A healthcare deal between B.C. and the federal government that will give the province an immediate infusion of $273 million was announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier David Eby in Langley on Wednesday.
Trudeau announced an agreement in principle for a plan that will see Ottawa transfer $27.47 billion over 10 years to B.C., including $3.32 billion for a new bilateral agreement focused on shared health priorities.
“Each agreement will be tailored and flexible to the needs of each province and territory,” Trudeau said. “But consistent among all is the joint responsibility to collect information that monitors how the health care system is performing.”
That includes the percentage of Canadians who have a family doctor, and the length of wait lists for surgery.
“We’re doing this because what gets measured gets done,” Trudeau said.
He also said the agreement moves towards getting foreign-trained doctors, nurses, and other health workers to get their credentials recognized or updated so they can work in the Canadian health systems.
“We’re fast tracking immigration pathways for health care workers like nurses and doctors,” Eby said, to get them “off the sidelines and into the health care system.”
Eby said that the federal funding is part of the province’s plans, including new money announced in the B.C. budget on Feb. 28 for cancer care and mental health and addictions.
“These past few years have been incredibly difficult for health care workers,” Eby said. “It’s been hard on British Columbians too.”
He said the immediate $273 million is to go towards issues like the hospitals and ERs, including rural health facilities, that have been so understaffed they have had to close on the weekends or some nights.
The lack of family doctors and fears that people can’t get care quickly at ERs are problems they’re trying to address, Eby said.
The premier pointedly said that private care or a two-tier care system was not the way to go.
“It doesn’t shorten the line, it just changes who’s at front,” Eby said.
The new deal ensures stable funding, he said, including targeted funding in areas like family health services in rural and remote areas, reducing backlogs, modernizing tracking health care data, addiction services, and home care and long-term care.
The province and Ottawa will now work on an initial three-year plan where the province and federal government will agree on timelines and detailed health targets.
Trudeau also announced that Saskatchewan has signed an agreement in principle as of Wednesday. Most provinces have now signed a deal with the federal government for the additional health funding.
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