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Calls grow for Ottawa to set conditions against funding private health care in negotiations with provinces, territories


As momentum and negotiations build toward a long awaited deal on federal health care funding, calls are also growing for specific conditions on how any transfer money should be spent.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has scheduled a Feb. 7 meeting with Canada’s premiers to reach a new funding agreement.

Bernadette Landry, co-chair of the New Brunswick Health Coalition, said federal funding parameters should be imperative to any pending agreement.

“You don’t give millions and millions of dollars without making sure those dollars aren’t spent appropriately,” said Landry. “It’s just common sense."

Landry said the federal government should ban any transfer funds from being spent on private clinics delivering public health care.

"Those private clinics (are) stealing nurses and other health care professionals from the public system; people we need so badly in the public health care system," said Landry.

On Friday, federal Green Party leader Elizabeth May and New Brunswick Green Party leader David Coon said federal funding should come with a clause of it not being spent on private delivery model of care.

Private surgical centres are already operating with public money in the Atlantic region.

Ontario recently announced a plan to increase use of private surgical and diagnostic centres around the province.

This past summer, the three Maritime Progressive Conservative premiers met with Ontario PC Premier Doug Ford to discuss health care. The meeting happened shortly after Ford announced initial plans to increase the use of private clinics for public health care.

None of the Maritime premier would reject the possibility of additional privatization in their own jurisdiction, at joint news conference.

“Yes things are going to change, and yes that could be in a different form and I don’t know what that’s going to look like,” said New Brunswick Premier Higgs, on Aug. 22, 2022.

On the Jan. 21 edition of CTV’s Question Period, Higgs said the premiers and prime minister were close to reaching a long-term funding deal, with conditions tied to health care outcomes. Higgs said the metrics for success could vary by area.

Higgs also said he didn’t have the sense the federal government would increase funds from 22 per cent to 35 per cent of health-care costs (about an additional $28 billion a year) as requested by the premiers.

“But between where we are and where we've asked, there's a number in there somewhere,” said Higgs.

On Sunday’s edition of CTV’s Question Period, federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the federal government would avoid “micromanaging” how provinces and territories delivered health care.

“We are also going to work flexibly with provinces and territories because they are not at the same place,” said Duclos. “There are some provinces in Canada, where access to a family health team is almost 90 per cent, other provinces is below 80 per cent, and that's something we should recognize and should work with provinces and territories to address.”

Duclos said certain conditions and metrics would be attached to any transfer funding, including reductions in surgery and diagnostic backlogs, retention and recruitment of health care professionals, along with set mental health benchmarks.

Lori Turnbull, a political scientist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, said the federal government’s tone on the private delivery of public health care had softened as of late.

“They have called what Doug Ford is going to do in Ontario as being innovative,” said Turnbull, in an interview with CTV News Channel.

“That’s a significant departure. We can think back over the past number of years, when people talked of increased privatization in health care, (there was) a lot of resistance to that from the public. But now we’re seeing a different thing, where there’s been a bit more acceptance, I think, because people know that the system is on the brink of collapse in a way it hasn’t been before. There’s a different conversation around what’s possible.”

With files from Hina Alam of the Canadian Press, Akshay Tandon of CTV News Channel, and CTV’s Question Period with Vassy Kapelos. Top Stories

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