June 21st, 2024

Nunavut awaiting updated offer before signing onto federal health-care deal

By Emily Blake, The Canadian Press on February 27, 2023.

The Qikiqtani General Hospital is shown in Iqaluit on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dustin Patar

YELLOWKNIFE – As provinces begin signing health-care funding agreements with the federal government, territories say further negotiations are needed to address challenges in the North.

The federal government announced Feb. 7 that it would spend $198.6 billion over 10 years, including $46.2 billion in new funding, to improve health-care services across Canada. That includes an immediate $2-billion top-up to the Canada Health Transfer, the largest major federal transfer to the provinces and territories.

All of Canada’s premiers have since agreed to the proposal and begun bilateral negotiations. So far, Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba and the four Atlantic provinces have signed onto the deal with agreements in principle.

Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok said in a statement that while the Canada Health Transfer represents about 10.5 per cent of the territory’s health spending, Nunavut relies on the Territorial Health Investment Fund to offset costs it doesn’t account for. He said an agreement for that fund expires on March 31.

“Ottawa’s proposal for the Territorial Health Investment Fund did not provide equitable support to Nunavut based on established needs,” he wrote.

“Nunavut is awaiting an updated offer from the federal government that reflects the needs of our territory.”

The federal government has proposed $175 million over five years for the Territorial Health Investment Fund “in recognition of medical travel and the cost of delivering health care in the territories.”

Akeeagok said all three territorial premiers have written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, calling on the federal government to reconsider a proposal for that fund they presented in November. That would set the fund at $75 million per year with 50 per cent of funds going to Nunavut, 26 per cent to the Northwest Territories and 24 per cent to Yukon.

Akeeagok noted Nunavut’s allocation of the fund has long been 50 per cent and it currently receives $13.5 million annually.

The premier said one area where Nunavut needs funding support is medical travel. He said in 2021-22, there were almost 17,000 medical trips and the territory’s medical travel costs are projected to be more than $100 million this fiscal year.

“Our government looks forward to working with the federal government to increase access to reliable health care for Nunavummiut,” he said, adding he felt encouraged after a meeting with federal ministers earlier this month.

The Northwest Territories cabinet said in a statement that further negotiations are also needed to address health-care needs in the territory.

“The (Government of the Northwest Territories) looks forward to coming to an agreement on health-care funding for the territory that will enable us to address some of the challenges faced by our system and to improve service delivery for residents,” a spokesperson wrote.

A report published by the Canadian Institute for Health Information in November projected national health spending would reach $331 billion in 2022, with the largest per-capita costs in the territories.

Per-capita spending was projected to be $21,978 in Nunavut, $21,946 in Northwest Territories, and $15,884 in Yukon, compared to $8,563 nationally.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 27, 2023.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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