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B.C. and Ottawa reach $27B health funding agreement

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The British Columbia government has agreed in principle to a $27.47-billion deal for health-care funding from the federal government.

The agreement is another step toward completing a $196-billion, 10-year health-care funding proposal that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made with Canada's premiers last month.

The money for B.C. includes an immediate $273 million to address urgent needs, especially in pediatric hospitals and emergency rooms and to address long wait times for surgeries.

The federal government says in a news release that B.C.'s priorities include access to high-quality health services when residents need them, especially in rural and remote areas, timely mental health and substance-use services and allowing residents access to their own electronic health information.

The funding includes a $3.32-billion bilateral agreement to help Canadians age in their homes, with access to home care or care in long-term care facilities.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said the agreement means the province will have access to even more life-saving services, closer to home.

“When people make the important decision to reach out for help, it's vital that services are available to meet them every step of their journey. That's why our government is continuing to make historic investments and add new supports to our mental health and substance-use system of care,” Dix said in the news release.

More than 11,000 people have died in B.C. from illicit drug overdoses since B.C. declared a public health emergency in 2016.

Federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the agreement with B.C. is an opportunity to improve the experience of health workers and those they care for.

“It will modernize our health-care system, improve access to family health services and mental health services, reduce surgical backlogs and support health workers. Better quality of care means helping British Columbia and Canadians live longer, healthier lives.”

Ottawa has said the provinces must come up with specific plans for how they would spend the money and prove that their health-care systems are getting better.

The offer made by Trudeau to Canada's premiers included health transfers of $2 billion right away and annual increases of five per cent over the next five years, but only if each province agreed to conditions, including upgrading health data collection.

The B.C. announcement on Wednesday leaves only Quebec and the territories to sign up in principle to the federal health-care funding agreement.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 1, 2023.

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