Canadian Healthcare Association offers mixed reaction to Budget 2007

    OTTAWA, March 19 /CNW Telbec/ - The Canadian Healthcare Association today
reacted favourably to several initiatives contained in Budget 2007, while
expressing disappointment at the missed opportunity to move forward on key
elements of health system renewal.
    "Budget 2007 contains funding for a number of important initiatives, but
it falls short of delivering real support for crucial components of health
system renewal," said Sharon Sholzberg-Gray, CHA President and CEO. "A
comprehensive electronic health record, a national strategy for
pharmaceuticals, meaningful funding for health research and an expanded home
and continuing care program are still urgently required."
    By establishing the Canadian Mental Health Commission as recommended by
the Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, the
government is taking an important step forward in addressing mental health
issues. CHA applauds this commitment.
    Enriching the Canada Social Transfer (CST) through an enhanced base and
an escalator clause is a similarly positive development. CHA has
long-advocated for this approach, including an equal-per-capita cash transfer.
A strengthened CST will provide additional funds for post-secondary education
and social programs, including support for children.
    "These investments in the determinants of health will improve the health
status of Canadians," said Garnet Burns, CHA Board Chair.
    CHA notes with interest the creation of a Patient Wait Times Guarantee
Trust. As CHA highlighted in its reaction to Budget 2006, any wait-times
guarantee will have to be carefully defined so that it serves as a safety
valve when timely access has not been obtained rather than an invitation to
legal suits. Further, CHA continues to advocate for a comprehensive approach
to wait times, noting not only the importance of quantity of services
provided, but also their quality and appropriateness. CHA looks forward to
learning more about the principles that will operationalize the Trust. For
example, will the Trust provide travel funds for a patient and his or her
family, for how long, in country or out-of-country? Will benchmarks be
calculated using integrated or individual provider lists? The devil will be in
the details.
    A pan-Canadian, comprehensive, inter-operable electronic health record
(EHR) is essential to addressing wait times, ensuring high quality health
services and managing health system costs. CHA had recommended that
$6.2 billion be invested over the next five years to implement an EHR and the
Association is disappointed that the $400 million provided in Budget 2007 will
do little to move forward on the EHR.
    While Budget 2007 provided additional research funding through various
granting agencies and programs, the support for the Canadian Institutes of
Health Research is insufficient to carry out its various research objectives.
The amount allocated to CIHR in this budget could cause it to lose momentum
and contribute to a reversal of the recent 'brain-gain.'
    CHA also expresses concern over several areas of unfinished business:
creating a pharmacare program; addressing health human resource shortages; and
establishing an expanded home and community care program that includes
continuing/chronic care services.

    CHA's positions can be found in the Association's pre-budget brief, found

    Founded in 1931, the Canadian Healthcare Association is the federation of
provincial and territorial hospital and health organizations across Canada.
Through our members, CHA represents a broad continuum of services provided
through regional health authorities, hospitals, facilities and agencies that
are governed by trustees who act in the public interest.
    CHA is a leader in developing, and advocating for, health policy
solutions that meet the needs of Canadians and is committed to a publicly
funded health system that provides access to a continuum of comparable health
services throughout Canada.

For further information:

For further information: or to schedule an interview, contact: Graeme 
Wilkes, Communications Advisor, Canadian Healthcare Association, (613)
241-8005, x 205, Cell: (613) 282-6003

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