TORONTO (AP) — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that Canada’s health care system isn’t living up to its promise, and he plans to add billions more in funding.
Trudeau said wait times in emergency departments have become dangerously long, people are waiting too long for essential surgeries and millions of Canadians are without a family doctor.
“For generations, public health care has been a core part of what it means to be Canadian. It’s built on a promise that no matter where you live, or what you earn, you will always be able to get the medical care you need. But right now, our health care system isn’t living up to that promise,” Trudeau said.
“Canadians deserve better,” he said.
Trudeau’s Liberal Party government has presented a new health care funding offer that would see Ottawa shift $196 billion Canadian (US$146 billion) over the next 10 years to the provinces and territories, which oversee health care in the country.
The government has set conditions for the extra funding by asking for commitments to upgrade health data collection and digital medical records
The premiers have long been asking for more money and pressure increased as the health care system became further stressed from the pandemic. Burned out, understaffed health workforce and emergency rooms could not keep pace with demand.
About one-quarter of the offer, $46 billion Canadian (US$34 billion), is new money.
The premiers of Canada’s provinces say the offer will increase the federal share of health care costs to 24% next year, far short of the 35% the provinces and territories were demanding.
Still, most premiers appeared ready to accept the offer even as they promised the health care talks were not over.
Nelson Wiseman, a political science professor at the University of Toronto, expects public concern about health care to persist.
“Provincial governments attract most of the blame because they are responsible for delivering it, yet they do not have the fiscal resources of Ottawa,” Wiseman said.
“Canada’s health care system is plagued with problems, as is that of the U.S. But the problems are quite different in the two countries. There are health care system problems in virtually every country.”
Wiseman said health care is effectively rationed in Canada because of shortages of medical professionals.
“Nevertheless, critical cases get immediate and excellent attention and treatment,” he said. “In the U.S., the problem is not supply but demand and limitations on it. Some are too poor to get the care they need and many are squeezed by the insurance companies who try to minimize what they cover and for how much.”