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Children & families urgently need adequate funding

The Report: November / December 1999 vol.20 num.4

by REID JOHNSON

In the spring of this year, the provincial Minister of Health, the Honourable PennyPriddy, announced to the HSA Convention that the Ministry of Health had added $615 millionnew dollars to the health budget for British Columbia.

This revelation was welcome news to those members of HSA whose employers are funded by theMinistry of Health.

However, for HSA members whose employers are funded through the Ministry for Children andFamilies, this information was of little comfort.

Earlier in the year, the Honourable Lois Boone, Minister for Children and Families,directed organizations that are funded by MCF - including those that provide healthservices - to cut their budgets by 1.5 per cent.

Just for the record, the issue of whether these employers are CSSEA or HEABC members isirrelevant.

Many HEABC employers now receive their funding from MCF as a result of restructuring ofthat Ministry as mandated by the Gove report. These agencies provide services to childrenas well as adults with disabilities.

Earlier this year, representatives from the the agencies that provide "healthservices" to children and disabled adults met with Ms. Boone and pointed out theglaring discrepancy in terms of how health services are being treated between the twoministries.

Ms. Boone tersely responded that in her capacity as Minister of Highways, keeping roads ingood repair so ambulances could navigate was just as much a "health" issue asthe one that the delegation was identifying. In my view, this level of insight andcompassion on the part of a cabinet minister representing the interests of children,disabled adults and families is inexcusable.

I would like to see Ms. Boone explain to the four year old girl with spinal muscularatrophy that the physiotherapist who provides chest physiotherapy in the childshome, or the occupational therapist helping the girl learn to steer her power wheelchairat the local community centre, or the speech therapist helping the girl learn to masterher limited breath support for speaking, or the social worker supporting the family tocope with the probable death of their child, work with "social" issues and not"health" issues.

I would have preferred that this particular girl could have driven her wheelchair into Ms.Boones office to discuss her situation, but she cant.

She died.

The little girl didnt die from a "social" issue. She died from a"health" issue.

The Minister of Health appeared to understand the fact that our members providing healthservices under the Ministry for Children and Families, and the clients receiving thoseservices, deserve the benefit of those $615 million new dollars.

HSA President Cindy Stewart met with Ms. Priddy on this funding inequity and she agreed toraise the issue with Minister Boone. HSA will also be meeting with Minister Boone aboutthis inequity as we continue to address the governments 1.5 per cent cut to MCFfunded agencies.

In the meantime, each HSA member can do their part by contacting their MLA and supportingthe various advocacy groups lobbying the government.

In time, our collective efforts may convince the government to fund health servicesequally, regardless of which ministry provides the funds.

Reid Johnson is a Social Worker at The Centre for Ability, and represents Region 5on HSAs Board of Directors.

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