Ottawa retreating on health-care support

Ottawa retreating on health-care support

Postby Oscar » Tue Jul 23, 2013 10:00 pm

Ontario Health Coalition
15 Gervais Drive, Suite 305, Toronto, Ontario M3C 1Y8
tel: 416-441-2502

Canadian Health Coalition
251 Bank Street, Suite 212, Ottawa, Ontario K2P 1X3
tel: 613-688-4973

July 8, 2013

Attn: Assignment Editor/Photo Editor

Shadow Summit and Mass Rally at Council of the Federation Meetings this Summer

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Worried about the Harper Conservative government having walked away from negotiating with Canada’s provincial and territorial premiers to renew health funding and improve health coverage and concerned about billions of dollars in impending cuts from federal transfers for health care; thousands are taking a stand in Niagara-on-the-Lake to protect public medicare and uphold health care for all.

When, Where &What:

Just down the street from where the Council of the Federation (provincial and territorial premiers) are meeting, the Shadow Summit will include workshops highlighting the challenges to Medicare and proposals to protect and improve it. The Shadow Summit will run Wednesday July 24 from 10:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. at St. Mark’s Anglican Church, 41 Byron St. Niagara-on-the-Lake.

There will be an Assembly featuring a cross-country round-up on the threats to Medicare and those working to save and strengthen it. Health Coalitions and key groups from across Canada will report-in on the key issues. The Assembly will be Thursday July 25, 9 – 11 a.m. at St. Mark’s Anglican Church, 41 Byron St. Niagara-on-the-Lake.

There will be a Mass Rally at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday July 25, directly after the Assembly.

Key Issue: With most Canadians unaware of it, the Harper Conservative government is taken active steps to undermine public medicare, endangering the future of health care for all in Canada. The Harper Conservative government has:

- Refused to meet with the provincial and territorial governments to renew the funding agreement for health care. Instead, is planning a cut of $36 billion to health care funding for the provinces and territories.

- Walked away from discussions with the provinces to control the cost of drugs and forge a national drug coverage program.

- Walked away from discussions with the provinces to extend the principles of public medicare to cover home and continuing care.

- Cut and closed the Health Council of Canada.

- Cut refugee, RCMP and veterans’ health coverage and downloaded these costs onto the provinces. Refused to uphold the Canada Health Act’s protections for patients against user fees and extra-billing.

For more information: Natalie Mehra, Director, Ontario Health Coalition 416-230-6402 (cell);
Michael McBane, National Coordinator, Canadian Health Coalition 613-277-6295 (cell).
Twitter #Stand4Medicare #CouncilofFed
Facebook “Tell Harper to renew Canada’s Health Accord”
Take a Stand for Public Medicare. It’s got us all covered. -30-

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Ottawa edges away from public medicare

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With the National Health Accord set to expire next year, the Harper Conservatives show little interest in working with the premiers to improve the system.

By: Natalie Mehra Michael McBane Published on Mon Jul 08 2013

Summer’s here and the deepest thought most of us hope to have is what to barbecue. It is not generally a time when significant moments in our politics and society are expected to occur. But provincial and territorial Premiers from across Canada will gather in Niagara-on-the-Lake July 24-26 for the Council of the Federation meetings. This gathering offers a window of opportunity to raise an issue vital to the lives of all Canadians.

This summer’s gathering of the premiers marks the final Council of the Federation meeting before 2014, when the National Health Accord expires. Penned in 2004, the 10-year health accord set priorities to improve access to health care and established a new funding formula.

The meetings do not include the federal government and Prime Minister Stephen Harper will not be in Niagara. What many Canadians do not realize is that there are no first ministers’ gatherings of all the premiers and the prime minister anymore. Harper refuses to attend them.

The 2004 health accord’s funding formula effectively reversed the cuts of the 1990s. It has helped to stabilize our health-care system, improve access and increase the federal share of health-care funding. But virtually all of the other initiatives set out by the first ministers in the accord have since been abandoned by the Harper Conservative government.

Wait times have received the most attention by the media, but progress is widely variable across the country. Dramatic increases in the number of diagnostic tests and significant progress in reducing wait times for surgeries in provinces like Ontario have not been matched by other provinces. While tracking and managing wait times in several provinces has improved, there is still a long way to go.

