Health spending up by 10 per cent

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Barb Sweet
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The province is spending $2.7 billion on health care in fiscal 2010-11 - a 10 per cent increase from last year - as announced in Monday's budget.

The spending represents more than a third of the provincial government total $7-billion budget.

Much of the health spending has been announced before, but that didn't stop the praise of many of those who work in health or advocate for health measures.

From left, Carol Furling, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees; Debbie Forward, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Nurses Union; and, Shaun Lane, president of the Personal Care Home Association of

The province is spending $2.7 billion on health care in fiscal 2010-11 - a 10 per cent increase from last year - as announced in Monday's budget.

The spending represents more than a third of the provincial government total $7-billion budget.

Much of the health spending has been announced before, but that didn't stop the praise of many of those who work in health or advocate for health measures.

Among the spending is $208.9 million for health care infrastructure - $125.1 million for new construction and redevelopment of buildings, $31.6 million for renovations and repairs of health care facilities and $52.2 million for new medical equipment.

"It's encouraging to see government still investing in health," said Debbie Forward, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Nurses Union.

Among the highlights for Forward were the addition of some nurse practitioner services in the province, neonatal nurses for the Janeway ICU and dialysis services for Labrador City and Port aux Basques.

She praised the government for taking steps toward reducing waiting times with funding for medial equipment and other health infrastructure spending.

"All these things should help improve the health status of the people of the province," Forward said.

Nurses didn't get a professional development fund on their wish list, but she said they will continue to pursue that.

The Association of Registered Nurses of Newfoundland and Labrador, which licenses nurses, also praised spending on the nurse practitioners, health and wellness initiatives, long-term care and breastfeeding.

"Overall, Budget 2010 indicates that government remains committed to creating an accessible and sustainable health care system that meets the needs of people in the province," said executive director Pegi Earle.

Not everyone thought the budget went far enough for their cause.

Personal care homes will get an increase in their monthly operating subsidy from $1,644 to $1,717, a total of $73 dollars a resident per month.

Shaun Lane is the president of the Personal Care Home Assoc-iation of Newfoundland and Lab-rador.

"We're happy to see an increase," Lane told The Telegram.

"However, the increase still does not even cover the legislated minimum wage increase this government has inflicted upon smaller businesses."

Carol Furlong, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Asso-ciation of Public and Private Em-ployees (NAPE), and provincial Federation of Labour president Lana Payne both said one glaring omission in the budget was a long-term plan for the home care sector.

"We need to have something to deal with that whole issue of recruitment and retention of the industry," Furlong said.

One mention of home support workers is that they would get a 75 cent an hour raise starting July 1.

Eastern Health CEO Vickie Kaminski said there are lots of equipment and capital projects for her organization. An expansion of the neonatal intensive care unit will address an issue for the authority, as will the increase of operating room capacity.

"I need to look at it in detail, but it's a very good budget for us," Kaminski said.

Dr. Pradip Ganguly, chief of radiation oncology with Eastern Health, also took in Monday's budget.

"Health care wise, it was an exciting budget," Ganguly said.

"One of my pet projects is the (positron emission tomography) PET scan and I'm very happy that's moving along very quickly." He also lauded the $800,000 to continue the human papillomavirus (HPV) for young women, a preventative measure for cervical cancer.

Scott Antle, acting executive director of the Canadian Cancer Society, Newfoundland Division, praised the increase in tobacco tax by one cent a cigarette in hopes it will deter smokers.

The cancer society is also glad there is continued concentration on implementing the Cameron Inquiry report, which resulted from a scandal involving lab errors in testing to determine breast cancer treatment.

Broadening the number of drugs covered in the provincial drug plan is also another progressive step, Antle said.

But a small step was the increase in the medical transportation assistance program.

"Transportation and accommodations play a significant impact for some people on their cancer burden," Antle said.

The Newfoundland and Lab-rador Medical Association did not comment on the budget.

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HEALTHCARE SPENDING

Some highlights of health care spending announcements in Budget 2010:
Overall health budget is $2.7 billion.
$5 million to continue implementing the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry on Hormone Receptor Testing Report.
$3.2 million to cover the cost of 10 new drug therapies under the Newfoundland and Labrador prescription drug program, including cancer drugs.
$197,000 in operational funding for a radiopharmacist and a program director to begin planning for the new positron emissions tomography (PET) scanner at Eastern Health.
$31.6 million for institution renovations and repairs.
$125.1 million for new construction and redevelopment.
$52.2 million for new equipment.
$797,700 for an expansion of the coverage for the current insulin pump therapy program, to include adults from the ages of 18 to 25 years old.
$1.1 million to decrease wait time for surgery by increasing the number of operating rooms in the Eastern Health region.
$1.2 million to enhance surgical services at Western Memorial Hospital.
$413,000 to enhance hyperbaric medicine at the Health Sciences Centre.
$2 million for the planning and development of an adult residential addictions treatment centre in Harbour Grace.
$606,000 to enhance the medical transportation assistance program, allowing reimbursement of mileage at a rate of 16 cents per kilometre for use of private vehicles when eligible medical travel exceeds 5,000 kilometres within a 12-month period.
$2.4 million for continued planning and construction of a new residential treatment centre for children and youth with complex mental health needs and/or behavioral issues, to be located in St. John's.
$2 million to further a new residential treatment centre in Grand Falls-Windsor for children and youth with addictions.
$800,000 to continue funding the human papillomavirus immunization program for adolescent females.
Source: Department of Health and Community Services

Organizations: Newfoundland and Labrador Nurses Union, Newfoundland and Lab, Association of Registered Nurses of Newfoundland and Labrador Personal Care Home Assoc The Telegram Federation of Labour Canadian Cancer Society Medical Association Western Memorial Hospital Health Sciences Centre

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Port aux Basques, Harbour Grace St. John's

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