Canada pledges billions to fix healthcare system

By Nadine Yousif BBC News, Toronto

February 8, 2023

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the increase in funding a “major investment in healthcare”.

The Canadian government has pledged almost C$200 billion ($149 billion; £124 billion) in funding over 10 years to support the country’s ailing healthcare system.

The funding was announced in an announcement on Tuesday as a cross-generational solution for the system.

Canada’s hospitals have been struggling with staff shortages and long waiting times for care for months.

Since then, some reports have surfaced of patients dying while awaiting treatment.

Canada’s healthcare system is taxpayer-funded to provide all citizens and permanent residents with free, universal access to essential hospital and doctor visits.

It is paid for with a mix of federal and provincial funds but administered at the local level. Around 25% of the funding is provided by the federal government through the Canada Health Transfer.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the funding proposal to Canadian provincial governors, who have repeatedly urged Mr. Trudeau to increase federal spending on health care.

However, Mr Trudeau had said he would not increase funding without strings attached.

After meeting with Prime Ministers on Tuesday, Mr Trudeau said his government is “taking action today so Canadians can continue to have confidence in our public system”.

“This is a great country built on great progressive ideas,” he said. “Few are more central to us as Canadians than the promise of universal, publicly funded health care.”

His proposal calls for a total of $196.1 billion to be spent on healthcare over the course of a decade — $46.2 billion of which will be new money on top of what’s already budgeted.

Overall, there will be an increase of around 61% in Canadian health transfers to the provinces over the next 10 years.

It’s less than what Canada’s prime ministers wanted – they had asked Mr. Trudeau for a $28 billion annual top-up.

Manitoba Premier Heather Stefanson said she was “disappointed” with the sum. Ontario Premier Doug Ford called it a “starting point.”

The prime ministers said they would now consider the proposal.

Mr Trudeau said the money his government has provided is a “huge investment in healthcare” but he added that money alone will not fix the country’s faltering system.

He said he will also negotiate separate agreements with each province to address unique regional issues.

The government has also asked provinces for better health data so they can better assess the system’s performance.

Healthcare has often been a point of pride in Canada, but like many other countries, its system has struggled with mounting pressures and growing wait times to access care since the Covid-19 pandemic.

Patients are also affected by a growing backlog of surgical and diagnostic procedures.

According to World Bank data, Canada spends over 10% of its GDP on healthcare, about as much as the UK, compared to over 16% for the US.

Its healthcare system ranks higher than the US in some international comparisons, but lower than the UK and others.


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