Canadians have long benefited from a public health care system. Part of the reason for that is the work that the labour movement has done in this area, says Mike Luff, senior researcher for the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) in Ottawa.
“We were involved in the fight for public health from the start,” said Luff. “We fought for a national plan that would ensure all Canadians had equal access to the same level of medical and hospital services no matter how much money they had or where they lived in this country.”
The labour movement continues in its quest to champion public health care needs. In recent years, it has been addressing concerns over access to care when and where it is needed. “There are significant concerns over wait times for particular services and there are concerns about increasing demand and changing needs due to our aging population,” Luff says. “Our health care system must adapt to meet these challenges.”
Part of its focus is on strengthening and expanding the system, including recruiting more professionals. A key to that is the creation of a national health care human resources strategy, Luff says. “It’s not enough for provinces to recruit health care professionals from other provinces to fill their ranks. Bringing more people into the system needs to be a national initiative.”
Another more recent initiative that is gaining momentum is emergency preparedness measures to protect front line members. “We must ensure the system is ready to fight a public health care crisis,” Luff says. “This goes back to the SARS and H1N1 outbreaks, and more recently with the potential for an Ebola crisis. We’re advocating for measures to ensure patients, workers and communities are properly protected. We’re also asking the government to act with greater urgency in terms of more training and better protective equipment.”
In addition, the labour movement is working with government on reducing the cost of prescription drugs on the system and for the individuals who need them. “We’ve done a lot of work through collective bargaining to negotiate health benefits for members and their families,” Luff says. “But there are still three million Canadians who can’t afford the prescription drugs they need. The best way to address this issue is through a national universal prescription drug program.”
Estimates are that a national approach will save the system up to $11-billion a year through bulk purchasing and reduced administration costs.
Recently, the labour movement partnered with the Mental Health Commission of Canada to create the country’s first national Mental Health Strategy. “We worked with the Commission to develop a strategy that will raise awareness about mental health, reduce stigma, expand services and provide safe housing and work environments.”
Yet another health care-related initiative for the labour movement is improving the number of available beds and quality of life within long-term care homes. This includes advocating minimum staff/resident ratios and prescribing the minimum number of hours of hands-on care per patient.
Ultimately, a good quality health care system is key to anyone raising families, working, and participating fully in their community, Luff says. “We have one of the most enviable health care systems in the world. But we also know we are facing increasing demand and changing needs. We all need to adapt.”
This story was produced by Postmedia’s advertising department on behalf of the Canadian Labour Congress for commercial purposes. Postmedia’s editorial departments had no involvement in the creation of this content.