Premier Kathy Dunderdale appears of the same frame of mind as most of her provincial counterparts when it comes to the federal government’s new plan for health transfer payments.
“Anything that is based on population is of great concern to Newfoundland and Labrador, and Atlantic Canada in particular, because we have very small populations,” she said.
Dunderdale is in Victoria, B.C., for two days of meetings with Canadian premiers to discuss health care.
Speaking with The Telegram by telephone Monday, Dunderdale said universal health care is supposed to provide equal care for Canadians regardless of where they live.
She said the new funding arrangement proposed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government threatens that scenario.
“What’s being proposed now, we’re moving away from that principle,” she said.
Other premiers have said a per capita funding plan does not take into account the needs of seniors, most of whom cost more to the health care system as they age. It has been widely documented Newfoundland and Labrador faces an aging population, an issue known to the provincial government, which launched a Provincial Healthy Aging Policy Framework in 2007.
Dunderdale is also critical of the Harper government for not consulting with the provinces on the new arrangement for health transfer payments.
“Provinces are the experts who deliver health care in this country. Without engaging with us in a process where we examine the whole health care system, the different pressures that are being felt throughout the country, where the trends are, where the funding levels are, what we need to do around efficiency, effectiveness, innovation and so on — the fact he hasn’t done that is very disappointing. There’s a great concern here amongst premiers around that.”
Dunderdale said the prime minister should refocus the health care discussion on quality instead of fiscal management.
Health care demands growing
In the 2011 provincial budget, net expenditures for the Department of Health and Community Services were expected to reach almost $3 billion for 2011-12. That was almost 11 per cent above the revised net expenditure figure for 2010-11 of $2.64 billion, which was 12 per cent above the revised net expenditure figure for 2009-10 of $2.35 billion.
“Health care is the largest part of our budget,” said Dunderdale, who noted the federal government provides the province $450 million of the $3 billion allocation for health care.
“The demands in health care are growing all the time. We’re a small population. We’re spread out over a large geographic area, (and) we’re coastal people primarily. This is an extremely important issue in Newfoundland and Labrador to the people of our province, as it is to Canadians generally.”
In order to remain effective, Dunderdale said the health care system will need to find a way to be sustainable, noting increased health care demands could impact spending on schools and roads, among other items.
She spoke of a need for efficiency, effectiveness, and innovation moving forward on health care. Dunderdale said provincial governments in Atlantic Canada have already partnered on reducing wait times for specific surgeries, and premiers in Victoria have discussed opportunities for national co-operation on purchasing drugs and medical equipment.
The premiers’ meeting was due to conclude today.
— With files from The Canadian Press