Health care on hold as Victoria awaits new federal dollars — HEU on B.C. budget

News release

B.C.’s public health care system will remain on the critical list until the B.C. Liberal government announces its plans for an estimated $325 million in new federal health dollars, says the Hospital Employees’ Union (CUPE).

“As it stands, today’s status quo health budget means more service cuts, facility closures and the loss of thousands of skilled and experienced workers from health care’s front lines,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt.

“But new federal health dollars provide government an opportunity to act on the throne speech promise of new cooperative relationships in health care,” says Allnutt. “It’s past time to put the politics of division and confrontation plaguing health care behind us,” adds Allnutt. “We’re ready to work with government to protect the public’s investment in skilled, experienced workers and to improve patient care.

“With new health resources, government has a choice. It can choose to find solutions to health care challenges by consulting with communities, patients and front-line staff,” says Allnutt. “Or it can continue to sell off critical health services to foreign corporations and toss thousands of skilled workers — most of them women — out on the street. That’s a loss that would harm health care for decades.”

New federal health dollars are expected to boost B.C.’s $10.4 billion health budget by at least $325 million or more than three per cent in 2003/04. Over three years, B.C. is expected to receive $1.3 billion in additional federal support for health care.

Planned contracting out by health authorities is expected to result in the lay-off of 5,000 health support workers by June. Government budget documents obtained by HEU last year indicated that government savings from privatization of the work of 20,000 workers would result in savings of only $70 million over three years.

Meanwhile, Allnutt says increased health care funding from Ottawa — which was outlined with greater precision in today's federal budget — will have a positive impact on B.C.'s budget situation. After years of deep federal cuts, Allnutt says the variety of new federal funding initiatives will improve health services for British Columbians. However, he warns that the absence of safeguards against privatization in the recent federal-provincial health agreement means that money could be diverted from services to bolster profits for big business.

-30- Contact: Mike Old, communications officer, 604-828-6771 (cell)