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January 06, 2006
Supporting Canadian Families: New Support for Families, Caregivers, Canadians with Disabilities and Seniors

Supporting Canadian Families: Prime Minister Paul Martin Announces Canada Health Guarantee


Victoria – Prime Minister Paul Martin today set out the next steps in the Liberal government’s plan to support Canadian families with a bold new health platform that features: a Canada Health Care Guarantee; 1,000 new family doctors; a new National Cancer Strategy; and a Canadian Mental Health Commission.

“Canadian families have a right to a health care system that puts their needs first. They have a right to quality care in a timely manner by ensuring that critical wait times are reduced. They have a right to a health care system that is accountable to them. Above all, they have a right to care based on need not ability to pay,” Prime Minister Martin said.

Building on our strong record of getting results for Canadian families through collaboration with the provinces and territories, a Liberal government will take bold new steps to ensure Canadian families have access to the quality health care they need when they need it. These steps include:

The Canada Health Care Guarantee

Working with patients, health care providers and governments, a new Liberal government will ensure that Canadians get the care they need within medically-accepted timeframes. The Liberal government, building on the issues raised by the Supreme Court’s Chaouilli decision which underlined the urgent need for our system to provide timely care, will act to make this Guarantee work for Canadians. To help ensure Canadians get the care they need where they live, we are investing:

  • an additional $300 million to further increase capacity in Canadian teaching hospitals to reduce wait times. This funding will reinforce the support for regional centres of specialized care and centres of excellence provided in the $5.5-billion Wait Times Reduction Fund in the 10-Year Plan, by specifically supporting additional “surge” capacity at those centres to deal with wait list backlogs. We will ensure that these investments are made in such a way as to accommodate the needs of Quebeckers, because accessing treatment in the official language of their choice is critically important, by working with the provincial government to ensure that the capacity to reduce wait times can be built up within the province.

  • $50 million for Canada Health Infoway to accelerate the development of wait list management technology such as registries, booking systems and electronic health records.

  • $10 million through the Canadian Institutes for Health Research to develop a national research agenda for the development of future wait-times benchmarks and for research on the management of wait times and better patient access. This will build on the first set of evidence-based benchmarks announced on December 12, 2005, by the provinces and territories.

  • $10 million to foster patient-management training programs for health professionals and clinical leaders aimed at wait list management and helping patients navigate the health system. A key element will be the engagement of health care providers, particularly physicians, in assuming increased responsibility for the timely access of their patients by co-ordinating their individual wait lists.

  • Consistent with the Supreme Court’s Chaouilli decision, we will work with the provinces and territories to ensure that the criterion of “Accessibility” in the Canada Health Act includes the provision of “timely access” to health care services.

To further ensure that Canadians can get the care they need within medically-acceptable time-frames, we will invest an additional $75 million to create a Health Care Guarantee Fund to assist patients and a family member with travel and accommodation costs to receive treatment in a public facility in another province in order for them to obtain timely care.

1,000 New Family Doctors

Despite investments that governments are making to increase medical school enrolment, it is clear that too many Canadians cannot find a family physician. To help ensure Canadian families the care they need, a new Liberal Government will invest $100 million over the next 5 years to bring on stream 1,000 new family doctors by:

  • Building on the $75 million invested in Budget 2005 to integrate a further 2,300 internationally-trained health professionals, we will work to accelerate the integration of up to a further 1,000 internationally-trained doctors. This new investment will focus on family medicine. This funding will directly help to assess, train and place international medical graduates who wish to work in Canada.

  • We will bolster the federal contribution to pan-Canadian health human resource planning with provinces and territories. This new investment will increase the number of residency places in family medicine and public health – with special attention to Aboriginal students and those pursuing remote and rural practice.

  • We will also provide further support for current federally-funded family medicine initiatives, such as the Family Medicine Interest Group, as well as curriculum development for inter-disciplinary collaboration, cross-professional learning and training. This approach has been identified as holding particular promise in the area of family medicine.

A National Cancer Strategy

A new Liberal government will invest $300 million over five years to help reduce cancer care wait times, improve care and search for better treatments and a cure. Our bold, new National Cancer Strategy will marshal new investments and cutting-edge research partners. It will build on current federal, provincial and territorial cancer initiatives. New investments in the Strategy will include the following:

  • $125 million to support the creation of the new Terry Fox Research Institute in Vancouver – a new centre of excellence in cancer research for Canada. This investment will help bolster the B.C. Cancer Foundation’s translational cancer research efforts.

  • $100 million in additional support for the Canadian Strategy for Cancer Control (CSCC) to further assist national information and knowledge transfer coordination efforts – and to ensure the sharing of best practices and leading edge techniques in the treatment of Canadians suffering from cancer.

  • $50 million for discovery-based and translational cancer research by leading-edge Canadian organizations, to help more quickly convert research knowledge into clinical practice. This investment would build on path breaking research being done by other organizations, including the Canadian Institutes for Health Research which in 2004-05 invested more than $100 million in cancer research.

  • $25 million to establish Terry Fox Cancer Research Chairs at Canadian universities to ensure that Canada continues to attract and retain leading cancer researchers, who can tap into leading-edge advances from around the world to enhance our understanding of cancer – its origins, diagnosis, treatment and, ideally, a cure. The Chairs will be linked to the new Terry Fox Research Institute.

In October 2005, the Liberal government announced $59.5 million over five years for the Canadian Strategy on Cancer Control as part of a $300-million, five-year Integrated Strategy on Healthy Living and Chronic Disease. This funding will be maintained.

A Canadian Mental Health Commission

A new Liberal government will establish a Canadian Mental Health Commission, in consultation with the provinces and territories, Aboriginal leaders and stakeholders.

The Commission will enable greater collaboration among governments and stakeholders in order to better address mental health and mental illness in Canada. Once established the Commission will:

  • provide leadership to make mental health a long-term high priority for governments;

  • facilitate the exchange of research findings and best practices between governments and stakeholders;

  • work to reduce the fragmentation of mental health and mental illness policies and programs in Canada; and

  • develop strategies to help increase Canadians’ understanding of mental health and mental illness and reduce stigma.

The Commission will be a focal point for collaboration on mental health and mental illness to help inform development of sound mental health policies.

Taken together, all these measures build on the Liberal government’s achievements in protecting Canada’s publicly-funded health care system and reducing wait times for important diagnostics and treatments.

In September, 2004, Prime Minister Martin and all First Ministers agreed to the $41.3 billion 10-Year Plan to Strengthen Health Care. A key component of that plan was a pledge by the provinces and territories to establish a set of common wait-times benchmarks so Canadians will know, for the first time, the maximum amount of time they should have to wait for care in five priority areas: cancer, cardiac, sight restoration, joint replacements and diagnostic imaging. On December 12, 2005 the provinces and territories delivered on this commitment to Canadians.

In November, 2005, the Liberal government announced the Public Health Care Protection Initiative to strengthen the ability of the publicly funded health care system to meet Canadians’ needs and expectations.

The initiative outlines the terms and conditions to ensure that any new federal dedicated health investments will be used within the public health care system. It also addresses a significant issue threatening the integrity of Medicare – the potential conflict of interest created by physicians working in both the medicare and non-medicare systems. And it will enable the Government to determine what additional safeguards and measures should be put in place to protect the integrity of the single-payer health care system.

All the initiatives announced today are consistent with the Public Health Care Protection Initiative.

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Supporting Canadian Families: The Canada Health Guarantee