested Ottawa increase its contribution to 35 per cent — a potential funding increase across the country of more than $40 billion.
Duclos said Ottawa needs a nationwide commitment to the sharing of common key health indicators, and the use of a world-class health data system, in order to better plan workforce changes. Such information would also ensure Canadians can access their health records and better see the results of an improved health system, he added.
The federal government is willing to provide funding through tailor-made agreements with provinces and territories as well, Duclos said.
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix, chair of the meetings, said the provinces and territories welcome additional funding from Ottawa but want to see the details.
Given what they have been through with COVID-19, there needs to be a national conference on the health transfer system to reach a funding agreement, he explained.
Provinces and territories are struggling with human resources challenges, Dix added, and financial support would help them train additional health-care workers, and pay for growing human resource costs in the system.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said earlier Monday in Montreal that the government has committed to investing “significantly more” in health care, but wants assurances people have access to a family doctor and to mental health services.
Dix says the situation demands particular urgency because “this is going to be a difficult winter,” referring to an expected spike in respiratory illnesses “including but not limited to COVID-19.”
—With files from The Canadian Press