Funding freeze “hamstrings” Liberals’ health platform

News release

Move raises new concerns about Opposition’s Medicare plan

The Hospital Employees’ Union says there are a number of positive elements in the health care platform announced today by Liberal boss Gordon Campbell. But B.C.’s biggest health care union says these are completely overshadowed by the Opposition Leader’s announcement of a funding freeze that HEU says will make it difficult if not impossible for Campbell to make good on his commitments.

“The Liberal’s pledge to increase training opportunities for Care Aides and Licensed Practical Nurses, build 5,000 not-for-profit long-term care beds and significantly expand home support and mental health services would help improve services for British Columbians,” says union spokesperson Chris Allnutt.

“But, we have to wonder how he can deliver if he’s essentially frozen the health care budget at the same time,” Allnutt says. “Clearly, the Liberals have hamstrung themselves, and today’s announcement actually raises new concerns about stable funding in the future.

“Making any future funding increases dependent on economic growth won’t reassure British Columbians that resources will be in place to provide them with quality health care when they need it,” Allnutt says.

While Campbell says he’ll cut waste and inefficiencies to pay for the new Liberal initiatives, Allnutt says that the view from health care’s front-lines is that the system is running lean. “Health care is about people caring for people. About 80 per cent of health care expenditures are payroll costs to employ the trained direct patient care and support staff who look after British Columbians,” he said. “The only way Campbell could achieve the savings he needs to fund these new initiatives is to cut staff or rollback wages.”

Allnutt says Campbell’s pledge to implement deep tax cuts also poses a threat to public Medicare. “We would agree with the vast array of economists and even business groups who say you have to pay for tax cuts by paring back government programs,” he said. “With health care and education making up such a significant part of provincial expenditures, it’s hard to believe they would be spared from any cuts.”