Conference of Provincial-Territorial Ministers of Health

NEWS RELEASE – Improving health of Canadians the focus in wide-ranging health talks

VANCOUVER – In a wide-ranging set of discussions touching on many aspects  of Canadians' health and health care, provincial and territorial health  ministers committed to continued cooperation and collaboration across the  country during a meeting today in Vancouver.

"My colleagues and I looked at the challenges and opportunities  faced by provinces and territories in delivering health services across the  country. We know we need to work closely together as we continue to improve our  systems,” said B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake, who chaired the meeting. "We  look forward to our discussions with federal Health Minister Dr. Jane Philpott  tomorrow, as we build a new relationship between governments for the benefit of  the country's health care systems and Canadians.”

The provinces and territories discussed a new way forward on  health care in Canada. The ministers agree that Canadians expect their  governments to work together when it comes to health care, within their areas  of responsibility, and with flexibility to address the challenges unique to  each province and territory. This will be discussed during tomorrow's meeting,  including how a long-term federal funding agreement, of at least 25% of all  health care spending by provinces and territories, would help support investments  in innovation and transformation of health care systems, to improve outcomes  for patients.

Many of today's discussions furthered work which began out of the  previous meeting of provincial and territorial ministers of health and wellness  in September 2014.


 Expensive drugs for rare diseases, also known as orphan drugs, are  used to treat life-threatening, chronic and seriously debilitating rare  diseases. The cost of these medications continues to put significant pressure  on health spending. The ministers affirm that strong, long-term solutions are  needed to address the ongoing challenges.

A working group led by B.C., Alberta and Ontario studied the issue  of expensive drugs for rare diseases, looking at issues of access, evidence of effectiveness,  communication with doctors and patients, and pricing. Ministers have agreed to  work toward more consistent assessments of drugs and coverage decisions, and a  fair pricing strategy. They will discuss the issue of expensive drugs for rare  diseases again at the next health ministers meeting in the fall.

Québec is always committed to work with the provinces and  territories to address the challenges of the rising cost of medications, but  Quebec only participates in this initiative by sharing information and best  practices, since coverage decisions remain its sole responsibility.

Ministers also agreed to set up a working group to improve equitable  and appropriate access to pharmaceuticals based on evidence and will also be  inviting the federal government to participate.

Newborn screening

 The health ministers discussed the work of an intergovernmental  working group struck to improve newborn screening practices (blood tests done  shortly after birth) in Canada. Early detection can prevent serious health  problems and save lives.

The ministers also received a Canadian newborn screening list to provide  guidance for screening programs. Ministers directed staff to continue working  together to improve this type of screening, focusing on access, equity, and  sharing information.

Québec is not participating in this initiative and will review its  program by March 2016, with the goal of enhancement. Québec will then share  results of this review with the other provinces and territories.

Physician-Assisted Dying

 The provincial and territorial health ministers discussed the work  of the provincial/territorial expert advisory group on physician-assisted dying,  as well as Québec's law and approach regarding physician-assisted dying. The  ministers expressed their thanks to the members of the advisory group for their  timely and detailed advice, and acknowledged collaboration between the  provinces and territories, as well as the federal government, is fundamental in  approaching this issue.

Mental health and substance use

 The health ministers discussed the importance of improving care  for young people outgrowing child and youth mental health and substance use  services, as they move into the adult systems.

A working group, established at the 2014 ministers' meeting, developed  a compendium of best practices for improving service integration for youth and  young adults. It includes a review of published research and a scan of existing  provincial and territorial programs, to identify the most effective services  and approaches, particularly for rural and remote communities. At their next  meeting, ministers will take an in-depth look at successful projects throughout  the country, to consider as models for program improvements in their own  jurisdictions.

Access to primary health care

 Improving access to primary care in the community, from family  doctors, nurse practitioners and other health professionals, is a common  challenge faced by all provinces and territories.

Health ministers discussed this challenge and innovations being  developed in various provinces and territories. The ministers agree to share  information about successful innovation in this area, and to set up a working  group to collaborate where possible to support each other's efforts.

Indigenous health and wellness

 Ministers  recognize the challenges regarding the health status of Indigenous Canadians as  a significant issue across Canada. They discussed how to best work with  Indigenous people to address their health concerns, and the role of governments  to work together and with Indigenous partners.

Medicare in Canada: The Next 50  Years

 To commemorate 2016 as the 50th anniversary of the introduction of  the Medical Care Act, Ontario Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins has proposed to  host a symposium entitled Medicare in Canada: The Next 50 Years and has invited  other jurisdictions to participate, including the federal government .

Interprovincial Health Coverage

 The provinces and territories are committed to continuing to work  together to ensure Canadians have access to appropriate health services when  they travel within the country.

The ministers discussed the current approach to interprovincial  health care coverage and agreed to review the current coverage agreements.  

Ministers look forward to productive discussions with Dr. Philpott  tomorrow on areas such as physician-assisted dying, Indigenous health and  wellness, access and affordability of pharmaceuticals, and a new way forward  for health care, including the federal government's commitment to negotiate a  new Health Accord and a long-term agreement on funding.

Following the meeting Ontario will assume the role of chair of the  provincial and territorial health ministers and co-chair of the federal,  provincial and territorial health ministers.

Media contact:

B.C. Ministry    of Health Media Relations
250 952-1887    (media line)