Health and Community Services
April 29, 2008

Strengthening Health Care in Newfoundland and Labrador

The Williams Government envisions a health care system that is responsive and accountable to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, while providing quality care and services now and for future generations. Building on a record of fulfilled commitments and unprecedented investments, the overall budget for health and community services in Budget 2008 is a record $2.3 billion. This year the province is committing annually an additional $266 million for the operations of the health care sector. This is in addition to total capital spending in the health sector of $133.5 million this year.

"The health investments contained in Budget 2008 are consistent with our vision and our direction over the last four years as we continue to work to ensure quality health care for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians," said Minister Wiseman. "Our government has invested significantly in health care and will continue to do so. These key investments will work to further strengthen our health care system and secure its sustainability."

Investing in Health Equipment

New health equipment will be added to hospitals throughout Newfoundland and Labrador with an investment of $52 million this year. In addition to the 12 new digital mammography units for health facilities throughout the province ($10.9 million), other equipment additions will include new CT scanners for Clarenville and St. Anthony ($3.4 million), a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine for the Central region ($3 million), an interventional angiography suite for Corner Brook ($2.4 million) and a digital X-ray unit for St. Anthony ($1.1 million). In addition, planning will be initiated this year for the acquisition of a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanner for the province. The equipment acquisitions this year bring the Williams Government�s investments in new health equipment to nearly $128 million.

Investing in Health Care Facilities

Investments in health care facilities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador will exceed $112 million this year. Budget 2008 includes $79.1 million in new and redeveloped health infrastructure. High priority repairs and maintenance in existing health facilities will be addressed with a $33.5 million investment. These investments will bring the total investment in health infrastructure projects and repairs by this government to approximately $240 million.

New Infrastructure Projects Include:

  • Planning and site selection for a new hospital in Corner Brook;
  • Planning for renovations at the Central Newfoundland Regional Health Centre in Grand Falls-Windsor;
  • Planning for redevelopment of St. John�s hospitals;
  • Investment of $4 million for redevelopment of the ambulatory care area at Carbonear General Hospital; and
  • Planning for new long term care homes in St. John�s.

Other Infrastructure Projects Include:

  • $32.6 million to continue construction of the new 236-bed long-term care home in Corner Brook and to complete work related to four duplexes for dementia care with a total of 40 beds;
  • $13.4 million for the new 50-bed long-term care home in Happy Valley-Goose Bay;
  • $4.5 million for the new 44-bed long-term care home in Clarenville;
  • $4.1 million to complete construction of a new health centre in Grand Bank and to redevelop the Blue Crest Nursing Home (to be completed in September 2008);
  • $3.6 million for a new office building to be constructed adjacent to the Labrador Health Centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay;
  • $3.3 million for continued redevelopment of the James Paton Memorial Health Centre in Gander;
  • $2.6 million for site infrastructure and design of a new health centre in Lewisporte;
  • $1.8 million to continue design and site preparation work for a new 28-bed health centre in Labrador West;
  • $1 million to continue planning for the redevelopment of the Forensic Inpatient and Developmentally Delayed units at the Waterford Hospital, St. John�s;
  • $500,000 for design work for a new health centre in Flower�s Cove; and,
  • $500,000 for St. John�s Centre for Clinical Research.

Repairs and Maintenance in Health Facilities:

  • $33.5 million to address high priority repairs and maintenance in health facilities, bringing the total investment for repairs and maintenance alone to over $72 million in five years. Projects to be completed this year include electrical upgrades, elevator upgrades, roofing repairs, window replacements, heating and ventilation upgrades, and renovations to patient care areas.

Enhancing the Health Workforce

Nurses and physicians are at the core in providing quality health care with their skills and expertise benefiting the people and the communities of the province. Budget 2008 includes strategic investments to increase the supply of nursing and medical graduates in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Budget 2008 will include $4 million to expand Memorial University�s Faculty of Medicine. The Provincial Government made a Blueprint commitment to expand the number of spaces for Newfoundland and Labrador medical students at Memorial University by 10 per cent in the coming year and 30 per cent within the next five years. The expansion in seats to 78 will require an increase in faculty and support staff as well as expanded infrastructure. This initial $4 million investment, which includes $2 million in operating funds and $2 million in capital, makes this commitment a reality.

In addition to the expansion of the Bachelor of Nursing program announced as part of the labour market enhancements by this government, another $2 million will be allocated for incentives to attract nurses. These will include bursaries for third- and fourth-year nursing students in the amount of $2,500 per student with a one-year return-in-service agreement; relocation allowances up to a maximum of $10,000 to cover 50 per cent of moving costs; signing bonuses of $3,000 for targeted positions; and special assistance to secure clinical placements.

