SUMMERSIDE, P.E.I. — The federal government will spend up to $70 million to create a new electronic health prescription service for Atlantic Canada, which will also give residents access to their personal health records.
The money will be invested by Canada Health Infoway, an independent, not-for-profit organization that promotes digital health solutions across Canada.
Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor said the plan is to modernize the management of health information.
"This means that patients will finally be able to see their own health information," the minister told a news conference Tuesday. "It will also create an electronic prescription service, which means that prescriptions can go directly from the doctor's office to the pharmacy."
The announcement came at the conclusion of a meeting in Summerside, P.E.I., that included the four Atlantic premiers and federal ministers responsible for the Atlantic Growth Strategy.
"This will be a game changer, significantly improving the way doctors, pharmacies and hospitals operate," Petitpas Taylor said.
Last year, Ottawa announced it would spend $300 million over five years through the Canada Health Infoway.
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball welcomed the news, saying it will give patients the ability to manage their own health care.
"As an individual, being able to access your own personal health records, putting you in a position to better manage your own health care, is extremely important," he said.
Ahmed Hussen, the federal minister of immigration, also announced 500 new spots for workers and their families to apply under the Atlantic Immigration Pilot this year, bringing this year's total to 2,500.
"This initiative, combined with the pan-Canadian expansion of the Study and Stay program, will go a long way to help bring even more skilled talent to the region to support the labour force and drive long-term economic growth," Hussen said.
"It's not just about attracting the skilled immigrant. It's about keeping them here and retaining them in Atlantic Canada."
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said the simmering trade issues with the United States dominated the discussion between the premiers and ministers.
"As Atlantic Canadians, as elected members from Atlantic Canada, we stand firmly behind the prime minister and the minister with their approach with our largest trading partner," McNeil said.
"We stand firmly, we believe, with the United States people who are supporting a NAFTA program, and at the same time using this opportunity as a country to diversify our trade portfolio, hence the whole idea of the China strategy and why we are moving in that direction," he said.
The Atlantic premiers and a business delegation will travel to China in mid-November to promote trade with the region.
"It's important for us to ensure we have less of a dependency when it comes to our exports to the U.S.," said New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant. However, he said the premiers are doing everything possible to ensure products and services from Atlantic Canada still get into the U.S. market.
This was the fifth meeting of the premiers and ministers since the Atlantic Growth Strategy was launched two years ago.
Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press