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Unifor statement on Canada Health Transfer agreements

March 16, 2017

On March 10, the provinces of Ontario, Quebec and Alberta signed agreements for health care transfers with the federal government, leaving Manitoba as the only province yet to sign.

“It is a positive sign that Ottawa has made mental health and home care priorities in its agreements with the provinces,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “But we want to ensure there are benchmarks for each province to deliver the kind of mental health and continuing care services that Canadians need.”

Given the length of time between the federal government’s initial proposal in December and when the provinces agreed to the deals, there is concern the funding is not enough to address the needs foreseen by the provinces and firsthand by health care workers, especially with regards to hospitals and long-term care.

“The public hasn’t been given all the details yet about how the new funding formula will work, but we do know that the base funding per year will not increase at the same pace it has over the previous decade,” said Andy Savela, Unifor Health Care Director. “Unifor members working in hospitals and long-term care facilities are witnessing a greater need for far more complex care than they’ve seen before, so any scaling back in funding is going to mean a decrease in service and added stress for health care workers.”

People of all ages struggling with mental health issues increasingly reside in long-term care facilities. Funding across the country has not kept pace to adequately address the needs that arise in caring for these residents who may have psychiatric disorders, as well as dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease in addition to other complex conditions.

“There is an urgent need to ensure that the targeted funding for mental health care includes long-term care homes,” said Katha Fortier, Assistant to the President. “We’ve already seen an increase in resident-to-resident and resident-worker violence. Health care workers and residents have the right to be safe from violence and adequate staffing levels and training are key elements in prevention.”

Unifor fully supports funding directed to mental health, but cautions that we don’t make the assumption that needs are being met adequately within the current tiers of care.

“Targeted mental health funding should follow the patient regardless of where they are receiving care and treatment,” added Fortier. “That could be in a hospital, in the community, or in a group facility or long-term care home.”