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The Hospital Employees’ Union is taking its fight against the provincial government’s health privatization plans directly to city streets this week with a billboard campaign that includes two signs directed at Vancouver’s Chinese community.

“Health privatization affects every community in British Columbia,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “That’s why our union is reaching out as broadly as possible with the message that privatization is the wrong answer for patients.”

Allnutt says that the Gordon Campbell Liberals’ plans to privatize hundreds of millions of dollars in health services - and contract out the work to corporations that pay as little as the minimum wage will result in lower quality health care for patients.

“This government’s policies will result in the loss of skilled and experienced health care staff. They’ll be replaced by low-paid, inexperienced workers who are less likely to remain in the health care system,” says Allnutt.

“Skilled and experienced hospital workers are critical to patient health and safety,” adds Allnutt.

“Housekeeping staff are on the front line in the fight against antibiotic resistant organisms that prey on patients with weakened immune systems.

Hospital laundry workers provide sterile linens for operating rooms and hospital dietary workers make sure patients on special diets get the right meals.”

HEU is calling on the government to order an immediate halt to the privatization of health services until an independent investigation can be conducted into the impact of these policies on patient care. This is especially urgent, says Allnutt, as the union’s own requests for government research have turned up no evidence to support the Campbell Liberals’ radical privatization policies.

HEU’s concerns that privatizing health services and paying low wages is bad for patients is also a concern for the public. A poll commissioned by the union earlier this month shows that 7 out of 10 British Columbians believe such policies would have a negative impact on patient care.

The union is sponsoring more than 40 billboards around the Lower Mainland with the two Chinese-character versions located in Vancouver at Victoria at 33rd Avenue and Hastings at Princess.