Much needed healthcare reform

New Brunswick will be receiving less money for health care for, at least, the immediate future.

The federal health accord expired on March 31 and will not be renewed. The government will still increase funding by six per cent to the provinces each year until 2017-18, but it will focus more on population.

“Transfers will now be on a per capita basis,” said St. Thomas political science professor Tom Bateman. “Which means a province whose population goes up will receive more money and a province whose population goes down will receive less.”

Bateman said this is bad news for New Brunswick because the population is going down, so the province will receive less money than previously.

Leader of the New Brunswick NDP Dominic Cardy said with this new system, provinces get bonuses based on their economic performance. He found this change strange because normally the provinces that are doing better economically are also the healthier provinces.

“That’s certainly going to hurt a province like New Brunswick,” said Cardy.

Bateman said health care costs are going up due to a rising population, which casts a stronger light on a long term funding problem for the province.

“All this does is sharpen the focus on a crisis we already have,” said Bateman.

Right now, 40 per cent of the money New Brunswick spends is from the federal government, and the province is still in need of borrowing money. Bateman said there is a mismatch of revenue and spending commitments in the province because of this.

“If we got more money from the feds to spend on health care, would it make a difference? Very likely not,” said Bateman.

“What this province has to do is radically reconfigure how it delivers health within the constraints it possesses. Simply giving us more money is not going to change the system in the way it needs to be changed.”

Bateman said New Brunswick is not as healthy as it should be based on its obesity, heart disease, smoking and other rates. Extra funding will not help this and Bateman said we need a more adult view on how we handle health care in this province.

“We need to re-examine how primary care is delivered in the province. We need to understand and alter the fact that most visits to the emergency room are not emergencies. We need to understand that way too high a number of beds in hospitals are for people who need to be in senior’s facilities, not in acute care facilities. I could go on.”

Cardy agrees that New Brunswick is a fairly unhealthy province which adds to the health care costs. He said it doesn’t matter the average age of the province, just how healthy it is in general.

“There’s this illusion that health care costs have a direct correlation with age,” said Cardy. “There’s a direct correlation with costs and end of life care. That doesn’t make a difference whether you’re someone who suffered from massive diabetic crisis when you’re 40 and end up in hospital and pass away at 42. Those two years are massively expensive.”

Cardy said we need to start educating citizens on how to be healthy earlier in life so it sticks with people long term.

Bateman thinks the only way the province will address the funding issues is if a crisis happens and we will be forced to figure out how to spend within New Brunswick’s means.

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