Rock can no longer stall on Bill 11, say B.C. health care unions

News release

Joint release of BCNU, HEU and BCGEU B.C.'s health care unions are calling on Health Minister Allan Rock to stop stalling on federal action to block the Alberta government from legalizing private hospitals under its controversial Bill 11. But Allan Rock says he'll wait until the Alberta government funds overnight surgeries in private hospitals before he fines that province for violating the Canada Health Act. "Rock's failure to act now could fundamentally undermine Medicare," says Hospital Employees' Union president Fred Muzin. "Rock says Bill 11 clearly violates the Canada Health Act. There's no reason for the health minister to delay enforcement." Muzin also says that the implementation of Bill 11 could trigger NAFTA-related claims by U.S. health companies for the right to set up similar private hospitals in other provinces. And B.C. Nurses' Union vice-president Ivory Warner says that British Columbians don't want a parallel private health care system that results in longer waits for surgical services." British Columbians aren't buying the privatization agenda and they want Ottawa to take decisive action to stop it," says Warner. B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union president George Heyman says privatizing medicare makes no economic sense. Heyman cited one study, from the New England Journal of Medicine (1999) which found costs of providing Medicare services for seniors in American for-profit hospitals were 16 per cent higher than in public hospitals. Heyman added, "Medicare must also be modernized to include home support and other community-based, cost-effective health services. Federal leadership on these issues means Ottawa must not only enforce the Canada Health Act - it has to restore funding to the provinces." The unions want to discuss health care reform with Rock when he visits Vancouver later this month. The union's are calling on the B.C. Medical Association and Canadian Medical Association to add their voices to the call for quick action on Bill 11 from the federal health minister.