Premier’s office must first approve release of few dozen pages of documents
While the Hospital Employees’ Union (CUPE) is only days away from gaining access to all the studies and research the Campbell Liberals are relying on to implement sweeping health care privatization, the union says it’s shocked to learn that Victoria’s entire health privatization library could contain less than 100 pages of records.
“It’s actually quite astounding,” says HEU spokesperson Chris Allnutt. “This government is aggressively pursuing a scheme to privatize $700 million of health care services which would target some 20,000 skilled health care workers. But they appear to be doing so without careful and detailed study, without any planning and without any proof that privatizing health services is cost effective.
“It’s a sign of a government that hasn’t done its homework,” he says.
Four months ago, HEU filed a comprehensive Freedom of Information request with health services minister Colin Hansen, Premier Campbell and three other cabinet ministers. The union sought a range of documents prepared by the government or outside consultants, including: business case analyses to prove that privatization was cost effective, studies, forecasts, briefing documents prepared for politicians, and economic and social impact studies of the effects of privatization on workers and communities.
The main body of documents-estimated to be a few dozen pages-will be turned over by the ministry of health services. After months of stalling by the ministry, a union complaint to the Information and Privacy Commissioner has resulted in a firm July 15 deadline being set.
But first, says Allnutt, those documents must be vetted and approved for release by Campbell’s staff.
Allnutt says that his union will be closely combing whatever the Premier’s office decides to turn over. “We’ll be looking to see if the government has put in place safeguards, accountability measures, and strict contract performance requirements that are needed to protect the public interest when the private sector is brought in to deliver public services,” he said.
Two of the most vocal Liberal proponents of privatizing support services have been Premier Campbell and his labour minister, Graham Bruce. However, neither had any research or studies to back up their claims that privatization was good for patients. “Please be advised,” wrote an official on behalf of Campbell in response to HEU’s FOI, “that the Office of the Premier has no records that are responsive to your request.” Ditto for Bruce.
Meanwhile, finance minister Gary Collins-whose deputy has met extensively with multinational private health care corporations-could provide only a 15-page “introduction” extolling public-private partnerships (P3s). A further 170 pages of documents on capital asset management-so called private-public partnerships-were withheld. HEU has launched another appeal to the Information and Privacy commissioner to win its release.
And HEU didn’t fare much better with health planning minister Sindi Hawkins, whose ministry is supposedly in charge of detailed, long range health planning functions. Hawkins provided the names of two consultants her ministry employed. But, her officials wrote, “the minister has no other information in response to your request.” By comparison, Allnutt says his union has thousands of pages of privatization research documents on hand.
The specific privatization details requested in HEU’s FOI-along with the responses of Premier Campbell and his cabinet colleagues-can be downloaded from the electronic version of this release at heu.org.
Stephen Howard, communications director
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