15/03/01

News release
HEU comments on today’s provincial budget

B.C.’s largest health care union says the injection of $572 million in new operating cash will help get the province’s health care system firing on all cylinders.

“This government had a choice: tax cuts or getting health care back on track,” says Chris Allnutt, secretary-business manager of the 46,000-member Hospital Employees’ Union.

“By investing in practical health care solutions, the finance minister has made a choice that’s in line with the values and priorities of British Columbians.”

The budget includes funding for 200 new continuing care beds, a $39 million boost to home support services and $31.5 million in new funding for mental health services — a recognition that care in the community has been the weakest link in medicare.

“The single most important thing we can do to relieve pressure on our emergency rooms and acute care hospitals is to make sure we provide the right care in the right place,” says Allnutt. “This budget recognizes that we must do more to provide quality care to seniors and the disabled in their communities.”

HEU supports the government’s plan to provide new funding for 86 seats in community colleges to train Licensed Practical Nurses.

“We use LPNs less in B.C. than anywhere else in Canada,” says Allnutt. “Training more LPNs is a practical response to the nursing crisis that will provide needed relief to RNs and improved care to all British Columbians.”

And Allnutt says the four-year $1.6 billion building program for hospitals, continuing care facilities and health centres will mean better care — and safer working conditions for health care workers.

“What’s not clear in this budget is the level of commitment the government is willing to make to the health care solutions we’ve put forward at the bargaining table,” adds Allnutt whose union’s main contract expires at the end of the month.

“We’ve put forward proposals to improve care by increasing staffing in long-term care, to make the workplace safer for our members and residents by installing modern lifting equipment and dealing with looming skills shortages in health care by improving training opportunities.”

“And it’s critical that this budget include the means with which to end wage discrimination against the 15,000 women and men who provide community health services.”

-30- For more information, please contact at 604/734-3431: Dale Fuller, communications officer, 604/714-1567