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B.C., feds sign $1.2B agreement for healthcare improvements

It’s part of Canada’s plan for $200B over 10 years for provinces, territories
Newly appointed Health Minister Mark Holland says accountability for new federal health funding will largely come from Canadians themselves. Holland smiles as he makes his way to a cabinet shuffle, in Ottawa, Wednesday, July 26, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

British Columbia will receive $1.2 billion over the next three years to improve various aspects of healthcare as part of an historic agreement with the federal government.

Health Minister Adrian Dix signed the funding agreement Tuesday (Oct. 10) with his federal counterpart Mark Holland at Vancouver General Hospital. Mental Health and Addictions Minister Jennifer Whiteside and federal Emergency Preparedness Minister Harjit S. Sajjan were among a whole host of local MPs and senior medical figures who joined the ceremony.

The signed agreement is the first of 13 agreements between the federal government and provincial and territorial governments.

“The largest share of the money under this agreement will go to support nurses, particularly nurses in acute care,” Dix said. That’s about $750 million over three years.

Another $246 million over three years will go toward mental health and addictions.

“The focus there is on things such as expanding foundry, expanding treatment services and expanding supports in the community, including harm reduction measures,” he said.

Holland said Canada is facing an unrelenting and tragic overdose crisis with B.C. on its frontline. “Mental health is at the centre of every solution.”

Whiteside said the agreement supports the expansion of Foundry centres and other youth treatment and recovery services so more young people can get the free, confidential and timely care they need in their own communities.

Remaining funds will address waitlists, improve diagnostic and digital care and help recruit doctors for cancer care, Dix added.

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Holland said the agreement is part of the federal government’s commitment to spend $200 billion over the next 10 years.

“This historic support includes $25 billion to provinces and territories for tailored plans that will focus on the unique needs of people in each province and territory. It will advance shared health priorities and it is the critical foundation for the transformation (of the Canadian health care system).”

Holland added that the agreement confirms Canada’s and B.C.’s willingness to transform the health care system.

“It’s a key building block of the change that will see us go from one of the best health care systems in the world to the best health care system in the world,” Holland said.

Holland later though acknowledged that money alone won’t make a difference in pointing to other issues such as recruitment.

“We are not holding this out as a panacea. The challenges that we have with respect to workforce are real and what we need is transformation of our system. We need to work collaboratively, when we are talking about our immigration system, when we are talking about those who are responsible for credential recognition to make sure that…opens up our potential.

In praising B.C.’s recruitment efforts, Holland said “remarkable things” are happening in B.C.

Dix said a net total of 38,000 health care workers have joined the provincial health care system since 2017, but repeated earlier acknowledgements that B.C. needs to do more.

Pointing to various initiatives such as the building of a new medical school, Dix also said that the province needs to make it easier for internationally trained health care professionals to work in B.C. The provincial government plans to table new legislation in the fall.

“We have to change the way we deliver care,” Dix said, noting the changes in the payment system for family physicians announced earlier this year. Hundreds of thousands of people have also already benefited from changes that allow pharmacists to treat minor ailments, he added.

The three-year-agreement comes with stipulations.

It calls on B.C. to develop an innovative model of care at 83 acute care sites across B.C. so nurses can spend more time with patients; enhance access to mental health and addictions, with the number of foundry centres set to rise to 35 from 16; improve the number of First Nations with access to culturally safer, trauma-informed and culturally appropriate healing and treatment services; and up the share of British Columbians with access to their own electronic health information to 75 per cent.


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