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Ottawa – More than 600 delegates gathered on May 3rd and 4th in the birthplace of the nation’s Medicare system – Regina, Saskatchewan – to unite behind public health care.

The conference, S.O.S. Medicare 2: Looking Forward, brought together a stunning array of the leading health care thinkers, providers, and activists in Canada, the U.S., and abroad. CUPE was a principal sponsor of this exciting event. Delegates included academics, community activists, seniors, students, government officials, and health care workers representing the full spectrum of the system.

The conference heard from experts such as Monique Bégin, former minister of health and welfare in the Trudeau government; Tom Kent, principal secretary to Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson; Alan Blakeney, former Saskatchewan premier; and Roy Romanow, former Saskatchewan premier and chair of the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada.

The conference focused on completing phase two of Canada’s universal public health care system. Phase One was universal public insurance for physician and hospital care. Phase Two will extend Medicare to home care, long term care, community care, pharmacare, and initiatives that address social determinants of health and disparities that are at the heart of poor health outcomes.

Phase Two is also about managing health care better – through waitlist management, teamwork, integration, evidence-based practice and other innovations. Roy Romanow, said the plan for Phase Two has long been laid out – all that is missing is the political will to implement it.

Political leadership is needed to counter the growth of for-profits in Canada’s health care system, from insurance to delivery, support services to surgery, and in the very management and infrastructure of Medicare. Public health care is Canadians’ proudest achievement, yet private forces whose primary motivation is profit rather than the health care of Canadians are weakening it.

Dr. Arnold Relman of Harvard Medical School warned against for-profit delivery of health care, saying “it costs more, does not provide better care, and it poisons the system.”

This is a new era in which for-profit proponents are using the court system to undermine public health care.

These threats are particularly ominous in light of trade agreements that open the door for commercialization.

The federal government is stalling with unconditional funding and pilot projects while disparities increase and commercial interests grow.

This conference, and the delegates’ resolve to unite, is history in the making.

Courage my friends, ’tis not too late to make a better world.”
Tommy Douglas