British Columbians more optimistic about Medicare's future, HEU poll finds

News release

Top priorities include more nurses and hospital beds, expanded home support and long-term care

B.C.’s health care system still faces tremendous pressures, but British Columbians are much more optimistic about the future of Medicare than they were 13 months ago, according to polling results released today by the Hospital Employees’ Union.

Asked to think ahead over the next several years, 30 per cent of 409 British Columbians surveyed between Jan. 9 and 12 felt that the health care system would improve in the future, while 22 per cent thought it would remain the same and 43 per cent said it would deteriorate. And that, says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt, is a marked improvement from a December 1999 HEU poll, when 57 per cent feared the system would deteriorate.

The survey of public views on a wide range of health care issues was conducted for HEU by McIntyre and Mustel, and results are considered accurate within five per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Coupled with the growing sense of optimism, says Allnutt, is a significant improvement in the NDP’s performance ratings in managing health care issues. “When we last polled this question 13 months ago,” he says, “56 per cent of the public said the NDP was doing a poor job. In the most recent results, that number declined to 38 per cent.”

“Our sense is that renewed public confidence along with a better performance rating could be the basis for the NDP’s increased popular support that’s also reflected in our poll. It may indicate that in the public’s mind, Premier Dosanjh’s health action plan is viewed as an effective response to the problems facing Medicare.”

Meanwhile, when it comes to increased health spending, British Columbians are clear about their priorities. Nursing came out on top with 86 per cent supporting greater funding for Licensed Practical Nurses, Care Aides and Registered Nurses. More hospital beds enjoyed 83 per cent support, while additional dollars for improved long-term care services and expanded home support for seniors and the disabled received 77 and 76 per cent backing respectively. Lower on the priority list were surgical wait lists, mental health programs and more money for physicians.

Copies of the questions reported above are available on request. HEU will release more poll findings related to health care contract negotiations tomorrow.