‘We don’t take a back seat to any­body’

Rookie Health Min­is­ter Robert Hen­der­son says P.E.I.’s needs and suc­cess sto­ries are be­ing heard at fed­eral-pro­vin­cial meet­ings

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - THE PROVINCE - BY TERESA WRIGHT twright@the­guardian.pe.ca Twit­ter.com/GuardianTeresa

P.E.I. Health Min­is­ter Robert Hen­der­son says Canada’s small­est prov­ince isn’t tak­ing a back seat at the fed­eral-pro­vin­cial health min­is­ters meet­ings this week in Van­cou­ver.

Hen­der­son was sworn in as P.E.I.’s Min­is­ter of Health and Well­ness just two weeks ago af­ter a mini cab­i­net shuf­fle that saw him launched from the back­bench into the prov­ince’s big­gest bud­get port­fo­lio.

Al­though this makes him the rookie among health min­is­ters at the fed­er­al­provin­cial-ter­ri­to­rial meet­ings in Van­cou­ver, Hen­der­son says he has been vo­cal at the ne­go­ti­a­tion ta­ble, en­sur­ing both P.E.I.’s needs and suc­cess sto­ries are heard.

“In Prince Ed­ward Is­land, we re­ally don’t take a back seat to any­body,” Hen­der­son said.

“I don’t re­ally feel in­tim­i­dated by any of it and, in fact, a num­ber of provinces are com­ing to me, ask­ing how we are achiev­ing cer­tain goals.”

He noted P.E.I. is in the en­vi­able po­si­tion of hav­ing just four to five per cent of the pop­u­la­tion with­out a fam­ily doc­tor, while the na­tional av­er­age is at 15 per cent.

Provinces have also been in­ter­ested in learn­ing more about P.E.I.’s generic drug pro­gram, which has led to mil­lions in sav­ings within the Is­land’s health bud­get, free­ing up money for new pro­grams, such as the new cat­a­strophic drug pro­gram.

But Prince Ed­ward Is­land is hop­ing to ne­go­ti­ate more money from Ottawa for health care.

“It’s very hard to achieve dif­fer­ent out­comes, es­pe­cially as a small ju­ris­dic­tion like Prince Ed­ward Is­land, when we’re asked to add drugs to the for­mu­lary, drugs for rare dis­eases, new­born screen­ing — all of those are add-ons and we have a rather tight fis­cal sit­u­a­tion,” Hen­der­son said.

“We don’t have a lot of room to ma­noeu­vre, so if that could be at least re­flected in the way the fed­eral govern­ment looks at try­ing to achieve some of th­ese health out­comes, that they can take into ac­count some of the smaller ju­ris­dic­tions.”

The provinces are look­ing for a fed­eral com­mit­ment of 25 per cent fund­ing for health care across the coun­try, but Hen­der­son noted the lan­guage com­ing from the fed­eral min­istry seemed to sug­gest the feds are look­ing at cer­tain tar­geted ar­eas to achieve spe­cific out­comes.

Hen­der­son says he is en­cour­aged the fed­eral min­is­ter is will­ing to dis­cuss fund­ing with the provinces but hopes out­come im­prove­ments are tied to in­creases in fund­ing.

“If they’re putting a tar­get on that, there has to be money that comes with that. It just can’t be the prov­ince of P.E.I. re­as­sign­ing dol­lars that we cur­rently have to some­thing else be­cause we have a num­ber of chal­lenges as it is to get to some of the stan­dards,” Hen­der­son said.

“We want to take into ac­count some sense of flex­i­bil­ity in the way we fund things … and the min­is­ter seemed to be very re­cep­tive to un­der­stand­ing those chal­lenges.”

CP PHOTO

Al­berta Health Min­is­ter Sarah Hoff­man, left, and Prince Ed­ward Is­land Health Min­is­ter Robert Hen­der­son stand to­gether dur­ing a news con­fer­ence af­ter the first day of a meet­ing of pro­vin­cial and ter­ri­to­rial health min­is­ters in Van­cou­ver, B.C.

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