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Duclos vows to ‘work flexibly’ in health negotiations with provinces

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos insists the federal government is going to “work flexibly” with the provinces on the terms of a possible health-care funding deal and avoid “micromanaging” how they deliver health care to Canadians.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has set the date for Feb. 7 for a long-awaited meeting between the federal government and the premiers to hash out a health care funding deal.

While Duclos said any new funding will be attached to accountability and metrics to achieve “better outcomes for patients and workers,” he also said there won’t be a one-size-fits-all approach for all the regions.

“We are also going to work flexibly with provinces and territories because they are not at the same place,” he told CTV’s Question Period host Vassy Kapelos in an interview airing Sunday. “There are some provinces in Canada, where access to a family health team is almost 90 per cent, other provinces is below 80 per cent, and that’s something we should recognize and should work with provinces and territories to address.”

The provinces have long been calling for the federal government to increase funds through the Canada Health Transfer from 22 per cent to 35 per cent of health-care costs, about an additional $28 billion a year.

Meanwhile the federal government has said it’s open to sending more money to the provinces, but with certain conditions and metrics to meet, including reducing backlogs in surgeries and diagnostics; retaining, recruiting, and recognizing the credentials of health-care workers; investing in mental health; and modernizing the system so medical records can be shared with various providers, electronically.

Duclos wouldn’t say whether any funding deals would come with set deadlines by which provinces would have to deliver results, but he did say ultimately getting care to Canadians is up to the provinces.

“First we have to respect the fact that it’s provinces and territories that are responsible for the actual delivery of health care to their citizens and that’s a difficult job,” he said. “So one responsibility of the federal government is to acknowledge that it’s their role, and their responsibility to do that and not to try to pretend that we should be micromanaging the health care systems across Canada.”

Duclos would not say whether the full $28 billion a year is on the table in negotiations with the provinces, but New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs told Kapelos earlier this month he doesn’t expect to receive the full ask.

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