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September 21, 2015

Taking a stand

Nurses: Canadians need leaders to debate single most important issue facing country this election

By Mona O’Shea and Linda Silas:

Health care is the single most important issue facing our country this election, yet this election is treating it as a side-issue. We need health care to be debated so all Canadians know where the parties and leaders stand on health care.

The Harper Conservatives have vowed to reduce health care funding by a whopping $43.5 billion over the next eight years. This move promises to further weaken our health care system, which is already struggling under current pressures. These cuts will have damaging effects on the Canadian economy, as health costs are expected to increase due to an aging population and other cost drivers.

Canada’s Nurses are shocked and disappointed that none of our leaders have spoken up for the health of Canadians during this election.

While delivering health care is a provincial responsibility, funding health care is a joint obligation of federal and provincial governments. The challenges facing our health care system are not unique to any one province; they affect Canadians across the country and demand national leadership.

Publicly funded health care falls under the Canada Health Act. Reducing transfers from the federal government puts provincial health care systems under further stress. This is why, in July, provincial premiers called on the federal government to commit to increase health transfers to a minimum 25 per cent federal funding relative to provincial health costs.

As nurse leaders, we work with provincial governments on health care issues. We are concerned about the direction we are heading in the provinces.

In Prince Edward Island, we are already dealing with the challenges of an aging population. The federal government’s reduction of health care transfers to the provinces will cut more than $43 million of much needed funding over eight years. The impact on services in P.E.I. with
this level of cuts will be devastating. Economist Michael Rachlis estimates the impacts could result in 218,000 fewer home care visits, 11,000 fewer primary care centre patients, 44 fewer long-term care beds and 105 fewer nurses employed, every year.

This will be felt in P.E.I., as it will be felt across Canada. Nationally, the $43.5 billion health care transfer reductions equate to 59 million fewer home care visits, 2.6 million fewer primary care centre patients, 7,500 fewer long-term care beds and 24,000 fewer nurses employed, again, every year that the cuts are in effect.

This is why Canada’s nurses are raising the alarm this election.

We know there are viable solutions to health care challenges. A national prescription drug plan would save Canada up to $11 billion per year.

Investing in Long Term Care will move seniors out of expensive hospital beds which cost $2 billion per year, to more appropriate and cost effective care settings.

The implementation of a health human resource plan could reduce the 19 million hours of overtime worked by nurses last year which cost nearly $872 million.

Canada needs leadership capable of creating a plan to implement a safe seniors’ strategy, to create universal pharmacare, to develop a health human resources strategy and to defend our public health system, including a federal funding commitment of at least 25 per cent.

It is time for our leaders to stand up for health care. Failing to do so will ignore an issue that is vital to all Canadians and ignores predicted negative impacts on the Canadian economy. This country will make a grave mistake if it follows through with the current federal plan to cut funding to our health care system.

On October 19, voters need to take a stand for health care.

The Guardian