FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 11, 2014
BC seniors call on federal government to provide leadership in strengthening public health care
B.C.'s largest federation of seniors has called on the federal, provincial and territorial governments to negotiate "a new comprehensive health accord that protects, transforms and strengthens our national health care system."
At a special meeting held in Vancouver today – 11 days after the expiry of the national health accord – about 100 seniors unanimously adopted a declaration that quality health care must be available to every resident of Canada without discrimination, and regardless of ability to pay.
"All levels of government have a role to play in the delivery of quality and accessible health care," said Lorraine Logan, President of the 107,000 member Council of Senior Citizens' Organizations of B.C.
"The federal government should give strong leadership in enforcing national standards, not walking away from the table and refusing to negotiate a new accord," said Logan.
"To ensure Medicare is not fragmented, Ottawa must provide coordination, foster innovation, and provide financial support at a level that secures the integrity of the 1984 Canada Health Act," she said.
The meeting of COSCO delegates heard from three health policy experts on the issue.
Michael McBane of the Canadian Health Coalition said the Harper government has launched a "stealth attack" on Medicare, with reductions in funding scheduled for future years.
"We need a national debate, a national conversation on the future of Medicare," said McBane, adding that the withdrawal of federal leadership will lead to a fragmentation of service.
"This is a fight to maintain access so people can get care based on need," he said.
Wendell Potter, former head of communications at a large health insurance company in the USA, said he walked away from his job when he realized private corporations were not improving access, were not improving quality of care, and looked on health care as a major profit centre.
"With help from the Fraser Institute, the company misinformed Americans about Canada's health care system, calling it 'the slippery slope to socialism,'" said Potter.
He called on Canadians to carefully examine the misleading language used by those who promote privatization.
"Sound the alarm" said Potter. "You can lose Medicare for yourselves, your children, your grandchildren and future generations."
Alex Himelfarb – director of the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs at York University, former Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet for three prime ministers – said that private health care is far more expensive and has longer wait times.
Himelfarb called for a national Pharmacare program, a better approach to care for chronic illness, and the integration of home care and home support into Medicare.
"Countries that have done that have a more sustainable health care system than we have," he said. "We have lots of work to do to make Medicare strong, better and more affordable. We need a clear vision for the future. We need federal leadership – and we don't have it," he said.
Seniors at the meeting expressed outrage that the federal government has refused to negotiate a new health accord, effectively ending Medicare as a national program.
They were also frustrated that four B.C. Conservative Members of Parliament – including Richmond MP Alice Wong, the minister of state for seniors – have refused to meet with them to discuss these issues.
Conference photographs can be seen on our Photo Link or Click Here.
(including some photographs that Denis Ottewell was kind enough to share)
BC's largest federation of seniors has expressed deep concern about the failure of the federal government to negotiate a new health accord with provinces and territories. "Unless the federal government changes its mind and negotiates a new health accord, Medicare will be fragmented, with different standards of care in different parts of the country. Medicare will no longer be a national program. And the federal government's multi-billion dollar reductions in funding will lead to more cuts in service to patients," says Lorraine Logan, President of the Council of Senior Citizens' Organizations of B.C. (COSCO).
The federal-provincial health accord that set national standards of care expired on March 31.
To raise awareness of the seriousness of the issue, COSCO is hosting a public event:
10:00 to 11:00 am, Friday, April 11
Hastings Community Centre
3096 East Hastings St, Vancouver
Wendell Potter, a health policy expert. Potter is former head of communications at Cigna, a multinational health insurance company. In his book Deadly Spin, he exposed the industry PR juggernaut that spends millions lobbying and funding front groups to promote for-profit care.
Alex Himelfarb, director of the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs at York University. A federal public servant for 28 years, he served as Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet for three prime ministers.
BC's largest federation of seniors has elected a new President. Delegates representing 85 seniors' organizations throughout the province chose Lorraine Logan to lead the 107,000 member Council of Senior Citizens' Organizations of B.C. (COSCO) for the next two years.
Logan previously served as COSCO's second vice-president, and spoke for the organization on transportation issues including DriveABLE and accessible transit services. She takes over from Art Kube, a long time leader on issues affecting seniors.
COSCO is cautiously optimistic about the long awaited appointment of the Seniors Advocate and we have high expectations for the position and of Ms MacKenzie.
We welcome the appointment of Isobel MacKenzie as British Columbia's first Seniors Advocate. She will take up her position on March 31st.
The success of COSCO's health promotion workshops has led to new steps to ensure their
continued success and expansion to meet the needs of even more seniors. COSCO began the process of
establising a society, separate from COSCO, to fund and promote the workshops, which are presented
free of charge
We received the following presentations with thanks to the participants who enabled us to make the Conference "The Joy and Tears of Living Longer" a resounding success.
Hardly necessary, but we remind visitors to the website and this information- that the presentations were dynamic and not always strictly according to the text.