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OTTAWA Canadas largest union is demanding the federal health minister stop the contracting out of surgeries in British Columbia to for-profit clinics.

In a letter to Minister Anne McLellan, the Canadian Union of Public Employees calls for an immediate moratorium on all health care privatization and for strong action by the federal government to defend public health care.

The federal minister must take action to stop the madness, said CUPE National President Judy Darcy. Canadians are clear we dont want to go down the road to for-profit health care and Romanow was clear theres no reason to.

CUPE was responding to media reports that the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority is calling for bids to deliver up to half the surgeries in Richmond, BC through private clinics. Under the privatization scheme, up to 3,000 surgeries could be contracted out each year, including mastectomies, tonsillectomies, pacemaker implants and toe amputations.

Concerned this precedent would spread across the country, Darcy said: Its an outrage and it puts our entire public health care system in jeopardy.

In her letter to the minister, Darcy points out the Romanow commission could find no evidence that for-profit medicine would cut waits, improve care or save money.

On the contrary, says Darcy. The research is clear. You are more likely to die or be more ill in private clinics. Waits are no shorter, administrative costs are higher and the risk of user fees and fraud are huge. When you add to all that the threat under NAFTA that American HMOs would demand access to a lucrative, publicly-funded market, its an open and shut case against privatization.

CUPE has been critical in the past of federal inaction to defend public health care. In May it filed an application in Federal Court to force the minister to fulfill her obligations to enforce the five principles of the Canada Health Act and document the impact of for-profit services on health care delivery.

The minister has an obligation to protect Medicare, said Darcy. BC is making this reckless move because it knows the federal government has sat back and done nothing in the face of earlier attacks on our public health care system. Its time the minister proved them wrong.


For further information, contact
Kaj Hasselriis, CUPE Communications (613) 798- 6925 (cell), (613) 237-1590 ext 268