The NDP continued its push on health-care issues Monday, announcing that a New Democratic government would commit millions to develop a national Alzheimer's and dementia strategy to improve care for Canadians living with the disorders.
NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has pledged $40 million over four years to establish the strategy, which the party says will focus on support screening and early diagnosis, help newly diagnosed patients and their families access resources for the best care possible and boost research funding.
There are currently about 750,000 Canadians living with Alzheimer's and dementia, and one in five people over 45 provide care or assistance to seniors living with the disorders.
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The commitment is part of the NDP's recent push to put health care on the campaign agenda — an issue that has been largely overlooked amid discussion about the economy —with several announcements this week.
Earlier Monday, Mulcair committed half a billion dollars to build and expand clinics and hire thousands of new health-care providers. He said that if elected, his government would provide $300 million over four years to construct or expand 200 health-care clinics across the country.
Another $200 million would go to recruitment grants for providers such as doctors and nurse practitioners, ranging from $15,000 to $50,000 for each. The grants would be administered by the provinces.
Communities with a shortage of doctors will have priority under the program, which also includes measures to fund mobile health clinics in rural areas. Mulcair said the measures are aimed at hiring 7,000 new health-care providers.
"For a lot of voters, health care will be a defining issue in this election," Mulcair said of the Oct. 19 vote.
And on Sunday, the NDP promised $1.8 billion to improve seniors care, including expanded home care, more nursing home beds and improved palliative end-of-life care.
Mulcair added that cuts to health-care transfers from Ottawa have put an unsustainable burden on the provinces, diminishing recruitment efforts and forcing some provinces to reduce medical training programs.
He has previously promised to use any budget surpluses to reverse the Conservative plan to slow the rate of increases of federal health-care transfers — which could mean up to $36 billion less for the provinces over the next 10 years. As the country's population ages, health-care costs are expected to increase significantly.
The NDP leader said his announcement has been fully costed. The New Democrats are set to release their cost platform this week, ahead of Thursday's economy-themed debate.
Mulcair made the commitment at a medical and dental clinic in the riding of Vancouver-Kingsway. It was his first event in NDP-held territory since arriving in B.C. over the weekend.
Both of his Vancouver events yesterday were forays in Liberal-held areas. The NDP said the rally Sunday evening drew more supporters than any other during the campaign so far.