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Government of Canada signs two bilateral agreements with Saskatchewan to support initiatives to improve health care

Press Release

From: Health Canada

March 18, 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 Everett Hindley, Saskatchewan’s Minister of Health, and the Honourable Tim McLeod, Saskatchewan’s Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Seniors and Rural and Remote Health announced two bilateral agreements to invest a total of more than $560 million in federal funding to improve health care in Saskatchewan.

Through the Working Together Agreement, the Government of Canada will first provide close to  $391 million to support Saskatchewan’s three-year action plan to deliver improvements to its health care system. This will:

  • Improve access to family health services and acute and urgent care by supporting a Saskatchewan family physician payment model, expanding Saskatoon’s Chronic Pain Clinic, growing the Virtual Triage Physician program (VIBEX) through Healthline 8-1-1, and creating new permanent acute care and complex care beds in Regina and Saskatoon hospitals to reduce overcapacity.
  • Support the health workforce and help reduce backlogs through the recruitment of new health care workers, retention incentives for hard to recruit positions, and increasing clinical placements to support the expansion of 550 post-secondary training seats.
  • Expand the delivery of culturally appropriate mental health and substance use support and specialized care through overdose outreach teams, the continued expansion of Police and Crisis Teams, increasing addiction treatment spaces and rapid grief counselling by Family Services Saskatchewan and supporting youth facing mental health and addiction challenges.
  • Modernize health care systems with health data and digital tools by continuing investments in eHealth and health sector information technology

In addition, through the Aging with Dignity agreement, the Government of Canada will provide approximately $169.3 million to support Saskatchewan’s five-year action plan to enable residents to age with dignity close to home, with access to home care or care in a safe long-term care facility. This will:

  • Enhance home and community care services through expanding Community Health Centres, outreach services and advancing the Patient Medical Home Model pilot.
  • Improve palliative care by supporting training for health workers in end-of-life care and increasing the number of health professionals to help patients and support palliative care.
  • Strengthen the quality of long-term care and home care services by increasing the number of front line care and continuing care providers and improving compliance with long-term care standards through inspections and follow-ups.

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

Through these new agreements, the Government of Saskatchewan 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 Saskatchewan also commit to meaningfully engaging and working together with Indigenous partners to support improved access to quality and culturally-appropriate health care services. Saskatchewan’s 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.

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

“Canadians deserve to get they health care they need, no matter their age or where they live. By working together with the province of Saskatchewan, these agreements will reduce wait times, make it easier to see a doctor, and ensure our seniors can age with dignity. Tailored to Saskatchewan’s unique needs, this funding focuses on what matters most: better health care for the people of Saskatchewan.”

The Honourable Mark Holland
Minister of Health
“Mental health is health, and through this agreement, we will be working with Saskatchewan to integrate mental health and substance use care as a full and equal part of our universal health care system. This agreement will strengthen the capacity of family health providers, reduce substance use harms, and expand virtual care for youth to improve access to quality and timely mental health care and substance use supports. 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
“We are pleased to sign these two health funding agreements with the federal government that will benefit Saskatchewan residents and communities. The federal funding commitment will build on provincial investments and help accelerate and expand initiatives already underway to meet the health needs of growing province, build stronger health teams, and modernize the health system.”

The Honourable Everett Hindley
Minister of Health of Saskatchewan
“We are committed to providing quality health services and programs to support our seniors to live safely and comfortably in their homes and communities. Federal funding in Saskatchewan’s Aging with Dignity agreement will contribute to achieving this goal through improved long-term and palliative care, and enhanced home and community care.”

The Honourable Tim McLeod
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Seniors and Rural and Remote Health of Saskatchewan
Quick facts

  • The Working Together investment includes $25 billion for tailored bilateral agreements with provinces and territories, a guaranteed five per cent Canada Health Transfer (CHT) increase for the next five years — estimated to amount to $17.5 billion — and a one time CHT $2 billion top-up to address the 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 close to $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. Saskatchewan’s 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. Saskatchewan’s five-year Action Plan can be found here.

Associated links


Christopher Aoun
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Mark Holland
Minister of Health

Yuval Daniel
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Ya’ara Saks
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health

Media Relations
Health Canada

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