Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,
I am writing to call on your government to address the severe and urgent need for additional investment in public health care. The New Brunswick Federation of Labour represents more than 38,000 workers, in every sector of the economy, including thousands of care workers, right across New Brunswick.
We strongly urge your government to act immediately to increase the resources available to improve the capacity of publicly-funded, publicly-delivered health systems.
Some provincial premiers have let working people down, and left families to fend for themselves against the harsh realities of an under-resourced system. They have rolled out the red carpet for private corporations, while failing to adequately fund even core health care services and facilities. Some have even launched personal attacks vilifying health care workers – at the height of the worst pandemic in living memory. Federal funding must be increased, and those transfers must include stipulations for better patient care and improved working conditions. These funds must also be allocated in a way that ensures they will be directed toward publicly-operated health care facilities, leaving no room for provinces and territories to shift more health care service delivery to profit-seeking companies.
The efforts of right-wing politicians and lobbyists to hand over the most lucrative pieces of health care to private interests and leave the more complicated cases to the public system are being presented as a national debate on health care. Let’s be clear – there is no debate. There is the public interest, and there is private, profit-seeking interest. Canadians do not need to be convinced of the consequences of a U.S.-style health care system being contemplated here in Canada; they believe that our health care should be funded and delivered publicly, as has always been intended by the Canada Health Act.
Siphoning money into private clinics that duplicate services and reduce oversight is not in the best interest of Canadians. These private services also draw valuable human resources away from our already understaffed public system. We have already seen the consequences of many health services being contracted to private companies, such as long-term care and home care. Not only are profits skimmed from the wages of workers, but the quality of care is often lower, workplace conditions are often poor, and there is less public oversight. For example, COVID-19 outbreaks in private care homes were both longer and more lethal than in publicly-run facilities. Multinational companies often invest these profits outside of Canada, moving public tax dollars out of our local economies.
The fact that the public system works as well as it does, despite being underfunded, demonstrates that better investments and coordination in public health care delivery is the best way to achieve the outcomes Canadians expect and deserve.
In addition to more hospitals and urgent care capacity, many communities across Canada need targeted long-term care and mental health support. Each province has its own unique needs and requires the flexibility to put money where it’s needed most. But there must be a clear, unbreakable caveat: These funds are reserved solely for the public delivery of care.
Canadians have also been clear that they are growing impatient with the federal government’s unfulfilled commitment to a national pharmacare program. It is time to put public health over politics. It is time for a comprehensive national system that will ensure families have all the care they need when they need it, that health care workers have the resources and capacity they need to do their jobs safely, and necessary preventative care is in place to deliver the cost savings our health-care systems need to be sustainable.
A national health workforce plan is critical to the longer-term sustainability of our health care system. Across the country, COVID-19 has exacerbated underlying staff shortages, in some cases jeopardizing our system’s capacity to deliver quality, timely care. An improved funding model would go a long way toward properly compensating health care workers, reducing forced overtime and creating better overall working conditions – which in turn will improve retention, reduce burnout and help with recruitment.
Current federal funding levels for health care are insufficient to sustain growing care needs now and into the post-pandemic future. With a federal budget expected to be tabled in the coming weeks, Canadians urgently need the federal government to step up with funding now to address the current gaps in public health care, without opening more opportunities for private for-profit health care to take hold in Canada.
We cannot allow the situation to worsen. If COVID-19 has taught us anything, a national health workforce plan is required to ensure the long-term sustainability of the health care system. The federal government must do their part to ensure adequate resources are available and directed to increasing service capacity and infrastructure as part of a robust public health care system.
Our plans are to continue to inform our members and engage the public in our demands. We know most Canadians support increased investment in public health care and pharmacare.
The New Brunswick Federation of Labour and the workers we represent look forward to your response and we are available for any further discussion you might consider.
President, New Brunswick Federation of Labour