MPs must reject Canada Health Act annual report

OTTAWA - This year's annual report to Parliament on the Canada Health Act (CHA) is once again missing data on for-profit health services and must be rejected by MPs, says Canada's largest union.

"Once again, the annual report to Parliament on the CHA is full of holes and MPs must simply reject it," said Paul Moist, national president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). "Most provinces aren't reporting on the scope of for-profit health services, and the federal government is just sitting back and doing nothing about it."

The report details some fines for the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, British Columbia and Nova Scotia. However, there are no fines for Quebec even though private clinics are growing rapidly in that province, a trend that threatens universality of care. In fact, the report is completely blank on the subject of private clinics in Quebec, as well as in Alberta and Ontario. Saskatchewan and Manitoba are the only provinces to provide all the requested information on for-profit health services - with Saskatchewan reporting none, and Manitoba reporting one private clinic, the number of services it provided and how much money was spent there.

But other provinces refuse to fill in the blanks. Even where the number of private clinics is documented, the report fails to keep track of services, Moist said. The report documents a sharp rise in the number of private, for-profit surgical facilities in BC from 1 in 2000 to 18 in 2005, but gives no further information on the number of services provided there or the amount of money spent.

"How can Canadians strengthen our public health care system if the federal government refuses to monitor and enforce its existing legislation?" Moist asked. "All of us are paying the price with an eroded and weakened system."

The federal government has an obligation to ensure that the principles of the CHA are upheld beyond just monitoring the extra billing and user fees criteria, Moist said. In 2004, a federal court judge rejected a court challenge brought by CUPE and other groups to force the Minister of Health to monitor and enforce the CHA, ruling that proper monitoring was up to Parliament.

"MPs must stand up and demand that the federal government stop ignoring the five principles of the CHA," said Moist. "They can start by refusing to accept this year's incomplete report."