HEU releases details of deep cuts at Children’s and Women’s Hospital, B.C. Cancer Agency

News release

Document links at bottom of this page

The Hospital Employees’ Union (CUPE) today released the detailed blueprint for health service reductions, staffing cuts, bed closures and support services privatization for the Provincial Health Services Authority that had been kept secret until a union effort forced its disclosure last week.

While the PHSA had made public a seven-page broad brush summary of a plan to cut $70 million from its budget at an April 23 government press conference, the more than 130 pages of documents obtained by HEU through a Freedom of Information Act request contain the disturbing details of how those cuts will be made and who will be affected.

A copy of the PHSA documents—including specific plans for B.C. Children’s and Women’s Hospital, and the B.C. Cancer Agency—are available from the electronic version of this release at www.heu.org.

“This plan will inflict a lot of unnecessary pain and suffering on British Columbians,” says HEU spokesperson Chris Allnutt. “And no matter how Gordon Campbell tries to pass the buck to his health authorities, the public will hold the Premier accountable for his reckless cuts to health care.”

Reductions in patient services—or so-called utilization management strategies in government speak—totaling $37.5 million as outlined in the blueprint include plans to:

  • cut or shift the cost of $25 million in life saving chemotherapy drugs to patients;
  • eliminate dental surgery procedures for 1,000 kids;
  • perform 7,000 fewer mammography procedures to screen women for breast cancer;
  • fund fewer births;
  • significantly reduce surgical treatments and ambulatory visits for babies, children and mothers; and
  • close beds.
A backgrounder with more details of the reductions follows.

But despite the significant program cuts, the PHSA has budgeted $4.3 million to spend on new corporate offices.

Meanwhile, the documents also spell out who will be impacted by the job cuts along with specific details on the health authority’s hard-line approach to complete privatization of a range of support services including medical records transcription, housekeeping, plant maintenance and food services.

The authority says it will cut about 1,300 jobs (870 full-time equivalents), or 12 per cent of total staff. While more than 100 nursing and paramedical professional positions (77 FTEs) are being axed, most job cuts are targeted at support services and are to be achieved through privatization.

Despite a recent and controversial botched effort to privatize some services, PHSA claims it can save $5.8 million over three years by contracting out services to private corporations. Allnutt says the so-called savings will be achieved by cutting wage rates to as low as minimum wage.

“Privatization is about cutting wages and reducing service quality,” says Allnutt. “It’s the wrong answer for patients.”

But the authority acknowledges that in terms of achieving its targeted privatization savings, legal challenges mounted by unions “may restrict the degree to which these savings can be realized,” and that the privatization process will be “very contentious and disruptive” and “patient care services could be impacted.”

The authority’s largest facility, Children’s and Women’s Hospital, says its budget management plan “relies heavily on the utilization of the tools provided” in the Campbell government’s contract breaking legislation, Bill 29. “Government support and early approval are required to achieve annual operational savings,” the report says.

The documents also spell out in detail how the PHSA would levy new user and facility fees, establish a user-pay luxury tier of services, and recruit out-of country surgical cases to generate $10 million in new revenue. Allnutt says his union will study whether these measures violate the Canada Health Act.

In a related privatization move, HEU will file a comprehensive Freedom of Information request to obtain more details about the controversial hiring by Children’s and Women’s Hospital of A&A Services Co.—the private cleaning company whose contract was recently terminated.

Click here for the backgrounder which provides more details of the service cuts.

Here are the links to the documents received from the Provincial Health Services Authority. Letter received from PHSA PHSA 2002/03 Budget Management Plan PHSA plan for Children's and Women's PHSA plan for BC Cancer Agency PHSA plan for BCMHS/Riverview PHSA plan for Forensic Institute PHSA plan for BC Centre for Disease Control PHSA plan for BC Renal Agency PHSA plan for BC Transplant Society PHSA plan for Drug and Poison Control PHSA Plan for Red Cross

-30- Contact: Stephen Howard, communications director, 604-240-8524; Mike Old, communications officer, 604-828-6771