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NS Citizen’s Health Network Puts MLA Ramey on the Hot Seat!

Cliff White asks Garry Ramey about the cost of pharmaceuticals

The Nova Scotia Citizens’ Health Care Network (NSHCN) invited me to speak at their AGM this past Saturday (September, 17th). The keynote speaker was to be Nova Scotia Health and Wellness Minister Maureen MacDonald, but unfortunately she needed to cancel. Instead, she sent Ministerial Assistant for the Department of Health, MLA Garry Ramey to fill in. He was given a high level briefing to share with us and offered to forward our questions and comments to the Minister when they next meet (later next week).

Mr. Ramey highlighted several programs and policies that the Nova Scotia government is currently working on such as their fair drug price review, lifestyle centres and other methods to attract doctors to rural areas, their ‘better care sooner’ initiative and joint replacement wait times.

But what I was particularly interested in was what he had to say about 2014 and the negotiation of the next health care accord. Minister MacDonald is the chair of the health ministers meetings and for the next two years – an unprecedented term, it’s usually only one year- she’ll be leading the health ministers into the 2014 negotiations. According to Ramey, Nova Scotia will be looking for: a 6% escalating transfer- however he was unable to specify the length of time they want they transfers to continue, measures other than just wait times, he expects there to be new national standards and he’s prepared for the transferred funds to be attached to strings such as accountability.

Adrienne presents to the group on the 2014 accord

He did mention concerns about seniors, mental health programmes, human resource shortages, and social determinants of health, but he did not offer any solutions. He also said that the Nova Scotia government is committed to the Canada Health Act. Yet, as Kyle Buott, President of the NSCHN pointed out, the Nova Scotia government has yet to pass a bill (which the NDP drafted while an opposition party) implementing the principles of the Canada Health Act into provincial law.

Several questions from the floor were raised. Our former (now retired) Atlantic Regional Organizer Cliff White and his successor Angela Giles asked questions and voiced their concern about the increasing cost of pharmaceutical drugs, the need for bulk purchasing, and CETA threatening to extend big brand pharmaceutical patents for longer which will increase the cost of drugs further.

Kyle Buott, NSCHN; Christine Saulnier, CCPA; Suzanne MacLean,concerned citizen; Tony Tracy, CLC; Mike Sangster, AIDS Coalition of NS; Ian Johnson, NSGEU

I asked Mr. Ramey how long of an accord Nova Scotia would be asking for. We’re hoping the provinces and territories will demand another ten-year accord so as to be provided with stable funding for programme planning and development. Mr. Ramey was unable to comment on my question but will hopefully ask Minister MacDonald to respond.

For all of the questions asked Garry Ramey had few answers, but he has promised to turn over our questions to Minister MacDonald and we will hopefully receive a reply shortly.

The rest of the afternoon was spent on general AGM business and a brief presentation from me on the 2014 health care accord and what different provinces and health care groups are predicting and/or hoping for.

In recent weeks I’ve been meeting with like-minded groups more frequently to discuss 2014 planning and I expect the work to only get more intense from here! Some upcoming dates that you should watch for regarding 2014:

November 24th-25th– all of the provincial and territorial health ministers will be meeting in Halifax to discuss 2014. The Council of Canadians will be co-sponsoring the event with the NSCHN.

November 30th – December 1st– The Council of Canadians is co-sponsoring an event on Parliament Hill. The evening of the 30th will feature a keynote address from Roy Romanow with a panel of key health care players and experts answering questions from the audience. The event will be available online and hopefully televised.

January, 2012- The Council of Federation will be meeting in BC to discuss mental health and the 2014 health care accord.