Supporting the Regional Health Authorities

In addition to substantial investments in health equipment and infrastructure in Budget 2008, the following investments will further support the regional health authorities in their delivery of quality health care services and programs to the residents of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Quality Network:

Funding of $400,000 will support the work of a Quality Network which will be led by the Department of Health and Community Services to assess quality assurance initiatives, infection control programs, patient safety, risk management programs and best practices within the four regional health authorities. The Quality Network will work to assess processes and ensure standards across the health care system. This investment will build on a $2.3 million investment announced by the Provincial Government in February 2008 relating to key lessons that have emerged involving problems experienced with hormone receptor testing from 1997 to 2005. The investment announced in February allows for an array of measures to strengthen the health care system, including the enhancement of data management.

Air Ambulance Services:

The Provincial Government will invest approximately $8 million to purchase a new air ambulance to update the existing fleet. A new aircraft will create an enhanced air

ambulance program, with additional range and capacity. With this acquisition, the Provincial Government is reaffirming its commitment to providing safe and reliable air ambulance services for patients requiring emergency care who can not be transported by commercial airline or by road ambulance because of urgency or time, or the remoteness of the location.

CRMS Pay Module

In Budget 2008, the Provincial Government will invest $900,000 to support the implementation of the Client Referral and Management System (CRMS) Pay Module throughout the province and assist in the training of approximately 1,200 staff in the regional health authorities to use the system. The CRMS Pay Module will support the financial assessment and payment processes for expenditures through the community programs delivered by the regional health authorities. The module is currently being piloted in Central Health and the province-wide system roll-out is anticipated to begin in fall 2009.

Unique Priorities and New Initiatives:

The Provincial Government will also allocate $6.5 million to the regional health authorities to address unique priorities and launch new initiatives. Highlights include the following:

  • The establishment of six new infection control practitioners in hospitals;
  • The expansion of orthopaedic services in Corner Brook;
  • The addition of portable oxygen to the benefit list under the Special Assistance program; and
  • The provision of five additional nurse practitioners in hospital emergency rooms to assist in providing timely and appropriate interventions to non-urgent patients.

Furthermore, an additional $26.7 million will be allocated to the regional health authorities to allow for inflation and growth in current programs, including home support and services to children, youth and families.

Long Term Care and Community Supports

Budget 2008 provides $15 million for a Long Term Care and Community Supportive Services Strategy, which will see the immediate implementation of some specific reforms, as well as the development of an action plan for future measures. Measures to be implemented immediately:

  • $10.8 million to increase home support service levels;
  • $1.2 million to increase the personal care home/community care home rate from $1,534 to $1,607 per month;
  • $1.8 million to provide additional client subsidies for personal care homes; and,
  • $1 million to exempt RRSPs from the financial assessment process for clients receiving home support.

In addition, $6 million will be invested to increase the hourly rate for home support. This is the fifth increase by the Provincial Government, reflecting its recognition of the important role of home support workers within the health and community services system.

Strengthening Mental Health and Addictions

The Provincial Government will invest $1.7 million this year for further enhancements to services and programs for persons with mental health and/or addictions issues. This funding will provide for some new initiatives under the provincial mental health and addictions policy framework and to provide additional supports under the Mental Health Care and Treatment Act (2006).

Since 2003, the Williams Government has invested $14.6 million for mental health and addictions services in the province.

Developing the Electronic Health Record

Budget 2008 will see $6.9 million invested for further implementation of the electronic health record, which is being led by the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Health Information for the province. The development of the electronic health record will have significant benefit to the overall health system in the province, benefiting both patients and health care providers.

A significant accomplishment thus far has been the implementation of a province-wide Picture Archiving and Communications System (PACS), making the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador only the second in the country to implement such a comprehensive system. PACS allows diagnostic images to be transmitted electronically from one site to another, greatly improving access to patient information by enabling referring clinicians to review patient images on computers anywhere in the province.

The next major step is the implementation of the Pharmacy Network which is targeted for deployment in 2009. The development of the network is one of the largest and most complex information technology projects ever undertaken by the province. The network will offer province-wide on-line, real-time medication profiles, as well as comprehensive drug information and an interactive database to assist pharmacists and physicians in identifying potential adverse drug interactions and events to enhance the quality of care and improve patient safety in the province.

"Budget 2008 continues our government�s substantial investments in health care," said Minister Wiseman. "We are focusing on building a health care system that provides quality care and services to the residents of this province now and for future generations."

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Media contact:
Glenda Power
Director of Communications
Department of Health and Community Services
709-729-1377, 685-1741


2008 04 29                                                2:05 p.m.


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