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(Calgary) - The principles for privatizing public health care released by Klein will allow private clinics to take advantage of the sick and vulnerable. Private clinics, of course, will offer patients basic publicly insured services. These clinics, however, will also try to sell extra services, such as a better lens for cataract surgery, for an additional cost.

“Offering patients preferential treatment for an extra cost is two tier medicine whether you jumped a queue or not,” said Terry Mutton, President of CUPE Albertas 28,000 members. “If Klein is so worried about the suffering of Albertans that he caused by cutting funding, why doesnt he reopen the hospitals and hospital beds he closed?”

Patients will be inundated with sales pitches to spend more when they are the most vulnerable. They will be offered expensive treatments for an extra $500, $1,000 or more. Those with money will get better care from private clinics no matter what the Premier promises.

Private health care is the most expensive option available to the government, as the American and British experiences demonstrate. Studies both here and in the United States show that the cheapest option is a public system. (See attachment).

“For Klein to say that opponents of private health care want to prolong the suffering of Albertans is both cynical and arrogant,” said Mutton. “The waiting lists and the loss of doctors, nurses and skilled health care support staff are the direct result of Kleins health care cuts. He lied to us 1994 when he promised that his cuts wouldnt hurt health care. Why would we believe him now?”

CUPE says Ralph Klein should immediately:

-reopen up the hospital beds and wings he closed,

-reopen the hospitals he closed, and

-hire back the thousands of health care employees he fired,

-rebuild the Calgary hospital he blew up.

CUPE spokespeople wonder why Klein is risking his political future just to secure lucrative contracts for private corporations like HRG?

As more work is contracted out, for-profit clinics will gain more leverage to set their prices says the President of CUPE Alberta. With only a small number of private clinics providing public services, the public system is still able to control the contract prices. With wholesale contracting out, this situation will quickly change.

“Americans were sold the same line of nonsense that private hospitals would bring efficiency, innovation and cost effectiveness to health care,” said Terry Mutton, President of CUPE Alberta. “And now Americans are really paying the price. Americans now pay 85% more than we do for health care on a per capita basis. That will not happen here if CUPE can help it.”

“As the lure of large profits tempts doctors to create for-profit clinics, the cost of public health care will rise,” said Mutton. “Once these for-profit clinics have the leverage to set their prices, the costs to the taxpayer will spiral as they have in the US. Then Klein or his successor will tell us we cant afford the public system any more. And then well have what this government has wanted all along: a user-pay health care system.”

Kleins so-called vision is filled with increased costs: higher administrative costs as private clinics create new bureaucracies to run the clinics and to bill the public system; duplication of equipment already in the public system; and as these private clinics are not benevolent societies, profit taking.

“Lets not forget that it was Kleins government that created the waiting lists in the first place. He closed thousands and thousands of public hospital beds; he closed public hospitals and he laid off thousands of public sector health care employees, from housekeepers to nurses,” said Mutton. “Then he admitted he had no health care plan when he made the funding cuts. How can we believe anything this man says on health care?”

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