While provincial governments are clamoring for more funding to bolster their health systems in the wake of COVID-19, some are rejecting the promise of the liberal elections to offer specific funding for mental health.
Federal contributions to provincial health systems, including mental health services, are funded by Canada Health Transfer.
In the federal election campaign, the Liberals launched a transfer specifically targeting mental health care, starting with $ 4.5 million over five years.
The transfer would adhere to national standards to ensure a certain level of accessible care throughout the country.
Two provinces at opposite ends of the political spectrum agree that a dedicated transfer is the wrong approach.
“What they propose is inefficient and at the same time? an undermining of fundamentals while having a debate about, in some respects, credit. I don’t think that’s what we need, ”British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
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BC currently funds its mental health services using Canada Health Transfer, and Dix said the province will need to continue to do so even if a separate transfer is established.
That’s because it’s impossible to analyze mental health funding from the rest of the health system, he says.
“Mental health is linked to physical health, and the best way to address them is to address Health Transfer Canada,” he said.
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All provinces and territories have come together to demand that the federal government immediately increase its share of overall health care costs from 22 percent to 35 percent, an increase of about $ 28 billion more this year.
They have also called for minimum funding increases of five percent per year, arguing that the current plan for three percent increases in spending means that transfers are not keeping up with annual cost increases.
All provinces agree that increased funding should come without conditions set by the federal government, so that each jurisdiction can focus on its own unique needs.
“We have different challenges and solutions, and we believe the Canadian government will be more effective if it focuses on being a financial partner and promoting shared goals, rather than prescribing specific priorities or solutions with conditional funds or earmarked transfers,” said Alberta Health. Steve Buick, spokesman for Minister Jason Copping.
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While both Alberta and BC have designated ministerial positions to signal their focus on mental health, the provinces take very different approaches to addressing it, for example.
The new transfer is not about taking credit for mental health services, Federal Minister of Mental Health Carolyn Bennett said in an interview. Rather, he said it is about developing a national strategy for mental health and introducing the funds to achieve it.
“It’s not just about hospitals and doctors anymore, but knowing that we have to develop mental health human resources, we have to build the digital strategy we need to increase mental health literacy,” Bennett said.
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One of the benefits of the dedicated transfer will be that the federal government will be able to assess whether the funds are working, he said.
The idea already has the support of the NDP, as long as there are good standards to accompany the funds.
“I think having money transferred for mental health care, to spend on mental health care, is really important and ensuring that there is accountability for where that money is spent,” said Gord Johns, NDP mental health critic. .
“We are going to pressure the government to fund that transfer to the provinces that is aimed at mental health and ensure that there are standards established in the Canadian Health Act and that there is greater responsibility to ensure that the money is spent on mental health. . “
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With all the stress that health systems have endured under the pandemic, such as surgical delays, staff shortages and acute care capacity, mental health could fall on the priority list without dedicated federal funding, Michel Rodrigue said, President of the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
Canada already spends less on mental health as a share of total health spending compared to some other OECD countries, Rodrigue said.
While England spends 12 percent of its health budget on mental health, Canada spends only seven percent, he said.
“We see transfers as a powerful tool to fill that long-standing gap in the mosaic of mental health services in our country,” he said.
The federal and provincial governments have not started negotiations on the transfer of mental health care, but prime ministers have demanded a prime minister meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dedicated to health care financing.
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