Will health ministers craft a health accord that delivers for Canadians?

January / February 2017   Comments
David Granovsky

Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott met with her provincial and territorial counterparts to discuss many issues including a new health accord, a key element of her mandate. The crafting of a multi-year accord presents an opportunity to make important and much-needed changes to the health-care system. In the coming months, the accord negotiations are expected to target gaps in home care, mental health services, Indigenous health and access to prescription medications.

It was the debate about health-care funding that took centre stage at the meeting on Oct. 18 in Toronto. The federal government has signalled it will set the annual increase to the Canada Health Transfer at three per cent. The provinces and territories are calling for a six per cent increase, which was part of an agreement set to expire in April. Philpott reiterated that the government expects any new federal investments in health care, including a commitment to $3 billion for home care, to be used by the provinces and territories to improve health and transform an underperforming system.

CNA director of Policy, Advocacy Strategy Carolyn Pullen was invited to a roundtable with Philpott, held on the day before the meetings. CNA was one of 10 health organizations, representing patients and health-care professionals, who met in a closed-door session to provide input on accord negotiations.

“We are calling for federal, provincial and territorial ministers of health to employ a strategy to ensure funds are transparently invested in a cost-effective manner,” Pullen says. “Our goal is not only to improve access to home care but also to reduce unnecessary use of expensive acute care resources.”

She discussed how a robust accountability framework could use existing national data to show the relation between investments, activities, population health outcomes and social outcomes. Plain language annual reports that monitor progress could be made available to the public through Health Canada’s website and social media platforms.

Pullen also shared CNA’s recommendation that funds be allocated on a needs-based formula to account for regional differences in demographics and in population health. This approach would address inequality in Atlantic Canada, for example, where one in five residents is a senior citizen.

At time of print, it was not clear how the debate about funding would unfold. Regardless of the outcome, CNA will continue to work to ensure that Canadians get better value from the health-care system, Pullen says.

“CNA will continue to reinforce the need for an accountability framework to underpin the health accord and upcoming investments in home care,” president Barb Shellian said in a statement issued after the meetings. “Through dialogue among FPT ministers, a health accord can be reached that will deliver positive change to health services.”

David Granovsky

David Granovsky, MA, is CNA’s manager of government relations.

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