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Manitoba final province to sign health care pact with feds

 

Manitoba has signed a health-care funding agreement with the federal government after holding out for nearly a year.

The deal will see an extra $10.9 million flow into the province from Ottawa targeted for home care, mental health and addictions, which were identified by all provinces as priorities that needed extra funding.

As well, an additional $5 million will be provided that Manitoba has earmarked to specifically battle opioid addiction and chronic kidney disease.

“We now have a pan-Canadian agreement,” said Jane Philpott, the federal health minister. “All provinces and territories have agreed to the forward work we’re going to do.”

Manitoba’s health minister said he disagreed with the language of the agreement, saying it’s not ‘pan-Canadian’ if everyone doesn’t agree with the same deal.

“What we have is a series of bilateral agreements across Canada,” Kelvin Goertzen told CBC News. “I certainly wouldn’t consider it pan-Canadian.”

Philpott thrilled Manitoba has signed health deal1:26

Under the previous 13-year arrangement that expired last year, the provinces saw health transfers grow by six per cent annually.

Former finance minister Jim Flaherty unilaterally changed funding increases to either match the rate of GDP growth or three per cent a year — whichever is greater.

Provincial and territorial health ministers presented a united front last fall against Ottawa’s insistence that the annualized increase was a “reasonable escalator,” saying that rate was too low to keep pace with a rapidly aging population.

Each province eventually negotiated its own health care agreement with a three per cent increase increase in funding year over year and additional targeted funding amounts. Manitoba was the last holdout.

Premier Brian Pallister said in June he wanted to see more funding for Indigenous health issues and funding for diabetes before he would sign on to any agreement.

Goertzen said the province will still fight the feds for more funding than the current Canada Health Transfer of three per cent.

“We have not signed on or agreed that the three per cent is good for health care in Canada, either in Manitoba or in other provinces so that continues to be true,” Goertzen said. “It is dangerous for the health-care system to not have the federal government as a real and true partner.”

Nevertheless, he said, he’s happy the province held out for more money.

“It was the right thing to do” the health minister said. “We raised awareness not only in Manitoba but across Canada that health care the way it’s funded now isn’t sustainable.

“Beyond that, I am pleased to see the $5 million that is additional for the issue of opioid addiction in Manitoba, and also kidney disease, which is significant in Manitoba.”

The new agreement means the province must present a plan to the federal government and the public on how they will spend their targeted funds.

Philpott said the provinces will now have to agree on a set of shared metrics to prove that the money is being used effectively.?

Goertzen also said the two levels of governments are looking at ways to improve the delivery of health care to northern and remote Indigenous communities so patients from remote regions won’t have to travel to Winnipeg for effective treatment.

 

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