Alberta’s health minister says she doesn’t want to have a “big fight” with other provinces over who should get what piece of the federal health transfer pie.
Instead, Sarah Hoffman said next week’s meetings of provincial and territorial health ministers need to address the gap in indigenous health outcomes and share knowledge on how to fight the growing, deadly addiction to fentanyl that has hit Alberta hard.
“I think we have work to do co-operatively around a number of different matters including indigenous health and the health outcomes in Alberta,” Hoffman said. “The gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal Albertans is something that we all are ashamed of. I think that being born indigenous should not mean that you have a life expectancy 10 years shorter than any other person in Alberta.”
Right now, the federal government transfers health money to each province on a straight per-capita basis, a calculation that benefits Alberta, since it has a growing population. But B.C. would like age factored into that formula so that provinces with seniors get more money. Alberta has a younger population.
“I think that every province who would like to see a change has reasons for why they deserve or feel why their citizens need more money from the federal government to support health care,” Hoffman said.
Six per cent of Alberta’s population is aboriginal, for instance, and health outcomes are poorer among indigenous people than the general population. The province’s infant mortality rate, for instance, shows 4.6 babies out of every 1,000 births die in infancy in the general population, compared to 9.6 babies in the First Nations population.
Alberta has many multiple sclerosis cases, and a growing newcomer population adds many unique health needs. But Hoffman isn’t advocating for Alberta’s coffers to be built up to the detriment of others.
“Probably the best way to move forward on that is not to have a big fight.… I think it’s more important for us to work collaboratively,” she said.
Hoffman said the provinces could all likely agree that lobbying the federal government for an overall increased per-capita allocation might be necessary, but she doesn’t think the federal transfer issue will be high on the meeting agenda in Vancouver Jan. 19 and 20. Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott will take part in those meetings.
Instead, Hoffman wants Alberta to share its knowledge from a fentanyl crisis that killed 213 Albertans between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, 2015. Registered nurses are allowed to prescribe naxolone to temporarily reverse the affects of a fentanyl overdose. Paramedics and emergency technicians can administer and distribute naxolone. More take-home naxolone kits are also available on hard-hit Métis and First Nation communities.