Equally important, in 2004 the provinces, territories and federal government established a National Pharmaceutical Strategy. [ ... ex-eng.php ] Finally, progress was promised toward a national drug coverage program that would actually cut overall drug costs through bulk buying and better co-ordination. But since their election, the Harper Conservative government has refused to participate in this committee, effectively killing the dream of national drug coverage and stalling progress on reducing drug prices for the better part of the last decade.

In 2004, out of the health accord discussions, the provinces and federal government also began work to discuss home and continuing care. Progress on creating a national home and continuing care strategy is vital for more than a million Canadians who struggle with high out-of-pocket costs for post-hospital care.

When the Canada Health Act [ ] was written, hospitals cared for the ill and nursing homes and home care cared for the frail. This has changed. In Ontario alone, 18,500 hospital beds have been closed since 1990, cutting our acute and chronic care hospital bed capacity in half. Patients with complex and heavy care needs are now discharged from hospitals into nursing homes and home care. As health care is changing, the commitment of Canadians to health care based on need not wealth remains strong. But our legislation has not kept up.

The Canada Health Act covers medically necessary hospital and physician services. When patients are moved out of hospital, they are no longer protected by single-tier public medicare. They are forced to pay for their own drugs. They face long waits, poor access and user fees for home care, rehabilitation and long-term care. Too often, these public services have been privatized to for-profit companies that maximize user fees in order to maximize their profit margins.

A national strategy to re-establish coverage for those services is crucial to ensure that when patients are moved out of hospital they are not moved out from under the umbrella of public health-care coverage. The Harper government has done nothing to expand the principles of medicare to cover home and continuing care.

In fact, the federal Conservative government’s antipathy to public medicare is becoming more and more overt. Not only has it walked away from the table on a national drug program and home care, it has also bluntly refused to meet with the provincial governments about renewing the funding formula for health care. Instead, the federal government plans to reduce funding from current projections by $36 billion in upcoming years, reversing the gains made in the health accord. In the latest budget, the government cut the Health Council of Canada [ ] as well as health services for veterans and refugees. The federal health minister has done nothing to implement the National Mental Health Strategy [ ] and has taken no action to uphold single-tier medicare in the face of private clinics extra-billing patients in provinces like British Columbia.

This summer, the health-care debate will heat up as health coalitions from across Canada are mobilizing thousands of Canadians to attend rallies and a shadow summit at the Council of the Federation meetings in Niagara-on-the-Lake. If they allow the expiration of the health accord to go by without comment, the provincial and territorial premiers will be missing a key window of opportunity to take a stand for public medicare. Canadians need to know what is at stake and the premiers have an occasion to spell it out. The prime minister should get back to the table. Canadians of all political stripes support the core values of public medicare and expect strong federal leadership to uphold it.

Natalie Mehra is director of the Ontario Health Coalition. Michael McBane is national co-ordinator of the Canadian Health Coalition.

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Ottawa retreating on health-care support

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[NOTE: This was an open letter addressed to the Premiers published July 22, 2013 in the Toronto Star about the Health accord and the Council of the Federation meeting that is going on this week in Niagara-on-the-Lake. ]

As strong supporters of public health care, we are deeply concerned that the federal government led by Stephen Harper has no intention of engaging the provincial and territorial governments to secure a new 10-year Health Accord when the current one expires in 2014.

Public health care reflects our fundamental values of equity and fairness. Protecting and improving our public health-care system is a priority for Canadians.

Yet, the federal government is retreating from supporting and upholding public medicare. It has downloaded costs and responsibilities and abandoned its essential federal role in encouraging innovations like curtailing the cost of drugs and expanding the principles of medicare to cover home and continuing care.

The federal share of funding for health care, already low, will decline by $36 billion in coming years. Ottawa plans to leave the risks and the pressures to provinces and territories to deal with on their own. In addition, the Harper government has also cut health care for refugees, RCMP, veterans' long-term care beds, and the Health Council of Canada.

From July 25-26 the premiers will be meeting at their annual Council of the Federation in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It will provide an important opportunity to take a stand for public medicare and call the Harper government back to the intergovernmental table in order to work together for the necessary changes to ensure universal access to quality care for generations to come.

There is overwhelming public support for public, universal health care and Canadians need their premiers to advocate in the strongest terms possible for federal leadership on health care and a renewed Health Accord.

Shirley Douglas, Toronto, Maude Barlow and Sharon Sholzberg-Gray, Ottawa
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