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Public unimpressed with B.C. Liberals’ health care performance - poll

47 per cent give government “poor” health rating; 58 per cent oppose P3 hospitals; 60 per cent doubt health service quality can be maintained by private contractors.

The B.C. Liberals’ performance on health care is rated as poor by 47 per cent of British Columbians, according to a Mustel Group poll commissioned by the Hospital Employees’ Union.

That’s up sharply from 40 per cent in January and represents the second poorest ranking of a B.C. government since HEU began polling on this question in 1993. The August 6-11 telephone survey of 501 British Columbians indicates that just 7 per cent rated the government’s health care performance as excellent or very good. A further 17 per cent rate their performance as good and 26 per cent as fair.

“Facility closures, service cuts and privatization combined with MSP and Pharmacare hikes are eroding public confidence in this government’s health care reforms,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “British Columbians have quickly discovered that the New Era commitment to health care ‘where and when you need it’ is an empty commitment.”

The survey also shows a public deeply suspicious of government’s plans to privatize health care infrastructure and support services.

In the aftermath of government’s failed plan to use public-private partnerships to operate the Coquihalla Highway, the HEU/Mustel Group survey shows that 58 per cent (including 32 per cent of B.C. Liberal supporters) oppose government plans to use similar P3 arrangements to build, own and operate hospitals, highways and schools.

And on the question of contracting out health care services, 60 per cent of British Columbians are not persuaded by health authorities’ claims that they can replace existing staff with private contractors and still maintain high quality health services.

“The public understands that we can’t build a quality health care system by throwing thousands of skilled, experienced workers out on the street,” says Allnutt.

About 9,000 health care workers are expected to lose their jobs by the end of 2004 due to privatization and contracting out.

HEU’s survey questions form part of a larger Mustel Group omnibus poll that included political preference numbers released by the polling company earlier this week. The results are considered accurate to within 4.4 per cent, 19 out of 20 times.

Here are the questions:

How would you rate the performance of the current B.C. Liberal government’s handling of health care issues?
Excellent - 1.6%
Very good - 5.2%
Good - 17.4%
Fair - 25.5%
Poor - 46.7%
Don’t know - 3.6%

The B.C. Liberal government has proposed using private-public partnerships in which private companies would build, own and operate public infrastructure like hospitals, highways and schools. Based on what you know about private-public partnerships, do you support or oppose this approach?
Strongly agree - 9.0%
Somewhat agree - 23.2%
Somewhat disagree - 17.9%
Strongly disagree - 40.0%
Don’t know - 9.9%
Total agree - 32.2%
Total disagree - 57.9%

B.C.’s health authorities say they can replace thousands of existing staff with private contractors and maintain high quality services. Do you agree or disagree with that statement?
Strongly agree - 15.6%
Somewhat agree - 16.6%
Somewhat disagree - 18.9%
Strongly disagree - 41.1%
Don’t know - 7.8%
Total agree - 32.2%
Total disagree - 60.0%

Contact: Mike Old, acting communications director, 604-828-6771 (cell)