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Budget 2006 - The Right Choices : Momentum for Growth and Prosperity

March 30, 2006
(Health and Community Services)

The Right Choices: Improving Our Health

The Williams government is helping people stay healthy through improved access to health care services, Health and Community Services Minister Tom Osborne announced today. Budget 2006 unveils more than $180 million in new health care funding, bringing government�s total investment to $1.96 billion � representing a 10 per cent increase over last year.

"This new health care investment responds to the current changes and increasing pressures in our health care system � a rapidly-aging population, outdated health infrastructure, new technology and drug treatments, and growing public expectations," said Minister Osborne. "These initiatives aim to improve our health and deliver better health care sooner."

Highlights of the targeted investments include � $52 million for new health care infrastructure and renovations and repairs to existing health care facilities; $15.6 million to strengthen cancer prevention and treatments; a $4.8 million injection in the Provincial Drug Program and $3.7 million to support healthy lifestyles and better health outcomes.

Through Budget 2006, government is also adding over $60 million to the province�s four health authorities� base budgets to reflect increased operating costs and respond to program cost and utilization pressures.

Preventing and Treating Cancer
In Newfoundland and Labrador, 2,200 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed this year, some of which could be avoided through early detection. In response to an unexpected increase in demand for radiation treatment, aging equipment and the desire to improve patient outcomes, Budget 2006 dedicates $15.6 million in new funding to prevent and treat cancer. Highlights of the investment include:

  • $3.3 million to begin construction on two new bunkers to house two new radiation machines at the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Centre in St. John�s. Further investment will follow in next year�s budget to purchase the equipment, which is expected to be operational in late 2007. The overall investment for this project is $10 million;
  • $1.5 million to strengthen resources in preventing cancer and expand the Cervical Screening Program into the Eastern and Labrador-Grenfell regions. Through increased public education, the program will aim to increase cervical screening rates by 25 per cent this year;
  • $750,000 for a new breast screening centre in Grand Falls-Windsor and to expand the existing breast screening centre in St. John�s along with program enhancements for breast and other cancers;
  • $6.4 million to introduce three new cancer treatment therapies for colorectal cancer and a new treatment therapy for multiple myeloma;
  • A further $620,000 to add three new drugs to the Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Drug Program � Eprex, Aranesp and Tarceva. Eprex and Aranesp are used to treat anemia associated with certain cancers, while Tarceva is an oral agent used to treat lung cancer that has failed to respond to standard first-line chemotherapy; and,
  • $3 million to add the drug Herceptin to the Provincial Systemic Therapy Formulary to treat selected patients with early stage breast cancer (Stages 1, 2 and 3).
  • "We are committed to improving cancer services and the quality of life for people living with cancer in our province. Through increased investments in prevention and working with stakeholders on a new Provincial Cancer Control Strategy, we will help educate the public on the importance of early detection with a goal of reducing cancer rates over the long term," said Minister Osborne.

    Improving Access to Health Care Services
    Building on government�s continued commitment to improving health care services in the province, Budget 2006 includes $11.3 million to increase the subsidized rate for personal care homes, add new drugs to the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program for persons suffering from Alzheimer�s Disease, reduce the home support wait-list for new clients and respond to the growing need for renal dialysis in the province.

    Although there is currently no cure for Alzheimer�s, some drugs have proven to be effective for select persons suffering from this disease. Government will cover the costs of Aricept, Reminyl and Exelon under the Newfoundland and Labrador Prescription Drug Program under special authorization.

    Recognizing the important role that personal care homes play in providing care and accommodations to our province�s seniors, and the need to provide further support to seniors who choose to live in personal care homes, government has allocated $6 million this year to increase the personal care home subsidy rate from $1,138 per month up to $1,500 per month effective July 1, 2006 and provide additional subsidies to address the current waitlist.

    There are approximately 200 people identified to receive first-time home support services in our province in addition to those who currently have some form of home support. Government will reduce the wait-list for home support for seniors and persons with disabilities through a $2.7 million investment in Budget 2006. This investment will reduce the burden of care-giving in changing family environments and provide assistance to seniors and persons with disabilities to live independently.

    An additional $1.5 million is provided in Budget 2006 to respond to growing demands for dialysis services in the province. Government is also proceeding with three new renal dialysis units in Burin, Happy Valley-Goose Bay and St. Anthony. The units are expected to be operational within 18-24 months.

