Atlantic premiers want federal health funding to reflect needs of aging region | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Atlantic premiers want federal health funding to reflect needs of aging region

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil, New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball and Prince Edward Island Premier Wade MacLauchlan, left to right, attend a meeting of the Council of Atlantic Premiers in Annapolis Royal, N.S. on Monday, May 16, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
May 16, 2016 - 12:32 PM

ANNAPOLIS ROYAL, N.S. - With populations that are among the oldest in the country, Atlantic Canada's premiers say they need a health accord with Ottawa that reflects the reality of their health care challenges.

Following their annual meeting Monday in Annapolis Royal, N.S., the premiers said the current per capita funding formula instituted by the former Conservative government doesn't serve their needs.

"We've all been clear that funding health care on a per capita basis doesn't work for Atlantic Canada," said Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil.

"We need to take into account demographics and chronic disease management."

New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant said Ottawa needs to realize the region has a number of challenges in delivering health care, including the fact that it's more rural and has higher rates of cancer due to its older population.

"For us whether it's demonstrated through the health transfers or some type of top-up program ... that addresses senior care and or an aging population — we are certainly open to discuss that with the federal government," Gallant said.

Prince Edward Island Premier Wade MacLauchlan noted that the region isn't alone in calling for change that reflects the country's aging population as a whole. He said similar calls have come from the Canadian Nurses Association, the Canadian Medical Association and the province of British Columbia.

"We intend to work together as four premiers in four provinces to advocate for a more realistic funding arrangement," said MacLauchlan.

Estimates released by Statistics Canada in 2014 indicate that since 1984 the population share of the Atlantic provinces has decreased by 2.3 percentage points, while the population in western Canada increased by 2.4 percentage points.

The proportion of people aged 65 and older was also highest in the Atlantic provinces, with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia registering the highest proportions of seniors at 18.3 per cent each.

In Ottawa, federal Health Minister Jane Philpott said Monday she hoped discussions on a new health accord would wrap up by the end of the year. Philpott didn't say which direction the Liberal government would ultimately like to go.

"I'm certainly hoping in the very near future to have further meetings as a collective with my colleagues in the provinces and territories," she said. "I'm having conversations with them on a pretty regular basis at this point, with one on one conversations, but we are hoping to pull the whole group together very soon."

The Atlantic premiers also announced a joint procurement of anaesthesia and ultrasound equipment that they said would save $6.1 million over three years.

At the meeting, the leaders also discussed the economy, climate change and the need to enhance energy cooperation.

On the energy front Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball was asked by reporters whether there was any possibility the massive Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project in Labrador would be cancelled.

Ball avoided a direct answer, instead referring to a Friday conference call in which Stan Marshall, the head of the province's Crown energy corporation Nalcor, said the project would likely go ahead despite soaring costs and delays.

"We understand the contract provisions that have been made," said Ball. "We now will get a better understanding of the new schedule and costs near the end of June and that will give us a clear understanding of what the budget impact will be."

How the project proceeds is of particular interest to Nova Scotia, which is depending on electricity from Muskrat Falls to fill slightly less than 10 per cent of its renewable energy needs.

"We are looking forward to this project continuing forward," said McNeil. "I believe it's a project that not only will drive the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador but I think it allows us as a sister province to be able to meet our greenhouse gas objectives."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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