From sunrise in St. Johns to sundown in British Columbia, health care workers sang, shouted, clapped, blew whistles, let off sirens and chanted to support public health care, and to draw attention to a looming crisis.
Were on the brink of Canadas biggest medical emergency ever, said Judy Darcy, National President of the Canadian Union of Public Employees. For-profit care threatens the foundation of our health care system. Its high noon for health care. We have to stop the spread of private, for-profit care before Medicare disappears, said Darcy.
Against the backdrop of a private ambulance that only transports patients if their credits good, Darcy and other health union leaders joined health care workers in a noon-hour rally outside the Civic campus of the Ottawa Hospital one of dozens of events in every province.
The cross-country day of warning was organized by Canadas four health care unions, the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, the National Union of Public and General Employees and the Service Employees International Union.
Together the unions represent 370,000 health care workers in Canada, including nurses, laundry workers, dietary assistants, orderlies, paramedics, registered nursing assistants, cleaners, lab technicians and workers in nursing homes. The unions are calling on the federal government to stop the spread of health care privatization and to prevent Albertas dangerous Bill 11 from coming into force.
Ralph Kleins opened the NAFTA door to U.S. health care corporations, and the federal Liberals are a willing doorstop, said Debra McPherson, acting National President of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions. The Liberals are in danger of going down in history as the party that killed Medicare unless they take strong action now to protect Medicare from privatization and trade agreements.
Canadians support health care workers in their call for increased beds and staffing, primary health care reform, a national home care program and a national drug plan all publicly funded and delivered.
More funds mean health care workers will be able to give the care that patients deserve, said James Clancy, National President of the National Union of Public and General Employees. Caregivers are suffering extreme work overload, leading to stress, burnout and accidents on the job. Privatization wont fix this situation it will only aggravate it. We need quality public health care not private wealth care.
The unions are also demanding increased funding in a reformed public health care system, to offset the cuts which created the climate for privatization in the first place.
The countrys health ministers are meeting to talk about health care reform. We plan to make sure privatization isnt on the table and these talks dont happen behind closed doors. Canadians dont want two-tier, for-profit care. They want better, stronger Medicare, said Sharleen Stewart, International Vice-President of the Service Employees International Union Canada.
For more information, contact:
Catherine Louli, CUPE Communications
(613) 237-1590 ext. 268, or cell (613) 851-0547
or visit the unions web sites: cupe.ca; nursesunions.ca; nupge.ca; seiu.ca