Dismantling health boards, councils a power grab by Victoria — HEU

News release

`Super czars’ will make critical decisions about future of Medicare behind closed doors

The Campbell government’s move to radically reduce the number of health boards and councils to six mega regions is misguided and won’t address problems of system accountability and service fragmentation, says the Hospital Employees’ Union.

“It’s exactly as we predicted publicly three weeks ago,” says HEU spokesperson Zorica Bosancic, “and has nothing to do with providing better care for British Columbians. It’s a power grab by Victoria, plain and simple, and it comes at the expense of local control and local input into health care decision-making. “A month ago, after we publicly warned that these changes were imminent, health minister Hansen said they were necessary because he didn’t have enough command and control over the health care system. Now he will have complete power.”

“Communities across B.C. will lose big time from today’s announcement,” she says, noting that the 15 health service delivery areas will cover huge geographic areas that may not provide for adequate community input.

“And it’s extremely frightening that critical decisions about the future of public Medicare will be made behind closed doors by the `super czars’ who have been appointed by government to manage the transition,” she says. For example, says Bosancic, the decision on the controversial proposal for a private hospital in Abbotsford won’t be made by the community, it will be made by the Fraser Valley `super czar’, behind closed doors.

Bosancic says her union believes the current system—which is based on the closer to home recommendations of a 1991 Royal Commission—isn’t fatally flawed. “Yes, it needs to be fine tuned—not eliminated,” she says. “But when we tried to make a presentation to government on constructive solutions to make the current system better, we were rebuffed on four separate occasions. No one in Victoria wanted to listen to the ideas of frontline care providers.”

In fact, says Bosancic, the changes mean that frontline health care providers—whose insights and ideas were reflected in the decision-making process through health care provider positions on all the boards and councils—will no longer have a voice.

Bosancic charges the move is politically motivated. “They’re being eliminated because they would have been an obstacle to government plans to make about $2 billion in service cuts over the next 30 months, including widespread privatization and contracting out,” she says.

“Across B.C. today, hundreds of British Columbians from all walks of life who’ve volunteered with dedication on these boards and councils have been unceremoniously fired by the Campbell government. They deserved better.”