Fresh from delivering her first provincial budget, Casey said the government added slightly more than $6 million in health care spending than was presented in the April budget, prior to the spring election.
The April budget was tabled in the legislature but was never approved because of the election call that came almost immediately afterward.
Casey said the new money represents an $82-million increase in healthcare spending over last year and will see reduced wait times for orthopedic surgeries while offering new pre-habilitation services to help patients prepare for surgery.
“And that’s based on programs that Nova Scotians were telling us is needed and wanted,” she said.
The government also announced $846,000 to establish a new take-home therapies cancer program to help pay for high insurance deductibles and co-payments for cancer patients who need to take the medications at home.
It is also rolling out $799,000 more, for a total of $1.36 million this year for “opioid use and misuse” and to expand addiction treatment programs to help eliminate wait lists.
“We heard from Nova Scotians that that was a real issue here in the province,” Casey told the Truro Daily News, following her budget delivery in the House.
Although opposition Conservative leader Jamie Baillie and NDP leader Gary Burrill both criticized the government for failing to provide new money for doctors and primary health care, Casey said 10 more seats have been added to the Dalhousie Medical School, making a total of 46 seats.
As well, she said, the province has introduced an internship program that will allow medical students to work out in the community with family doctors for 48 weeks to both increase community coverage and assist with their training.
“We know that there are active recruitments going on in all communities across Nova Scotia,” she said. “So there certainly have been lots of things that have been added to ensure that the doctor recruitment initiatives that are in place, continue.”
Another highlight of the day from Casey’s perspective includes an additional $750,000 for the pre-primary program, bringing this year’s total to $4.5 million.
“All the research tells us, and we know as educators, that getting four-year-olds into a play-based but somewhat structured environment improves their state of readiness so much before they start primary,” she said. “So it’s important to give parents that option.”
Overall, Casey, who is also the Colchester North MLA, described her first budget delivery as “encouraging and exciting,” especially because it was the Liberal government’s second consecutive balanced budget.
“We made some difficult decisions in the first four years of our mandate to try to improve the fiscal health of the department,” she said. “To try to live within our means, to not spend more than we had, to not burden the debt for our future generations.”