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Rapid Recap: B.C. Becomes the First Province to Sign Health Funding Agreement with the Federal Government

Tuesday, October 11, 2023- Today the Governments of British Columbia and Canada announced they signed a tailored funding agreement worth $1.2 billion over three years. This makes British Columbia the first province to sign an agreement with the federal government as part of the $196-billion health investment the prime minister offered provinces earlier this year. So far, all provinces and territories have agreed to the deal in principle, except Quebec.

The agreement sets out how B.C. is planning to use targeted federal funding to support improvements in priority areas. About three-quarters of the new funding will be allocated to addressing health workforce challenges and backlogs, with the remainder of the funding directed to mental health and substance use, and to modernization of the health system.

As part of the agreement, British Columbia also commits to:

  • Improve how health information is collected, shared, used, and reported to Canadians.
  • Streamline foreign credential recognition for internationally educated health professionals.
  • Facilitate the mobility of key health professionals within Canada.
  • Fulfill shared responsibilities to uphold the Canada Health Actto protect Canadians’ access to health care that is based on need, not the ability to pay.
  • Meaningfully engage and work together with Indigenous partners to support improved access to quality and culturally appropriate health care services. All levels of government will approach health decisions in their respective jurisdictions through a lens that promotes respect and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

The Three-Year Action Plan

As part of the agreement, British Columbia provided a Three-Year Action Plan outlining how it plans to use federal funding to deliver improvements to its health care system by 2026, including:

  • Developing an innovative model of care at 83 acute care sites throughout British Columbia so nurses can spend more time with patients. By introducing additional recruitment and retention initiatives, patients across the province will have improved access to team-based family health care — including family doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners — ultimately helping to reduce diagnostic and treatment backlogs.
  • Enhancing access to mental health and addictions services by building on existing efforts in areas of integrated youth services, treatment and recovery, and innovative approaches to respond to the ongoing overdose crisis. British Columbia also plans to expand the number of Foundry centersfrom 16 to 35 across the province, and reduce 30-day re-admissions for mental illness or substance use.
  • Supporting efforts led by the First Nations Health Authority to increase the number of individuals and communities with access to culturally safer, trauma-informed, and culturally appropriate healing and treatment services, and mental health and substance use care.
  • Improving outcomes by continuing to address backlogs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and expand initiatives like Hospital at Hometo help tackle wait times for inpatient services and decrease pressure on these services.
  • Increasing the percentage of people in the province who have access to their own electronic health information to 75% to help people take control of their health.
  • Increasing the percentage of family health service providers that can securely share patient health information to 50%.

Action plans are anticipated from other provinces as they sign bilateral agreements with the Government of Canada.

Key Takeaways

There are several key takeaways from today’s announcement:

  • The vast majority of what is being funded here are plans that pre-date this agreement and this funding. In today’s announcement, we clearly see a reiteration of B.C. announcements from the 2023 Budget and from strategies that are long standing.
  • This agreement includes a commitment to Canada Health Infoway’s Interoperability Roadmap, to the pan-Canadian Health Data Strategy’s draft Health Data Charter, and to advancing priority indicators in this space. These commitments speak to the priority of the federal government to have much more of an emphasis on digital health.
  • This is a step forward for those advocating for more provincial autonomy over health care decisions, with the federal government providing funding, but not determining how funding is allocated.
  • The health human resource (HHR) targets described in the agreement are concrete, significant and based on HHR growth trends from the past three years.

We can expect additional provinces to sign their own bilateral agreements with the Government of Canada in the coming weeks. This is a notable win and momentum for the federal government to have an agreement in place in advance of the health ministers meeting in P.E.I later this week. Based on previous experience with bilateral agreements, once one province separates from the pack and moves ahead – it’s not a matter of if other provinces will as well, just when. For comparison, it took almost a year for all provinces to sign onto the 2016-17 health accords.

What’s Next?

Join Santis Health’s team of government relations experts on Tuesday, October 17 as they offer an in-depth analysis into today’s B.C. announcement, this week’s gathering of Canada’s health ministers and the pan-Canadian political ecosystem. Register for our Cross-Country Check-Up webinar here.