One of the challenging parts of serving as a federal representative in Nova Scotia is hearing the difficulty that so many constituents experience with our health care system, knowing that a separate level of government is responsible for the administration of health care under our Constitution. These stories become more frequent and more troubling when we hear of cases such as the closure of the Aberdeen walk-in clinic in Pictou County. Although the federal government has no ability or legal authority to open a specific clinic or provide a given service, we are making investments that are designed to better serve the public and will reduce strain on our provincial health care system.
Last year the federal government reached an agreement with the Province of Nova Scotia to provide $996 million as part of the Canada Health Transfer, which represents an increase of more than $30 million. This amount will continue to increase each year over the next ten years.
In addition to this increase, the federal government is targeting investments in health care in two key areas: Mental Health and In-Home Care.
The federal government is boosting funding for Nova Scotia’s mental health care system by more than $130 million and in-home care for seniors by over $157 million. These two areas are of critical importance because the cost of making these investments is dramatically smaller than the cost of ignoring care in these areas.
When a person living with mental illness goes without appropriate care, the social and economic consequences to both the individual and our communities are enormous. People that are managing mental illness more often require serious care in hospitals, and are at increased risk of running into problems with law enforcement, developing addictions as a coping mechanism, and becoming unemployed. Moreover, as I’ve heard through my role and through my office, the family members of those living with mental illness are often required to take time away from work and experience emotional trauma that can also require care.
Similarly, the cost of providing appropriate in-home care for our aging population is much lower than the cost of providing the same level of care in a hospital setting. Of course, there are times when each of us require the services and expertise that can only be delivered in our hospitals. However, in many instances, effective treatment can be provided in a person’s home at a small fraction of the cost of treating the same person in a hospital. We are fortunate to have so many talented health care professionals, such as Continuing Care Assistants, that have the ability to provide this care. Supporting the expansion of services they provide that are working already will help save money in a system that could certainly put additional resources to use.
I am proud that our government has taken the issue of properly funding mental health and in-home care seriously. It is obvious that there is no quick fix to solve the problems facing health care in Nova Scotia, but I look forward to seeing these services in our province improve over the next decade now that federal funding is locked in.