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CUPEs BC health services division has revealed that the Campbell government is about to finalize secret plans to build a new private hospital in Abbotsford.

Its a move that is the most brazen attack yet by any provincial government to undermine Medicare, says Hospital Employees Union spokesperson Chris Allnutt. Were deeply troubled by this development.

Noting that it would be a Canadian first, Allnutt says his union has confirmed through a number of government sources that the new hospital will be privately financed, privately constructed, and privately owned.

As we understand the private hospital scheme, the Fraser Valley Health Region will lease space over a 30-year period, which would guarantee a significant rate of return for the developer involved.

The previous NDP government approved the new hospital as a conventional public project but HEU sources indicate the project went private in June, around the time the Liberals implemented huge tax cuts and reduced government revenue.

In addition, says Allnutt, the preliminary blueprints for the new facility dont provide any space for support services like dietary. This is how government plans forced privatization of these kinds of services, ensuring the hospital will never have the capacity to bring them back in-house, he charged. Its also likely that the developer who builds and owns the private hospital will be offered an iron-clad long-term franchise to provide these services.

The evidence from Britain is clear, says Allnutt. These kinds of private schemes have failed to deliver cost savings and result in poorer quality care. But they have been a cash cow for developers.

HEU will be organizing a special meeting this week to brief union members on these developments, which affect caregivers in health care facilities from Abbotsford to Hope. And Allnutt says HEU is committed to work with other groups to fight against the private hospital scheme and to lobby for a publicly built, financed and owned facility.