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September 17, 2001 (Ottawa) – The Canadian Union of Public Employees reacted with concern to todays report from a senate committee on examining the future of health care in Canada. In its report, entitled Issues and Options, the Committee, chaired by Senator Michael Kirby, laid out a series of options for reforming the Canadian health care system.

Senator Kirby has made it abundantly clear that he views the Canada Health Act as an impediment to effective health care reform, said CUPE National President Judy Darcy. He claims not to have a particular bias, yet his contempt for publicly funded health care fairly drips off the pages of his report.

Implicit throughout the committee report is the assumption that privatization would lead to greater efficiency. Questions, such as should patients be allowed to payin order to receive expedited service, as they can in most industrialised countries imply that Canada is behind the times in not moving more quickly towards a two-tier system.

In releasing the report, Senator Kirby said that those that are steadfast in their support of public health care avoid the tough questions and skirt the controversial issues. Those who disagree with him are emotional, while he seeks a more rational debate.

If there werent so much at stake, it would almost be funny, said Judy Darcy. But what else would you expect from a Director of Extendicare, one of Canadas largest long term care providers? Senator Kirby can hardly claim to have no agenda.

Senator Kirby also said in an interview that Canadians are too bound up in the mythology of Medicare. I say that if Canadians react strongly when we talk about Medicare it is because they know about reality the reality of what life was like before we had publicly funded health care. We never want to go back there, added Darcy.

While the Report does list increased public funding among the options to be debated, it appears to be given no more weight than individual medical savings accounts, something most health policy analysts agree to be unworkable.

The Report does introduce some more constructive ideas, chief among them health care facilities with multi-disciplinary teams of health care providers who focus on caring for the whole person. The creation of an independent body to monitor the use and availability of new technologies was also suggested.

CUPE has also long called for the creation of National Pharmacare Programme. However, while the Committee proposes a national drug plan, it fails to list any options that do not involve private insurance companies.

CUPE supports reform to our health care system. However, reform needs to improve quality and accessibility for all Canadians, not just a privileged few, concluded Judy Darcy. Study after study has shown that where services are privatized, they are neither more efficient or cost effective. However, Senator Kirby clearly sees privatization as the only path to change.

The Committees final report will be released in early 2002. Canadas other major commission, chaired by former Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow will release its report in November 2002.


For more information:
Anne McGrath (613) 294-9326 (cell.)
Laurie Kingston (613) 266-1415 (cell.)

opeiu 491/mlb

wptext/release/Septemb/2001/17-Kirby Report.doc