As the Health Ministers from the federal-provincial-territorial governments meet in Vancouver to discuss a new Health Accord, the National Union of Public and General Employees calls on them to defend and expand the Canadian health care system.
Ottawa (19 Jan. 2016) — On the eve of an important national meeting on Canada’s health care system, James Clancy, National President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), wants to remind the Health Ministers of the importance of their task.
“Canada’s Medicare system is probably the one thing that almost every Canadian takes pride in,” said Clancy. “It represents the foresight of past generations and a pledge to all current and future Canadians.”
“However, there must be a commitment to defend and improve upon it. The Health Ministers must know that what they will be discussing is the future of the single most prized public program in Canada.”
Health Accord must be guided by principles
In 1984, Canada’s Parliament enacted the Canada Health Act to provide the guiding principles to the national health care system. These principles were that health care must be: publicly administered, comprehensive, universal, portable, and accessible.
“It is vital that a new Health Accord reaffirm a commitment to a publicly funded, publicly administered and publicly delivered health care system. In addition, we want to see a strong pledge to enforce the Canada Health Act and stop the growing role that for-profit health care plays in our system.”
Clancy also thinks that the Health Accord must include a commitment to equality and fairness.
“There must be a commitment to improve health care for Indigenous people in this country. There has been a shameful lack of support in this community. Furthermore, we need more emphasis on providing services to all vulnerable peoples, especially those Canadians with disabilities.”
Health Accord must look to the future
Clancy recognizes that a lot has changed since the introduction of Medicare.
“Obviously there have been dramatic advances in medicine and information technology since Medicare was first adopted in Saskatchewan. The increased role of medications in the preservation and enhancement of people’s lives is most notable.”
Another notable trend is the change in the demographics of the Canadian population. With a growing older population there needs to be recognition of changes in demand and needs.
Clancy thinks that it is “time that Canada introduces a national public drug plan for all Canadians. We also need to seriously address the needs of seniors and the elderly. Our seniors have made an outstanding contribution to our society — we need to be there for them when they need it!”
Health Accord should make a clear commitment on funding
The 2004 Health Accord provided some increased funding in the hope of undoing the damage that previous funding cuts had made. It also contained a number of targets with regard to health care outcomes.
“Unfortunately, not all the money made its way to the health care system,” said Clancy. “Many regions and areas of the country have experienced dramatic cutbacks in their funding.”
The National Union supports the goal that the federal government provide 25 per cent of health care costs by the year 2025. The union believes that this could be achieved by continuing the 6 per cent per year escalator clause that was contained in the 2004 Accord and that is currently in place.
Also, “the Accord needs to require the provinces to spend those funds on health care. There need to be strings attached to ensure that this money goes to where it is intended.”
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE