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WINNIPEG Todays meeting of health ministers is a critical moment for health care and Canadas largest union is pressing the ministers to ensure Medicares future is public.

Last months first ministers deal puts the provinces in the drivers seat for health care. With the federal government unwilling to enforce the Canada Health Act or promote Medicares expansion, Canadians are worried some provinces will take a turn down the road to privatization, dragging others with them, said CUPE National President Judy Darcy.

Darcy says while money talks, last months deal doesnt say a lot. The first ministers deal, which injects $21 billion into health care over the next five years, wont make up for previous cuts to the Canada Health and Social Transfer. The money doesnt kick in until next year, meaning day-to-day problems such as waiting lists and ambulance re-directs will persist. And, equally troubling, the money came without any requirements to introduce public innovations and new programs.

The absence of any national direction leaves it to the provinces to duke it out over reform and expansion of public health care. Given some of the pro-privatization players around the health ministers table, thats a dangerous proposition, said Paul Moist, a CUPE National vice-president and president of CUPE Manitoba.

Theres nothing in the first ministers deal to prevent Alberta from funneling that new cash into their private hospital scheme and thats simply unacceptable, said Moist.

CUPE has a plan to expand and improve public health care and given the enormous federal surplus, its an affordable plan. CUPEs plan calls for primary care reform, national home care and drug programs, an end to privatization, protection from trade deals and stable and increased funding. There are no shortage of examples of public reforms that can strengthen Medicare.

Here in Manitoba, we have a public home care system that could be a model for the rest of the country. In the same way, our province could benefit from innovations like the prescription drug programs they have in Quebec and British Columbia, said Moist.

But since Allan Rock gave the private health care bully boys free rein, we are left fighting against the lowest common denominator, instead of striving for excellence.

CUPE has sent an open letter to the health ministers, urging them to strengthen and enhance public health care.

Our message is simple. We need public health care, we deserve it, and we most certainly can afford it, said Darcy.

For more information contact:
Paul Moist, CUPE Manitoba President
(204) 981-2873

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