BC Health Coalition supports push for federal government action to defend Canada Health Act

A coalition of social groups announced in Ottawa today that they will be taking the Chrétien government to court for its failure to comply with the Canada Health Act due to federal inaction in defending Canada's public health care system

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Health Coalition announced today that they are filing an application with the federal court to force the federal government to live up to its responsibilities under the Canada Health Act.

"The Canada Health Act is designed to ensure that all residents of Canada have access to necessary health care services. It is becoming increasingly clear that the federal government is going to have to be forced to take on the rogue provincial governments who are violating the Act in spirit and in substance, in their rush to sell off our health care system to private interests. By not acting, the Federal Health Minister Anne McLellan is allowing two-tier health care to flourish simply by default," says Terrie Hendrickson, spokesperson for the BC Health Coalition.

Patt Shuttleworth, Vice-President of the BC Nurses' Union agrees. "Due to the lack of monitoring, reporting or enforcement of the Canada Health Act, BC's government feels it has the freedom to do whatever it wants with our health care services, regardless of the unfairness to citizens and obvious violations of the Act. Just last week the Interior Health Authority (IHA) was pressured to suspend a hospital user fee it imposed on seniors receiving rehabilitation care in Kelowna after a public outcry about the IHA's attempt to sneak around the Canada Health Act."

The BC Health Coalition is also concerned about the growing number of private services which seem to be encouraging "queue-jumping" for health care services. The False Creek Surgical Centre, for example, is a private day surgery centre with overnight patient facilities. Other companies like Surgical Opinion are advertising to the public to use their services which appear to be designed as fast-track routes to specialists, surgeons and diagnostic tests for people with cash in hand to pay for the service.

"Clearly the Chrétien government isn't protecting our rights to a comprehensive, accessible, universal, portable and publicly administered health care system. The Minister must enforce the criteria of the Canada Health Act and ensure that the necessary checks and balances are put in place. That's why we're filing this application with the federal court to force the government to live up to its responsibilities," said Colleen Fuller of the Council of Canadians.

CEP Western Regional Vice-President Dave Coles concludes, "Canadians and British Columbians have told politicians of every stripe time and time again that medicare is their most cherished national program. The Romanow Commission, due to report next week, has also heard for months now all across this nation that Canadians want an open, accountable and equitable health care system. In addition, publicly-funded health care in Canada is an economic advantage. Why would the federal government abandon its commitment to health as well as to the economy?"

For more information:
Dave Coles - CEP Western Regional Vice-President - 604 240 7284
Colleen Fuller - Council of Canadians - 604 255 6601
Terrie Hendrickson - BC Health Coalition - 604 681 7945
Patt Shuttleworth - Vice-President British Columbia Nurses' Union - 604 785 8155

HSA is a member of the BC Health Coalition.