Federal health accord expires

Events to be held across the country to mark expiry of health accord

OTTAWA – Patients in some parts of the country may face bed shortages and more expensive drugs now that a health-care deal between Ottawa and the provinces has expired, an advocacy group warned Monday.

Provinces with declining populations, such as New Brunswick, are already feeling the fallout from the expiry of the 10-year, $41-billion health accord struck in 2004, while growing provinces like Alberta stand to gain, said Canadian Health Coalition executive director Michael McBane.

“This year, New Brunswick will have less money, Alberta will have more,” McBane told a news conference on Parliament Hill.

“There will be provincial governments who will not be able to meet the needs of their populations.”

In 2011, former finance minister Jim Flaherty said the Canada Health Transfer to the provinces and territories would grow by six per cent a year until 2017-18.

After that, health transfers will be tied to the rate of economic growth and inflation, but the government says the annual rate of increase won’t fall below three per cent.

Paul Moist, national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, described how some provinces would be affected by the expiry of the deal.

“We’ll see bed closures, as we’ve seen in Ontario,” Moist said. “We’ll see an inability to wrestle to the ground pharmaceutical prices … we’ll see, provincially, more de-listing of certain drugs that Canadians now receive.

“There is no long-term care strategy for Canada. And I expect each and every provincial budget will continue to announce that provinces are assuming more and more responsibility from the days of 50-50 funding.”

Health Minister Rona Ambrose says the government will have transferred $40 billion to the provinces and territories by the end of the decade, but more health innovation is also needed.

“More money is not the only answer here to fix the inefficiencies in our health system,” she said during the Commons question period.

“What we’ve learned in the past ten years is that innovation really is the key. We know that innovation is making a difference, Mr. Speaker, and we’ll build on that success by creating a wise persons panel to examine not only the state of health innovation but ensure federal actions create a more innovative health system. ”

McBane, Moist and Linda Silas of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions were in Ottawa for one of dozens of events planned across the country to mark the end of the health accord, which expired Monday.

Actress Shirley Douglas — the daughter of politician Tommy Douglas, widely credited as the father of medicare — was scheduled to speak at a rally in Toronto.

The left-leaning Council of Canadians also said at least 19 of its chapters planned to stage events in various locations.

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