Fall bud­get prom­ises greater sup­ports for can­cer pa­tients

The Amherst News - - NOVA SCOTIA BUDGET - By Fram Din­shaw SaltWire Net­work

HAL­I­FAX – The prov­ince is bring­ing much-needed re­lief for can­cer pa­tients strug­gling to pay for take-home med­i­ca­tions in its fall bud­get tabled be­fore leg­is­la­ture Tues­day, its first since win­ning re-elec­tion.

Min­is­ter of Fi­nance Karen Casey said that an ex­tra $846,000 will be in­vested in a new take­home ther­apy pro­gram to help pay for high in­sur­ance de­ductibles and co-pay­ments that can cost can­cer pa­tients thou­sands of dol­lars per year.

The $846,000 in­vest­ment will raise the gov­ern­ment’s in­vest­ment in can­cer care to $2 mil­lion per year over the next three years. The prov­ince’s pro­gram to help low-in­come peo­ple with no coverage will help peo­ple whose pre-tax fam­ily in­come is un­der $24,000 a year, up from $15,700.

“We will work with Can­cer Care Nova Sco­tia to fully de­velop the pro­gram to en­sure no-one pays more than four per cent of their net in­come for can­cer med­i­ca­tions taken at home,” said Casey in her ad­dress be­fore leg­is­la­ture. “At the same time, we will work with our col­leagues in the other At­lantic prov­inces on a longert­erm so­lu­tion.”

The op­po­si­tion Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tives wel­comed the sup­port for can­cer pa­tients as a step in the right di­rec­tion, a rare break in their crit­i­cism of the rul­ing Lib­er­als’ bud­get.

“It’s a start, we’ve been call­ing for it for some time,” said PC leader Jamie Bail­lie.

The gov­ern­ment has also promised $192,000 for youth men­tal health sup­port in Cape Bre­ton, in­clud­ing the hir­ing of two ex­tra guid­ance coun­sel­lors and one so­cial worker for the Cape Bre­tonVic­to­ria Re­gional School Board. This fund­ing comes in the wake of Dr. Stan Kutcher’s re­port.

The Cape Bre­ton in­vest­ment forms part of a $1.8 mil­lion prov­ince-wide in­vest­ment this year to ex­pand youth men­tal health ser­vices and out­reach pro­grams.

“Dur­ing the last cam­paign, Nova Sco­tians spoke clearly that men­tal health was a pri­or­ity for them. We will hire more clin­i­cians, put more sup­port in un­der­ser­viced ar­eas and cut wait times for men­tal health­care,” said Casey.

How­ever, this did not go far enough for the PCs, who have con­sis­tently called for more re­sources and sup­ports in tack­ling

men­tal ill­ness.

PC leader Jamie Bail­lie pointed to Pic­tou County as an ex­am­ple, say­ing the gov­ern­ment closed down the men­tal health unit at the Aberdeen Hospi­tal and the 2017-18 bud­get con­firmed that it will not be re­placed.

“What’s been put in its place to pro­vide men­tal health ser­vices to peo­ple that need it? Noth­ing. That is a trav­esty,” said Bail­lie.

The fall bud­get comes five months af­ter the gov­ern­ment tabled a pre­vi­ous bud­get in April, but it was not ap­proved be­fore the May 30 pro­vin­cial elec­tion.

All told, this year’s bud­get in­cludes $19 mil­lion more in fund­ing for health­care, sup­port­ing Nova Sco­tia’s ag­ing pop­u­la­tion, ed­u­ca­tion and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, in­clud­ing help for young peo­ple.

Ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing in­cludes $4.5 mil­lion for free pre-pri­mary pro­gram­ming across 50 classes at 43 sites. Two ex­tra sites will open in Oc­to­ber.

Teach­ers also stand to gain from $10 mil­lion in fund­ing, mostly to im­pose class caps on Grades 7-12, based on sug­ges­tions made by the Coun­cil to Im­prove Class­room Con­di­tions. Some of this money will also pay for Ju­nior High math and lit­er­acy pro­grams.

Doc­tor re­cruit­ment – an on­go­ing po­lit­i­cal is­sue – is re­ceiv­ing a $2.4 mil­lion cash in­jec­tion. Pro­vin­cial monies will pay for 10 new seats at Dal­housie’s Fam­ily Medicine Res­i­dency Pro­gram and an­other 10 slots for in­ter­na­tional doc­tors un­der a new prac­ticeready as­sess­ment pro­gram.

“We are also be­gin­ning our in­vest­ment in the At­lantic Fish­eries Fund, which will sup­port more in­no­va­tion, in­fra­struc­ture and sci­ence in the fish and seafood sec­tor,” said Casey.

Fi­nance of­fi­cials say that Nova Sco­tia is run­ning a $131.6 mil­lion sur­plus, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est data.

To­tal pro­vin­cial rev­enues are $10.6 bil­lion, against $10.5 bil­lion in ex­penses. Rev­enues are down by $13.1 mil­lion rel­a­tive to April.

“Bud­get 2017-2018 is a bal­anced bud­get,” Casey told me­dia. “It is the first time in a decade a gov­ern­ment has in­tro­duced backto-back bal­anced bud­gets.”

Eric Wynne – Chron­i­cle Her­ald

Nova Sco­tia’s Fi­nance Min­is­ter Karen Casey de­liv­ers her bud­get to the Leg­is­la­ture Tues­day af­ter­noon.

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