Liberal MP 'in a mood to celebrate' as Manitoba signs on to health accord after 18-month delay
$182M pledge will support home care, dialysis, mental health and addiction treatment options
If there was frustration over the more than 18 months it took for Manitoba to finally sign on to Ottawa's health accord, the politicians who gathered Tuesday morning at the official announcement wouldn't show it.
"I'm not in a mood today to be disappointed about anything," said Winnipeg South Centre MP Jim Carr. "I'm in a mood to celebrate the co-operation of two governments, because we realize that this is in the interest of our people."
Carr was at the Manitoba Legislature Tuesday as the two levels of government celebrated an agreement for more mental health and home care funding for Manitoba, which was made public earlier this month.
The deal will see $182 million flow into Manitoba's health-care system over the next five years. There's an option to renew the deal after that, for a total 10-year pledge of $400 million in funding.
Home care help prioritized
The funding is earmarked for improving home care and ensuring more people receive treatment at home. Improvements to rural palliative care, mental health and addiction services and developing a pregnancy and infant-loss program are also specified.
The province held out on signing the deal for more than 18 months, saying repeatedly that negotiations between the two governments were ongoing. Federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said in an interview earlier this month she's "extremely disappointed" it took this long.
Her counterpart in Manitoba, Cameron Friesen, acknowledged the delay in his address to reporters Tuesday.
"We can all agree that this day has been a long time coming, but it is here," Friesen said.
There is nothing lost because of the time it took to get to this day.- Manitoba Health Minister Cameron Friesen
He said his government had to carve out the best arrangement for Manitoba. The agreement now recognizes the value in the province's home care system, he said.
There are few specifics about new initiatives under the funding so far, but Friesen said home care improvements will include more hours for nurses and home care attendants, as well as extending dialysis services to more clients.
Slash wait times for women in need
Friesen said the government would build on its services to support people with addictions, such as treatment beds and rapid access to addictions medicine, or RAAM, clinics. He noted one area of concern is long wait times for women to get into addictions-treatment facilities, and suggested the federal funding may address this.
There will also be counselling for people who experience infant loss, Friesen said.
"There is nothing lost [in this deal] because of the time it took to get to this day," he said. "Manitoba will be in full receipt of the amounts from this bilateral arrangements officially announced today."
Manitoba has been reluctant to sign health deals with the federal government and has expressed disappointment with increases in health funding transfers from the federal government.
In 2016, Ottawa announced the Canada Health Transfer would increase by three per cent per year, down from six per cent increases the provinces had been receiving.
Manitoba was the last jurisdiction to agree to the 2016 federal health-care accord when it signed a partial agreement in August 2017.
The two governments agreed in 2017 to keep talking about cash for mental health and home care programs. It took more than 18 months for them to reach a deal.
Premier Brian Pallister has said that Manitoba will lose out on $2.2 billion over the next decade now that transfer payments are rising three per cent per year.