Federal budget response to Medicare crisis "anemic," says HEU
Lack of commitment to health care widens Ottawa;s credibility gap on Medicare Federal finance minister Paul Martin's plans for a one-time injection of cash into Canada's resource-starved health care system is an inadequate measure that further erodes Ottawa's ability to defend Medicare against privatization, says B.C.'s largest union of health care workers. "What Medicare requires is significantly increased and stable long-term funding," says David Ridley, first vice-president of the 45,000 member Hospital Employees' Union. "Instead, the finance minister's stop-gap funding measure puts Medicare on life support for yet another year while delivering tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations. And he's handed Ralph Klein an open invitation to proceed with his plans to legalize private hospitals." HEU says today's budget doesn't bode well for Health Minister Allan Rock's proposals to introduce a home and community care program cost-shared by federal and provincial governments. "Frankly, Rock's ability to provide leadership on new programs to modernize Medicare is seriously compromised by his government's anemic response to the health care crisis," says Ridley. "Provincial governments will be understandably reluctant to implement new programs to insure home care and pharmaceuticals when Ottawa won't even make a serious commitment to repairing the existing health infrastructure." Despite the one-time $2.5 billion transfer payment for health and education, Ottawa still won't make up for the health care cuts it made in the mid-90s for at least another two years. Even then, health care transfers will have been heavily discounted by a growing and aging population and increased health care costs in areas such as pharmaceuticals and new medical technologies. Tomorrow, HEU will participate in the Canadian Union of Public Employees' National Day of Action on Medicare to protest federal underfunding to health care.