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OTTAWA The federal government is still failing to enforce the law governing public health care, said CUPE National President Paul Moist on the eve of a new federal budget.

The 2003-04 annual report on the Canada Health Act (CHA) was tabled in Parliament on February 18, even though key provinces do not list the number of services performed at for-profit facilities, or the amount of money spent at them. Public health care advocates, Canadas Auditor General and others have criticized previous reports for failing to publish data on the growth of private, for-profit health care services.

The federal government is neglecting to uphold its own legislation, said Moist, pointing to the holes in the newest report. MPs need full and complete information from all provinces to be able to monitor the growth of for-profit health care. This neglect fuels the corrosion of our public system.

The report does mention the growth of private, for-profit magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and Computed Axial Tomography (CAT) scan clinics in four provinces: Nova Scotia, Quebec, Alberta and B.C. The rapid growth of such facilities prompted former health minister Anne McLellan to write letters of concern in 2000. Meetings between provinces and the feds were scheduled, then postponed, and have still not been held.

Holding discussions away from Parliament takes monitoring and reporting on the Canada Health Act out of public scrutiny and into the back-rooms, said Moist. The federal government seems more interested in appeasing the provinces than upholding the CHA. Ottawa is just standing and watching as more for-profit clinics open.

Nova Scotia and B.C. were the only two provinces to have cash contributions deducted in 2003-04, the fiscal year the report covers. However, Quebec, which has seen rapid growth of for-profit health care, has not been penalized.

This report contains no data on for-profit facilities in Ontario, Alberta and Quebec, said Moist. This is unacceptable. Canadians want the public system improved, not corroded by for-profit operators and negligent governments.

Paul Moist, National President, cell (613) 558-2873;
Claude Gnreux, National Secretary-Treasurer (porte-parole francophone), cell (613) 794-8395;
David Robbins CUPE Communications, cell (613) 878-1431