The federal government’s Budget 2007 hits the mark when in comes to reducing medical wait times and developing an electronic health record, but falls short in dealing with the shortage of healthcare human resources in Canada, said the president of the Canadian Medical Association (CMA).

The budget, which proposes to increase funding for Canada Health Infoway and the Canadian Institute for Health Information, create a Patient Wait Times Guarantee Trust and a national mental health strategy, and help the provinces and territories fight cervical cancer, does not address the need for more doctors and nurses in Canada.

“The slight shortfall we are concerned about, is there doesn’t appear to be any major dedication of funds to health human resources,” said Dr. Colin McMillan, president, CMA. “And you can’t deliver healthcare without doctors and nurses.”

But the CMA’s overall reaction is positive. Dr. McMillan says the CMA is pleased with the federal government’s “dedication to the information highway and electronic medical records—[though] it’s not as much as we’d hoped for and we are a little concerned that the money may not go to doctors’ offices and medical records and may just go to institutions.” McMillan also says the CMA is encouraged by the movement on wait time guarantees for patients, and the money allocated to private projects.

The 2007 Budget reveals that Canada Health Transfer will provide $21.3 billion in 2007–2008 to support provincial and territorial healthcare delivery, an amount that will continue to grow by 6% annually to reach $30.3 billion in 2013–2014.

In addition to these transfers, the Budget proposes to:

•inject Canada Health Infoway with an additional $400 million to help it continue to fund eHealth projects across Canada;
•increase funding for the Canadian Institute for Health Information by $22 million per year to help it continue to provide timely, accurate and comparable health information to improve health delivery in Canada;
•allow any province or territory that reduces its wait times in at least one of five priority areas—cancer care, cardiac care, joint replacement, cataract surgery and diagnostic imaging—to draw from a one-time pot of $612 million to support its efforts;
•give the provinces and territories another $30 million over three years to help them implement wait times guarantee pilot projects;
•help the provinces and territories launch a national human papillomavirus vaccine program with $300 million in per-capita funding to fight cervical cancer;
•commit $10 million over the next two years, and $15 million per year thereafter, to establish a Canadian Mental Health Commission; and
•provide $2 million in one-time funding to the Canadian MedicAlert Foundation to support its goal of implementing a No Child Without program in all elementary schools in Canada.

Benefits Canada has a page with additional reaction and commentary to the budget. To read Budget 2007: Special Report, click here.

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