Long Waiting Lists the Problem, Not Public Health Care

The Alberta Federation of Labour, the province's largest labour organization, responded to the Supreme Court decision on health care today by urging governments to focus on the real problem, and not set up costly and inefficient private tiers.

"The Supreme Court Justices were clear that the problem in the Quebec case was the length of the wait, not the ban on private health care," says AFL President Gil McGowan. "This is a message to both Alberta and the Federal government that they need to do more to shorten waiting lists."

"Privatization will only compound the problem."

McGowan expressed concern, however, that the Klein Conservatives will use the decision to hasten their own privatization plans. "Even though the ruling has no effect on Alberta, I am worried that the Premier will use it as fuel for his privatization engine."

The Klein government has tried on repeated occasions to push greater private involvement in health care, usually to be told by Albertans they want no such thing. Private experiments, such as cataract surgery, have resulted in longer waiting lists in private facilities. "Albertans need to be vigilant in the coming months, and be ready to give a clear 'no' to Ralph Klein. We will be putting our membership on alert."

McGowan notes that the Justices note that private delivery will not solve the waiting list problem. In her reasons, Justice Marie Deschamps says "the relief sought by the appellants does not necessarily provide a complete response to the complex problem of waiting lists" (paragraph 100). This sentiment is echoed throughout the judgement.

"This is not a decision endorsing private health care. To the contrary, it is more of a repudiation of a decade of budget cutbacks and tight-fisted fiscal policies," notes McGowan.

"The right to reasonable access to health care is clear - now it is up to our governments to live up to it by properly funding Medicare," McGowan concludes.

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For more information contact:

Gil McGowan, AFL President at 915-4599 (cell)

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