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Vancouver Hospital housekeeper Karen Lehay was one of more than 300 health care workers who rallied outside the headquarters of the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority after top health care boss Ida Goodreau refused their request for a meeting to discuss the health authority’s plans to contract out health care jobs.

Hospital Employees’ Union member Mike Barker, chair of VH’s Fight Back Committee, told the crowd who had marched several blocks from the hospital, that Gordon Campbell’s freezing of education and health care funding and his attacks on students, health care workers, patients, teachers and seniors are crimes.

“Campbell says they have to make cuts to health care to ensure services are maintained. That’s a vicious lie. They’ve opened up our system to the private sector so their friends can make a buck,” said Barker.

HEU president Fred Muzin said that when housekeepers, dietary and laundry workers at VGH are laid off, all the special skills and expertise needed in a health care setting will be lost. “Contractors won’t care about patients; they’ll want to see the most work done by the fewest people in the least amount of time. That’s where their profit will be,” he said.

Debra McPherson, president of the B.C. Nurses’ Union, sent her solidarity greetings to the rally, saying that registered nurses depend on skilled support workers and that they are very concerned that critical care wards will not be cleaned of germs and disease and that patients’ nutritional needs will go by the wayside. “That is why we are united with HEU against the criminal policies of the provincial government,” she wrote.

Neil Worboys, B.C. Teachers’ Federation president, also delivered a strong message of support from the province’s teachers for HEU’s fight.

Housekeeper Lehay wrapped up the speeches with a promise to defend health care jobs. “I don’t like being told that I am not worthy of a decent life. So I am going to fight,” she said.

“We will not lose if we stand together.”