Nurses tell Premiers Not to Let Privatization Creep into Medicare

Monday, July 26 2010
OTTAWA, Aug. 11 /CNW Telbec/ - Making sure there are enough nurses and health professionals is just one of the important steps Premiers should take to keep privatization from creeping in to Medicare say the country's nurses.     "We're coming to Banff to remind the Premiers that Canadian nurses want them to stay vigilant and protect our universal public health system," says CFNU President Linda Silas. "Keeping a strong and accessible public system is the key response to the Supreme Court's Chaoulli decision," she said.     Educating more health professionals, nurses and doctors, is the first step to take according to a paper by health policy consultant Steven Lewis that the nurses are providing to the Premiers. In "Ten Measures to Court-Proof Medicare" Lewis argues that maintaining a surplus of health professionals is key to staving off the building pressure for a two-tier parallel health business. "A modest over-supply creates a safety valve and a stable work force," Steven Lewis writes.     "We are still facing a crisis of a nursing shortage, and we do not want this to hurt our public system," Linda Silas says. "We are moving too little and too slowly to really stem the growing health worker crisis."     The nurses are also providing Premiers with research by Dr. Linda O'Brien-Pallas that documents the growing crisis in nurse numbers. Some 64,000 of the 130,000 nurses working in 2001 will retire or leave nursing by 2006. The title for O'Brien-Pallas' paper makes it clear: "The Time for Action was Yesterday!"     Beyond boosting numbers of health professionals, Steven Lewis made several other points about protecting the universal, public health system. He says the provinces should:

Finally, Lewis concludes that "Now is the time to speed up the pace of vital reforms so that neither citizens nor the courts have reason to seek alternatives to the public system. The best defence is a good offence: great performance is a far stronger bulwark against privatization than legal argument or even favourable high court decisions."

"Nurses work hard to make sure Canadians get the best care possible," Linda Silas commented. "We care about our patients. It's important to improve our excellent system and stop privatization from creeping in and eroding it."     The nurses also want to keep a national pharmacare plan on the Premiers' agenda and gave them a brief on this issue as well. Although the federal government said last year that a national plan is too costly, Dr. Joel Lexchin from York University points out that: "Overall costs would actually drop under pharmacare - administrative costs are lower in a public system than in a private system and a single national system would allow for greater bargaining power with the drug companies."     "A national drug plan would add to the competitive advantage Canada has with Medicare," Linda Silas says. "And it would be universal, giving all Canadians access to the best drugs. Right now Canada has a growing population of people who do not have drug insurance, and often do not get the drugs they need. Besides being unfair and adding to suffering, that scenario almost always ends up with great costs for the health system," she points out.     Finally, Silas took aim at the recent announcements of plans for private health insurance in Alberta.     "The government seems keen on resurrecting private health insurance here in Alberta. Do they think Canadians are naive about how unfair that would be? Even people who could afford private insurance would face problems if they had a pre-existing health condition or other reasons for being denied coverage."     In a paper looking at worldwide trends in health privatization, British health economist Alan Maynard points out that private insurance plans have greatly inflated costs. "Such inflation penalizes consumers and raises the costs of tax subsidies. However, it also creates more profits for providers," Maynard writes in the specially commissioned paper also provided to the Premiers.     Maynard was one of the international experts the Alberta government invited to its symposium on health innovation held in Calgary last May. The consensus of the experts there was to avoid privatization of health services and health insurance.   "The Alberta government is ignoring the best international advice that it paid top dollar to bring to its symposium. And it seems to be forgetting its own conclusions," Linda Silas said. "I want to remind everyone that at the conclusion to the conference, the consensus was clear that it would be a mistake to move to more private health care."     The CFNU is the largest organization of nurses in Canada with 130,000 affiliated members form coast to coast.     Website:



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