New NDP health plan opens doors for progressive solutions, new opportunities for HEU members

A comprehensive series of progressive new health care initiatives by the NDP and a commitment of $320 million in new health funding announced earlier in December is a very positive step and will improve health care services for British Columbians and fight against two-tier health care, says HEU.

“These are concrete solutions that will help get our public Medicare system firing on all cylinders,” says union spokesperson Chris Allnutt. Allnutt said he was extremely pleased with three specific areas of the announcement: nursing strategy, more long term care beds and increased home support funding.

The strategy to deal with the nursing shortage is broad-based and includes new opportunities for Licensed Practical Nurses, Care Aides and other HEU nursing staff. “These are very positive,” Allnutt says. “And combined with the announcement of 2,000 more long-term care beds along with $32 million in new funding for home support, these initiatives will significantly improve care services for our seniors and our disabled.

“It will also reduce pressures on acute care hospitals by providing better care in a more appropriate setting.”

In fact, the LPN theme was frequently cited by new health care minister Corky Evans when he made the announcement. “Many years ago,” Evans acknowledged, “hospitals decided to phase out LPNs and eliminate the nursing team.” He then went on to announce a series of commitments that will include practical nurses and Care Aides, like more training seats, new scholarship programs and other forms of financial assistance to support training, more LPN positions in acute care, and expanded use of non-registered nursing staff to reduce RN workloads.

Other important measures that are part of the NDP’s health action plan include: ? more intensive care, ICU beds and flex beds for hospitals; and a province-wide bed tracking system to end delays in finding beds for patients; ? another big whack of equipment funding; ? a palliative care drug benefits plan which will cover drug, equipment and supply costs for individuals who choose to die at home that will reduce financial burdens significantly (these costs are covered by Medicare in hospitals, but not in the community); ? 20 new community health clinics over the next four years to expand crucial primary health care services.