Joint release of HEU, BCNU, BCGEU and HSA: BC's health unions demonstrate against private health care

News release

Health care workers and other medicare advocates in B.C. joined thousands of demonstrators across Canada today to demand immediate action by Ottawa to stop privatization of medicare. "We are on the brink of Canada's biggest medical emergency ever," Jim Sinclair, president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, warned a huge crowd outside the provincial Ministry of Health building in Victoria. George Heyman, president of the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union told demonstrators that Bill 11, Alberta's private hospital law, violates the Canada Health Act and opens the door to for-profit, two-tiered health care across the country. "Alberta Premier Klein's initiative must be stopped or our medicare system will be lost," Heyman said. "Private health care won't reduce waiting lists, and will guarantee that only those who can afford it get the best and fastest treatment. It makes no sense to take money out of the health system for private profit." "Ottawa must send a clear message to every province that federal health care dollars will not be spent subsidizing the operations of for-profit surgical clinics," said HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt, who spoke at a rally outside Kelowna General Hospital. "And the Prime Minister must reinforce this message with a major financial recommitment to Medicare." Speaking outside Burnaby General Hospital, Cindy Stewart, President of the Health Sciences Association of BC said the federal government must restore its health care spending and enact measures that will stem the tide of privatization. She also called on the government to focus on important priorities such as a national home care program and a national drug plan. "During the past decade the federal government has abandoned its commitment to health care in this country," Stewart said. "The federal government should be leading the discussion about how Medicare can be strengthened, not standing by while it is destroyed." "Two-tiered health care has failed in many other jurisdictions around the world," said Cathy Ferguson, President of the BC Nurses Union. "Canada's health care system is the envy of the world and we must do everything in our power to protect it." Today's events were part of a National Day of Warning organized by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), the Canadian Federation of Nurses' Unions (CFNU) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Here in BC, demonstrations took place in Victoria, Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, Kelowna, Kamloops, Prince George, Nelson and in other communities.