Health Ministers Statement – Vancouver Meeting January 20 & 21

January 24, 2016

Federal Minister of Health Jane Philpott and BC Minister of Health Terry Lake at Vancouver meeting.

On January 20 and 21, 2016, the Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers of Health met for the first time in eight years to discuss health issues important to all Canadians. At the conclusion of their meeting they issued the following statement:

Today, we agreed to move ahead on shared health priorities, working collaboratively while respecting our jurisdictional roles, and guided by the common vision of creating more adaptable, innovative and affordable health care systems for all Canadians. We discussed the pressing need to address gaps in health outcomes for Indigenous peoples.

Shared Health Priorities
We agreed that strong, universally accessible, publicly financed health care systems are an essential foundation for a strong and prosperous Canada. We affirmed our commitment to continue transforming and strengthening health care systems so that they can provide high quality, accessible and patient-centered health services in a sustainable way. To this end, we, as Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers, agreed to work individually and collectively on the following immediate priorities where efforts will yield the greatest impact:

  • Enhancing the affordability, accessibility, and appropriate use of prescription drugs;
  • Improving care in the community, home care and mental health, to better meet the needs of patients closer to home and outside of institutional settings; and
  • Fostering innovation in health care services to spread and scale proven and promising approaches that improve the quality of care and value-for-money.
    Funding commitment

While acknowledging that health care transformation will improve the responsiveness and patient focus of our health care systems, Ministers agreed that new resources are needed to stimulate and support needed changes in health care systems across the country. The federal Minister confirmed the federal government’s commitment to work collaboratively with provinces and territories toward a long term funding arrangement which would include bilateral agreements.

Going forward, in respect of jurisdictional areas of responsibility and precedent agreements, the bilateral agreements will take into account the different circumstances and starting points of jurisdictions.

To read details of the statement, click below:

Prescription Drugs

Ministers agree that improving the affordability and accessibility of prescription drugs is a shared priority. Provincial and Territorial Ministers welcome the Government of Canada’s decision to join, at the invitation of the provinces and territories, the pan-Canadian Pharmaceutical Alliance, which negotiates lower drug prices on behalf of public drug plans.

Our governments will also consider a range of other measures to reduce pharmaceutical prices and improve prescribing and appropriate use of drugs, while striving to improve health outcomes. We also agree to explore approaches to improving coverage and access to prescription drugs for Canadians. In this regard, Minister Philpott agreed, at the invitation of Ontario, to join a Federal, Provincial, Territorial working group.

Care in the Community

Recognizing our aging population, as well as growing rates of chronic disease, including mental illness, we must pursue a shift of health care systems from a predominant focus on institutions and specialized care toward a greater emphasis on providing care in the home and community. Building on the work of provinces and territories and the federal commitment to invest in home care, we will consider ways to better integrate and expand access to services at home, including palliative care at home; enhanced support for informal caregivers; and continue to work to improve access to mental health services.

Health Innovation

Service delivery innovation is a vital component of sustainable, quality health systems. Today, we agreed to support the adoption and spread of proven and promising innovations in the organization and delivery of health services. We will examine how the existing pan-Canadian health organizations and provincial counterpart organizations could support system transformation, and explore the role of critical enablers such as health information and data analytics, digital health, and technology management.

Next Steps

Given the importance of advancing work on our shared health priorities, we agreed to meet again in mid-2016 to take stock of progress and decide on next steps.

Indigenous Health
We, as Health Ministers, will work together and within our jurisdictions with Indigenous leaders to determine areas of shared priority, and to improve the coordination, continuity and appropriateness of health services for Indigenous peoples as part of a population health approach to improving Indigenous peoples’ health in Canada.

Physician Assisted Dying
As Health Ministers, we appreciate that physician assisted dying is a complex and important issue for Canadians. Mindful of the recent timeline set by the Supreme Court of Canada, we discussed the recent and ongoing federal and provincial/territorial work on physician assisted dying. We received updates on the recent reports of the Provincial-Territorial Expert Advisory Group and the federal Expert Panel, and the proposed work of the Special Joint Committee. We recognize that a response to the Carter decision will have significant implications across governments and for Canadians. Recognizing that Quebec has its own law, our governments will continue to work toward a consistent approach to physician assisted dying in Canada.

Prescription Drug Abuse
As Health Ministers, we are concerned with problematic prescription drug use and the burden it is having on Canadians and their families and communities. As part of our commitment to work on this important public health and safety issue, Ministers have agreed to continue to work with their respective regulatory authorities, professional colleges and medical schools to enlist their support in working with their jurisdictions to combat problematic prescription drug use, including improving awareness and education on appropriate prescribing practices.

Health Promotion and Prevention
Ministers of Health agreed that the continued transformation of health care systems is a critical element of improving health outcomes for Canadians, while recognizing that progress on the social determinants of health is equally important. In this context, Ministers received an update on the important issue of antimicrobial resistance, a report on Healthy Weights, and the Pan-Canadian Joint Consortium for School Health Annual Report (2015).

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