November 28, 2002
The following statement was issued today by Premier Roger Grimes. It was also read in the House of Assembly:
The Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada
Today, the report from the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada was tabled in the House of Commons. For the past 18 months, the Commission, led by Mr. Roy Romanow, has been working to develop policies and measures to ensure the long-term sustainability of an universally accessible, publicly-funded health system.
Mr. Romanow has made a number of recommendations to improve the health system in this country. We will immediately review these recommendations as they relate to health services in our province.
Premiers have for some time been calling upon the federal government to assume its fair share of responsibility by joining with provinces and territories in a new funding partnership that will allow us to make the adjustments necessary to sustain heath care.
There are a number of positive forward-looking recommendations, such as the reference made to taking a needs-based approach to the allocation of the Canada Health transfer, this gives us some hope that our needs may be partially addressed in the longer term. We are somewhat concerned by the lack of a recommendation for immediate new funding to stabilize our current health and community services system.
We are also pleased that Mr. Romanow recognizes reform of the equalization program is critical to the sustainability of health care programming in smaller, less-wealthy provinces such as Newfoundland and Labrador.
The health care budget in our province is $1.5 billion. Since 1996-1997 government has consistently invested new money into health and community services. It has meant a 46 per cent increase in funding. The health budget now makes up 45 per cent of the government program budget.
For every $1 billion put into health care in the country, a per capita transfer would mean about $17 million for our province.
While some of the suggested funding allocations contained in the report may seem like large investments in health care nationally, we are concerned about the portion we would receive. For example, our budget for the Prescription Drug Program alone increased 30 per cent from 1998/99 to 2001/02. The cost for us to pay for our doctors, nurses and other health professionals is hundreds of millions.
Provincial and territorial governments are already working diligently to manage our health care systems effectively both to sustain and improve the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of core health services. The provision of any new federal funding will assist us in fulfilling our plans. However, I must point out that provinces and territories are in the best position to know how and where to allocate that funding.
I have directed the Minister of Health and Community Services to review the Commissioner’s recommendations in light of our own priorities and advise on how we can support our own plans through these recommendations. As you are aware, Newfoundland and Labrador has recently released its own provincial Strategic Health Plan, Healthier Together, which lays out a broad, innovative approach to health and community services in this province.
I have also directed the Finance Minister to analyze the funding proposals recommended by Mr. Romanow and provide advice over the next few weeks leading up to a First Ministers’ meeting.
Next week, the Minister of Health and Community Services will be meeting with his provincial and territorial colleagues on the Romanow Report. On December 17 and 18, the Minister of Finance will be meeting with her colleagues on the same issue. I am encouraged that these key ministers will meet quickly to discuss the recommendations in the report.
I join with other Premiers across the country in that I am pleased to see that many of the recommendations we’ve been making have been echoed by Mr. Romanow, and other recommendations, recently. What is important now is that we turn these recommendations into reality. We have continuously increased our health care budgets and we feel it is now time that the federal government do its part by restoring its fair share of health care funding.
2002 11 28 2:05 p.m.