01/19/2016 17:54 EST | Updated 01/19/2017 00:12 EST

B.C. coalition pushes for national health accord at ministers' talks

There will be many competing interests at the table when B.C.'s health minister sits down this week in Vancouver with his provincial, territorial and federal counterparts to discuss how to improve the country's health care system.

Edith MacHattie, the co-chair of the B.C. Health Coalition says it's difficult to over-state the significance of these talks. Her group advocates for the advancement of Canada's health care systems with a focus on British Columbia.

"These meetings really represent a historic moment," she says.

The provincial and territorial health ministers will gather Wednesday, with federal Health Minister Jane Philpott joining on Thursday.

"It's really the first time in years that the federal government has shown good will toward re-investing in our public health care system," says MacHattie.

As far as her organization is concerned, B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake's first priority should be a push for the re-establishment of a national health accord.

"There are big cost savings that could be realized, both in terms of a national drug plan and a national seniors care strategy," MacHattie claims.

Such an agreement would provide stable federal funding for provinces, and outline common standards on wait times, home care and prescription drugs. 

Not this time, but next?

The last national health accord expired in March 2014 under Stephen Harper's Conservatives..

Speaking with CBC Radio's The Early Edition on Tuesday, Minister Lake said he doesn't believe an agreement of that magnitude will be reached this week, but he does feel the upcoming meetings could set the stage for one.

With B.C.'s comparatively older population, his focus will instead be on shifting toward an age-based model for federal-provincial health funding, and away from the current per-capita system.

"We feel British Columbia gets a bit of a raw deal," he said of the framework now in place.

Where Lake and the B.C. Health Coalition come together is in prioritising B.C.'s seniors.

"Right now seniors are reaching a crisis point," says MacHattie.

"The Canadian Medical Association estimates that if we had the home and community care infrastructure to take care of seniors who are currently waiting in Canadian hospitals, that we could save up to $2.3 billion per year," she claims. 

Thinking ahead to the week's meetings, Lake sees drawing funds for the province's elderly as achievable.

"We've been making huge investments in seniors care in B.C.," he said.

"Canada has indicated a potential interest in infrastructure investments in that area, so I certainly would encourage them to consider that."