Federal Health Minister Mark Holland convened in Charlottetown with his provincial and territorial counterparts on Wednesday to deliberate the critical challenges and opportunities concerning the health workforce.
Addressing the Health Workforce Crisis
The gathering in Prince Edward Island comes at a time of notable urgency. Many health care advocates have deemed the current situation a health crisis. The main challenge being health workers grappling to sustain the provincial and territorial systems. Mark Holland, who recently assumed the health portfolio, stated that the emphasis is on both recruitment and retention. “Bringing new workers into the industry and retaining those who are already there is the priority,” Holland commented during a press briefing in British Columbia.
He further expanded on potential avenues for solutions, mentioning, “We have to look at our foreign credentials; we have to look at pan-Canadian licensure.”
Focus on Data Integration and Health Accords
Besides the workforce, the ministers are slated to address the improvement of health data integration across provinces. This particular agenda stems from a health accord proposed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to the premiers earlier in February.
This health accord has witnessed British Columbia as its inaugural signatory. The Prime Minister has earmarked a whopping $196 billion for the provinces and territories for the next decade, aimed at enhancing health care accessibility. This funding encapsulates hikes in the federal health transfer and specialized bilateral deals to cater to unique needs across different provinces and territories.
However, the financial backing comes with strings attached. In return, premiers are obligated to enhance data sharing and rigorously track progress towards pre-determined goals.
All provinces and territories, with the exception of Quebec, have given a nod to this health accord in principle. Quebec has reservations about accountability to Ottawa regarding the expenditure of the funds. Nevertheless, Minister Holland remains hopeful about striking a deal with Quebec. He opined, “There’s old instincts. We want to protect turf, we want to protect jurisdiction, we want to protect our political interests. We can’t afford it.”
Reaction from the Medical Community
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) remains vigilant about the health crisis. Dr. Kathleen Ross, president of the CMA, shed light on some areas where the crisis has escalated, while also pointing out regions witnessing improvement.
The CMA intends to engage in discussions with the ministers regarding addressing the human resources challenge in health. Dr. Ross emphasized, “There’s a commitment toward working with all of our health-care providers in more of a team-based care model.”
Federal Plans: Pharmacare and Dental Insurance
Mark Holland has other ambitious plans on the horizon. He has vowed to introduce pharmacare legislation by the year’s end, laying the groundwork for a national drug plan, which is expected to be overseen by the provinces.
Moreover, this fall will see the unveiling of plans for a dental insurance scheme catering to low- to middle-income families without private insurance. The integration of this plan with existing provincial dental programs remains a matter of speculation.