Canada signs more than $1 billion bilateral agreement with Alberta to improve health care over three years
This investment will increase access to a primary health provider, reduce wait times for mental health services, and provide greater access to health data.
December 21, 2023 | Calgary, Alberta | Health Canada
Canadians want and deserve a health care system that provides timely access to health services whenever and wherever they are needed. That is why the Government of Canada is investing over $200 billion over 10 years, which includes $25 billion for tailored bilateral agreements with provinces and territories, to support the Working Together to Improve Health Care for Canadians plan.
Today, the Honourable Mark Holland, Canada’s Minister of Health, and the Honourable Adriana LaGrange, Alberta Minister of Health, announced a bilateral agreement to invest $1.06 billion over the next three years, marking a crucial step in a 10-year plan for collaboration. This includes $285 million per year in new funding by the Government of Canada and continuing $70 million per year in previously-announced mental health and substance use funding, which will help accelerate efforts already underway in Alberta to improve health care access and services.
Through this federal funding, Alberta has a three year action plan to deliver improvements to its health care system by 2026, including:
- Increasing access to primary care providers for Albertans and reducing emergency department visits that could have been addressed by a family medicine office. This will be achieved by expanding team-based care and enhancing virtual care, and increasing the number of appointments available to patients.
- Funding community providers to increase diagnostic imaging capacity in the province, reducing wait times for CT scans and MRIs.
- Improving patient care by enhancing Albertans’ ability to access digital health services and their own health information by implementing e-referral services and accelerating the secure exchange of data across the health system.
- Expanding integrated services for youth mental health services in the province through school-based and community day programs, and offering more supports for youth with complex needs as they transition into adult services.
- Reducing median wait times for community mental health and substance use services by establishing new and improving existing treatment spaces, along with prioritizing culturally appropriate Indigenous community supports.
- Ensuring that First Nations and Métis people have access to high-quality, culturally safe care that meets their unique health needs. This will be achieved through dedicated funding for initiatives to enhance access to primary care in Indigenous communities, and funding for communities to develop health workforce capacity and infrastructure to improve the collection and use of health information and data.
- Improving access to health care for underserved Albertans, including through expanded community pilots that bring testing services to rural, remote and Indigenous communities, advancing French-language health services, and greater clinical care for women.
Progress on these initiatives and broader commitments will be measured against targets which Alberta will publicly report on annually.
Through this new agreement, Alberta will improve how health information is collected, shared, used and reported to Canadians; streamline foreign credential recognition for internationally educated health professionals; facilitate the mobility of key health professionals within Canada; and fulfill shared responsibilities to uphold the Canada Health Act to protect Canadians' access to health care that is based on need, not the ability to pay.
Recognizing the significant disparities in Indigenous health outcomes, the Government of Canada and the Government of Alberta also commit to meaningfully engage and work together with Indigenous partners to support improved access to quality and culturally appropriate health care services. Alberta’s action plan is informed by continued engagement with its Indigenous partners and recent discussions involving the federal government. All orders of government will approach health decisions in their respective jurisdictions through a lens that promotes respect and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.
Alberta and the federal government will continue working together to improve access to health services and deliver tangible results to all residents across the province, including responding to the needs of Indigenous and other underserved and disadvantaged populations.
"Our government is working together with provinces and territories to get Canadians the healthcare they need. This agreement is an important step in our collaboration with Alberta to take measurable actions to transform our health care system. The funding will help improve access to primary care and create better mental health services in Alberta. Together, we will continue working to achieve better health outcomes for all Canadians."
The Honourable Mark Holland
Minister of Health of Canada
“Mental health is health, and through this agreement, we will be working with Alberta to integrate mental health and substance use care as a full and equal part of our universal health care system. This agreement will strengthen the capacity of family health providers, reduce substance use harms, and expand virtual care for youth to improve access to quality and timely mental health care and substance use supports. Together, we must ensure that all Canadians have access to supports and services for their mental health and well-being – when they need them, wherever they need them.”
The Honourable Ya’ara Saks
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health of Canada
“Alberta’s government is taking a serious look at the way health care is being delivered in our province. This is why we are refocusing our health care system to ensure Albertans have access to timely care, when and where they need it. This initial funding from the federal government is a good start and will support our shared health priorities of expanding access to primary care across the province and especially in our Indigenous communities, supporting our health care workers, improving access to quality mental health, and modernizing our health systems.”
The Honourable Adriana LaGrange
Minister of Health of Alberta
“Alberta's government is supporting Albertans to improve their mental health and recover from the deadly disease of addiction as we build out the Alberta Recovery Model and refocus our provincial healthcare system. We are doing this by increasing access to CASA Mental Health Classrooms across the province, building more bed based mental health treatment capacity for youth, and improving access to mental health and addiction treatment services in communities. This initial funding from the federal government will offer some support to these made in Alberta initiatives as we build a better system of mental health and addiction care for Albertans.”
The Honourable Dan Williams
Minister of Mental Health and Addiction of Alberta
The Working Together investment includes $25 billion for tailored bilateral agreements with provinces and territories, a guaranteed 5% Canada Health Transfer (CHT) increase for the next five years—amounting to $17.5 billion—and a one time CHT $2 billion top-up to address urgent needs of emergency rooms and paediatric hospitals delivered in June 2023. Combined, these investments provide provinces and territories the flexibility to address the unique needs of their populations and geography, and accelerate health care system improvements.
Budget 2023 outlined the Government of Canada's plan to invest over $200 billion over 10 years, including $46.2 billion in new funding for provinces and territories, to improve health care for Canadians. Within this funding, $25 billion is allocated through tailored bilateral agreements to address the unique needs of their populations and geography in four shared health priorities:
- expanding access to family health services, including in rural and remote areas;
- supporting health workers and reducing backlogs;
- increasing mental health and substance use support; and
- modernizing health care systems with health data and digital tools.
All provinces and territories are already making considerable investments to advance progress in all four of these priority areas, and the new federal funding is complementing and expanding those efforts.
As part of these bilateral agreements, provinces and territories are developing action plans that outline how funds will be spent and how progress will be measured to demonstrate to Canadians that improvements are occurring in Canada’s health care system. Alberta’s initial 3-year Action Plan can be found here.
Budget 2017 committed $11 billion over 10 years in federal funding to provinces and territories to improve access to home and community care, and mental health and addictions services for Canadians. Bilateral agreements were signed with provinces and territories to access the first six years of funding. The final four years of funding for mental health and addictions are included in the new Working Together bilateral agreements.
The Government is also working with provinces and territories to implement a second bilateral agreement focused on helping Canadians age with dignity close to home, with access to home care or care in a safe long-term care facility. This agreement will include the remaining $2.4 billion over four years to improve access to home and community care from Budget 2017; and the $3 billion over five years for long-term care from Budget 2021 to apply standards of care in long-term care facilities and help support workforce stability.
Office of the Honourable Mark Holland
Minister of Health
Press Secretary and Senior Communications Advisor
Office of the Honourable Ya'ara Saks
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health
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