More than 100 people turned out for a Courtenay town hall meeting last Thursday about the future of federal health-care funding and the need for a 2014 health accord.
Co-hosted by the Hospital Employees’ Union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Council of Canadians, the meeting was part of a two-week awareness campaign on the North Island.
“We’re doing workshops with people who are interested in the issue already,” says Council of Canadians health care campaigner Adrienne Silnicki. “Then we’re doing town halls to bring the public in, and then we’re going door to door and having conversations with people about what’s happening.”
Speakers at Thursday’s town hall meeting included Silnicki, HEU provincial executive member Barb Biley and HEU president Victor Elkins. After presentations from the panel, Silnicki says there were plenty of questions and comments from the floor.
Silnicki points out the 10-year Canada Health Accord is due to expire at the end of March, and the federal government has not taken steps to renew it. Instead, provinces and territories were informed in 2011 of changes to the Canada Health Transfer that are expected to mean $36 billion less in federal money coming to them over the next 10 years.
According to the Silnicki, the numbers crunch down to $5 billion less for B.C. and $137 million less for Vancouver Island North, over the next decade.
“Right here in this region, in the North Island, it will be $137 million that will be lost, that the provincial government and the local government’s going to have to somehow find in ‘efficiencies,’ which is going to mean it’s going to absolutely affect patient care,” she says.
Meanwhile, she points to the importance of having a health accord in terms of national health-care standards and ensuring those standards are met.
The “health accord is a really vital opportunity for the prime minister and the premiers to meet and talk about health care,” she adds. It “gives an opportunity for the premiers just to say what’s working, what’s not working, and it gives an opportunity for the federal government to look at the provinces and say, ‘You need to be committed to the Canada Health Act, you need to deliver your services within accordance to the act and this is where we’re seeing that you’re failing to meet certain benchmarks or targets.'”
She adds privatization of health care is “certainly” a concern.
“When you underfund health care, of course, when you remove government, there’s lots of room for privatization, and private investment and corporations who are going to deliver services for profit,” she says, adding what future health-care services could look like was also discussed at the meeting.
“It was a conversation about what are the services that you can access today? What are the services we’d like to be able to access? How do we expand the public Medicare system to make sure that everybody, regardless of where they live or what age they’re at, has access to the care they need?”
Townhall meetings continued this week, with one in Campbell River Wednesday, and one in Port Hardy set for Thursday. The campaign in Vancouver Island North is one of three pilot campaigns in the country, with pilots also in Prince Edward Island and Kamloops. A broader national campaign is planned in 2014.
For more information, including a template e-mail to MPs, visit www.2014healthaccord.ca.
“We really want them (concerned residents) to communicate with their member of Parliament and tell them that they absolutely want a health accord — that we need a 2014 health accord that offers fair federal funding and national standards on care,” says Silnicki.