Provincial budget maintains support for health care
But resources for Medicare modernization in short supply as B.C. continues to make up for Ottawa's neglect of Medicare [Victoria] In the face of continuing underfunding of Medicare by Ottawa, the B.C. government has provided a $549 million boost to the province's strained health care system. And the Hospital Employeesí Union says the 7.1 per cent increase goes a long way towards maintaining the current level of health services while funding some initiatives to modernize Medicare. "By rejecting the business lobby call for massive tax cuts, this government has produced a budget that's in line with the desire of British Columbians for quality health care, educational and other public services," says Fred Muzin, president of the 46,000 member HEU. The budget contains $8.4 million in new funding for continuing care and home support in addition to support announced last September. It's the beginning of a strategy to improve B.C.'s system of elder care, says Muzin, but a longer term plan needs to be put in place to address the health care needs of a growing and aging population. "But the federal government's anemic support for Medicare - about 15 cents on the health care dollar - robs British Columbians of the resources needed to fund longer term initiatives that would ensure that seniors and others receive the appropriate care in the appropriate setting," says Muzin. The budget also contains $5 million in new funds to hire licensed practical nurses. "This is a very positive move that acknowledges the important role that LPNs can play in addressing the nursing shortage facing health care," says Muzin. He estimates that the new funds could provide up to 100 new LPN positions throughout the health care system. Muzin gave full support to the Finance Minister's rejection of an American-style, two-tier health car system. "Health care privatization like that proposed by Alberta premier Ralph Klein won't provide better access or save money," says Muzin.