It’s been a year since the Canada Health Accord expired.
Motorists travelling along Bypass near 15th Avenue were reminded of during the noon hour on Wednesday as about two HEU and BCGEU members rallied during what they called the National Day of Action for Health Care.
“(The accord) has been expired for one year,” said Natalie Fletcher of the HEU. “What that means to British Columbians is about $5 billion in cuts to funding. The $36 billion (in cuts over $10 years) across Canada would equate to 90,000 (more) beds (in the health care system.”
There are about 1,000 HEU members in Prince George and about 47,000 across the province.
“It’s pretty difficult for members when we see patients in the hallways,” Fletcher said. “There aren’t enough beds. We’re over-capacity every day.”
Even though most health funding is provincial, the rally here, and across the province, is calling on the federal government to increase health funding to the provinces. Fletcher said that when Medicare first started the funding was shared equally between the provinces and the federal government. Over time the provinces have been picking up a greater share of the cost and have instituted their own cuts.
Until one year ago, the Health Accord set the level of annual health care funding Ottawa provides to the provinces and territories. However, in late 2011, Ottawa announced it would not renew the accord, setting the stage for the accord’s expiry on March 31, 2014.
“With the Health Care Accord having been expired and the federal government choosing not to negotiate a new one, we’re very concerned about the future of publicly-funded, accessible health care for all Canadians,” said Stephanie Smith, president of the British Columbia Government and Services Employees’ Union.
She said her union represents more than 17,000 health care workers in the province with about 500 in Prince George.
“Canada has a health care system that is envied around the world,” Smith said. “The slippery slope of private, for profit health care is not what Canadians want.”
Smith urged Canadians to make health care funding an issue this fall during the federal election campaign.