Government of Canada signs two bilateral agreements with the Northwest Territories to improve health care

Press Release

From: Health Canada

February 13, 2024

Canadians deserve a health care system that provides them with timely access to health services whenever and wherever they are needed, as well as the ability to age with dignity closer to home.

Today, the Honourable Mark Holland, Canada’s Minister of Health, the Honourable Ya’ara Saks, Canada’s Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health, and the Honourable Lesa Semmler, Minister of Health and Social Services of the Northwest Territories, announced two bilateral agreements to invest a total amount of more than $36 million to improve health care access and services in the Northwest Territories.

Through the Working Together Agreement, the Government of Canada will first provide more than $24 million to support the Northwest Territories’ three-year action plan to deliver improvements to its health care system. The plan will:

  • Increase coordination and access to primary care across the regions.
    • Establishment of a territorial public health unit to improve planning and support delivery of care.
  • Support recruitment, retention and training initiatives for health workers.
  • Expand the delivery of addiction services and specialized care.
    • Establishment of a Territorial Addictions Medicine Team to increase coordination of treatments, and to address higher hospitalization rates.
  • Enhance culturally appropriate mental wellness and suicide prevention programming, including crisis response.
    • Three dedicated positions will prioritize Indigenous communities and addressing the disproportionate impact of suicide within them.

As well, through the Aging with Dignity Agreement, the Government of Canada will provide more than $12 million to support the Northwest Territories’ five-year action plan to age with dignity close to home, with access to home care or care in a safe long-term care facility. This will:

  • Improve data-driven, personalized care for Continuing Care clients.
    • Implementing the interRAI assessment tool, which allows health care providers to complete effective client assessments to identify client care needs;
  • Build stronger infection prevention and control and cleanliness systems in Long-Term Care.
    • Support the hiring of an Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) Coordinator.
    • Enhanced training and practices for infection prevention are part of the overall continuing care system. This includes preventing the spread of diseases in both home and facility settings, reducing risks to staff safety, and improving service delivery and availability.
    • Annual visits and compliance audits of cleaning practices in the nine government funded LTC facilities throughout the Northwest Territories.
  • Enhance the quality and safety of care.
    • Establishment of a Territorial Housekeeping Specialist, to develop and implement best housekeeping policies and standardized training in long-term care facilities.
  • Increase the hours of direct care per long-term care resident.
    • Ensure more residents have access to 3.6 hours of direct care per day, and increase the nurse staffing ratio to respond to the growing complexity of LTC residents.

Progress on these initiatives and broader commitments will be measured against targets which the Northwest Territories will publicly report on annually.

Through these new agreements, the GNWT will work with the Government of Canada to improve how health information is collected, shared, used and reported to; 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 based on need, not the ability to pay.

Recognizing the significant disparities in Indigenous health outcomes, the Governments of Canada and the Northwest Territories also commit to meaningfully engaging and working together with Indigenous partners to support improved access to quality and culturally appropriate health care services. The Northwest Territories’ action plan is informed by continued engagement with its Indigenous partners and recent trilateral discussions involving the federal government. All levels of government will approach health decisions in their respective jurisdictions through a lens that promotes respect and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

The Northwest Territories and the federal government will continue working together to improve health services for all patients across the territory, including responding to the needs of Indigenous and other underserved and disadvantaged populations.

Quotes

Quotes

“These agreements with the Northwest Territories show that working together moves our health care system forward. Both these agreements mean better care for residents and a stronger health care system. The Northwest Territories has unique needs, and these deals are important to deliver better care for the residents of Northwest Territories at every stage of their lives.”

The Honourable Mark Holland
Minister of Health

“Through the Working Together bilateral agreement we will be working with the Northwest Territories to integrate mental health and substance use care as a full and equal part of our universal health care system. These agreements will, among other things, strengthen the capacity of family health providers and focus on culturally-informed care to improve access to quality and timely mental health and substance use supports, including for Indigenous Peoples. 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

“Seniors deserve to age with dignity and choice. So they can age on their terms. None of that is possible without a strong health care system. The investments we’re making in the Northwest Territories will make it even stronger.”

The Honourable Seamus O’Regan Jr.
Minister for Seniors

“Today’s announcement marks a significant investment in the health and well-being of NWT residents and communities. With the Work Together to Improve Health Care for Canadians and Aging with Dignity agreements, we are reinforcing our dedication to sustainable, culturally respectful, and impactful health initiatives. These agreements will enable us to build upon existing efforts and address critical health care needs across our territory, helping to ensure that every resident receives the care they need, when they need it.”

The Honourable Lesa Semmler
Northwest Territories Minister of Health and Social Services

Quick facts

  • The Working Together investment includes $25 billion for tailored bilateral agreements with provinces and territories, a guaranteed 5 per cent Canada Health Transfer (CHT) increase for the next five years — estimated to amount to $17.2 billion — and a one time CHT $2 billion top-up to address to 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.
  • As part of the Working Together 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. The Northwest Territories’ initial three-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 that 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 includes the remaining $2.4 billion ($600 million per year for fiscal years 2023-24 to 2026-27) over four years to improve access to home and community care from Budget 2017; and the $3 billion ($600 million per year for fiscal years 2023-24 to 2027-28) 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. The Northwest Territories’ five-year Action Plan can be found here.
  • The Northwest Territories will receive an additional $100 million to support the higher cost of delivering health care in the territories, including medical travel, from the renewed $350 million (over 10 years) Territorial Health Investment Fund (THIF) that was announced in Budget 2023. The THIF provides funding for health care delivery in the North, where each territory faces high costs to provide necessary care for their residents. Territories use funding delivered through the THIF to develop and implement key health care system improvement projects in areas such as collaborative care, primary care, and health workforce and capacity building.

Associated links

Contacts

Christopher Aoun
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Mark Holland
Minister of Health
613-291-4176

Alexander Fernandes
Press Secretary and Senior Communications Advisor
Office of the Honourable Ya’ara Saks
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health
613-290-0318

Media Relations
Health Canada
613-957-2983
media@hc-sc.gc.ca

Public Enquiries:
613-957-2991
1-866-225-0709

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