Strengthening health care is focus at Ministers’ conference

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TORONTO – Provincial and territorial health ministers on Monday discussed several key areas of work including mental health services, Indigenous health care, improving the affordability and accessibility of pharmaceutical drugs, and exploring how to use health care innovation to make accessing health care easier for all Canadians.

Provincial and territorial Health ministers were joined by their provincial and territorial finance ministers for a discussion on the long-term financial sustainability of health care for all Canadians.

“Provincial and territorial ministers are united in their commitment to strengthen health care for Canadians in the face of emerging challenges,” said Dr. Eric Hoskins, Ontario’s Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, who chaired the meeting. “As we approach the 50th anniversary of Medicare and renew our commitment to publicly funded health care, we must ensure that we are making all the efforts needed to address evolving issues, including access to mental health services.”

Provincial and Territorial Health and Finance Ministers’ Discussion

Provincial and territorial governments are responsible for the health care systems in Canada and for providing health care to Canadians. It is the single largest component of every provincial and territorial budget representing upwards of 40 per cent of their respective annual expenditures. When Medicare started it was an equal funding partnership. Provinces currently fund nearly 80 per cent of government expenditures on health care; in territories up to 90 per cent. Provinces and territories also count on transfers from the federal government to help meet the current and growing health needs of Canadians.

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The Canada Health Transfer provides long-term stable and predictable funding and is an essential mechanism for ensuring the sustainability of provincial and territorial health systems. The federal reduction in the CHT escalator would result in the loss of $60 billion over ten years. A stable financial base is the foundation for ensuring essential health care services for all Canadians. This will take into consideration health care system challenges, such as changing demographics and incidence of chronic disease.

Indigenous Health

Ministers renewed their commitment to work together in partnership with Indigenous leaders in their respective jurisdictions to enhance the coordination, continuity and appropriateness of health care services for Indigenous peoples.

Ministers recognize the enormous health challenges faced by many Indigenous people and communities throughout Canada. They shared information about work underway with Indigenous organizations in their respective jurisdictions to address key regional priorities and improve health outcomes.

Provincial and territorial Ministers noted that it remains important for the federal government to fully assume its role and responsibilities for Indigenous health.

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For over six years, the provinces and territories have been pioneering work to improve the affordability, accessibility and appropriate use of prescription drugs. This includes work on brand name drugs, generic drugs, and special categories of drugs that bring forward particularly complex and difficult challenges. This work was initiated through the Health Care Innovation Working Group.

Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to work together – and with the federal government, which joined the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance (pCPA) last year – to address difficult decisions, including the need to have a more consistent assessment of drug coverage and fair pricing strategies.

Ministers discussed the advantages gained through the pCPA, which has resulted in more than $712 million in combined savings annually. A further reduction in the price of six high volume generic drugs through the Generics Bridging Strategy starting April 1, 2017 is expected to save governments an additional $75 million next fiscal year.

Ontario offered to continue progress with the Working Group focused on improving access, affordability, and appropriateness for essential drugs for all children, reporting back to provinces and territories at their next meeting.

Québec is committed to working with provinces and territories to address the challenges of the rising cost of medications, but coverage decision remains its sole responsibility.

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Health Care Innovation Working Group

The mandate of the Health Care Innovation Working Group (HCIWG), created in 2012, was renewed byCanada’s premiers this past summer. Today, ministers discussed its new mandate which focuses on using technology and innovation to improve affordability, predictability and patient care.

Mental Health and Addictions

The health ministers reaffirmed the importance of improving care for young people who outgrow child and youth mental health and addiction services as they move into adult systems. Ministers committed to further collaborative work to foster innovative, integrated mental health and substance use services for youth and young adults.

The ministers also discussed the need to explore opportunities to further develop services for people living with mental illness and addiction.

Federal, Provincial and Territorial Meeting

The provincial and territorial health ministers look forward to productive discussions tomorrow with federal health minister Jane Philpott.

Following the meeting, Alberta’s Minister of Health, Sarah Hoffman, will assume the role of chair of the provincial and territorial health ministers meeting and co-chair of the federal, provincial and territorial health ministers meeting. – CNW

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