Health care budget reflects B.C. values, says HEU

News release

1999 budget rejects extreme fiscal measures proposed by big business

Today’s provincial budget, which includes a $615 million boost to health care, reflects the value British Columbians place in their health care system, says the Hospital Employees’ Union.

“For eight years running, Victoria has increased the resources available to medicare,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “That reflects the priorities of a B.C. public which consistently rates increased health and education funding ahead of the tax reductions and program cuts called for by big business.

“The extreme budget measures called for by the B.C. Business Summit — including $1.5 billion in tax cuts and radically reduced program spending — would have put us on the road to a major health care catastrophe,” says Allnutt. “Instead, this provincial government has chosen to defend medicare and education. Given these priorities, a deficit budget is completely appropriate to the current economic circumstances.”

The 6.6 per cent lift to health care operating funds — at $478 million, more than double last year’s increase — includes new spending on surgeries, long-term care beds and increased nursing staff. The budget also includes an additional $137 million in new health care capital spending.

“The government has targeted new spending on those parts of the health care system that are under pressure,” says Allnutt. “That’s exactly what the public is demanding.”

And Allnutt called on the BCMA to moderate its demands for a $150 million fix to their current fee dispute with the provincial government — and to work with other front-line caregivers to develop constructive solutions to the challenges facing health care in B.C.