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Ontario Premier Doug Ford, centre, attends a press conference with New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs, left, and Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston following a meeting with the Maritime premiers in Moncton, N.B., on Monday, Aug. 22, 2022.Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press

A “Team Canada” approach is needed to fix the country’s health-care problems, the premiers of the Maritimes and Ontario said Monday, but they offered no specifics.

Following a meeting with Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic LeBlanc in Moncton, N.B., the four premiers held a joint news conference and said the country’s leaders need to come together to create a plan to reduce the emergency wait times and surgery backlogs plaguing the system.

But the four premiers gave no details on when or how that would happen.

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs said the health-care system will be reformed, but he said he didn’t know what those changes would look like. The goal, he added, is for the right professionals to provide care to Canadians.

“It may not be one-to-one like I’ve got a doctor for life, but you can have a clinic for life,” Higgs said. “You can have a clinic anywhere in the province when you need it.”

And while the premiers’ strategy to address health care may have been unclear, the problems in the system are evident. Every week, hospitals across the Atlantic region announce emergency room closures and other service cutbacks because of staff shortages. In Nova Scotia, for instance, the emergency department at Hants Community Hospital in Windsor, N.S., said it would be closed Monday at 6 p.m. and would reopen Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King told reporters Monday the health-care system needs to respond to the realities of “today and tomorrow.”

“The delivery of health care in P.E.I. and across the country is going to be fundamentally different than it used to be.”

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the country’s premiers and the federal government should draw on ideas to fix the health system from nurses, doctors and heads of hospitals, adding that he is confident those experts will find a “solution.”

“We look forward to having a collaborative relationship with the federal government,” Ford said. “This is a Team Canada approach that we need to take.”

Ontario health-care plan highlights: Private-clinic surgeries, hiring more workers and expanding paramedicine

Higgs said the premiers discussed the problems that health-care workers and hospitals are facing. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel, but what we do have to know is that our wheel needs to be reinvented.”

But despite the need for serious changes, health care across the country will remain publicly funded, Higgs said. “Let’s work on what is the best health care and then let’s figure out how we can actually ensure that’s available to all citizens.”

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