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The Globe and Mail

With funding set, Health Minister reaches out to provinces on reform

A nurse with a try of used medical tools, July 14, 2009.

John Lehmann/ The Globe and Mail/John Lehmann/ The Globe and Mail

Now that premiers have been given their marching orders on health-care funding, the Harper government is following up with an offer to help the provincial governments craft national standards for how that money is spent.

Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq sent a letter Tuesday afternoon to her provincial and territorial counterparts, proposing to work with them in crafting a solution to the problem of escalating health costs.

In the letter, Ms. Aglukkaq suggests that federal, provincial and territorial health ministers "re-engage in the New Year to further map out how we can work together to make Canada's health system more sustainable."

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Specifically, she proposes that Ottawa and the provinces "start work on an approach to measuring and reporting performance across health systems using common metrics."

The letter may meet with a frosty reception. At least six provincial governments are chagrined that Finance Minister Jim Flaherty on Monday released a funding formula for health care until 2024 without first consulting his provincial counterparts.

That model envisions current annual increases of 6 per cent carrying on until 2017, after which funding increases will be tied to inflation and economic growth.

Some provinces decry the funding as insufficient and the lack of willingness to discuss terms an abuse of the federal-provincial process. Other provinces welcomed the certainty that accompanies the new model.

Ms. Aglukkaq said she hopes that after the premiers meet in January to discuss health care, they and the federal government work cooperatively to "improve accountability and to get better results for Canadians."

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