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OTTAWA - Canada’s largest union has called on the federal government to take immediate action to prevent private hospitals and stop the spread of two-tier medicine. The move is intended to head off Alberta Premier Ralph Klein’s plans to direct public funds to for-profit hospitals.

“Klein’s plan for private hospitals has to be stopped,” said Judy Darcy, National President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees. “If the federal government doesn’t take decisive action, the future health of all Canadians is at risk.”

Darcy met with federal health minister Allan Rock Friday to press demands for urgent federal action. CUPE is concerned that once private hospitals are permitted in Alberta, governments will be powerless to stop their spread across the country.

“We’ll see American corporations setting up hospitals from coast to coast,” said Darcy. “Patient care will suffer, wait times will increase and costs will skyrocket.”

Darcy called on the minister to state clearly that the federal government would withhold funding if Alberta proceeds. If special legislation is required to stop for-profit medicine, the minister should proceed to introduce a bill as soon as Parliament resumes sitting, she said. Darcy also urged the minister to appoint a special commissioner to examine the Alberta plan and recommend action to stop the privatization of public health care.

“Private hospitals clearly contravene the spirit of the law,” said Darcy. “The key thing is to nip them in the bud.”

CUPE has launched an aggressive campaign in Alberta to oppose Klein’s privatization scheme and is making plans for a national mobilization in defence of public health care.

“We’ve succeeded in the past in fighting back Klein’s plans for two-tier medicine and we’ll fight this latest attack on medicare,” said Darcy. “But our public health system is under attack and the federal government seems paralysed.

“Even the Auditor General has criticized the federal government for sitting by while the principles of the Canada Health Act are violated. We’re telling the minister the time for action is now.”

CUPE represents 475,000 workers including 140,000 who work in health care.

For more information, contact:
Catherine Louli (613) 237-1590, ext. 268 or (613) 851-0547 (cell)

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