Canadian Health Coalition

Canadian Health Coalition

November 17, 2009 10:30 ET

Health Coalition Celebrates 30th Anniversary:

Harper Should Honour National Medicare Week by Acting on Private Clinics, Initiating Pharmacare

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Nov. 17, 2009) - Prime Minister Stephen Harper is urged to use National Medicare Week (Nov. 17-24) to show federal leadership on health care by enforcing the Canada Health Act and by initiating a national public drug plan for all Canadians. The request came from the Canadian Health Coalition (CHC), which today is marking its 30th anniversary of fighting for, protecting and encouraging the expansion of Medicare.

"As the debate over health care rages in the United States, Canadians can celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Canada Health Act, which brought accessible, universal, quality public health care to all our citizens, regardless of their ability to pay," said Linda Silas, President, Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions. "There could not be a better time than National Medicare Week for the Prime Minister to finally show the leadership that Canadians want and need on health care."

In a letter to Mr. Harper signed by Kathleen Connors, Shirley Douglas, Hon. Monique Begin, Robert McMurtry, Robert G. Evans and Sharon Sholzberg-Gray, the CHC asked the Prime Minister to:

- Celebrate the legacy of Medicare by publicly reaffirming your government's commitment to the principles of the Canada Health Act as well as adequate and secure federal funding;

- Protect Medicare today by immediately enforcing the Canada Health Act in the many cases of extra-billing, user fees, privatization and queue-jumping now spreading across the country; and

- Create the Medicare of the future by taking immediate steps to initiate a national public drug plan (Pharmacare) that will provide better access, more value for money, and better prescribing practices.

"Since Medicare began, it has been threatened by user fees, extra-billing and privatization," said Dr. Irfan Dhalla from Canadian Doctors for Medicare. "While governments have acted in the past, Mr. Harper's government has indicated it's clearly not interested in enforcing the Canada Health Act. It has instead turned a blind eye as private, for-profit clinics regularly break the law, and now - as a result - an emboldened group of for-profit clinics in B.C. have launched a court action to have Medicare laws struck down."

"The challenge for the future is to expand Medicare to respond to the changing health needs of Canadians," said Robert G. Evans, Director of the Population Health Program at University of British Columbia. "Today prescription drugs save lives but too many Canadians can't afford them. We must initiate a national public drug plan that addresses access, affordability and appropriateness of prescribing behavior."

The Canadian Health Coalition is marking its 30th anniversary with a panel discussion and a gala reception and fundraiser featuring actor and director Mary Walsh; musical Guests: Connie Kaldor, Teresa Healy & Tom Juravich, Bob Carty, and James Stephens; and after-dinner speaker Julie Mason whose "Critical Condition" bi-weekly column in the Ottawa Citizen focuses on health care issues, including protecting Medicare. The afternoon panel discussion, moderated by Nik Nanos of Nanos Research, will include panelists Linda Silas, Robert Evans, Irfan Dhalla, and Brenda Stocks.

The 30th anniversary events will take place in the Le Salon and Panorama rooms of the National Arts Centre. The panel discussion gets underway at 3:30 p.m., with the gala reception starting at 6 p.m.

The Canadian Health Coalition is a public advocacy organization dedicated to the preservation and improvement of Medicare. Our membership is comprised of national organizations representing nurses, health care workers, seniors, churches, anti-poverty groups, women and trade unions, as well as affiliated coalitions in 9 provinces and one territory.



The Right Honourable Stephen Harper November 17, 2009
Prime Minister of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Dear Prime Minister:

This week is National Medicare Week and the Canadian Health Coalition
is marking its 30th anniversary of fighting for, protecting, and
encouraging the expansion of Medicare.

Like the vast majority of Canadians, we treasure and take pride in
Medicare - one of the most successful public health care systems in
the world. As debate over health care reform rages in the United States,
Canadians celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Canada Health Act, which
enshrined accessible, universal, quality public health care to all our
citizens regardless of their ability to pay.

Yet since Medicare began, it has been threatened by user fees, extra
billing and privatization. Today, across Canada, private for-profit
clinics are charging "facility fees", billing patients for insured
services, and allowing them to jump the queue. Prime Minister, it is
time for your government to demonstrate federal leadership by taking
immediate action on violations of the Canada Health Act.

We respectfully ask you to use the occasion of National Medicare Week
in this anniversary year of the Canada Health Act to show federal
leadership on health care.

We ask you to:

- Celebrate the legacy of Medicare by publicly reaffirming your
government's commitment to the principles of the Canada Health Act
as well as adequate and secure federal funding;

- Protect Medicare today by immediately enforcing the Canada Health Act
in the many cases of extra-billing, user fees, privatization and
queue-jumping now spreading across the country; and

- Create the Medicare of the future by taking immediate steps to
initiate a national public drug plan (Pharmacare) that will provide
better access, more value for money, and better prescribing practices.

Looking ahead, the challenge for the future is to expand Medicare to
respond to the changing health needs of Canadians. Today, prescription
drugs save lives, but only when the people who need them can afford to
buy them. We urge you, Prime Minister, to show leadership by initiating a
national public drug plan that ensures all Canadians have access to
affordable, safe, and appropriately prescribed medications no matter where
they live or work, or their ability to pay.

Mr. Prime Minister, Canadians in all parts of this country and of all
political affiliations are united in their support for our public
healthcare system. They are looking to you and your government to join
them in publicly celebrating our proud legacy by taking action to protect
Medicare and initiating immediate steps to create the Medicare of
tomorrow.


Yours sincerely,


Kathleen Connors, RN (Ret'd)
Chairperson, Canadian Health Coalition

Shirley Douglas, OC
Daughter of Tommy Douglas, Father of Medicare

Hon. Monique Begin, PC, OC, QC, FRSC
Minister of Health and Welfare (1977-79, 1980-84)

Robert McMurtry, MD, FRCSC, FACS
Former Dean, Faculty of Medicine at University of Western Ontario

Sharon Sholzberg-Gray, B.A., B.Sc., B.C.L., DESD
Past-President and CEO of the Canadian Healthcare Association

Robert G. Evans, PhD,
Director, Population Health Program, University of British Columbia


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