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Government & policy

Alberta’s budget includes major healthcare spending

EDMONTON – Alberta announced the province will add over $700 million to the Health and Wellness budget for 2005-06, an 8.6 percent increase over last year. The information was part of the most recent provincial budget, announced April 13.

With the increase to Alberta’s 2005 healthcare budget, the Ministry’s funding will rise to almost $9 billion in 2005-06. By 2007-08, the Ministry’s budget is estimated to exceed $9.7 billion, an increase of 17.4 percent from the 2004-05 forecast.

“This increase in funding will help improve system quality and access while we continue to develop Alberta’s Third Way for healthcare,” said Iris Evans (pictured at left), minister of health and wellness.

Over $5.6 billion of the Ministry’s budget will go directly to the province’s health authorities to continue to provide health services and expand access to better meet the healthcare needs of Albertans. Health authority funding includes support for highly specialized province-wide services, such as major organ transplants, heart surgeries and hip replacements.

As announced by Premier Klein, a Mental Health Innovation Fund has been established and will receive $25 million for each of the next three years. The purpose of the fund is to establish more community and facility-based mental health alternatives, address current need areas in services, such as children’s mental health, and facilitate advancement of regional mental health priorities.

Other highlights of the budget include:

• Over $1.7 billion for physician services, an increase of $173 million from the previous year.

• The Alberta Cancer Board will receive a 25 percent increase in funding in 2005-06, an increase of almost $48 million, to continue high-quality patient care and to accommodate the growing cost of many cancer drugs.

• The Alberta Mental Health Board will receive an increase in its operating funds of almost $2 million from last year’s budget for its provincial services, including forensic psychiatry and tele-mental health.

• A total of $1.6 billion will be invested in health facilities and equipment over the next three years, including $561 million in 2005-06 for projects currently under way. This includes funding for the completion of the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary and the Alberta Heart Institute in Edmonton.

Government has also committed support for two new capital projects. The Calgary South Hospital project and the Health Sciences Ambulatory Learning Centre project in Edmonton, a joint project with Alberta Advanced Education, will each exceed $500 million.

Including health-related spending by other ministries, the government’s total spending on health will exceed $9.5 billion in 2005-06, representing nearly 37 percent of government’s total expense in 2005-06. By 2007-08, this amount will approach $10 billion.