07/18/2013 12:27 EDT | Updated 09/17/2013 05:12 EDT

Nova Scotia Tory leader would boost funding for cancer care program

HALIFAX - Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie says he wants to boost funding for low-income cancer patients who need help getting to appointments in Nova Scotia while cutting the number of health boards in the province.

Baillie said Thursday that if elected, a Tory government would increase funding to the program that helps cover the costs of board, transportation and ostomy to $400,000, an increase of $100,000.

Baillie said the Conservatives would also make the program available to more people by increasing the income cut-off point that's used to determine who qualifies for financial assistance under the program.

The Tories are promising to increase the annual family income limit for the program to $25,000 from $15,720, a figure that Baillie says hasn't changed in 20 years.

He says $100,000 in funding from the program went unused last year because not enough people qualified.

Baillie also said his party would be able to pump more money into frontline health services by cutting spending in health administration.

That would be done by reducing the number of district health authorities from 10 to three. Under the Conservative model, the capital district would retain its board and the IWK Children's Hospital in Halifax would remain an independent operation, while there would be a new health board created for rural Nova Scotia.

Baillie estimates the plan would save $60 million.

The Opposition Liberals have already said they would trim the number of health boards down to two, while the governing NDP has been critical of the other parties' plans.

Premier Darrell Dexter has said the Liberals and Progressive Conservatives would be "naive and ill-informed" if they think cutting the number of health districts would reduce health costs.

Dexter maintains millions in severance would have to be paid out to executives alone and more duties would fall to health workers if the districts were merged.

The NDP is in the last year of its mandate in Nova Scotia.