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B.C., western premiers plead for federal help in health care crisis

July meeting in Victoria has to make progress, Horgan says
B.C. Premier John Horgan meets with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and federal officials in Vancouver for an announcement on hosting the 2025 Invictus Games, May 24, 2022. Horgan and other premiers have been calling for a larger federal share of health care funding. (B.C. government photo)

The next meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and all of Canada’s premiers is July 10-12 in Victoria, and there has to be progress made on increasing the federal share of health care costs, B.C. Premier John Horgan said Friday.

Horgan said Ottawa and the provinces worked successfully through the COVID-19 pandemic over the past two years, and the same urgency is needed now as wait lists for diagnosis and surgery remain high and shortages of doctors, nurses and other primary care professionals make the situation worse for people needing care.

“We have more 70-year-old doctors with panels of 80-year-old patients than anywhere else in the country,” Horgan said May 27 after a western premiers’ meeting in Regina. “We have had positive discussions about getting to a table, but we’re not at a table yet. We need to get on this as quickly as possible.”

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said the situation is similar across the country, and he admitted to being “frustrated, angered at times” that years have been spent just trying to get a meeting to discuss the premiers’ target. That target is raising the federal share of health care costs from 22 per cent to 35, to raise pay and add staff to an overworked system.

Horgan said when he joined the Council of the Federation five years ago, the aging population and health care shortages were already the top priority. He and Moe said the discussion about health transfers sounds like an “accounting exercise,” but big changes are needed now so provinces can deal with the immediate pressures and make progress on mental health and addiction treatment as well.

“I know the prime minister supports that principle, but we’re not talking about principles any more,” Horgan said.

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