To the editor;
It’s time for Canadians to take back the public health care agenda.
For far too long, forces have been chipping away at our most cherished social program.
To get a glimpse of the future facing public health care today, just follow the money.
March 31 marked the first anniversary of a decade-long $36 billion cut to health care transfers to the provinces by Ottawa.
B.C.’s share of that historic ten-year long reduction totals $5 billion.
I think we can all agree that less money for health care is not what is needed for our province.
In fact, a Conference Board of Canada report released last August determined Victoria must invest $1.8 billion more than budgeted for health care between 2014 and 2017 just to maintain current service levels.
With an ageing population requiring more complex care, this deliberate underfunding of services by both federal and provincial governments is playing out in very ugly ways – and the signs are everywhere.
Take the growth in private health care.
For a third-year in a row, B.C. was fined for allowing illegal extra-billing of patients for services that are supposed to be without cost to all Canadians under the Canada Health Act.
Later this June, a B.C.-based private hospital owner will push for the reintroduction of two-tier medicine into Canada at the province’s Supreme Court.
Then there’s the impact on seniors’ care.
According to a poll conducted last September, many of B.C.’s frail elderly do not receive the attention they require.
Approximately three-quarters of B.C. care aides surveyed said they are forced to rush through basic care for the elderly and disabled because of high workloads and reduced staffing.
And let’s not forget the workers who bear the brunt of health care cuts.
Between January 21 and February 26, nearly 1,500 health care workers were laid-off at care homes and hospitals across B.C. because of contracting out or contract flips.
Any former workers rehired at these facilities can expect to start at the bottom of the employment ladder.
Some will lose their pension, others will receive lower probationary wages and most will have zero-earned vacation time.
And then there are the 175 family-supporting jobs in hospital laundry services across 11 Interior communities that were put on the chopping block on February 6.
Laundry cleaned at the hospital by local workers who earn decent wages and benefits will likely be shipped to a private firm in the Lower Mainland or Alberta for processing by employees earning far less.
It’s plain to see public health care is going down a bad road.
As we head towards a federal election, Canadians have an opportunity to think about how they can best vote for health care in 2015.
The next government in Ottawa can take immediate steps to put our nation’s signature social program back on the right track.
That means your vote – and the vote of your family and friends – can make a difference in electing MPs that will fight for health care.
They say voters get the government they deserve.
And we certainly are due for leadership in Ottawa that puts the future of a strong public health care system front and centre in their election promises.
To learn more about what can be done to save public health care, please visit saveourhealthcarebc.ca online.
Hospital Employees Union (HEU)