Brady McCloskey The Canadian Press Before the plan was announced, members of the Canadian Health Coalition of PEI, the Federation of Labor and the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions demonstrated Thursday morning in Charlottetown, calling for urgent universal pharmacare and an end to the privatization of health services.
Canada intends to address the shortage of health care workers by making it easier for nurses and doctors to practice in other provinces, including by streamlining the qualifications of internationally trained health care workers and by implementing a new nurse retention program, said the federal Minister of Health.
Mark Holland outlined these strategies Thursday, following two days of meetings with his provincial and territorial health counterparts in Prince Edward Island.
“Our plan for a staff “strong and sustainable health is shared by all levels of government and has dominated our conversations over the past two days,” Holland said at a news conference.
The minister said that while there is much to be proud of in Canada's health care system, “it is also under great strain.”
“These are times, particularly in the labor market, where we are facing a crisis and we must rise to the occasion,” he explained.
The minister outlined a five-part workforce plan, which includes the creation of a 'nurse retention toolkit' that will provide employers with guides to creating workplaces where nurses feel supported and wish to stay.
The plan aims to make it easier for doctors and nurses to work in different Canadian jurisdictions, Holland said, and to speed up the process of regulatory bodies certifying foreign-trained health professionals to achieve a service standard of 90 days. It also plans to study the number of health care workers trained in Canada to ensure there are enough to meet demand.
The strategy also includes strengthening and sharing standardized health data across the country to better plan for future health workforce needs.
“This is critically important to ensure that we are not just solving the problems of health workforce that we face today, but also to ensure that we know exactly who we will need in the future,” explained Minister Holland.
Improved integration and sharing of health data is a condition of the health accord that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau proposed to provincial and territorial premiers in February.
< h2 class="h2-intertitre">Without conditions, demands Quebec
Prime Minister Trudeau offered $196 billion to provinces and territories over the next 10 years to improve access to health care. This funding includes increases to the federal health transfer and individual agreements tailored to target the specific needs of different jurisdictions.
In exchange, premiers must promise to improve data sharing and measure their progress towards set goals and targets.
British Columbia was the first to sign the first bilateral funding agreement with Ottawa, and all other provinces accepted the health accord in principle, except Quebec, which was reluctant to report to Ottawa how the money is spent.
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé said Thursday that the issue was a sticking point for his province.
“The federal transfer had to be without conditions, it is not negotiable for us. We have said very clearly that health is a matter of provincial jurisdiction and we are committed to it,” said Mr. Dubé on Thursday.
A footnote in a federal press release on Thursday indicated that Quebec had not signed any agreement with the federal government and was not bound by the plan presented Thursday.
Dr. Kathleen Ross, president of the Canadian Medical Association, met with health ministers this week and said she was very pleased to see the plan's goals to improve the recruitment of health-care workers.
“There are so many great points made in these commitments, and the action plan that was developed today in P.E.I. is really relevant,” she said in a interview Thursday evening.
Before the plan was announced, members of the Canadian Health Coalition of PEI. USA, the Federation of Labor and the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions demonstrated Thursday morning in downtown Charlottetown, calling for universal pharmacare urgently and an end to privatization health services.
The federal government has promised to table a bill on pharmacare this fall.
When asked what was needed in legislation to make a federal pharmacare program work in P.E.I., provincial Health Minister Mark McLane said a one-size-fits-all model may not work and said that discussions were ongoing.