Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston called Tuesday’s federal-provincial meeting on health care funding “productive.” 

Although many details remain to be discussed ⁠— and no final agreement has been signed between Ottawa and the provinces ⁠— Houston said proposed agreements will see $154 million in new money put into the Nova Scotia health care system this year, 2023-2024. 

“It’s new money, it’s significant money that is necessary for the funding of health care,” Houston said during a 15-minute call with reporters. “Our costs will go up faster than that and that money will be absorbed very quickly but I think it was a productive meeting.”

Houston indicated the province expects to receive an additional $102 million a year for the next few years through a new bilateral agreement between Nova Scotia and Ottawa that is separate from the core Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST) annual funding. 

That $52 million would flow to Nova Scotia as a one-time top up to the CHST for this year only. 

Some provinces at a disadvantage with CHST formula

On Tuesday, the federal government announced a 5% a year increase in that health transfer payment (CHST) to all the provinces during the next five years. This increase is part and parcel of a 10-year investment revealed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that will allocate $196 billion to health care over the next 10 years; $46 billion of that is new money. 

The CHST is based on per capita funding, which disadvantages provinces like Nova Scotia that have a larger percentage of elderly people who generally require more expensive medical care at the end of life.   

For years, Nova Scotia premiers have urged prime ministers to change the formula to take into account the “higher needs” of an aging population. 

Houston told reporters that while the needle hasn’t moved on the per capita formula used to calculate annual CHST payments, Ottawa has indicated a willingness to recognize demographics when it comes to negotiating separate agreements with each province — “bilateral” agreements apart from the CHST. 

“The bilateral calculation includes a fixed portion and a per capita ⁠— so there is still even per capita in this agreement,” Houston said. “But there is a fixed portion, which is a little sliver towards recognizing the funding can’t all be on per capita…so I’m pleased with that recognition in today’s proposal.”  

Conditions on where money can be spent

New bilateral agreements between each province and the federal government are likely to contain “strings attached” or conditions as to where the money can be spent. 

Published reports suggest Ottawa will insist provinces also carefully track the results or “health outcomes” associated with additional funding negotiated in these agreements. Improving access to primary care and reducing surgical backlogs are two areas of focus.  

The two-day meeting between the premiers, prime minister, and federal officials continues Wednesday.  

Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

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  1. Maybe it’s a combination of inadequate resources and mismanagement. For example we have significantly fewer doctors and hospital beds than many other first world countries. So maybe we need more money to get those numbers up, as well as to improve coverage of drugs, mental health and home care. We have more nurses than many first world countries but they are leaving the public system for better pay and working conditions as travel nurses. That looks like the result of mismanagement.

    1. Our hospitals seem designed to run at close to 100% capacity at the best of times. When something huge like the pandemic is added to the regular workload, there is no extra capacity in reserve. Heath care workers just get run into the ground. This may make for great accounting/management results most of the time, but it doesn’t seem to deliver good medicine.

      No wonder nurses leave to be paid twice their income as travel nurses.

      This is nothing new. Covid-19 just shone a harsh light on what was there for years.

  2. This will not help. Throwing more money at the system does nothing to address the real issue, which is mismanagment. There is more than enough money put in. They need to figure out how best to use it.

    The government (taxpayers) need to fund it, but governments should not be running the system.

  3. Rather than get all excited about the increased funding, money is not the issue; it is the people (bureaucracy) running the “system”, they take direction from the politicians, Lord help us please! It would be prudent to show where all the previous money was spent on “Health Care”, yes an accountability statement of what it was intended to be spent on and where it was actually spent. you know the plain “truth”, if there is such a thing with politicians ever! The best indication of future behavior is past behavior, so let’s us hope but I don’t think we will see much difference for a long, long time. This is an absolute shame for the health care professionals who treat patients and those who are sick, who deserve so much better from this Province for the numbers of years worked and taxes paid.
    So much could be accomplished by listening to those on the front lines but why would we do that, they want to fix the problems.
    Terry French

    1. Let the Auditor General inside the secretive health authorities to determine what kind of value for money we are getting, where resources are being wasted and (supported by health care experts with no political connections) propose ways to improve the situation – all made publicly available.

      How is it we spend so much more that some countries in the EU that get better results?

      I think I’ve reached the point where I don’t care whether heath services are provided by the private sector (like existing family medicine or drop-in clinics) or by government institutions as long as they are high standard, accessible in a timely manner, entirely paid for by our MSI cards and a new private sector isn’t allowed to loot the best talent from public heath care.

      We also need to look at how to fix contributing factors expensive hospital stays like unaffordable accommodation, good food being more costly than processed food, smoking, vaping, substance abuse, high alcohol consumption etc.

      We keep having these conversations but things just get worse. Frankly I think governments are simply scared of having to deal with this Byzantine mess.