Duclos says new health funding will ‘adapt to reality’ of NWT
Federal health minister Jean-Yves Duclos says a new healthcare funding package will include extras that attempt to address the greater cost of providing services in the North.
Speaking after a meeting with NWT ministers on Wednesday, Duclos told Cabin Radio the territory will receive up to $8 million a year for the next decade in funding targeted at family medicine, mental health, supporting workers and making better use of patient data.
That funding is on top of increases to the federal Canada Health Transfer that all provinces and territories will receive, and an extra $50 million heading to the NWT over the next five years through a separate pot known as the Territorial Health Investment Fund.
Premiers across Canada said this week they would accept the federal offer following months of lobbying for more healthcare cash, though some said the deal Ottawa proposed was not, on its own, a long-term fix for a system that the federal government has admitted is not “living up to expectations.”
“We know how much more expensive it is to care for people, we know the reality,” Duclos said on Wednesday, referring to healthcare costs in the North.
“We know workers have been exhausted and impacted by Covid-19. It’s important that the federal government does its share.
“These dollars need to be adapted to the reality of northern Canadians.”
Duclos said new funding of $7 million to $8 million annually would be targeted at initiatives like providing more access to family doctors in the NWT, making more mental health supports available – particularly to younger people – and trying to fix problems such as surgery backlogs or recruitment and retention difficulties.
He said NWT health minister Julie Green is now tasked with drawing up a three-year action plan that sets out timelines and expected results for the use of that cash.
The territorial government told Cabin Radio it would hold a news conference in the near future to discuss the healthcare deal in more detail.
“These dollars are meaningless if they don’t change outcomes for workers and patients,” Duclos said.
“The federal government recognizes, through that additional investment, that the needs of the territories are larger.”
The Canada Health Transfer is currently worth just over $50 million annually to the Northwest Territories and, under the deal between Ottawa and the premiers, will grow through the NWT’s small share of a $2-billion nationwide top-up and then through annual increases of at least five percent for the next five years.
The NWT’s Department of Health and Social Services as a whole anticipates spending $610 million in 2023-24 according to last week’s draft budget.