NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, July 30, 2004 – The Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO) applauds members of the Council of the Federation for agreeing to a national pharmacare program. But nurses are disappointed that the premiers choose not to commit to placing conditions on new health-care dollars and get on with the task at hand – hammering out a proposed health-care strategy that will ensure the sustainability of Medicare for generations to come. Canadians deserve much greater conditionality and transparency than what the council proposed, the association said today in response to the Council of the Federation’s media conference to wrap-up this week’s strategic planning meeting.
“The majority of Canadians, including Ontario’s nurses, want an end to further for-profit health care and a start to universally accessible primary health care, comprehensive home care, palliative care and pharmacare,” said RNAO president Joan Lesmond. “It is encouraging that the premiers are looking at expanding these services, but the door should not be left open for each province to experiment with for profit health-care delivery, or spend new federal health-care dollars however they see fit.”
“Canada is at a crossroads, and the outcome of the national health summit with Prime Minister Martin has the potential to irrevocably and irreversibly alter our national health-care identity,” said RNAO executive director Doris Grinspun. “This is the time to define ourselves and our nation, and council members failed to protect and strengthen Medicare by drawing the traditional ‘line in the sand’ and refusing to accept conditionality, and providing no clear solutions to the health human resources crisis.”
Canadians are more committed than ever to universally accessible, publicly funded health care that does not profit from a person’s illness as well as improved access to registered nurses. The association is disappointed that the premiers chose not to commit to expanding publicly funded, not-for-profit health care and put the privatization ghosts to rest once and for all. “Increased for-profit delivery costs more and delivers less quality,” said Lesmond. “For example, moving to for-profit hospital care would cost $7.2 billion more per year and result in 2,200 excess deaths annually.”
RNAO will continue to press for a national ban on private hospitals, public-private partnerships (P3) to build hospitals, and for-profit MRI and CT scan clinics; these initiatives erode Medicare’s long-term sustainability.
The association applauds the premiers’ commitment to a national pharmacare program; it will cost less and deliver more to Canadians. Nurses are now calling on Prime Minister Martin to make this initiative a reality, and insist that the premiers commit to the full implementation of the Romanow report, including conditionality for new health-care dollars, and strengthening nursing human resources.
“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, comprehensive home health care, seniors’ services and catastrophic drug coverage,” said Grinspun. When expanding Medicare, we must give first right of refusal to not-for-profit agencies, she added.
The association is encouraged that the fall conference with Prime Minister Martin will be fully televised to allow Canadians to finally see which premiers are on their side. “Eighty four per cent of Canadians want to strengthen, not dismantle, Medicare, and they have the right to know where their governments stand,” Lesmond said. “This is about nation building and you cannot build a nation behind its citizens’ backs.”
“The principles of the Canada Health Act (CHA) are crucial to the efficient, equitable and civilized delivery of health care. They must be protected and strengthened,” said Grinspun. “Registered nurses are unwavering in our conviction that access to care must be based on need, not ability, to pay.” Nurses are hopeful that a fully televised meeting will force the political will to heed the same chorus of Canadian voices Romanow heard during his intensive 18-month consultation, 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.