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CUPE frontline health sector members and staff joined the Canadian Health coalition Thursday on Parliament Hill for a series of meetings with MPs about Canada’s Health Accord.

CUPE is urging MP’s to support the Canadian public health care system, and to join CUPE members in finding ways to improve public health care.

Lobbyists met with representatives and shared stories about the importance of the Accord to their patients, residents and community. CUPE 879 member Sherry Hillier, a licensed practical nurse working in long term care, discovered that she had looked after a senatorial assistant’s grandmother in a Newfoundland nursing home.

If you have the opportunity to lobby, go for it, do it”, says Hillier. “At first I was scared, I was very nervous, I probably didn’t sleep very well.  But now I want to get involved and do even more.”

Rose Streick, CUPE 1550 president who works at Health Sciences Centre, said that talking with an NDP MP was like talking to another activist. She expected it to be stiff or formal, but it was comfortable.  “Really in the end we’re all citizens of Canada and health care affects us all,” said Streick. “Lobbying gives us voice as citizens. Once you get involved – having so many people speaking from the same place in their heart and their belief system –it’s really not intimidating at all.”

Going in with the most recent research helped,” says Gerry Flood, a member of CUPE’s Political Action Committee and a custodian from Winnipeg. He met with a Conservative Member of Parliament who was not interested in how health care is delivered. Flood says that the Health Accord identifies Canadians as having world-class health care. “You shouldn’t need to cross a border to get what you need. It’s a one-payer system, you don’t have to shop around. That’s all at risk with the Conservative majority.”

CUPE is advocating for a minimum six per cent escalator on funding in a renewed ten-year Health Accord. It is also calling for enforcement of the Canada Health Act - including bans on user fees and extra billings, a national strategy on reducing heath care associated infections, promotion of primary care reform with funding and regulations based on the community health care model, and the establishment of a national pharmacare program.

CUPE represents over 190,000 public health care workers across Canada. More on CUPE’s solutions for strengthening public health care and what should be part of a renewed ten-year Health Accord can be found at cupe.ca/health-care.