The federal government is prepared to increase federal health-care transfers to the provinces to over $196 billion over the next 10 years—which includes over $46 billion in new spending, says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Trudeau met with all 13 provincial and territorial premiers in Ottawa on Feb. 7 to discuss the long-awaited health-care funding deal.
The premiers had been asking for a meeting for more than two years, as COVID-19 put enormous strain on the health-care system and left provinces with thousands of backlogged surgeries, a burnt-out, understaffed health workforce, and emergency rooms that cannot keep pace with demand.
The provinces budgeted about $204 billion for health care in this fiscal year and the Canada Health Transfer was set at $45 billion, or about 22 percent of that. The premiers want the federal share to increase to 35 percent.
Instead, Ottawa put together a 10-year, $196.1 billion deal, of which $46.2 billion is new funding.
The Liberal government says the funding would be distributed through the Canada Health Transfer (CHT) as well as through certain bilateral agreements with provinces and territories that “allow for flexibility for jurisdictional health care system needs,” according to a Feb. 7 release.
The bilateral agreements would provide $25 billion over 10 years to the provinces and territories.
Ottawa is also proposing to provide more funding to the provinces through the CHT with an unconditional $2 billion top-up that would take effect immediately in order to relieve “pressures on the health care system, especially in pediatric hospitals, emergency rooms and surgical and diagnostic backlogs.”
The government is also proposing a five percent increase to the CHT for the next five years that would be paid “through annual top-up payments as required.”
Ottawa said that it is also working with the provinces and territories to improve access to long-term care.
The total sum of new health-care funding to the provinces also includes an additional $1.7 billion over the next five years “to support wage increases for personal support workers and related professions.”
Ottawa is also pledging $2.5 billion over the next 10 years to “support Indigenous priorities and complementary federal support.”
In line with previous conditions outlined, the federal government says the new funding would be used for four main priorities: expanding access to family health services, increasing support for health workers and reducing backlogs, improving access to mental health services, and standardizing a digital health information system.
To access the enhanced CHT, provinces would need to first commit to using “comparable indicators” for health-care data collection and digital medical records, which the government said would “improve how health information is collected, shared, used and reported to Canadians to promote greater transparency on results, and to help manage public health emergencies.”
Trudeau said prior to the government’s new funding announcement that Canada’s health care system has not been working properly and is in need of immediate changes.
Ahead of the meeting today, Trudeau told reporters Canadians needed the health-care system to work better.
“We all have to recognize it hasn’t been delivering at the level that Canadians would expect,” he said.
The Canadian Press contributed to this report.