Health authority rejects FOI request, won’t release plans for cuts, closures and privatization

News release

Kelowna General union members vote 80 per cent to back Medicare defense plan, while votes upcoming in other key communities

The Hospital Employees’ Union (CUPE) is highly critical of a move by the Interior Health Authority to block public access to the service plan detailing specific cuts, facility closures and privatization initiatives for the region that was submitted to health services minister Colin Hansen in late March.

“In the public interest, we submitted a Freedom of Information request to try to force the authority to lift its cone of silence about the cuts,” says HEU spokesperson Chris Allnutt. “We think it’s critical that the public be allowed to participate in an open and honest discussion about the proposed cuts and closures before they happen—not after they’re announced.”

However, says Allnutt, the IHA relied on a loophole in the FOI law to rebuff the union’s efforts, and the cuts will remain a secret until the Campbell Liberals decide the timing is right for them to be released.

“The IHA’s actions are symbolic of the Campbell government’s secretive agenda for health care in which the public and front-line health care workers have been completely kept in the dark about the carnage that awaits Medicare,” he says.

Meanwhile, rumours circulating in Victoria and Kelowna point to a possible cuts announcement late next week. Allnutt charges that the IHA and other health authorities have already booked grief counsellors who will be on hand when the cuts are announced.

Allnutt says that HEU members are gearing up their efforts to fight to protect jobs and Medicare in the face of deep Liberal cuts and privatization. On Friday, union members at Kelowna General voted 80 per cent in favour of a broad-based plan up to and including job action to turn back the Campbell cutbacks juggernaut.

“There’s a real sense of urgency among our members,” he says. “And they’re gearing up to defend their communities against Campbell’s destructive health care agenda.”

Upcoming votes are scheduled in Kamloops, Penticton, Vernon and key centres in the Kootenays. Balloting will be completed by mid-May.

-30- Contact: Mike Old, communications officer, 604-456-7039 (direct) or 604-828-6771 (cell)