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Before their eyes, it crumbled into a cloud of dust. The Calgary General Hospital, closed by the Klein government, was demolished October 4. And its destruction has been seen as a symbol of all the problems facing public health care in Alberta.

“It’s no coincidence that Ralph Klein’s ministers are trying to bully the College of Physicians into approving a private hospital, while his patronage appointees on the Calgary Health Authority are blowing up the last public hospital in downtown Calgary,” said National President Judy Darcy.

The demolition capped off a worrisome week for the future of public health care. Earlier, the province had appointed the president of K-Bro to the Capital Health Authority in Edmonton. K-Bro is the private company that was awarded the contract to operate the laundry facilities at Calgary hospitals in 1995. The Edmonton-based firm has since been purchased by an American corporation.

“Welcome to globalization, Alberta style,” said Terry Mutton, President of CUPE Alberta. “We build the company with tax dollars, then it takes away decent paying jobs, reduces services with no savings to the public and pretends that it has made a profit. Then the owners make millions selling out to the American company while workers pay the cost.”

CUPE has been promoting the direct election of health authorities in order to replace the patronage appointees who have been so willing to support the government’s efforts to cut back and privatize health care.

Then on October 2, the College of Physicians considered an application from Health Resources Group, a private for-profit health company, to expand an existing clinic into a full hospital. While the College delayed its decision, CUPE challenged the review process.

“It is wrong for the government to try to get the College to do its dirty work so it can speed up the sell off of the public health care system,” said Mutton.

Even more threatening is Bill 37, legislation that would open up the health system to for-profit hospitals. The Conservative government had introduced the bill last spring but postponed action until the November sitting in the face of mounting opposition.

“Klein is in for a surprise if he thinks that Bill 37 will slip through the legislature unnoticed,” said Mutton.