It’s hard times in the province, but hey: between 2016-2018 we’ll average $160,000 per year into the government’s bank account, thanks to tobacco taxes! That’s more than government makes off Payroll tax! Or Mining Tax! And Insurance Companies Tax!
Or from drivers/vehicle licenses. Or from Atlantic Lottery Corp earnings. Go out and buy another pack of darts, b’ys!
Not really though. What’s bad for your health is bad for the economy. The cost of caring for smokers’ self-inflicted damage is brutal: according to the NL Medical Association, if just 10% of the province’s smokers quit, they would save the provincial economy more than $594 million over their lifetimes.
To try and lower the healthcare costs of tending to smokers, the 2017 budget includes $325,000 to keep the Newfoundland and Labrador Lung Association’s Smokers’ Helpline going strong.
$17.6 Million for Corner Brook Healthcare Facilities
But hey, if you can’t kick the costly habit, the hospitals will try and be ready for you. Budget 2017 includes $43 million for repairs and renovations.
$13.2 million of that is for the replacement of Western Memorial Hospital in Corner Brook, with a new acute care regional hospital. The new regional hospital will include the same services the old one offered, plus an expanded cancer care program.
The new facility will provide 164 acute care beds. This is in addition to the new 145 bed facility that will begin construction later this year, and include 120 long-term care, 15 palliative care, and 10 rehabilitative beds at a different building on the same campus. Budget 2017 allotted $4.6 million towards that.
And it’s about time for both of it: they’ve been promised more long-term care AND the replacement of the old Western Memorial for a decade, and it’s understood that at any given time, there are dozens of people occupying beds in the hospital that ought to be in a long term care facility.
Waterford Underfunded Yet Again
Budget 2017 also allots $7.5 million “to advance replacement of the Waterford Hospital.” Back in July 2015, Ball pledged to replace the decrepit Waterford Hospital “without delay,” if he was elected. We’re coming up on two years since that pledge, and $7.5 million won’t be enough to replace the old building (built in 1855!). He estimated at this time that it’d take $325 million to replace the Waterford, and his quote was “This new facility is not a nice-to-have. It’s a must-have. It’s a project that we can’t afford not to do.”
A Few Million to Support Recreation & Fitness
“We also know that the most effective health programs are ones that support healthy living and wellness,” Bennett said from the podium, “That is why we are committing $1.79 million to the Community Healthy Living Fund.”
The Community Healthy Living Fund provides funding to communities and organizations looking to deliver specific initiatives to improve the health and well-being of locals. They tend fulfill many many small asks for $1-10,000 worth of funding to support things like Isle aux Morts Recreation Commission’s summer youth and fitness program & skate park, or the “Healthy Bodies/Healthy Minds” initiative in Buchans at the James Hornell Boys & Girls Club.
“We are also going to encourage youth to use those facilities and infrastructure,” Bennett read, “We are committing $1 million toward active living programs that are targeted at youth.”
Noting that “competition has been shown to increase participation rates across certain youth populations,” the government set aside $571,200 to “support sport development initiatives and travel [and] $681,000 to support Canada Games teams and other high performance athletes.”
More Money to Curb Killer Eating Habits
Newfoundlanders eat notoriously badly. All those clogged arteries and greasy hearts from nan’s gravy or the local Fi’n’chi spot contribute to our disproportionately high healthcare costs, as compared to other provinces.
“Eating is an important component of healthy living,” Bennett read, “that is why we are committing $1.3 million to healthy eating, supporting groups such as Kids Eat Smart, Food First NL, and the School Lunch Association.” Making the next batch of Newfoundlanders a little more health conscious than we are should curb healthcare costs down the road.
Lastly, an additional $115.2 million will be dispersed to community groups throughout the province, in operational funding. “This includes the commitment to maintain core funding for 2017-18 while a multi-year grant funding system is developed.”