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N.L., federal governments sign bilateral health agreement

From left, federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, provincial Health Minister John Haggie and Premier Dwight Ball at an announcement about a bilateral health agreement Wednesday at Pleasant View Towers in St. John’s.
From left, federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, provincial Health Minister John Haggie and Premier Dwight Ball at an announcement about a bilateral health agreement Wednesday at Pleasant View Towers in St. John’s. - Ashley Fitzpatrick

Details of previously announced deal agreed through 2021-22

A new bilateral agreement on health care between this province and the federal government was announced in 2016, with money starting to flow under agreed parameters in 2017.

On Wednesday, with all final details on the spending areas and required reporting now settled, there was an official signing of the deal at Pleasant View Towers in St. John’s.

Premier Dwight Ball and federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor, along with provincial Health Minister John Haggie, all spoke briefly about the deal. It provides funding targeted specifically to home care, community care, and mental health and addictions treatment services — $72 million over five years.

Newfoundland and Labrador is the second province, after New Brunswick, to sign an agreement, with all provinces having come to some accord with the feds.

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador is now in a position to press ahead with the “home first” approach long spoken about by the Liberals — making it possible for more people to stay at home, age in place and obtain a certain level of care in their own communities.

Haggie said progress is already being made on the Home First program.

“It’s incorporated and wrapped up in a home support review, so what we’re looking at is trying to move care out into the community, away from places like this, quite frankly, great as it is. What we want to do is to keep people in their communities longer,” he told reporters in response to questions. “So it involves looking at what they need and individualizing it, so if they need help with activities and daily living, the appropriate people … can be provided. In the first instance we’re rolling out a better assessment process. There are 23 points in our home support program and action plan.”

In terms of community care, the funding is expected to be used to increase the clinical services available at the local level, add training for personal caregivers, expand use of remote-monitoring technologies, promote personal care planning, extend available services beyond traditional working hours and support creation of hospice beds in at least two health authorities. There’s more, with some items to come more immediately than others.

In terms of mental health and addictions, the funding is expected to help reduce barriers to services, expand e-Health options, assure culturally appropriate interventions, improve access to community treatment teams and add recovery supports.

Additional details to these broad strokes are expected as changes are planned and timed, and additional services roll out through the health authorities.

The bilateral agreement includes a commitment to provide specific data — “common indicators” — to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), to help track outcomes from the spending and provide the ability for the federal government to say if any systemic improvements in the province might be tied to the funding.

In 2021-22, the province will be in a position to negotiate a second five-year agreement.

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