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Atlantic premiers want more money to look after aging populations

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Atlantic premiers have teamed up to call for a Health Accord that takes into account their aging populations — the oldest in the country.

The four premiers emerged from their annual meeting in Annapolis Royal, N.S., on May 15 to declare that the current Canada Health Transfer formula — calculated on a per capita basis — just doesn’t work for them.

“We need to take into account demographics and chronic disease management,” Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil is quoted as saying by The Canadian Press.

New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant said the federal government needs to understand that the Atlantic region has unique challenges in providing health care because of its aging populations, large rural areas and high rates of cancer.

That understanding could come in the form of “health transfers or some type of top-up program . . . that addresses seniors care and/or an aging population as a whole,” he said.

“We intend to work together as four premiers in four provinces to advocate for a more realistic funding arrangement,” said Prince Edward Island Premier Wade MacLauchlan.

Meanwhile, Dr. Chris Simpson, past president of the Canadian Medical Association, urged Atlantic Canada’s premiers on May 12 to push for a CMA-recommended demographic top-up to the Canada Health Transfer to support providing the right care for their aging populations.

In the case of Atlantic Canada, a demographic top-up would yield an additional $149.5 million in 2017-18 for the delivery of care, Dr. Simpson said in a speech to the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes in Fredericton.

As an equal per capita funding model, the Canada Health Transfer does not account for segments of the population with increased health care needs, such as seniors. Today, while seniors account for about one-sixth of the population, they consume almost half of provincial and territorial health budgets. This is exacerbated for jurisdictions with older populations; for Atlantic provinces, seniors represent 18.8 per cent of the population, well over the national average (16.1 per cent).

The CMA is not recommending that the government modify the current funding formula. Rather, the CMA recommends that Ottawa deliver additional funding on an annual basis beginning in 2017-18 by means of a demographic top-up to the Canada Health Transfer.

Under the CMA’s proposal, New Brunswick would gain $50.7 million; Nova Scotia, $58.6 million, while Newfoundland and Labrador would add $30.5 million and PEI, $9.7 million.

“Without a demographic top-up, provinces with older populations will be challenged to meet the increased need for health care. This is not fair,” Dr. Simpson said.