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Across the province, creative actions focus on facilities, communities In the wake of January 28’s political protest marking the first anniversary of Bill 29’s passage into law, members of the Hospital Employees’ Union (CUPE) are using a variety of means to mobilize opposition against the Campbell government’s privatization agenda.

HEU members are well-known for their creativity and ingenuity. They know that the public health care system and their livelihoods are at stake and that now is the time to stand up against this government’s attack on the health and well-being of British Columbians,” says Chris Allnutt, HEU secretary-business manager.

Here is how some HEU members around B.C. took their message out to their communities and workplaces this week:
  • In the Sunshine Coast community of Powell River, 14 off-shift HEU members held a residents’ appreciation afternoon at the Olive Devaud long-term care facility which highlighted the many ways health care workers go beyond their official duties to care for residents. Members put on a tea, played cribbage and provided nail and hair care and foot baths.
  • In Campbell River, one HEU member came in to “mop up for Medicare” by dressing up as comedienne Carol Burnett’s washerwoman character. With mop and bucket in hand, she brightened up the day for residents with her humorous demonstrations of the kind of work she would like to have the time to do. Other island facilities where extra hands showed up to do off-shift work were Port McNeill, Port Alice and Port Hardy.
  • In the northern communities of Dawson Creek and Prince George, MLAs Blair Lekstrom and Paul Nettleton accepted invitations to tour their local hospitals and learn something about how their government’s legislation is affecting the delivery of health care in their regions. Dawson Creek administrators put up some initial roadblocks, but the tour, which included a member of the local city council, went ahead as planned. However, an extra worker who came in to donate time in the kitchen was ushered out the door by management as soon as the tour ended.
  • At Mount St. Francis in Nelson, 11 off-shift workers talked to family members who were attending a family council meeting about how cutbacks are affecting their loved ones.
  • HEU members at Rocky Mountain Lodge in Cranbrook brought Heart of Health Care buttons and festooned them with black ribbons, sparking curiosity and talking to people in their community about the devastating effects of Bill 29 and health care cutbacks.
  • When the management at Penticton Retirement Centre did not allow HEU members to take the mayor on a tour, they had a 90-minute debate outside of the facility with Interior Health Authority representatives instead. Mayor Dave Perry listened to workers about the effects of health care cuts on the community and suggested they make a presentation to the social development committee. Although the tour did not happen, two off-shift workers - one in housekeeping and the other in dietary - were kept on to finish their work.
  • Although a Kamloops tour was called off because local dignitaries were out of town, the local will be making a presentation to city council on February 11.
“The idea of off-shift HEU members donating work in departments where cutbacks have actually dropped the staffing to below essential services levels is one way to make service losses visible and demonstrate what health care should look like,” says Allnutt.

HEU members will continue to put their creative ideas into action in communities and facilities throughout the province.