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Regina: The Canadian Union of Public Employees launched a province-wide campaign today to urge the Calvert government to expand not reduce public long-term care beds and home care in the province.

The $70,000 campaign, organized by CUPE Saskatchewan, includes radio, newspaper and television ads, as well as billboards.

Last month, Health Minister Nilson warned of changes to the health system that will include facility closures and reductions in public long-term care beds.

But CUPE Saskatchewan President Tom Graham described the proposed cuts to cut long-term care beds as heartless.

Were extremely disappointed that an NDP government would be promoting a plan to privatize even more long-term care beds in the province, says Graham.

CUPEs newspaper ads and billboards urge the public to say no to Calverts plan to cut long-term care beds.

Graham says the unions campaign echo ads used by the NDP during the last election that called on the public to say no to Hermansons plan to privatize SaskTel and SGI. The NDP was elected on that anti-privatization platform, he states.

Health Minister Nilson has tried to justify the cuts by stating the province has more long-term care beds than the national average. But CUPE Health Care Council President Steve Foley says thats not surprising.

Given the fact that Saskatchewan residents have one of the highest rates of multiple sclerosis in the world and nearly two-thirds of our long-term residents suffer from dementia much higher than other provinces we need more, not fewer, public long-term care beds in this province.

CUPE says the Calvert government must also spend more money on public home care services. Saskatchewans per capita spending on home care is the third lowest in the country at $86. In contrast, Manitoba spends $153 per capita, the union ads state.

The provincial government needs to do much more to support people with disabilities and our aging population, Foley says. Instead of abandoning our frail elderly to private for profit health care, it should abandon its feeble plan.

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For more information call Steve Foley at 546-2185