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VANCOUVER The B.C. government took another backwards step yesterday with a contradictory report that will further undermine the health care system and the provinces highly valued ambulance service, says CUPE BC.

Among other suggestions, the report proposes to download emergency medical services to regional health boards. This is simply another measure to rid the Campbell Liberals of responsibility for providing needed services to the community, CUPE BC president Barry ONeill said. It will lead us backwards to a system where we have no central accountability for our critical life-saving service.

The report, Patients First Renewal and Reform of British Columbias Health Care System, recommends putting the onus back on local taxpayers to subsidize the ambulance service. This is the start of a two-tiered ambulance service with city dwellers getting a better quality of service than rural citizens, CUPE Local 873 provincial president John Strohmaier said.

The Liberals want to tear apart the emergency health care system that we all enjoy, Strohmaier added. They said health care was a priority and now they propose to turn emergency service over to charity.

The report, from the legislatures select standing committee on health, recommends going to a charity model similar to the STARS system in Alberta. It relies on corporate and private donations to provide air ambulance services. The report also would have service clubs raise money to buy vital ambulance equipment.

Even if it was desirable to return to a charitable system, the provincial economy is in such desperate shape that it couldnt support such a system, ONeill said. The Campbell government has spent the last six months tearing down the systems people need to work and live in their communities.

This is a wrong-headed document that tries to cure the symptoms, not the real problems, ONeill said. We need a better emergency health care system. This report sends us backwards not forward.

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Contact: Barry ONeill, CUPE BC president, 604-916-8444; Stu Myers, Public Education Director, Ambulance Paramedics of B.C.(CUPE Local 873), 604-313-7571.