An agreement between Victoria and Ottawa funding home and community care, as well as services for mental health and addiction has been renewed for one year.
Minister of Health Adrian Dix joined federal counterpart Jean-Yves Duclos to announce the short-term renewal April 12 at a joint appearance in Vancouver.
The agreement will see British Columbia receive $164 million for 2022-23.
Both sides had first agreed to a deal in 2017. It called for B.C. to receive just under $368 million for home and community care and $249.3 million for mental health and addiction services from 2018 to 2022, all figures being estimates based on population and subject to change.
The agreement was first a part of a 10-year-long federal health care plan outlined in 2017 but discussions about its renewal unfolded against the backdrop of talk between Ottawa and provinces to increase the Canada Health Transfer and bilateral deals.
Dix said these broader discussions explain why the agreement lasts only one year and expressed hope to extend the agreement for another four years to complete the initial 10-year-framework, and hopefully beyond.
On the home and community care side, the agreement promises to increase support for in-home respite; community-based professional and caregiver support; and community-based palliative care. On the side of mental and health addiction services, the agreement promises to improve the ability of family health care to respond to mental health and addictions; expand access to integrated youth services using virtual care; and expand access to services for vulnerable populations among other measures.
Duclos said the agreement responds to two issues: Canada’s aging society with one in five British Columbians 65 years and older, and the growing need for what he called “timely and integrated substance and addiction services” especially among young people.
Dix said the additional funding respond to the growing desire of British Columbia to receive care when and where they need it.
“People want to live at home as long as possible,” Dix said.
Overall, B.C. will receive just under $28 billion in federal support over the next 10 years part of the broader health care agreement.
That is less than for what B.C. had asked and the agreement itself includes strict reporting requirements by the provinces to Ottawa. Duclos said data is key to ensure the effectiveness of health care spending.
Dix said B.C. easily meets the testing requirements.
“We have seen a significant increase for example in home support hours in B.C. since this agreement came into place,” he said. “We have seen a dramatic increase in community services.”
Ozempic abuse addressed
Both sides also stressed their efforts in helping to ensure adequate supplies of the diabetes drug Ozempic, which has been used as a weight-loss drug.
American residents have been buying the drug across the border, prompting B.C. to take action last month.
It raised the issue with federal authorities, as well as the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia. It subsequently suspended, albeit temporarily, a doctor licensed in that province but based in Texas for having issued 17,000 prescriptions in three months filled by two pharmacies based in Metro Vancouver.
“The level of abuse was outrageous,” Duclos said.
Assistant deputy health ministers from both the federal and provincial governments are also looking for a permanent solution to the problem, having already met, Dix said.
“I have been impressed by quickly we have worked together on this,” he said, adding that other diabetes drug used to lose weight could also be affected in the future.
Duclos said he would support provincial efforts.
While pharmacies are a provincial responsibility, the federal government also has a “responsibility” to ensure Canadians can access essential drugs wherever they live, Duclos said.
Duclos also raised the possibility of using the federal Food and Drugs Act to prevent the mass bulk export of essential drugs.