Lib’s Campbell launches health care road show

But HEU members are having a hard time getting opposition leader’s ear

B.C. Liberal boss Gordon Campbell has probably met more HEU members in the last two weeks than in his entire time as opposition leader.

That’s because Campbell has embarked on a 23-community tour through the province billed as a “dialogue on health care.” So far Campbell’s health care road show has visited communities in the Northwest, the Cariboo and the Kootenays.

In each community, a select group of invited participants discuss their ideas about improving health care delivery.

But HEU members who’ve turned up at the round tables have had a hard time getting their voices heard. As observers, they’ve not had an opportunity to address the Liberal leader — or ask him questions on issues like his opposition to the employment security agreement or whether or not he supports an expanded role for LPNs.

And with very few exceptions, HEU members haven’t made the guest list as round table participants.

“People had come to their conclusions before they came,” says Ollie Martin, an LPN who works in the laundry at Cariboo Memorial Hospital in William’s Lake. Martin wanted to talk to the group about how better utilization of LPNs can help address the nursing shortage — but Campbell wasn’t taking comments from observers.

And Eleanor Schmidt — chairperson of HEU’s Nelson local — went to the roundtable in her community to talk to the Liberal leader about her facility’s costly experiment in privatized food services.

But Schmidt was frustrated to find that representatives of almost every health care union plus a selection of civic politicians and physicians had seats at the table and a voice in the discussion while she was not given an opportunity to speak for HEU members.

“It struck me with great dismay that you chose to ignore the largest health care union by not including someone from the HEU,” says Schmidt in a letter she wrote to Campbell after the session.

“HEU has many constructive suggestions for improving the delivery of public health care in a more cost effective manner. Privatizing support services is not the answer to improving quality of care and saving money.”

Over the next two weeks, Campbell will take his health care roundtable to northeast B.C., the Okanagan and to Vancouver Island. And HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt hopes the opposition leader will open up the sessions so that HEU members can contribute their ideas for improving health care delivery.

“If the Liberal leader is serious about this consultation, he’ll take the time to listen to our members whose suggestions for modernizing health care are based on concrete front-line experience,” says Allnutt.

“At the same time, Campbell should take the time to explain to our members his views on other health care issues — like why he wants to tear up the employment security agreement.”