Federal and provincial health ministers emerged from a day of tense talks in Toronto still at odds over federal funding, but promising collaboration to improve patient care.

Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette said the single “concrete” takeaway from the meeting is that the federal government is cutting health-care funding by $60 billion over 10 years.

“We are being asked to do more with less,” he said. “And on top of that, we are being told what to do.”

Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott defended the government’s position, insisting that any new investments must be made with a clear plan to improve patient care.

“Canadians want to see their health-care system get better and we have a responsibility to do that,” she said.

‘Responsibility’ to deliver

Philpott said discussions over dollars will continue, but the “bottom line” is that there is a desire to put patients first.

“I’ve been pleased there is so much common ground,” she said.

Indigenous health, the planned legalization of marijuana and the opioid overdose crisis were also on the agenda.

But the most pressing issue was the federal government’s plan to cut the annual funding increase from six per cent to three per cent.

Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins called that reduced contribution “inadequate” and said it signalled a “declining partnership.” He said many of the ministers took offence at Philpott’s suggestion that federal funds earmarked for health care went into general revenues without certainty it was being spent on health services.

Innovation, accountability

Laying out her demands Monday, Philpott said there must be more innovation and accountability measures.

“If we are going to make more investments, they need to go to health,” she said, drawing some criticism for suggesting the provinces aren’t adequately managing health spending.

The federal government has also pledged more than $3 billion in targeted funding for home care, including palliative care.

A reduction in the rate of increase of the Canada Health Transfer will mean a $1-billion shortfall nationally in 2017-18, Hoskins said.

The six per cent annual increase has been in place since the last health accord was negotiated in 2004.

The provinces and territories are pushing to postpone the reduced rate until Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with premiers in a meeting scheduled for Dec. 8-9.

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