Premiers call for more federal cash, discuss private sector delivery after health care summit

Premiers who gathered Monday in Moncton, N.B. for a summit on health care called for significant changes to the delivery of services in their provinces and hinted at the possibility of offering more services through the private sector.

“The status quo is not working, folks,” Ontario Premier Doug Ford told a news conference following the meeting. 

“We need to be creative, we need to come up with ideas from the [health care] sector.”

Ford met with premiers Blaine Higgs of New Brunswick, Tim Houston of Nova Scotia and Dennis King of Prince Edward Island during the summit.

Ford said health care was the “the number one priority” during the meeting, which was also attended by Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc.

Ford said the premiers had a “phenomenal conversation” with LeBlanc about the challenges facing provincial health-care systems.

“Urgent action is needed if the federal government wants to ensure the sustainability of health care and services across Canada,” Higgs said.

Disagreements over health care funding have strained the relationship between Canada’s premiers and the federal government for years now, but the increasingly dire situation in hospitals and emergency departments has pushed the premiers to push for change more aggressively.

At a gathering of all provincial and territorial leaders in July, British Columbia Premier John Horgan said Canadian health care had deteriorated to a point where Canada would have to “re-imagine” how public health care is delivered.

The premiers say Ottawa must increase its share of health-care funding from 22 to 35 per cent in order to build a sustainable and properly functioning system.

The federal government contends that calculations used by the provinces do not accurately account for Ottawa’s contributions to provincial health care services.

More private care an option

Ford’s Progressive Conservative government has outlined a plan to relieve pressure on Ontario’s health-care system by funding more surgeries performed at private clinics, among other proposed changes.

Hundreds of organizations in Ontario’s health care sector have vowed to fight what they see as the increasing privatization of the system.

But following Monday’s meeting, Ford was not the only premier to entertain the idea of moving more services into the private sector.

Higgs said he would consider changes in New Brunswick if they can be done “in a constructive way that sees results.”

“Everything is a possibility in relation to, how do we improve health care,” he said, noting later that any changes under consideration should still be considered “publicly funded health care.”

Dr. Michael Gardam, CEO of Health P.E.I., said he was happy to see premiers frankly discussing the challenges facing their health-care systems.

“I personally am very encouraged that we’re not hearing the rhetoric we might have heard a few years ago about how we have the best health care system in the world and nothing needs to change,” Gardam told CBC News Network.

Gardam, who leads P.E.I.’s public health authority, cautioned against using further privatization as a catch-all solution.

“We need to think carefully whether we’re going to get the biggest bang for our buck or whether we’re simply going to starve the public system in order to get better access for people in another setting,” he said.

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