INUVIK, July 8, 2004 – Western Premiers issued this communiqué at the end of the first session of their annual meeting, taking place this year in Inuvik, Northwest Territories.
Premiers discussed health care reforms and innovations they are implementing in their provinces and territories to improve access and quality and ensure sustainability. Across western Canada, action is underway to, for example, develop and expand telehealth, improve access, reduce waiting lists, train more doctors and nurses, and expand availability of diagnostic testing. Over the last three years in western Canada, 8,090 more nurses and 1,320 more doctors graduated. An additional 53 MRIs were purchased and put into operation.
Premier Campbell updated Premiers on the Forum of health and finance ministers that he co-chaired with Ontario’s Premier McGuinty in May, which fulfilled a commitment made by Premiers at their February 2004 meeting. Work is underway to prepare for the Council of the Federation Meeting at the end of July. This work includes a plan on health human resources, reducing waiting lists by improving access to acute care and diagnostics, pharmaceuticals, the delivery of health care to rural and remote communities, the application of new information technologies, and funding.
Premiers are pleased that the Prime Minister and leaders of all federal parties recognize the need to increase federal funding for health care. They are looking forward to meeting with the Prime Minister this summer. Premiers will recommend a long-term federal funding arrangement on health care. The finance ministers will have finished their analysis and recommendations by the time of the Council of the Federation meeting. Major new reforms will require additional funding through the Canada Health Transfer. Premiers reinforced their commitment to the Canada Health Act and the need for funding arrangements to be flexible, to allow provinces and territories to deliver health care that best meets the needs of their citizens.
To ensure the long-term nature of the agreement, an appropriate escalator must be applied to the federal funding levels. Such an arrangement would be consistent with the commitment by the Prime Minister during the recent federal election campaign.
The health of Canadians living in remote locations should be comparable to those living in more highly populated regions. Premiers are committed to fostering healthy and sustainable rural and remote communities. Addressing the challenges and special circumstances of rural and remote health care delivery must be part of any long-term health care agreement with the federal government.
Premiers fully support the development of a Northern Health Strategy for presentation at the Council of the Federation, including transportation and human resource needs.
Premiers acknowledged that the health status of Aboriginal peoples represents a significant challenge for all governments. They confirmed the need for the federal government to provide adequate funding and apply dedicated attention to addressing the unique health care challenges, including health determinants, facing Aboriginal peoples.