P.E.I. Premier Dennis King says the provinces didn’t walk away from a Thursday meeting with the prime minister with more money in their hands for health care, but he’s optimistic it’s coming.

The premiers called on the federal government to increase health-care transfers from its current share of 22 per cent and bring it up to 35 per cent.

P.E.I. spends about $800 million annually to deliver health care to Islanders, of which $175 million comes from the federal government.

“The prime minister did acknowledge that the federal transfer as it pertains to health isn’t at the level it needs to be, so that is a really good starting point for us,” King said in an interview with CBC News shortly after the meeting wrapped up.

“You make incremental steps in these negotiations. You don’t walk in with a question and get it answered immediately at this table. There’s a delicate dance, so to speak.”

King said if the federal government increased the funding, it would improve front-line services for Islanders.

“We look at mental health and addictions as a big area for us, we have an aging demographic here in Prince Edward Island and it costs more money to keep people in long-term care, so that is an investment we are going to need to continue to make and we’re willing to make and we want to make into the future,” he said.

King also said P.E.I. doesn’t cover as many prescription drugs as other provinces.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to increase health-care funding to the provinces, but not immediately. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

The premiers and prime minister met virtually because COVID-19 prevented them from gathering in person.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrapped up the meeting with a promise to increase health-care funding to the provinces, but not before the immediate pressure of the pandemic subsides.

“It’s going to be important that the federal government steps up and increases its share of the cost of health care with the Canada Health Transfer,” Trudeau said after the meeting. “We are going to do that and I look forward to conversations over the coming months about how we can increase it.

“Of course, our focus remains right now [on] getting through this pandemic. And as I said multiple times to the premiers, we will be there to support them with extra health-care costs linked to this pandemic, whatever it takes, for as long as this pandemic lasts.”

‘A big piece of news for all of us,’ says premier

King said there was good news on the COVID-19 vaccine front.

“The prime minister said the federal government will pay for the vaccine for every Canadian, which is a big piece of news for all of us,” he said.

“The provinces will be responsible for the distribution, which of course we knew that anyway.”

Premier Dennis King said Ottawa has agreed to pick up the full costs of the COVID-19 vaccine, which he called a win for the provinces. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

The federal government gave the green light to the Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, a key step toward launching the largest inoculation campaign in Canada’s history.

Health Canada announced the approval after scientists finished a two-month review of the company’s clinical trial data.

King said P.E.I. will start to receive the COVID-19 vaccine next week.

More from CBC P.E.I.

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