Packed audience clearly tells Victoria’s health committee — no private hospitals

HEU, allies’ submissions give evidence of huge cost overruns, reduced service under private schemes

More than 350 people packed Victoria’s health standing committee November 8 in Surrey to back community and labour representatives when they spoke against a private hospital scheme — the private finance initiative (PFI) — proposed to replace MSA General Hospital in Abbotsford.

The on-the-ground legwork of HEU MSA local’s `Organizing Against PFI’ committee, and the response from concerned Fraser Valley residents, seniors’ and community groups, and other HEU locals and labour organizations, ensured that the Liberal MLAs heard the message loud and clear — no private hospital for the Fraser Valley.

Sikh temple spokesperson Gurnaik Singh Brar, Marj Mansell of the B.C. Old Age Pensioners’ Organization, B.C. Health Coalition member Caryn Duncan of the Vancouver Women’s Collective, and leaders from the B.C. Nurses’ Union, BCGEU, CUPE B.C. and the B.C. Federation of Labour joined with HEU in a cooperative presentation that clearly demonstrated the real costs of privatization and the impact private deals have on patients, workers and communities.

BCNU vice-president Patt Shuttleworth said that when private contractors are brought in to provide [hospital] support services such as dietary and housekeeping, costs go up and service goes down. “We support our colleagues in the HEU when they argue against contracting out key hospital support services. Housekeeping and dietary staff are valued members of the hospital team.”

OAPO’s Mansell, a resident in the Fraser Valley Health Region, said, “The fear is real, that a private hospital will cost more to operate and thus will take scarce health care dollars away from this region.”

And Brar brought down the house when he closed his remarks with “?and I wish you good health so that you never have to go to the hospital.”

HEU members, other health care workers and supporters of Medicare have been presenting progressive solutions to expand and strengthen our public health care system to the standing committee throughout the MLAs’ B.C. tour. Check out what’s been said on the B.C. government’s web site at: www.gov.bc.ca click on search then type Hansard, Select Standing Committee on Health and hit enter.

For more information about Britain’s experience with PFI, look up the web sites of the British Medical Journal, www.bmj.com, (use the search feature to find articles on PFI), and UNISON, Britain’s largest trade union, www.unison.org.uk — click on “Campaigns and Policy Areas”.

The next event opposing the PFI will be on Tuesday, November 20 in downtown Vancouver. Stay closely tuned to your local executive and the HEU web site for details.