Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario

Registered nurses urge Prime Minister Paul Martin to strengthen Medicare immediately

Registered nurses urge Prime Minister Paul Martin to strengthen Medicare immediately


TORONTO – July 5, 2004 –Registered nurses call on Prime Minister Paul Martin to move swiftly to protect and strengthen Medicare – the cornerstone of our national identity.

“The prime minister has repeatedly said he is committed to enforcing the Canada Health Act and protecting Medicare,” said RNAO president Joan Lesmond. “And nurses need him to act urgently on that commitment.” Canadians want a publicly funded and not-for-profit delivered health-care system that supports them in times of health and responds in times of illness, she added.

“The number one issue for nurses – and the public they serve – is securing a strong and sustainable publicly funded and not-for-profit delivered health-care system and a robust nursing workforce,” said RNAO executive director Doris Grinspun. “Registered nurses across Canada are looking for elected representatives to commit to expanding Medicare and building on Tommy Douglas’ legacy.”

“We believe that if we fail now, we are looking at the beginning of the end of Medicare,” said Grinspun. “Health is a resource for living and health care is a human right. We reject the claims of the few that for-profit delivery will cure what ails Medicare.”

Indeed, a recent study conducted by McMaster University health researchers found that care at for-profit hospitals cost 19 per cent more than not-for-profit hospitals – the equivalent of $7.2 billion Cdn each year. Combined with previous studies that reveal a higher death rate in for-profit hospitals, the evidence strongly supports a policy of not-for-profit health-care delivery.

“We all know what happens when shareholders and investors call the shots in health-care delivery – we will pay more and see a decline in the quality of care. And the consequences are dire: fewer highly skilled personnel like registered nurses, cutting patient care corners to accommodate the profit margin, and inevitably, higher death rates,” said Lesmond.

RNAO is calling on the prime minister to end the deliberation and debate about private for-profit health services. He must: ban public-private partnerships (P3) to build hospitals; ban for-profit hospitals; ban for-profit diagnostic imaging such as MRI and CT scan clinics; and expand publicly funded and not-for-profit health-care services.

The association is also calling on Prime Minister Martin to put a moratorium on further tax cuts and commit to the full implementation of the Romanow report. “Canadians have clearly chosen strengthening Medicare over tax cuts and two-tier health care; they want to expand the Canada Health Act to include public health, primary health care, home health care, seniors’ services and catastrophic drug coverage,” said Lesmond. When expanding Medicare, we must give first right of refusal to not-for-profit agencies, she added.

RNAO is asking the prime minister to keep his pre-election promise to open up this summer’s first ministers meeting on health care and allow the public access through a fully televised meeting. “Canada is at a crossroads, and this meeting has the potential to irrevocably and irreversibly alter our national health-care identity,” said Grinspun. This is about nation building and you cannot build a nation behind its citizens’ backs, she added.

The Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses wherever they practise in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has lobbied for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.


For more information, please contact:
Marion Zych, Director of Communications, RNAO
Phone: 416-408-5605
Toll free: 1-800-268-7199 ext.209
Cell: 647-406-5605