British Columbians say Ottawa should intervene to stop Kleins move to privatize health care services — poll

News release

Results released as ambulance arrives at St. Paul's with Medicare trauma patient British Columbians say Ottawa should intervene to stop Alberta premier Ralph Klein from legalizing private hospitals according to a McIntyre & Mustel poll commissioned by the Hospital Employees' Union. The results were released as an ambulance rushed to St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver this morning with an emergency message about Canada's health care system: Medicare is in crisis as a result of complications arising from federal underfunding and privatization. The ambulance is part of a Canadian Union of Public Employees nine-day tour of B.C. designed to raise public awareness about the threats facing Medicare. In a February 8 - 11, telephone survey of 511 B.C. adults, 60 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that the federal health minister should take all necessary steps to prevent the Alberta premier from privatizing surgical services and legalizing private hospitals. Next month, Klein plans to introduce legislation that would permit public funding of private, for-profit hospitals to carry out surgical procedures currently available only in public hospitals. "Canadians are concerned about the unprecedented pressures facing Medicare," says HEU's Fred Muzin, a CUPE regional vice-president. "Unfortunately, health care corporations and some provincial politicians say the only way to save our health care system is to privatize it. But British Columbians aren't buying the privatization agenda by a long shot. And they want Ottawa to take decisive action to stop it." And it's not only action to stop Klein that British Columbians are demanding. They're also looking to Ottawa to restore the billions of dollars it has cut from core health care services. Almost two-thirds of British Columbians also believe that the federal health minister's proposals for a joint federal-provincial home and community care program will fail unless Ottawa first restores the billions of dollars it has cut from existing health care services. "B.C.ís contingent of Liberal cabinet ministers should take a long hard look at these numbers," says Muzin. "If the upcoming federal budget fails to seriously address the chronic underfunding of health care, the credibility gap these politicians have on Medicare will widen significantly." "Our ambulance will be on the road for the next week making sure that Ottawa understands its obligation to safeguard Medicare." Staffed by front-line health care workers, the CUPE ambulance is visiting communities across the province gathering signatures on postcards that urge the federal health minister to take emergency measures to strengthen Canadaís Medicare system. Those measures include a restoration of federal funding for health care and immediate action by Ottawa to stop Klein from legalizing private hospitals. The HEU/McIntyre poll is considered accurate within 4.4 per cent, 19 times out of 20. The exact wording of the arguments tested are as follows: Federal health minister Allan Rock should intervene to preserve Medicare by taking whatever steps are necessary to prevent Alberta premier Ralph Klein from privatizing surgical services and legalizing private hospitals. Strongly agree 31.1 Agree 28.7 Disagree 23.2 Strongly disagree 10.3 Don't know/refused 6.7 Federal health minister Allan Rock has proposed a joint federal/provincial program to provide community and home care services. But some people say that Rock's proposal will fail unless the federal government restores the billions of dollars it has already cut from existing health care services. Strongly agree 25.0 Agree 43.8 Disagree 15.4 Strongly disagree 1.4 Don't know/refused 14.4 Detailed tabulations are available on request.