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  • Volume Eight, Number Five: July 2003

    Public Unimpressed with BC Liberals' Health Care Schemes, says Poll

    The corporate media and business elite may praise it, but the general public isn’t happy with the results of the Liberals regimes and its health care management.

    Almost 47 per cent give government "poor" health rating, with an additional 25 per cent saying it is at best fair. A significant majority, 58 per cent, oppose so-called “public private partnerships”—or “P3s”—where a private for-profit firm operates a health facility or service and the public pays for it via its tax dollars, while a full 60 per cent doubt health service quality can be maintained by private contractors

    Those were the findings of a Mustel Group poll commissioned by the Hospital Employees' Union earlier this month.

    That's up sharply from 40 per cent in January and represents the second poorest ranking of a BC government since HEU began polling on this question in 1993. The August 6-11 telephone survey of 501 British Columbians indicates that just seven per cent rated the government's health care performance as excellent or very good. A further 17 per cent rate their performance as good and 26 per cent as fair.

    "Facility closures, service cuts and privatization combined with MSP and Pharmacare hikes are eroding public confidence in this government's health care reforms," says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. "British Columbians have quickly discovered that the New Era commitment to health care 'where and when you need it' is an empty commitment."

    The survey also shows a public deeply suspicious of government's plans to privatize health care infrastructure and support services.

    In the aftermath of government's failed plan to use public-private partnerships to operate the Coquihalla Highway, the HEU/Mustel Group survey shows that 58 per cent (including 32 per cent of BC Liberal supporters) oppose government plans to use similar P3 arrangements to build, own and operate hospitals, highways and schools.

    And on the question of contracting out health care services, 60 per cent of British Columbians are not persuaded by health authorities' claims that they can replace existing staff with private contractors and still maintain high quality health services.

    "The public understands that we can't build a quality health care system by throwing thousands of skilled, experienced workers out on the street," says Allnutt.

    About 9,000 health care workers are expected to lose their jobs by the end of 2004 due to privatization and contracting out.

    HEU's survey questions form part of a larger Mustel Group omnibus poll that included political preference numbers released by the polling company earlier this week. The results are considered accurate to within 4.4 per cent, 19 out of 20 times.

    Here are the questions:

    How would you rate the performance of the current BC Liberal government's handling of health care issues?

    • Excellent - 1.6 per cent
    • Very good - 5.2 per cent
    • Good - 17.4 per cent
    • Fair - 25.5 per cent
    • Poor - 46.7 per cent
    • Don't know - 3.6 per cent

    The BC Liberal government has proposed using private-public partnerships in which private companies would build, own and operate public infrastructure like hospitals, highways and schools. Based on what you know about private-public partnerships, do you support or oppose this approach?

    • Strongly agree - 9.0 per cent
    • Somewhat agree - 23.2 per cent
    • Somewhat disagree - 17.9 per cent
    • Strongly disagree - 40.0 per cent
    • Don't know - 9.9 per cent
    • Total agree - 32.2 per cent
    • Total disagree - 57.9 per cent

    BC's health authorities say they can replace thousands of existing staff with private contractors and maintain high quality services. Do you agree or disagree with that statement?

    • Strongly agree - 15.6 per cent
    • Somewhat agree - 16.6 per cent
    • Somewhat disagree - 18.9 per cent
    • Strongly disagree - 41.1 per cent
    • Don't know - 7.8 per cent
    • Total agree - 32.2 per cent
    • Total disagree - 60.0 per cent


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