BC Rallies to Save Public Health
The corporate media may not be reporting
it, but the Liberal government’s health care privatization moves are
not going unnoticed or unopposed.
Rallies at facilities hit by contracting
out, privatization or closure are becoming commonplace across the
province as the public, according to recent polls, gives increasing
thumbs-down to private for-profit health services.
Public opposition is growing to the
recently announced firing of 950 health facility housekeepers by the
Vancouver Coastal Health Authority and the farming out of their
services to the Aramark Corporation, another US-based multi-national
firm. That has labour and consumer groups warning of a decline in
cleanliness and safety standards, just like what has happened, they
charge, in other jurisdictions where this type of privatization has
“Housekeepers are a critical part of
infection control measures to ensure that patients have a safe, germ
free environment in hospitals,” says HEU spokesperson Zorica Bosancic.
“This latest privatization move will put patients at risk and will
prove more costly over the long run,” she warns.
“Hundreds of skilled and experienced
workers are expecting to get their pinks slips soon and will be fired
starting early in the fall,” she says. “They'll be replaced by a low
wage workforce that will lack the skills and knowledge essential to
maintaining a germ-free environment.”
Other jurisdictions like the United Kingdom have already paid a high
price when they experimented with privatized support services like
housekeeping, says Bosancic. “Cleaning and infection control standards
declined scandalously because of privatization, and patients died as a
Similar concerns around declining security
standards at St. Mary’s Hospital in New Westminster, as over 90 security guards
have lost their jobs to a minimum wage for-profit outfit based in the United Kingdom. Meanwhile, New Westminster residents are continuing
their pressure campaign on the provincial government as it still is
fixed on closing the entire facility.
In addition, Burnaby City Council stepped
into the battle fray earlier this month to support workers and patient
groups in their fight to keep the seniors’ Willingdon Park Lodge opened
and in public hands. They recently presented a 10,000-name petition of Burnaby residents demanding that all
contracting out be terminated.
“What's happening at Willingdon Park hospital is wrong. It's
putting profit ahead of people,” said Sarjit Dhillon, who has worked at
the hospital for 23 years. “We ask that you support us as we fight for
our seniors and for decently paid, community-supporting jobs.”
West Vancouver has been the unlikely scene
of public protests, as health care workers and patients and relatives
have been staging public events and rallies to save the 200 senior
patients and 170 caregivers at Inglewood Lodge and Capilano Care Centre.
Outside the lower mainland, opposition
appears to be even more intense, as smaller communities rally around
the saving of local health facilities and their better paying, mostly
Using the slogan, “Not a Penny for
Profit,” health care workers at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Comox, on Vancouver Island, have staged a series of
afternoon rush-hour rallies over the past three weeks, circulated
petitions and voiced their opposition to contracting out in the local
media and other forums.
“Support has been tremendous,” says
employee Bonnie Mcglashan. “People are eager to sign the petition.”
Meanwhile, in Victoria, Salvation Army management
has been accused of being in bed with the BC Liberal regime and
abandoning its Social Gospel philosophy as the battle over the future
of the Sunset Lodge heats up.
The recent mass firings of caregivers to
farm out their jobs to a multi-national firm have sparked a
province-wide Appeal for Justice campaign.
“These workers have been waging a
remarkable fight-back against an employer that hides behind its public
mission to help the poor, while throwing women into poverty,” said HEU
secretary business-manager Chris Allnutt. “By supporting the Appeal for
Justice campaign we have an opportunity to expose the Sally Ann's
hypocrisy as well as pressure their top leadership into re-evaluating
the kind of exploitative labour practices that have disrupted the lives
of Sunset Lodge workers and residents.”
Residents of Revelstoke, in central BC,
are insisting the Moberly Manor seniors center remain open and in
public hands with its union staff intact. A march earlier this month
organized by local senior citizens drew over 500 people, the largest
such gathering in the town’s history
“The people of Revelstoke built Moberly
Manor,” says Margaret McMahon, march organizer and a member of
Revelstoke Senior Citizens' Association. “We planned it, lobbied
government and raised the money. The B.C. Liberals never put one nail in
that building and now they want to take it away from us.”
Last spring when the Interior Health
Authority announced the closure of the facility, they gave the elderly
residents 30-days' notice to find somewhere else to live. In an
unprecedented act of community solidarity, over 400 townspeople
encircled the facility and physically barred management from moving
The IHA backed down and granted a
reprieve. But rallies continue to keep the facility open.
“Your actions over a year ago, to blockade
the Moberly Manor to make sure the government did not close the
facility and evict people from their homes, has continued to serve as
an inspiration for all social activists in the province,” said HEU
president Fred Muzin in a letter of support sent to the Revelstoke
seniors in advance of the march.