No to health care privatization, HEU tells Romanow Commission

 

The Hospital Employees' Union has told the federal government's Commission on the Future of Health Care that health care privatization is not the way to go and that exclusively public, not-for-profit ownership and delivery of hospital services and guaranteed federal funding available only to public, not-for-pprofit hospitals under a strengthened Canada Health Act are among the steps necessary for the progressive reform of Medicare in Canada.

In its submission, "Sustainability through reform not privatization", the union focuses on the disastrous consequences - including higher costs to taxpayers, reduced health services, lack of public accountability and shoddy construction - experienced in Britain as a result of the use of the private finance initiative (PFI), a comprehensive privatization model implemented by Margaret Thatcher's Tory government to replace public hospitals with private ones in the early 1990s.

HEU exposed a secret PFI scheme for a new Fraser Valley health care facility to replace Abbotsford's ageing MSA General Hospital last October. Since that time, opposition to a PFI deal has been growing and HEU has been joined by community groups, seniors, concerned individuals, and other unions in calling for a publicly financed and operated hospital in Abbotsford.

HEU also recommends that the commission call on the federal government to act decisively to strengthen the safeguards that protect our public, not-for-profit health care system from the investment and services rules of NAFTA, GATS and other trade agreements. A decision now to build a private hospital in Abbotsford will be very difficult to reverse down the road and will have implications for other hospital construction projects in B.C. and across Canada.

The Commission of the Future of Health Care, headed up by former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow, wants public input and has announced that it will hold public hearings across Canada beginning in March. For more information, you can look on the commission's web site, or call toll free 1-800-793-6161.