Federal budget places patient safety at high risk for poorest communities among Canada's First Nations

    OTTAWA, March 20 /CNW Telbec/ - "Yesterday's Federal Budget perpetuates
discriminatory treatment of Canada's poorest communities in access to health
care," says Regional Chief Katherine Whitecloud, Chair of the Assembly of
First Nations' Chiefs Committee on Health, "The national budget for First
Nations health will be frozen at a rate 50% less than what other Canadians
will generally receive.
    "Why is this fiscal imbalance not a priority for this government when
First Nations communities are under direct federal responsibility?"
    As of April 1, 2007, core services such as nursing and medical
transportation for First Nations communities will be frozen at a 3% rate while
provinces and territories will receive $1.2 billion in new health care
funding. The shortfall is expected to reach close to $200 million for 2007-08
and totaling over $600 million over the next 3 years.
    "By investing in Canada Health Infoway and the Patient Wait Times
Investment Fund, the Conservative Government has recognized that incentives to
foster innovation are essential for mainstream Canada," noted Regional Chief
Whitecloud, "The AFN committed to a six-month plan with Federal Minister Tony
Clement to innovate the First Nations health system. But no resources are
provided in this Budget to undertake the work. "
    Instead, First Nations governments will be faced with one of the most
impoverished health budgets in the last 5 years. "This will result in real
impacts to patient safety, denials in medical transportation and significant
disparities in wages paid to nurses and other health practitioners. First
Nations are clearly being penalized despite their willingness to collaborate
with this government."
    "We can't innovate the system if First Nations are operating in a highly
constrained environment where they are coping with rising deficits and service
cuts. We also can't get provinces to the table to better coordinate their
services if they are convinced this is a federal off-loading of
responsibility," concluded Regional Chief Whitecloud.
    While Minister Clement announced the testing of national patient wait
times guarantees on prenatal and diabetes care in First Nations communities,
there is no real likelihood that guarantees can be met in this cost
containment mentality. Meeting better standards of care, when basic pressures
like inflation and population growth cannot be addressed, is a futile
    The Assembly of First Nations is the national organization representing
First Nations citizens in Canada.

For further information:

For further information: Contacts: Bryan Hendry, A/Director of
Communications, 613-241-6789 ext. 229 or cell 613-293-6106 or bhendry@afn.ca;
Nancy Pine, Communications Advisor - Office of the National Chief,
613-241-6789 ext 243 or 613-298-6382 or npine@afn.ca

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