Newfoundland and Labrador plans to fund a study to observe how the controversial "liberation treatment" affects patients with multiple sclerosis, the government announced Monday.

The purpose of the provincially-based, observational study will be to evaluate how the therapy affects the symptoms and progression of MS in patients who choose to undergo the treatment. The government will not pay for patients to have the treatment performed; only to record what happens to those who undergo the treatment on their own.

Up to $320,000 will be spent on the study, which will be conducted by neurologists. The government says it will contribute more money if required.

"Our government recognizes the significant impact that MS has on those who suffer from the disease as well as their families, and we are aware of the significant concern they have about the length of time it will likely take to complete research on the liberation procedure," NL Health Minister Jerome Kennedy said in a news release.

"By funding this non-interventional clinical trial (observational study), we are attempting to do our part to add to, and perhaps expedite, the research that is currently being done in this area."

The announcement comes as health ministers from across Canada meet in St. John's with their federal counterpart, Leona Aglukkaq.

Many of those ministers are grappling with whether to go ahead and fund their own studies into the controversial treatment and CCSVI, the theory that blocked neck veins play a role in MS. Earlier this month, the federal government announced it would hold off on funding clinical trials of the controversial procedure.

Ottawa's decision has been met with outrage by some MS patients, who say the only way to clear up the questions about the treatment is to fund high-quality trials.

Saskatchewan, which has one of the highest rates of MS in the country, has already committed to backing clinical trials, even without funding from the federal government.

Saskatchewan Health Minister Don McMorris has said his province wants to partner with other provinces so that trials can be held in Canada.

Isotopes also on meeting agenda

Among other topics expected to be on the agenda of discussion at the two-day meeting is the fallout from last year's medical isotopes shortage.

Many of the provinces incurred additional costs during the year-long shutdown of the Chalk River, Ont., nuclear reactor; now, some are seeking compensation from Ottawa, whose responsibility it is to ensure a stable supply of isotopes.