The AFL is reminding the Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons that it has an overarching responsibility to the public when considering proposed guidelines allowing overnight stays in health facilities.
The Council of the College is meeting on Friday to decide whether to implement guidelines for "long stay non-hospital surgical facilities" which would allow procedures requiring overnight stay to be performed in private, for-profit facilities.
"The College's primary duty is to ensure the public interest is protected in matters relating to doctors and health facilities," says Audrey Cormack, President of the AFL. "If they approve the proposed guidelines, it will permit private, for-profit hospitals in Alberta, which are clearly not in the public interest."
Cormack points out that time after time, the Alberta public has loudly proclaimed its opposition to private, for-profit hospitals. "Whether it be Bill 37, or College guidelines, Albertans have been clear - they don't want for-profit hospitals."
"I don't care what you call it, if it does overnight stays, it is a hospital," says Cormack. "Finding some bureaucratic title doesn't change its functions."
"The future of Medicare is an inherently political matter and the College should not be meddling in politics," adds Cormack.
Cormack also takes aim at the Health Minister for trying to blame opponents of Bill 37 for the situation. "If the minister is so concerned about Medicare, why doesn't he just pass a law banning private, for-profit hospitals? That would solve the problem in one stroke."
Cormack states that the Minister is trying to get the College to do his dirty work. "The College shouldn't be bullied by the Health Minister into making a bad decision. Instead they should be listening to the concerns of Albertans," adds Cormack.
The legislation governing the College stipulates that as a body it must protect the public interest when fulfilling its mandate. Allowing private, for-profit hospitals undermines the fabric of Medicare and establishes a path toward two-tier health care. International studies have demonstrated that two-tier health care and private, for-profit hospitals provide less adequate care for the majority of the population.
"Friday's decision is not about boring technical guidelines. It is fundamentally about whether our health system is here to benefit the public interest or just the interest of a private few with connections and capital." Cormack concluded.
For more information call:
Audery Cormack, AFL President: 483-3021 (wk) 499-6530 (cell) 428-9367 (home)
EDMONTON - The Alberta Workers Compensation Board (WCB) does not always treat injured workers fairly, but replacing it with a system of private insurance will not fix the problem, says the leader of Alberta's largest union organization.
"It's true that the WCB doesn't always work in the best interests of injured workers," says Audrey Cormack, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour. "Too many legitimate claims are rejected and too many injured workers are forced to wait months or even years for the benefits they need and deserve.
But just because the system is flawed doesn't mean that it should be scrapped entirely. We have to be careful not to the throw the baby out with the bath water."
Cormack's comments come in the wake of rising criticism of the WCB and calls for the introduction of a private, for-profit system of compensation for injured workers. Cormack says she agrees with many of the criticisms that have been leveled against the WCB - but she says privatization would make things worse, not better.
"The big complaints about the current system have to do with accountability, the appeals process and the manner in which claims are assessed," says Cormack. "Many people feel that legitimate claims are being downgraded or rejected in order to save the WCB money. And they think the WCB is not open and transparent enough. But privatization won't fix any of these problems. If anything, profit-seeking insurance companies will have an even bigger incentive to deny claims - and they will be even less open to public scrutiny."
Cormack says the question of whether or not it makes sense to privatize the WCB has been studied numerous times over the past ten years. In almost all cases, she points out, academics and other people investigating the issue have concluded that Canada's current system of publicly-controlled compensation for injured workers is far superior to the private, for-profit systems that exist in places like the United States.
Among other things, the various studies have concluded that private insurance companies operating in competitive compensation systems tend to
- provide lower benefit rates to injured workers
- put a much lower priority on rehabilitation of injured workers
- charge higher premiums for many employers - in fact, under some private systems, employers in high risk industries find it almost impossible to get coverage.
In addition, in competitive systems there are often no formal appeal procedures for workers who are not satisfied with decisions made by the private insurance companies. A worker's only recourse is often to hire a lawyer - at great expense - and attempt to fight it out in the court system.
