Working together to improve health care for Canadians
Hello everyone, it’s great to be here today at the University of Ottawa Medical School, speaking earlier with some future health professionals.
This afternoon, I worked with all 13 of Canada's premiers to tackle one of the most important issues facing Canadians, strengthening publicly funded universal healthcare across this country. For generations, public healthcare has been a core part of what it means to be Canadian. It's built on a promise that no matter where you live or what you earn, you will always be able to get the medical care you need. But right now, our healthcare system isn't living up to that promise.
Emergency room wait times have become dangerously long. Our hospitals and clinics are reducing their hours of operation because of the labour shortage. There are millions of Canadians without family doctors or nurse practitioners who are left to fend for themselves in the health care system.
People are waiting too long for essential surgeries, and we're seeing a growing need for mental healthcare, especially amongst young people. Canadians deserve better.
Our country is a world leader in health research. Canada is where open-heart surgery got its start, where insulin was developed and where discoveries are routinely made in the fight against cancer. Health care is world class, but we need a system that works well so that everyone has access to it.
The pandemic reminded each and every one of us just how important our health is. It also put enormous pressure on our healthcare systems and on our healthcare workers, and it made us take a hard look at the longstanding issues facing our healthcare.
As leaders, we've come together to deliver tangible actions and outcomes today while building a more modern system to ensure results for all Canadians, for the future. The provincial and territorial governments deliver healthcare with support from federal funding, which ensures that our collective commitment to the Canada Health Act is upheld. In fact, it's written right into the Canada Health Act that as governments, we need to protect, promote and restore the physical and mental wellbeing of residents of Canada and facilitate reasonable access to health services without financial or other barriers.
To help ensure that, we're announcing that the federal government will be providing $198 billion in additional federal health funding over the next decade. This includes planned increases to the Canada Health Transfer and new funding of $48 billion over the next ten years. Obviously, this is a major federal investment in healthcare, but we all know that money alone is not the answer.
Each province and territory is facing different challenges, that's why we're focused on negotiating 13 distinct bilateral agreements that will respond to various situations across the country. This will make sure that real improvements are made and accounted for, particularly in four priority areas: primary care, healthcare workers, mental health and health information and data.
First, primary care. Making sure Canadians have access to family doctors and nurse practitioners. It's about having someone you trust who knows you, your kids, your parents, your grandparents, and who will make sure that everyone gets the right care and finds the right specialist. A family health team is there to be your entry point into the healthcare system, so it doesn't have to be the emergency room.
The second priority is to help the people at the heart of our health care system, and to reduce waiting lists. Doctors, nurses, paramedics, patient care workers and all health care personnel have given their all for Canadians over these last few exhausting years. They were the heroes of the pandemic. And they’re still under a lot of pressure today.
When they don't have what they need to do their job, everyone suffers - including patients waiting for appointments or operations on ever-growing waiting lists. We need a robust, well-resourced public health system where the workload is sustainable. A system where workers have the support they need to stay on the job, without burning out. We have learned all too well that working conditions dictate the kind of care that Canadians receive.
Third, we need to make sure that Canadians can get the mental healthcare they need. One in three Canadians are struggling. The good news is that more and more people are bravely putting their hands up and asking for help, but we need a system that can respond and help people when and where they need it. And that includes helping those living with substance use and addictions challenges.
The fourth priority is information. It’s about building a 21st century health system that is connected and where we all have electronic access to our medical information. A system where that data can be communicated to our health care providers, whether it’s our pharmacist or our specialist, so that we can receive appropriate, quality care.
Each of the 13 bilateral agreements will be focused on delivering results for Canadians, to make sure that you're getting your hip replacement faster so you can have your quality of life back sooner.
To ensure that if you need to take your child to the emergency room, you will see someone quickly. To make sure that if an elderly loved one contracts a preventable and treatable disease, their family doctor will be able to see them before the condition becomes more serious.
Bilateral agreements will be tailored and flexible to the needs of each province and territory. But one thing will be consistent; each will need to provide transparent information so that your healthcare system is accountable, and you can be sure that real improvements are being made. What gets measured, gets done. No matter your income or where you live, you deserve access to the best possible care from coast to coast to coast, whether you live somewhere remote, rural or urban.
Indigenous peoples have their own unique health needs. They continue to face gaps in care at all levels, which are especially felt by those who require wraparound services. Every Indigenous person deserves equal quality and equal access to healthcare, free from racism and discrimination. So, as part of the bilateral agreements, we will work with Indigenous leadership to address these issues and make sure there are measurable results. And we are providing $2 billion over ten years to an Indigenous health equity fund to support First Nation, Inuit and Métis partners in closing healthcare gaps.
Healthcare has always been a priority for our government. Since 2015, we've made major historic investments to support Indigenous health. In 2017, we signed health accords with all provinces and territories to improve mental health and addictions care, as well as home and community care for all Canadians.
During the pandemic, we invested billions of dollars to ensure that our system would withstand this unprecedented public health crisis by providing, for example, free tests and vaccines. We all witnessed the tragedies in our long-term care facilities, and this government acted by providing significant funding, and pushing for national standards to protect our seniors.
Last year we launched the Canada Dental Benefit, which sends money directly to families in need, so that almost 200,000 children under the age of 12 - to date - can receive dental care. And we're moving forward to ensure that seniors, people under 18 and people with disabilities will have support for their dental care by the end of this year. Our government believes that caring for Canadians is a fundamental responsibility.
On that note, I would like to take a moment to thank our health care workers for their heroic dedication. Thank you. The last few years have not been easy, but you continue to be there, working overtime, taking good care of us and our loved ones. Our government wants to ease the pressures on staff in all provinces and territories by facilitating the mobility of workers across the country.
We’ll be asking provinces and territories to recognize credentials Canada-wide so that our well-trained healthcare professionals can work wherever there is need, and to improve how we recognize foreign credentials so that skilled people who come to Canada can more easily contribute and reduce pressure on overworked staff.
Personal support workers take close care of people and deserve to be fairly paid. That's why today we're investing $1.7 billion towards the goal of $25 an hour for their important work. But most importantly, in order to support Canadian healthcare workers, we're taking steps to keep our public system strong.
This is a big country, built on big progressive ideas, and few are more central to who we are as Canadians than the promise of universal, publicly funded healthcare. We all pay our fair share knowing that, unlike a lot of places, we don't have to make the choice between paying the mortgage or getting a much-needed surgery. And we like to know that our neighbour doesn't have to make that choice either, no matter their circumstances. So when it comes to healthcare, we need to make sure to look out for everyone and leave out no one.
We're taking action today so Canadians can continue to have trust in our public system. We know that cuts and austerity won't make us stronger and won’t help Canadians thrive. We're investing in the well-being of Canadians and in a strong social safety net, not only because it's the right thing to do; but because it's the smart thing to do.
Canadians deserve to know that every new dollar being announced today is exactly that, a new dollar that will go towards the improvements in healthcare that Canadians need. Because when people are healthy, when people don't have to go into unnecessary debt, when people can get timely access to healthcare before complications arise, all of it makes our economy stronger.
We've just been through some tough years. People are exhausted, they are worried, and they need to be able to count on the health care system that has made them so proud to be Canadian, and that is one of the reasons so many people have chosen to come to Canada.
Now is the time to step up, to meet this moment, to do what it takes to reinforce the defining Canadian institution that is universal public healthcare. I have high expectations, but also reasonable expectations, that in the coming weeks, not months, we will conclude bilateral agreements, begin flowing more money and Canadians will start seeing real results. Let's get this done, let's give Canadians the healthcare that they expect and that they deserve.