P.E.I. signs on to health accord with federal government

P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan, right, has joined his Atlantic counterparts in agreeing to sign on to the federal government's health accord to receive additional money for home care and mental health services.

Prince Edward Island has signed on to Ottawa’s health-care deal, allowing the province to access federal dollars for home care and mental health.

The deal was confirmed in news releases from the federal and provincial governments Tuesday.

It will provide $24.6 million for home care and $20.5 for mental health initiatives over 10 years.

Prince Edward Island joins four other provinces and three territories in agreeing to accept the federal government’s offer of the additional money on top of the annual health transfer.

The agreement with P.E.I. now leaves five provinces offside with the Trudeau government, though they represent most of the country’s population. Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia are still holding out in hopes of receiving a better deal on the level of annual health funding from the federal government.

The annual increase to that transfer falls this year to three per cent from six per cent, or the rate of annual GDP growth, whichever is highest.

Because the money for home care and mental health comes in separate funding “envelopes,” rather than as part of the general health transfer, it can be tracked by both levels of government to measure outcomes.

The additional funds will be part of this spring’s federal budget and one province at least is hoping the money will flow as early as April 1.

“We’ve actually gotten to the stage of agreeing on the principal of the goals. What those specific goals will be are up for discussion at the moment. And (federal Health Minister Jane) Philpott and I have yet to sit down face to face and do that,” Newfoundland and Labrador Health Minister John Haggie told CBC News last week.

“It will be measured against those goals. So it’s not just going to disappear into some vast pot of money that you can’t account for,” Haggie said.

Philpott was asked Tuesday how residents of the five provinces that have not signed the deal will see benefits in the areas of mental health and home care if there’s no agreement with Ottawa.

“It remains to be seen how exactly we’re going to go about making sure that money gets to people in those provinces,” she said, adding: “We’re determined. We’re continuing conversations. We hope to have good news very soon.”

The Trudeau government had hoped to reach a health-care accord with all provinces in December, but talks bogged down over the cut to the annual health funding increase. The provinces that have not signed the accord are still calling for a meeting with the prime minister to settle the dispute.