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Alberta would receive $25B over a decade under federal health care proposal

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If Alberta accepts Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s federal health proposal, it would see, on average, $2.5 billion over the next 10 years, in line with population growth.

$21 billion would come in the Canada Health Transfer, plus an additional $2.9 billion in a bilateral agreement.

$900 million would be dished out to address mental health, community and long-term care.

Premier Danielle Smith says the deal is a start but there is work to do.

“We’re pleased that the federal government wants to partner with us on expanding out the recruitment so we can bring in more doctors and nurses,” said Smith.

Smith added that the province has already undertaken health care reform without help from Ottawa.

“One of the measures the federal government was looking for was the quantification of the COVID-19 backlog in surgeries,” she said.

“We have cleared our COVID backlog, so we are now at a level of surgeries on the wait list similar to what they were prior to COVID, so we’re very pleased with that outcome.”

Bradford Mistaken Chief’s mother, who is in her 60s, visited the Tom Baker Cancer Centre on Monday.

She is terminally ill with liver cancer, with doctors giving her another year to live.

Mistaken Chief says when her appointment was over and she was spending the last several hours recovering before being discharged, she was shuffled to a “staff access” room.

“They stuck her in a closet in palliative care, (someone) who is terminally ill and was not considered sick as others, who needed a room,” said Mistaken Chief.

He says an empty bed was available near the nurses’ room, but she was brought to “the brown tile room” or a tub room.

Mistaken Chief says the health care system in Alberta is broken.

“Why should everything have to be in triage? That’s the state of our health care system right now – it’s in an emergency state,” said Mistaken Chief.

Alberta Health Services says it has apologized to Mistaken Chief’s mother for any distress caused.

“To be clear, this patient was not moved to a storage room,” said James Wood, spokesperson for AHS.

“Acute care hospitals and programs in Alberta at times unfortunately operate at over 100 per cent capacity, where the number of patients needing hospital beds exceeds those available in the main hospital space.”

“When this occurs, AHS has overcapacity protocols to ensure patients receive the care they need. In this case, the patient was moved to such an overcapacity space to ensure proper patient care,” the statement continued.

Wood adds that AHS recognizes overcapacity spaces are often inconvenient and less private for patients and their families.

The federal government pledged to increase health funding to Canada's provinces and territories by $196.1 billion over the next 10 years, in a long-awaited deal aimed at addressing Canada's crumbling health care systems.

However, only $46.2 billion is new funding.

The rest was promised in the 2021 election campaign.

“I think, to say the least, we were pretty disappointed at that,” said Heather Stefanson, premier of Manitoba.

The premiers were seeking an additional $28 billion in funding annually.

Here's what the federal government has put on the table:

  • An immediate national and "unconditional" $2-billion top-up to the Canada Health Transfer (CHT) to address urgent pressures being experienced at pediatric hospitals and in emergency and operating rooms;
  • A five per cent increase to the CHT over the next five years provided through the annual top-up, to be rolled into the CHT base after five years to ensure a permanent increase that would provide an estimated $17.3 billion over 10 years;
  • $25 billion over 10 years for decade-long bilateral deals with each province and territory tailored to their health care needs, but connected to shared priorities such as family health access, investing in mental health and substance abuse services, and modernizing the health information system;
  • $1.7 billion over five years to support hourly wage increases for personal support workers and related professions as levels of government work together on retaining, recruiting, and recognizing the credentials of health-care workers;
  • $150 million over five years for the Territorial Health Investment Fund to help cover medical travel and the cost of health care delivery in the North; and
  • $2 billion over 10 years aimed at addressing the access challenges uniquely faced by Indigenous people.

Among the metrics the federal government says it will be looking at to assess whether tangible progress comes from these funding arrangements:

  • The net new family physicians, nurses and nurse practitioners in each province and territory;
  • The percentage of Canadians who have access to a family health team or family doctor;
  • The size of the COVID-19 surgery backlog;
  • The median wait times for community mental health and substance abuse services; and
  • The percentage of Canadians who can access their health records electronically.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would not commit to saying whether this would be his one and only deal to the provinces.

“We want to get to work negotiating flexible bilateral deals with the provinces that are going to deliver more family doctors, deliver better and faster mental health care, particularly for young people,” said Trudeau.

“Deliver on more support for our frontline workers, and deliver better health information and data that's going to ensure people get the best quality of care.”

Smith says she will take the proposal back to her team in Alberta in advance of meeting with Canada’s premiers again in the coming days.

Smith and Saskatchewan premier Scott Moe say there is a need for flexibility in the delivery of health care services, such as reducing surgical wait times, improving ambulance services and reducing emergency room wait times.

The premier also invited Moe to tour the province’s recovery-orientated treatment centres.

With files from Rachel Aiello 

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