Nfld. & Labrador

Health Accord agrees 'hard choices' likely in future after Greene report's 'timely' health care suggestions

Leaders of another of Premier Andrew Furey's task forces, set up to 'reimagine' the province's health system, say they aren't yet in the realm of looking at how to govern medical services in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Scrapping regional health authorities high on list for economic recovery team

Health Accord NL says its plans to overhaul the province's health care system simply won't work without simultaneous economic overhaul, like that which is proposed in the Greene report. (Paul Daly/CBC)

The changes to the Newfoundland and Labrador's health care system suggested in the Greene report haven't shaken the leaders of Health Accord NL.

The task force's mandate — to revamp health care in the next decade — simply won't work without simultaneous economic overhaul, said Sister Elizabeth Davis, one of Health Accord NL's leaders.

"Economic development and health are hand-in-hand … you can't look at one without looking at the other," Davis told CBC News on Friday.

The Greene report, the long-awaited economic report from Moya Greene and the premier's economic recovery team, was released Thursday and proposes broad measures to address the province's dire fiscal situation.

Davis called the report's arrival "timely," and said it means government can use both sets of recommendations when determining next steps.

Health Accord NL released its own interim report last month, pinpointing homelessness, universal basic income and food insecurity as important health topics for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

But the reports, however similar in timing, diverge in their scope.

"We're really looking through two different sets of eyes," Davis explained. While Greene and the economic recovery team scrutinize the costs of health care services, Health Accord NL looks at health outcomes.

"We are not just looking at the health system," she said.

"Health has more to do with social, economic and environmental conditions than it does with the health system."

Sister Elizabeth Davis is one of Premier Andrew Furey's healthcare task force leaders. (Carolyn Stokes/CBC)

The Greene report suggests combining the province's four regional health authorities into one and reducing operating grants to the health authorities, cutting them by nearly a quarter over six years.

Newfoundland and Labrador spends the most per capita of any province on medical services, at $6,443 per person, according to the Greene report.

However, that report did not make direct mention of cutting service to rural areas or closing hospitals — and specifically mentioned the Health Accord's role in "reimagining" the system.

Davis said there will come a time when the task force looks at how to govern and finance the health system, but they haven't reached that stage.

Davis wouldn't say whether the task force would examine the Greene report's particular recommendation about consolidating health authorities, but said they were considering ways of "balancing hospitals" with community health teams and distance medicine technology. 

Finances do play a role, she said, but their recommendations will look at more than the bottom line.

"We will be asking the question, 'for us to go in that direction, what do we have to do?' ... We are in a serious situation in this province," Davis said, foreshadowing "hard choices" in the province's future.

"We will only have a better economy if we have better health," she said. "[And] we will only have better health if we have a better economy."

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