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Health-care care package: Maritime provinces still digesting details of Ottawa's funding announcement


The number-crunching continues a day after the premiers sat-down with the prime minister to talk about health-care funding.

The package offered Tuesday was big, however, not as big as provincial leaders were hoping, and debate is already heating-up about how to spend it.

Primary care providers in Nova Scotia are already weighing-in on how to spend the extra cash, with Doctors Nova Scotia and the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union individually arguing the money should be spent on more doctors and nurses.

The Nova Scotia Health Coalition agrees staffing of primary care providers ought to be paramount, but says another factor should also be considered.

"So much of the backlog in hospitals are people waiting to get into long-term care, so those are our two main issues," said Alexandra Rose, the group's spokesperson.

If the premiers were hoping a united front would be enough to force Ottawa to throw open the purse strings, it didn't happen.

The ten-year, $196 billion plan includes less than $50 billion in new funding, but $2 billion gets divided right away.

As well, the feds have pledged a five per cent increase to health transfers for the next five years.

The premiers seemed decidedly underwhelmed, but the immediate cash is hard to walk away from.

"Would we have wanted more? Of course we wanted more," said Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston. "I'll always push for more for Nova Scotians, just as my colleagues will for their constituents."

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs seemed hopeful there might be some room for negotiation in side-deals the feds plan to cut with provinces.

"It is what is,"said Higgs. "So we need to regroup and think about, 'OK. Is there more here in this regard?' Maybe."

Heading into the meeting there was much discussion around whether strings would be attached to the federal money, but political scientist Lori Turnbull says that was to be expected.

"I think they're saying, 'We're going to give you more money, and we're going to put conditions on it because we want to see action on these things and we don't have the jurisdictional authority to do those things ourselves,'" said Turnbull.

Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King seemed to be thinking beyond the cash itself.

"It isn't just money that we need," King told reporters.

"We need innovations, we need a change in how we deliver health care. We need to innovate the health-care system in many, many regards." Top Stories

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