* originally published in The Lance on July 24, 2019 *
Our aging population’s health care needs are changing the demands on our health care system. In addition, increasing rates of chronic disease heightens the need to adapt to deliver better care and better outcomes in an innovative, collaborative manner.
We need to strengthen Canada’s universal health care system. That is why, in March 2017, the federal government committed $11 billion over 10 years in new federal investments to improve access to mental health and addiction services, as well as to home and community care across Canada.
On April 16, 2019, the Government of Manitoba signed a bilateral agreement with the Government of Canada to receive these funds for home and community care and mental health and addiction services. The agreement provides Manitoba with approximately $182 million in targeted federal funding over five years to improve access to these services. In 2021-22, this agreement will be renewed for the remaining five years. The 10-year commitment provides Manitoba with a $400 million investment from the federal government to improve health care services in the province.
This federal funding is expected to help increase the number of hours of nursing home care and home care attendant services, and develop a community-based home care system that will help avoid hospitalizations and long-term care admissions.
Our health care system cannot function properly if Canadians can’t afford to buy the medications they need. That is why, in June 2018, we created an Advisory Council that has recently recommended options on a path forward on the Implementation of National Pharmacare. Prior to their report, our government announced the creation of a Canadian Drug Agency, a new national drug agency that will build on existing provincial and territorial successes and take a coordinated approach to assessing effectiveness and negotiating prescription drug prices on behalf of Canadians. This is a first step toward National Pharmacare and we are committed to making sure that Canadians don’t have to choose between paying for their medication or putting food on their table.
I know that there has been some concern in Saint-Boniface – Saint-Vital and across Winnipeg about the meth crisis our city is facing. Last December, the federal government provided nearly $4.2 million in emergency funding to the Province of Manitoba to help increase access to treatment for substance use disorder. Once the Province tenders the contract, the funding will increase the availability of long-term withdrawal treatment beds in Winnipeg and Brandon, for use for people who suffer from meth addiction.
We know that there are a number of factors that determine a person’s health; they include employment, income, education, housing and childhood experiences. I’m proud of the work our government has done to address these, including making post-secondary education more affordable, Canada’s first-ever National Housing Strategy and the Canada Child Benefit. There is more work to do, but I believe we are on the right track.