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Members of the Hospital Employees’ Union gathered outside Children’s and Women’s Hospital in Vancouver Thursday to deliver a strong message to federal health minister Allan Rock.

They signed a giant postcard to Rock demanding action on federal funding for health care and urging him to “deKlein” the Alberta premier’s privatization initiatives. The minister was using the visit to the research facility to boost his plan to reform Medicare.

“The credibility of the health minister’s proposals will be seriously eroded if next month’s federal budget features tax cuts for the wealthy instead of restored Medicare funding,” said HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “After all, the finance minister’s huge budgetary surplus that would make those tax cuts possible has been paid for by strip-mining Medicare of billions of dollars.”

Allnutt also says Rock must announce concrete measures to ensure that Alberta premier Ralph Klein’s plan to contract overnight surgeries to private hospitals does not succeed. “Allan Rock says he does not support Klein’s initiative but what steps will he take to stop him?” asked Allnutt. “We’re deeply concerned that trade agreements like NAFTA will force other provinces to accept US-style private hospitals if they gain a beachhead in Alberta.