Medicare fight critical for Canadian women, says CUPE's Darcy

HEU activists occupy M.P.'s office as part of national Medicare campaign Women have the most at stake in the fight to prevent the destruction of Canada's health care system says Canadian Union of Public Employees president Judy Darcy marking International Women's Day, March 8. "As the health care system is being starved of funds and carved up for profit, it's women who are most affected and most concerned," said Darcy. "We see it every day - the cuts to hospital beds, the cuts to patient care and support services in hospitals and nursing homes. These are women's jobs and women's services that are being cut." CUPE has been mounting a major campaign to put pressure on the federal government to increase its funding to health care and prevent the Alberta government from introducing for-profit hospitals into the public health care system. HEU members have played a key role in advancing that campaign in B.C. On March 7, St. Paul's members Dallas Appleby and Janice Powers joined a group of 15 seniors, youth, students and other health care workers in a three-hour occupation of Vancouver-Centre M.P. Hedy Fry's constituency office. Ben Swankey, a Burnaby senior and long-time Medicare advocate, took part in the occupation. He says federal underfunding of health care is an open invitation for Ralph Klein to push through his bill that would legalize private hospitals. Swankey thinks itís important for federal and provincial health ministers to talk about expanding Medicare to cover home and community care and prescription drugs, but he also has a warning. "It would be unacceptable for politicians to cut a backroom deal to dismantle Medicare," says Swankey. "The Canadian public wonít stand to see Medicare sold off one piece at a time." The occupation was part of a national action co-ordinated by the Canadian Health Coalition that targeted seven high profile Liberal cabinet ministers including Fry, Health Minister Allan Rock, Foreign Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy and Industry Minister John Manly. Participants at an HEU advanced shop stewards training session took part in a rally to support the activists who ended their occupation after receiving assurances that they would meet with Fry later in the week.