Premier Danielle Smith announced Tuesday that she will be moving ahead with health-care reform with or without the financial backing of the federal government, as the two political bodies are at odds about funding conditions.
Premiers across the country have been asking for more money from the federal government for health-care through the Canadian Health Transfer for over a year. While the feds have made a nine per cent increase in funding, the provincial coalition is asking for more.
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“I can’t stop doing reform because the federal government doesn’t want to partner with us,” Smith said during a news conference in Calgary on Tuesday.
The amount of funding each province gets is tied to the economy, and as Alberta’s economy grows, so too will its federal health-care funding, said Steven Staples, national director for policy and advocacy for the Canadian Health Coalition in Toronto.
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As long as provinces adhere to the federal health-care regulations, they will see that funding come in year after year.
According to the federal government’s website, Alberta is slated to receive $7.7 billion in health-care funding from the feds in 2023-24 with the current terms, which have not been agreed upon.
“The provinces have a lot of latitude to make changes in their health-care system but they have to stay within the lane of the Canada Health Act and our national medicare system if they want to receive federal money.”
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Staples said he believes in the coalition of premiers, which Alberta is a part of, is starting to come apart at the edges.
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“It’s going to be very difficult for the premiers to have a united voice calling for more money from Prime Minister Trudeau now as we start to the edges come unraveled,” he said.
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Nova Scotia has agreed to accept the federal terms in December, while Alberta is still asking for more money on top of the already planned nine per cent increase for this year, plus a different set of terms than was originally proposed.
In a statement to Global News, a spokesperson for the Federal Minister of Health said the federal government is “ready to invest in funding through tailor-made agreements with provinces and territories that will allow us to provide better care to Canadians.
“We are committed to working with other levels of government and with all parties to advance health-care priorities and our overall commitments to improve and protect Canada’s public healthcare. We will do so by focusing on the ends before focusing on the means because as we can see now, the old way of doing things doesn’t work.
“As our government continues to have frank and difficult conversations with our provincial and territorial partners, we are also committed to respecting their jurisdiction.”
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Smith acknowledged that health-care reform is the top priority for Albertans and the Alberta government and that the provincial government is planning on putting $600 million into the health-care system this year and next.
There are small, incremental changes that don’t cost a lot that the province is putting into place to help move healthcare forward, Smith said. For example, fixing the HVAC system in the Camrose hospital so that operating rooms can be opened again.
Smith said she’s also asked Alberta’s technology and innovation minister to create infrastructure for a health spending account.
“(It) would bring more dollars into the system, more money into the hands of individual patients, so that they can pay for all the things that are currently not covered by the health-care system,” Smith said.
More movements in health-care reform are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
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