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More work needs to be done on new federal health care funding arrangement: Caroline Cochrane

Premier Caroline Cochrane and two of her cabinet colleagues got the chance to sit down with two federal cabinet ministers to see how big a piece of pie will be coming to the NWT courtesy of federal health care funding.
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Premier Caroline Cochrane said more needs to be done when it comes to the new federal health care funding arrangement agreed to by the country’s premiers on Monday. NNSL file photo

Premier Caroline Cochrane and two of her cabinet colleagues got the chance to sit down with two federal cabinet ministers to see how big a piece of pie will be coming to the NWT courtesy of federal health care funding.

They weren’t terribly impressed with the result.

Cochrane, along with Finance Minister Caroline Wawzonek and Health and Social Services Minister Julie Green, met with federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos and federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic Leblanc on Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss the new package of funding coming from Ottawa.

Cochrane and her provincial/territorial colleagues accepted a deal on Feb. 13 that will see $46.2 billion in new money added to a 10-year, $196 billion commitment from the federal government.

What does it mean for the NWT? According to the GNWT, it’s an immediate top-up of $2 million in the Canada Health Transfer (CHT) for the 2023-24 fiscal year, along with a five per cent escalator (increase) per year for the next five years.

In the legislative assembly on Wednesday, Feb. 15, Green said the immediate CHT top-up will go toward hospital services, while the escalator will be tied to inflation with no firm figure on how much will be received per year.

There will also be $7 million in tailored bilateral agreements for the NWT over 10 years and all three territories get $10 million through the Territorial Health Innovation Fund (THIT).

Green said the THIT funding is up $2.9 million and will go toward items such as medical travel and health sustainability.

Some of the other funding includes $2 billion over 10 years to establish a national Indigenous Health Equity Fund to be distributed on a distinctions basis with First Nations, Métis and Inuit, $500 million over five years to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), Canada Health Infoway and federal data partners to work with provinces and territories on developing new health data indicators and $1.7 billion over five years to support wage increases for personal support workers and related professions.

Green said there was no information about either the equity fund or the CIHI funding, along with no specific allocation for the NWT when it comes to the wage increase deal — considerable loose ends, as Green described it.

Cochrane said the meeting was a good first step, but more work needs to be done to come to an offer both parties can agree upon.