"Let's continue the chat, continue the call for the PM, for the federal health minister, for these premiers and provincial health ministers to all pull together. Let's get pharmacare happening, let's get long-term care happening, let's make sure our communities are sound." — Elisabeth Ballermann, NUPGE Secretary-Treasurer
Edmonton (20 July 2017) — Proponents of a national pharmacare program met on July 19, at the site of the summer meeting of Premiers at the Council of the Federation held in Edmonton, AB. The rally was organized by the Canadian Health Coalition to bring allies from across the country and supporters together to voice ongoing support for national public health care, as well as to demand a national pharmacare program.
Provinces on the losing end of health care funding
The Trudeau government would not negotiate with the all the provinces, and chose to pressure each province to take a deal that has undercut funding for health care. According to Friends of Medicare, Alberta stands to lose $3.43 billion over 10 years. In real terms, the loss amounts to 524 new public long-term spaces each year.
One of the speakers at the rally was Elisabeth Ballermann, Secretary-Treasurer of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE). Ballermann formerly held the role of President of the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA), a union that represents 24,000 health professionals across the province.
NUPGE Secretary-Treasurer speaks to supporters of national public health care
In her speech, Ballermann emphasized the need for governments to create a long overdue national pharmacare program and to invest in a long-term care strategy that addresses the needs of the aging population in Canada. (See video below.)
"I'm here on behalf of the 370,000 members of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), many of who are workers in the health care system providing public services. They see the shortcomings of the system that we've been trying to protect for the 60 years that we've had it," said Ballermann.
"They are standing with us, with you, and with all Canadians to call for the national pharmacare program that we've been needing for forever, one that will keep people out of hospitals and make sure that we can be productive members of society. They are in proper long-term care facilities providing services, they are in the community providing good health care," Ballermann continued.
"So at the risk of being redundant, all of those 370,000 workers will join the millions of workers represented here through labour leaders, and all Canadians, demanding from our federal government and our premiers that we finally get the pharmacare program that ensures that when we get sick, when we are diagnosed with problems, that we can actually treat those problems. One that ensures that we can get those medications that will keep us out of health care, that will keep us in our communities with our families. Let's continue the chat, continue the call for the PM, for the federal health minister, for these premiers and provincial health ministers to all pull together. Let's get pharmacare happening, let's get long-term care happening, let's make sure our communities are sound."
NUPGE on record advocating for improved long-term care and pharmacare
At the last national convention of NUPGE members, a policy paper was introduced calling for the creation of a national drug program.
There are more than 3 million Canadians who are either uninsured or under insured for the cost of drugs. 8 million Canadian workers and their immediate families receive coverage with private drug insurance through their jobs. But plans vary — they can be lost if workers quit or lose their jobs, or even if they retire. And nearly 42 per cent of Canadian workers don’t have workplace drug coverage.
Canada remains one of the few industrialized countries without a national drug program. Instead, there is a hodgepodge of provincial and territorial programs providing coverage. Where you live, or where you work, should not be a factor in whether you get the medications you need.
Research has concluded that a universal public drug plan would save up to $12.7 billion a year. A national drug program would be a cost-effective way to ensure all Canadians have access to the medications they need as well as a way to control drug costs. It would allow providers to negotiate with drug manufacturers on the best price, and it would bring a significant reduction in administrative costs.
"There is no better time to act on these crucial programs," said Ballermann. "We will be facing a health care crisis, with no plan on how to solve it. Governments need to start acting now."
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 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