    Budget 2006 also provides $350,000 in new funding to enable our people, for the very first time, to benefit from in vitro fertilization procedures without having to leave the province.

    Investing in Children and Youth
    Government will invest more than $5.4 million in Budget 2006 to address program priorities to support children and youth in the province. Highlights of the investments include:

  • $4.1 million to improve the effectiveness of the children�s dental health program to ensure that children are able to take full advantage of the program;
  • $651,900 to increase the rate paid to caregivers of children in care by 15 per cent over the next three years, beginning with a five per cent increase this year. Alternate family care providers, who care for persons with developmental disabilities, will also receive an increase of 15 per cent over the next three years at a cost of $227,000. The rate supports room and board, supervision, personal care and social supports and increased funding for children living with relatives and for the youth services program;
  • $350,000 to provide coverage of pediatric enteral nutrition (medically-approved nutritional supplements) for children with severe bowel diseases, such as Crohn�s and Colitis. This investment will eliminate the financial burden on families and allow for the provision of medically-necessary treatment to children outside the hospital environment;
  • In light of the high rate of suicides in Aboriginal communities, government will cost-share a two-year $240,000 suicide prevention initiative with Health Canada. Budget 2006 includes $60,000 to support research for suicide prevention intervention programs, and to develop training programs for mental health and other community workers; and
  • Develop models for the integration of mental health services related to adolescent and young adult suicides, and develop a protocol for crisis intervention in Aboriginal communities experiencing a high rate of suicides.
  • Go Healthy

    Government is serious about educating all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians on the benefits of an active and healthy lifestyle. To that end, Budget 2006 targets $5.2 million to encourage physical activity and promote healthier lifestyles. This includes:

  • A further $1.3 million will be directed to support implementation of the provincial wellness plan - Go Healthy. This investment builds on last year�s record $2.4 million investment in wellness. The plan�s first phase will be implemented over the next three years and will focus on some key areas including healthy eating, physical activity, tobacco control, and injury prevention;
  • $1 million to extend the physical education equipment program to students in the intermediate grades. The program was introduced last year for the province�s high school students and funding this year will be used to purchase equipment for students in grades 7-9. The new physical education curriculum promotes life-long, healthy living, from kindergarten to senior high. It is about helping students foster positive attitudes about the importance of being active and physically fit for life;
  • $500,000 to the Kids Eat Smart Foundation, an organization that works with schools and community groups to establish nutritious breakfast, lunch and snack programs in schools. This will effectively double the existing grant to the organization; and,
  • Effective April 1, a one cent increase per cigarette, and five cent increase per gram on loose tobacco will be implemented in keeping with government�s commitment to smoking cessation and eliminating youth smoking.
  • Fighting Addictions and Improving Mental Health
    Government has invested $2 million in the last two years towards mental health initiatives, demonstrating its commitment to providing mental health consumers with the resources they need to continue to access services which enable them to live healthy and fulfilling lives.

    Budget 2006 builds on the priorities of the new policy framework � Working Together for Mental Health � released last fall, by committing a further $1 million to enhance primary mental health services in the province.

    To strengthen resources to assist persons struggling with gambling and other addictions, Budget 2006 also includes $1 million in new funding to add nine new addictions counsellors in the province for primary prevention and treatment, and to respond to needs identified in the Gambling Prevalence Study released last fall. An additional $1.1 million will be spent this year to construct a new provincial addictions treatment centre in Corner Brook as part of a $3 million project. The new centre will provide enhanced treatment for persons with addictions, including non-medical detox services which will allow for seamless transfer from detox to treatment.

    Strengthening Public Health
    Government recently announced $4.6 million in Budget 2006 to strengthen the province�s public health system; enhance animal health service delivery; and expand the capacity of the Emergency Measures Organization. The investment includes:

  • $800,000 to add to the antiviral stockpile that will allow us to respond to a pandemic;
  • $365,000 to hire regional health emergency professionals for each region;
  • $1.5 million to hire 39 public health nursing positions over the next two years;
  • $344,800 to create new public health positions within the Department of Health and Community Services;
  • $1.3 million to enhance animal health services; and,
  • $290,000 to enhance the Emergency Measures Organization.
  • Media contact: Tansy Mundon, Communications, (709) 729-1377, 685-1741

    2006 03 30                              2:20 p.m.

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