Aside from all of these problems with private insurance systems, Cormack says privatization would undermine the Meredith Principle - which has acted as the cornerstone of Canada's workers' compensation system for more than 80 years.
According to the Meredith principle, individual injured workers give up their right to sue their employers in exchange for a guarantee of fair compensation. But Cormack points out that under most private compensation schemes, workers retain their right to sue. This exposes employers to much higher levels of financial liability and greatly increases costs for individual workers as they pursue their claims.
"It's a lose-lose scenario for workers and employers," says Cormack. "When you look at the systems that exist in the United States, it's clear that the interests of working people in Alberta would not be well-served by introducing a market-model for workers' compensation in the province. Privatization would mean lower benefits and fewer opportunities for rehabilitation for most workers; higher premiums for many employers; and reduced accountability to the public. With these facts in mind, I find it hard to understand how anyone could support privatization."
For more information call:
Audrey Cormack, AFL President: 483-3021 (wk) 499-6530 (cell) 428-9367 (hm)
Gil McGowan, Director of Communications: 483-3021 (wk)
EDMONTON - Premier Ralph Klein will go down in history as the man who killed Medicare if he goes ahead with recommendations put forward by the so-called blue ribbon panel on Bill 37, says Audrey Cormack, President of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"The panel is recommending a new kind of private health care system where the taxpayers still foot the bill, but private hospital operators take home a profit," says Cormack.
She is convinced that the panel completely misinterpreted the problems with Bill 37. "The reason that Bill 37 had to be withdrawn in the first place was the absolute rejection by Albertans of the possibility of for-profit hospitals accessing Medicare dollars," says Cormack. "Now the panel comes back recommending the integration of for-profit hospitals into the public system and, at the same time, a much larger role for private clinics."
"The panel recommendations are totally unacceptable to working people in this Province," says Cormack. "I can assure you that Premier Klein will hear, in no uncertain terms, from our members and thousands of other concerned Albertans, that we do not want Medicare undermined by the American-style intrusion of the profit motive into our health care system."
Cormack wants the government to stop playing around with for-profit health care models. "Albertans opposition to the whole idea is obvious," says Cormack, "now its time for the government to obey the wishes of the people by dropping this ill-conceived notion."
"In fact," she concludes, "the only legislation we want to see right now is a clear and unambiguous ban on for-profit hospitals in Alberta, and an end to private, for-profit institutions accessing public health care dollars."
For further information contact:
Audrey Cormack, President @ 483-3021(wk)/428-9367(hm)/499-6530 (cell)
Premier Ralph Klein's call for the provinces and federal government to discuss changes to the Canada Health Act reveals that his real agenda is to permanently entrench private, for-profit hospitals in Canada, says AFL President Audrey Cormack.
"He may have finally let the private health care cat out of the bag," observes Cormack. "The only reason to call for amending the Canada Health Act (CHA) is to change the rules so his privatization plan isn't illegal."
This is a backdoor admission that the private health care legislation, to be introduced during the spring session, contravenes the CHA, states Cormack. "He knows he is breaking the law, and is now trying to desperately change the law to prevent it."
Premier Klein states that he is only trying to "build a consensus" among provincial leaders about the role of private health care.
"What the Premier doesn't understand is that there already is a consensus in support of public health care, and he is the lone advocate for private, for-profit hospitals." Klein's call for CHA was met with deafening silence from most Premier's and outright opposition from some, including B.C. and Saskatchewan.
"The reality is he is all alone on this one," says Cormack.
The better strategy, Cormack suggests, is to scrap the private health care plan and instead re-invest in public hospitals and facilities.
"They can play all the games they want, but Albertans will see through them and recognize this plan for what it is - a move to set up a parallel, private for-profit health system," Cormack concludes.
For further information call:
Audrey Cormack, President @ 499-6530 (cell)/428-9367(hm)/483-3021(wk)