Newfoundland and Labrador has revealed the blueprint that will guide its Health Accord, a plan that calls for dramatically changing spending over the next 10 years to revamp how health care is delivered in the province.
The 262-page blueprint outlines 59 calls to action to improve the social determinants affecting health, provide more timely access to health care and create a more integrated, inclusive and sustainable health-care system.
The province's Health Accord committee, co-chaired by Sister Elizabeth Davis and Dr. Pat Parfrey, has been working on the plan since November 2020, with their final report was given to government in February.
It would cost the province more than $515 million over the next 10 years to implement recommendations in the Health Accord, according to the blueprint, not counting funds needed for new policies like a guaranteed basic income plan.
Recommendations include merging different ambulance bodies into one provincial ambulance system, a 24-hour provincewide air ambulance service and the implementation of a provincial virtual emergency service.
The provincial government has recently made a push for virtual care and collaborative health-care clinics in an effort to address a provincewide shortage of doctors and other health-care professionals needed for an aging and migrating population.
More than 125,000 people in Newfoundland and Labrador don't have a family doctor, according to the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association.
The Health Accord also calls on the provincial government to create ways to improve the social determinants of health in Newfoundland and Labrador.
According to the report, the province has the lowest life expectancy, the highest level of complex health needs in children and the highest rate of deaths from heart disease, cancer and stroke in the country, despite spending the most money per capita of any province. Newfoundland and Labrador's suicide rate has also tripled since the 1980s.
To improve health outcomes related to social determinants, the Health Accord says the province should implement several new policies, including a guaranteed basic income program, low-income support program and additional seniors' benefits, that would cost an additional $852 million per year.
The committee is also calling for a provincial strategic plan to make sure the programs can be funded, along with negotiations with the federal government for increased funding, and says Newfoundland and Labrador should support a national pharmacare program.
Climate change a key focus
The report also contains a section on how climate change is hurting health, especially in Labrador, negatively affecting access to clean air, water, nutritious food and shelter and health care. The committee also says the health-care system should become more "self-aware" in reducing its environmental footprint, adding it's no longer possible to ignore the health implications of climate change.
The provincial government says the blueprint will be reviewed in full in the coming weeks.