On March 22nd the federal Liberal government released their first budget since last year’s election. While the budget included significant funding for areas such as infrastructure and Indigenous Peoples, which are positive developments, there were few large investments related to health or more specifically seniors care. In particular, there was no mention of funding to support palliative care or home care, in spite of an earlier federal Liberal election platform promise to invest $3 billion over the next four years to deliver more and better home care services for all Canadians.
As outlined in the budget some of the health related investments included expanding access to nutritious food in the North, enhancing food safety, providing funding for specific men’s and women’s health initiatives and improving vaccine uptake and coverage. Some of the other senior related announcements outlined in the budget included restoring Old Age Security (OAS) eligibility to 65 years from 67, improving incomes of lower-income seniors through the Guaranteed Income Supplement and additional funding for seniors housing. While these are all positive areas that can help seniors, more should also be done to address seniors care particularly dealing with the challenges of an ageing population.
The BC Care Providers Association (BCCPA), however, is encouraged by the commitment outlined in the budget to work in partnership with provinces and territories to negotiate a new multi-year Health Accord that will improve health care in Canada and boost health outcomes for all Canadians.
As also outlined in a Canadian Medical Association (CMA) news release, “we’re pleased to see the federal government commit to taking a leadership role in health,” says Dr. Chris Simpson, past-president of the CMA. “Going forward, we hope the new Health Accord reflects the need for more community-based services, ensuring we improve care for seniors and for all Canadians.”
As detailed in the following op-ed and media release, the BCCPA strongly endorses a new federal Health Accord to replace the one that expired in 2014, that focuses on improving seniors care and meeting the health needs of an ageing population. More specifically, some of the areas of focus for any new Health Accord should include:
- Reflection of the fact that provinces like British Columbia must care for an older population compared to other jurisdictions (i.e. age-adjusted Canada Health Transfer that reallocates funding to provinces such as BC with higher and growing portions of seniors);
- Criteria for new federal-provincial infrastructure investments to support upgrading and retrofitting of older residential care homes to allow for improved safety and health care delivery such as the installation of life-saving sprinkler systems, ceiling lifts and other safety-related/building infrastructure investments;
- Effective and outcomes-based National Dementia Strategy that can start being implemented in 2017;
- Investments in safety infrastructure and technology to allow seniors to live longer in private home care settings, if they so choose; and
- Meet the commitments outlined in federal Liberal platform including a long-term agreement on funding as well as invest $3 billion over the next four years to deliver more and better home care services for all Canadians and improve access to necessary prescription medications for seniors.
Over the coming months, the BCCPA will continue to advocate with its federal counterpart the Canadian Alliance for Long-term Care (CALTC) for the development of a new federal Health accord that addresses these as well as other issues to improve seniors care and strengthen the continuing care sector. The BCCPA is optimistic that, with the federal government collaborating jointly with provinces and territories, they can come up with solutions to meet the challenges Canada faces with a growing and ageing population.
Click here for a list of budget highlights related to health and seniors.