EDMONTON - The provincial government's controversial Bill 37 poses a serious threat to the future of Medicare and should be scrapped, says the Alberta Federation of Labour.
That was the central message of the AFL's submission to the government's so-called "Blue-Ribbon" panel on Bill 37.
The panel was established late last fall in response to widespread public opposition to Bill 37. As part of the review process, the panel has agreed to consider submissions from a small number of interested organizations, including the AFL.
"By allowing for the possibility of private hospitals, Bill 37 is breaching a trust with Albertans," says the AFL brief, which was delivered to the panel Friday afternoon. "It is fundamentally altering how our public health care system operates. We realize these are strong words, but the magnitude of the shift should not be underestimated."
The AFL says Bill 37 is dangerous because it would pave the way for the establishment of "approved treatment facilities" - which would really be private, for-profit hospitals all but in name. The AFL's submission was also highly critical of sections of the Bill that give the Minister of Health sole authority to approve private, for-profit facilities.
"There is no process to direct the Minister or any limitations on the Minister's discretion," says the AFL brief. "The Act lays out no objective criteria for determining if a private health facility is endangering Medicare."
The most serious problem with the Bill, argues the AFL, is that it abandons one of the central principles that Medicare was built upon - namely that universal access to quality health care can only be guaranteed by maintaining public funding and public administration.
"For the first time, we have a piece of legislation that enshrines and formalizes a role for private health care delivery," says the AFL brief. "The new role for private health care is not just at the margins and with unregulated portions of the health system. Bill 37 places private health care at the centre of our health care system - acute care."
The AFL brief concludes by calling on the government to scrap Bill 37 altogether. What's needed instead, the AFL argues, is a complete ban on private, for-profit hospitals and an enhanced financial commitment to the public health care system.
"There is absolutely no doubt that Alberta's health care system is ailing," says AFL president Audrey Cormack. "But more private, for-profit health care is not the answer. Bill 37 - and any other Bill like it - would weaken our health care system further. That's why it must be scrapped."
Copies of the AFL brief on Bill 37 can be obtained by calling the AFL office at (780)483-3021.
For more information call:
Audrey Cormack, President: 483-3021 (work) 499-6530 (cell) 429-9367 (home)