Students Push for Renewed Health Accord, by Alexandra Martin, Ashley Schuhmann and Sherella Wyton

Recent history has shown that Canada needs a formal agreement between the federal, provincial and territorial governments around how health care services should be delivered.  Since 2004, we have had this agreement in the form of the 2004-2014 Health Accord: An Agreement on the Future of Health Care, a document which set out an action plan for healthcare and service delivery in Canada.  However, the existing Accord is set to expire in 2014, and the federal government has indicated it will not renegotiate a new agreement.  Instead it will reduce federal health care funding from six percent to three percent per year, and any additional contributions will be based upon Gross Domestic Product. Regions with minimal domestic product will receive the least possible Canada Health Transfer amount.

Without the protection of the Health Accord, stable public health care funding is jeopardized. Without stable funding, public health care is vulnerable to becoming a business, rather than a Canadian right. Without a 2014 Health Accord, national goals such as primary health care, a nationwide pharmaceutical strategy, and rural health care access may lose importance.

Our existing Health Accord came into being because Canadians recognized a need.  In 1999, federal contributions to health care funding were only 10 percent.  As a result, provinces were forced to close hospitals down, cut health care provider’s hours, and decrease operational positions. Canadian citizens were unable to access timely and appropriate care for their medical problems. This frustration was expressed by both citizens and health care workers (especially nurses) eventually leading to strikes. Ultimately, national government leaders collaborated to create a document that would address the growing issues in Canada's public health care system. This led to the creation of the current 2004-2014 Health Accord: An Agreement on the Future of Health Care. The Accord was an action plan that promised to:

(1) Uphold the five pillars of the Canada Health Act (universality, accessibility, portability, comprehensiveness, and public administration).

(2) Reform the system by focusing on advancement through the sharing of best practices, and access to medically necessary health services based on need, not ability to pay.

(3) Meet the evolving health care needs of Canadians where the main foci were reducing wait times, improving access, increasing the supply of health care professionals, home care, primary care reform, access to care in the north, national pharmaceutical strategy, prevention, promotion, and public health, health innovation, and accountability and reporting to citizens.

(4) Ensure that the federal government was responsible for an escalating monetary contribution towards the health care costs of each province/territory.

Recognizing the burden that will be placed on the healthcare system if the 2004-2014 Health Accord: An Agreement on the Future of Health Care is not renewed, three Bachelor of Science in Nursing students from North Island College created a leadership project to bring awareness to the current situation and unite BSN students across B.C. in encouraging our political leaders to renegotiate the Health Accord.  We believe we need to bring a voice to the discussion and urge our leaders to uphold the five pillars of the Canada Health Act, ensure inter-governmental collaboration on health care needs, and provide stable funding.

Our group put together an informational YouTube video describing the Health Accord and why it is an important part of our public health care system in Canada.  We also created a lobbying letter which urges B.C. Members of Parliament (MP) to have a conversation regarding renegotiating a new Health Accord.

The group contacted all 20 colleges and universities in BC in hopes that faculty and students would participate in engaging in political leadership by watching the YouTube video, signing the lobby letter, and hand delivering it to their local MP.  We also created a Facebook group entitled “BC BSN Students for a 2014 Health Accord” and encouraged all students to join and share their experiences of political advocacy.

Currently, we have disseminated information to all nursing schools, and are waiting to hear back regarding how many letters were signed and delivered in each riding.  Our hope is that hundreds of BC student nurses will take this opportunity to raise their voices in support of an important political issue.  A link to the ARNBC was embedded within the YouTube video information to encourage students to engage with their local network and continue their political nursing leadership.

We have just extended our project to reach out to BSN students in the Northwest Territories, and hope that this important project gains momentum in BSN programs across the country. We encourage BSN students and any Canadian citizens to use our project video and lobby letter to get involved in our campaign.

Click here to find the appropriate address information for your MP.

Sample lobby letter for Canadian BSN students.

Sample lobby letter for Canadian Citizens.

Additional reading:

BC BSN Students for a 2014 Health Accord
Canadian Health Coalition
Canadian Union of Public Employees: Health Care Topics
Health Canada:  2004 Health Accord

Ashley Schuhmann, Alexandra Martin, Sherella Wyton


Alexandra, Ashley and Sherella are 4th year nursing students at North Island College.  They became aware of the issue of the expiring Health Accord through a meeting at their local Comox Valley ARNBC network.  As all three students had a developing interest in nursing policy and politics, they were inspired by this topic and decided to tackle the issue as a leadership project.  Alexandra hopes to pursue a career on a medical/surgical unit, and aspires to become a nurse educator in the future.  Ashley is working towards completing her perinatal and paediatric specialties, and plans to work in these areas during her career.  Sherella has a keen interest in rural nursing and hopes to work with underserved communities and populations.  All three enjoy being active members of their local ARNBC network and plan to integrate social advocacy, justice, and nursing leadership in their everyday careers.

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Nora Whyte

Congratulations, Alexandra, Ashley and Sherella, on your clear and informative blog post based on your analysis of the situation with the Health Accord. The YouTube video is excellent--you conveyed key aspects about the issue so effectively and provided action-oriented solutions.
Thank you for sharing your passion for political action with the B.C. nursing community!
Nora Whyte, RN

Betty Tate RN

Thank you so much Alexandra, Ashley and Sherella - this is such an important issue. As you know our local Comox Valley ARNBC Network is using your resources to lobby our MLA. We encourage other ARNBC members to do the same and share your Youtube video and send a letter to their MLA!

Helen Boyd

Kudos North Island College Nursing Students and Comox Valley ARNBC Network!

Thank you for your initiative to educate the population at large on the crucial issue of the Health Accord which is set to expire this year.

The excellent quality of your You Tube highlights the components of the Accord and why it is so important to renew it for the benefit of all Canadians.

Your call for action can be heard loud and clear!

Helen Boyd R.N. BScN. M.A.