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CUPE’s campaign to stop private hospitals in Alberta has touched a nerve with the Klein government. The provincial minister of health has accused CUPE of starting an “American-style fear campaign.”

CUPE television ads began running in Calgary and Edmonton this week. The ads show the demolition of the Calgary General hospital with the announcer asking whether premier Ralph Klein thinks Albertans are so na•ve they believe private hospitals will prevent the collapse of medicare.

Responding to the minister’s attack, CUPE Alberta President Terry Mutton said it was the premier who was fear mongering. In December the premier told Albertans that public health care was in imminent danger of collapsing if the province did not find other ways, like contracting out to private clinics, to provide health care. Private clinics charge patients hundreds of dollars in extra charges.

“Doesn’t saying that medicare is about to collapse sound just a tad like fear mongering?” asked Mutton. “Medicare may be the largest single item in the provincial budget; however private health care will cost us all a whole lot more. The American experience proves this.”

Mutton said that CUPE’s TV advertisement just tells it like it is. “Klein’s government did implode the Calgary General, they did close other hospitals, the Holy Cross, the Grace and the Colonel Belcher and they have closed a lot of hospital beds,” said Mutton. “Klein did say that the status quo wasn’t going to work any longer and that we need the private sector to get involved to save medicare and reduce waiting lists. He forgot to say that his cuts caused these lists to get out of hand.”

Health minister Jonson also pledged the new legislation will prevent queue jumping and two-tier medicine. But CUPE doesn’t buy it.

“If you live in Calgary and need cataract surgery, you will in all likelihood have to pay an additional $250 to $750 for a service that is done normally with no extra charge in Edmonton,” said Mutton. “Even the Americans haven’t tried this trick.”

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