01/10/2012 03:36 EST | Updated 03/11/2012 05:12 EDT

Saskatchewan premier wants Ottawa to step up with money for health innovation

REGINA - Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall wants to see the federal government partner with provinces to improve patient care.

Wall said Tuesday that federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty didn't leave much room for negotiation when he surprised the provinces last month with a 10-year health-funding package.

"I think there's a frustration all premiers have about that, all health ministers have about the approach," Wall said at the Saskatchewan legislature.

But he added that "on the face of it, what minister Flaherty has proposed is not unreasonable."

Flaherty said Ottawa plans to continue increasing health-transfer payments at six per cent annually for the next six years. After that, the idea is for transfer payments to be tied to the rate of economic growth and inflation, which would give the provinces and territories certain and stable health funding.

Wall said the province is not panicking over the changes, but he also wants to see progress on opportunities for innovation that could, for example, help reduce emergency room wait times.

"There's some innovation that can lead us to better patient care," he said.

"We think there might be an interest on the part of the federal government. We hope...if we come up with some very outcome-oriented innovations we'd like to pursue in the name of better care for Saskatchewan people, that they'll want to help. They'll want to be a partner in that perhaps with dollars."

The Saskatchewan leader said that will be his focus when the premiers and territorial leaders meet next week in Victoria.

There is an east-west divide in how to deal with Ottawa's financing directive.

Eastern provinces want to fight back and are demanding talks on funding and national standards; some of the western provinces are content with funding levels and are happy enough to take standards into their own hands.

Ontario is worried necessary innovations in home care for seniors and other health-care reforms will suffer if the federal government doesn't help set national standards.

Premier Dalton McGuinty said Monday that Ottawa's decision to give the provinces a take-it-or-leave-it health funding proposal is "less-than-ideal." The different levels of government made real progress in their 2004 health accord by linking funding to improved patient outcomes and shorter surgical wait times, he suggested.

Provincial sources say some of the eastern provinces had hoped to see Saskatchewan move into their camp for a stronger stand at premiers meetings.