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Health Ministers Meet in Charlottetown

Federal, provincial, and territorial health ministers meet in Charlottetown to discuss health labour challenges. On that, and more, here is your Syntax Weekly Health Round-Up.

On the Hill

  • The House of Commons is on break week. MPs will return to the House of Commons on Monday, October 16.

Around Government 

  • Ahead of the health ministers’ meeting in Charlottetown, federal Health Minister Mark Holland and B.C. Minister of Health Adrian Dix announced that the province and the federal government had signed a $1.2-billion bilateral funding agreement to improve healthcare over three years. This is the first bilateral agreement announced under the recently re-negotiated Canada Health Transfer. The funding includes $325 million per year in new funding by the Government of Canada and a continued $82 million per year in previously announced mental health and substance use funding, which will help accelerate efforts already underway in B.C. to improve healthcare access and services. To receive the funding, B.C. tabled its three-year action plan to deliver improvements to the healthcare system, including commitments to increase the proportion of patients who can access their own electronic health information to 75 per cent and increase the secured sharing of patient health information between family health service providers to 50 per cent.
  • Minister Holland announced the appointment of Peter Moreland-Giraldeau to the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board (PMPRB) for a five-year term. Moreland-Giraldeau is a lawyer with a Master of Laws: Common Law (L.L.M) from the University of British Columbia. In his current work for the Appeals Commission for Alberta Workers’ Compensation, he provides legal advice to the Commission’s general counsel, commissioners, and executive. He is also currently the Chair of the Canmore Subdivision and Development Appeal Board.
  • Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) Yves Giroux released a new report on the cost of a pharmacare program between 2024-25 and 2027-28. The report suggests that a single-payer universal drug plan would cost federal and provincial governments an additional $11.2 billion in the first year and $13.4 billion in five years. The report assumes that spending on prescription drugs under a single-payer, universal pharmacare plan will be $33.2 billion in 2024-25, rising to $38.9 billion in 2027-28. However, the report also said such a plan would lead to economy-wide savings of up to $2.2 billion in 2027-28 (through better price negotiations), even though it estimates the use of prescription drugs would rise 13.5 per cent.
  • Minister Holland joined his provincial and territorial colleagues in Charlottetown for the Federal, Provincial, and Territorial (FPT) meeting of ministers of health and ministers responsible for mental health and addiction. Ministers focused most of their discussion on how to collaborate to carry out the Working Together to Improve Health Care for Canadians plan and to act on the shared priorities of expanding access to family health services; supporting health workers and reducing backlogs; increasing support for mental health and addiction services; and modernizing Canada’s healthcare systems.
    • On health workforce issues, ministers committed to strategies to address ongoing priorities including the creation of a Nursing Retention Toolk; exploring initiatives to support the inclusion, recruitment, and retention of Indigenous Peoples in health human resources; streamlining foreign credential recognition and providing new pathways for qualified professionals in the health field; continuing to advance labour mobility; and creating a new Centre of Excellence for the Future of the Health Workforce.
    • On digital health and health data, ministers approved a Joint FPT Action Plan on Health Data and Digital Health, which provides a path forward for working together over the coming years, including through collecting and sharing high-quality and comparable depersonalized information, adopting common interoperability standards, promoting alignment between provincial and territorial health data policies and legislative frameworks, advancing common principles for the management of health data, and collecting and sharing public health data to better prepare Canada for future public health events.
    • On mental health, ministers committed to priorities for FPT collaboration, including support for individuals with complex needs; building mental health and well-being through prevention, promotion, and services for children, youth, and families; and improving public awareness of mental health concerns and available supports and decreasing stigma.

Around the Dominion

  • The meeting offered the ministers, who are responsible for health care delivery, an opportunity to share information about innovations within their own jurisdictions for others to consider and adapt.
    • On mental health, ministers expressed support for expanding treatment and recovery services across jurisdictions.
    • To address health human resources challenges, ministers reaffirmed their support for the medical residency requirement for family medicine to remain at two years.
  • The Government of Nova Scotia introduced the Regulated Health Professions Act with the intent to eventually replace 21 acts currently in place for self-regulated healthcare professions. For example, it has been confirmed that the Naturopathic Doctors Act and the Medical Professional Corporations Act will be repealed. The new act provides a foundation for each profession by standardizing rules and processes. Each profession will continue to have its own regulations that address the unique requirements of their fields in areas such as scope of practice, entry to practice, and licence categories. Once passed, work will begin in phases with each regulatory body to develop specific regulations for their profession.
  • The Government of PEI announced that it is expanding the use of biosimilar drug treatments for Island residents. Through the PEI Biosimilar Initiative, coverage under PEI Pharmacare for certain drugs will be replaced with coverage for biosimilar drugs. Starting October 12, 2023, those covered under the PEI Pharmacare program will begin switching to a biosimilar version for certain biologic drugs, including some insulins and medications used for treating Crohn’s disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
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