Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq talks to Newfoundland and Labrador Health Minister Jerome Kennedy at the Canadian Medical Association’s annual meeting in St. John’s Monday. — Photo by Deana Stokes Sullivan/The Telegram
Federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq says Ottawa will work with the provinces and territories to renew the country’s health accord by 2014, but there will be a “clear emphasis on accountability,” so Canadians will know they’re achieving real results in improving the system.
Aglukkaq addressed delegates at the Canadian Medical Association’s (CMA) annual meeting in St. John’s Monday, reiterating a commitment from Prime Minister Stephen Harper that the federal government will maintain an annual six per cent escalator for the Canada health transfer beyond 2014.
In 2011-12, she said, funding under the Canada health transfer will amount to $27 billion, rising to an all-time high of $30 billion in 2013-14.
“As we work to strengthen health care in Canada, physicians, in particular will have a key role to play,” the minister said.
“Each one of you has the opportunity to be a partner in the transformation that’s needed,” Aglukkaq said.
Aglukkaq told reporters following her address that there’s a provision in the existing health accord, which was developed in 2004, which requires a review to examine what it has accomplished.
That process is being initiated through a Senate committee now, she said, and the report is expected to be released in December.
Elaborating on her comment about accountability, she said the federal government wants to be able to ensure the dollars invested in health care are actually going in areas with the most need.
“We need to work with all Canadians to look at better solutions and also recognize that each jurisdiction, in terms of how they deliver (health care) and their priorities will vary by jurisdiction,” Aglukkaq said.
Using Nunavut as an example, she said, while Canada’s population overall is aging, Nunavut has the opposite problem, a very young population, so the needs there will be very different than other jurisdictions.
The minister said the federal government also wants to look at ways of investing resources for better patient-centred care, such as a new strategy she announced during her speech for patient-oriented research, describing it as a “transformative research initiative that places patients at the centre of health care.”
The strategy has been developed by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, in collaboration with provinces, charities and industry representatives and is aimed at strengthening support for clinical studies in Canada.
A national steering committee for the Coalition on the Strategy for Patient-oriented Research has been formed, comprised of representatives from federal, provincial and private sectors. Its first meeting is planned for Oct. 3.
Aglukkaq also said her department is taking action to help prevent drug shortages that could have an impact on patient care.
Last week, she wrote to representatives of pharmaceutical companies and said she made the expectations of government clear, that they need to agree to practices that alert physicians in a timely fashion about potential drug shortages.
“There has to be a better communication and better links between service providers,” she said, patients are not adversely affected.
Newfoundland’s Health Minister Jerome Kennedy welcomed the delegates to the province and spoke about the many investments the provincial government has made in recent years, not only in health resources but infrastructure.
Kennedy told reporters he’s “very confident” the provinces will reach an agreement on a new health accord with the federal government.
He said he was pleased that the federal minister committed firmly in her address to continue the annual six per cent escalator for the Canada Health Accord beyond 2014.
“As a province, we put $2.9 billion in our budget into the health care system, so any assistance from the federal government is certainly welcome, especially as we no longer receive equalization payments,” Kennedy said.
Although he doesn’t have details yet of the strategy for patient-oriented research announced by the federal minister, Kennedy said, these kind of strategies are welcome.
“Health care belongs to all of us and the more we work together, the better it will be for all of us,” he said.