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The Canadian Health Coalition has called for a major federal reinvestment in health care financing to rebuild needed services, enforce national standards and restore public confidence in Medicare.

In its submission to Finance Minister Martin on Wednesday, November 16, the Coalition argued that a five-year plan to reinvest an additional $4.6 billion each year is not only necessary but easily possible given the federal budget surplus this year and in years to come.

“We’re at a critical moment,” said health economist Pat Armstrong, Director of the School of Canadian Studies at Carleton University. “The Chrétien government’s off-loading of health care costs onto provinces and individuals must stop with the next budget. Otherwise, universal access to high quality care will be replaced by a US-style two-tier system with dramatically higher costs, drastically reduced coverage and quality of care.”

Armstrong is the principal author of the submission.

“There is no doubt in my mind,” said Tom Kent, “that unless the federal share of public health care spending is increased to at least 25 per cent, Medicare will wither away. The Canada Health Act will be an anachronism without the kind of reinvestment the Canadian Health Coalition is calling for.”

Mr. Kent played a key role in establishing federal cost-shared financing of Medicare under Prime Minister Pearson.

“The Coalition’s five-year budget plan will address legitimate concerns of provincial premiers. Once federal funding is restored to adequate and stable levels, however, the only reason to continue demanding more provincial control would be to abandon the five principles of the Canada Health Act,” said Shirley Douglas, daughter of Tommy Douglas, who introduced Medicare in Canada.

“The Coalition recommends an increase in federal funding of $2 billion each year for the next five years for services covered by the Canada Health Act and a further $2 billion to fund a home care program that would include drug coverage,” said Kathleen Connors, Chairperson of the Coalition and President of the National Federation of Nurses Unions.

“As well, the Coalition calls for the strengthening of the Health Protection Branch. Poor performance of the federal government’s health protection duty leads directly to rising disease rates, illness and death from dangerous drugs, medical devices and toxic food. No health care system will be able to deal with these consequences”, said Ms. Connors.

“We all know Martin is going to put money into health care. What’s not clear is whether he’ll commit enough funding to save Medicare and stop the premiers and privateers who want to weaken public health care,” said Judy Darcy, National President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, representing 140,000 health care workers in Canada. “That’s the test.”

The Health Coalition renewed its call on the Prime Minister to convene a National Summit on Health Care to provide a forum where the people of Canada and their governments can rededicate themselves to saving and improving Medicare.

For further information contact:

Frances Arbour, Canadian Health Coalition, 521-3400, ext. 311

Michael McBane, Canadian Health Coalition, 521-3400, ext. 308

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