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Yesterday’s announcement of the revised 2003/04 provincial health care budget that includes an additional $328 million in spending should have a positive impact on B.C.’s health care system, says the Hospital Employees’ Union (CUPE).

“We’re thankful the federal government has anted up the additional funding that will help us avoid even deeper health care cuts caused by the B.C. government’s reckless plan to freeze health budgets for three years,” says HEU spokesperson Chris Allnutt.

According to government figures tabled Monday in the legislature, about $200 million of the new money will be allocated to B.C.’s six health authorities to deal with cost pressures and new technology.

“That amounts to about a three per cent boost and should be welcome news for the authorities whose 2003/04 expenditure plans were based on no increase at all,” says Allnutt. “In a small but important way, it should reduce the pressures for them to privatize or cut services.”

But Allnutt wasn’t impressed by the Campbell government’s move to reallocate more than a third of the new money to Pharmacare to replace funding Victoria had already cut in its original 2003/04 budget plan, instead of using it to fund new programs.

“While the provincial Liberals have technically kept their promise to pass on the new money dollar for dollar, they’re playing a bit of a financial shell game with the prescription drug plan that may be contrary to the spirit of the federal-provincial agreement for the added funds,” Allnutt says.

Meanwhile, HEU is calling on health authorities to be more open and accountable on the changes they’ll make to budgets to reflect the additional funding. “All of them should be in a position to publicly release the revised budget figures by the end of the month at the absolute latest,” he says.

Stephen Howard, communications director 604-240-8524