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Now is the time for Canadians to stand together against health care privatization

We can no longer stand by while our public healthcare system withstands attack after attack
Josee-Anne Spirito, is regional executive vice-president with PSAC North.

Across Canada, not many people think of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) as a healthcare union. In fact, PSAC represents the majority of healthcare workers in the Northern territories. 

As a healthcare worker myself, I have seen first-hand how our healthcare system – especially here in the North – is in the worst state it has been in decades, and how poorly healthcare workers are often treated. 

Far too often, we are undervalued and underpaid for the work that we do, subject to abuse that is considered “part of the job,” and denied the equipment and resources to do our jobs safely. 

As a result, healthcare workers are now leaving the profession they love en masse, and for obvious, understandable reasons.   

For many of us, keeping the passion alive that drove us into healthcare becomes harder and harder as our employers continue to choose not to provide us with decent working conditions and wages.  

In the wake of the pandemic, the last few years have been beyond difficult for healthcare workers, and our governments have responded to our struggles by diverting funds to for-profit, private healthcare. Again and again, they use our tax dollars to line the pockets of American-style, private agencies and clinics, at the expense of those we care for. 

Canadians are proud of our universal healthcare system, so why has it been allowed to get this way?  

There are multiple factors, too many to name, but the main reason is that our governments consistently choose to privatize care rather than invest in and protect our public system. 

It doesn’t take a healthcare worker to know that Band-Aid solutions won’t work. 

Profit simply doesn’t care. When the motive for the delivery of healthcare becomes profit, so does the priority – and the human beings who rely on that care, as well as those providing it, quickly become a second thought. 

Last week in Ottawa, I joined hundreds of colleagues from across the country at the PSAC National Triennial Convention, where delegates voted overwhelmingly in favour of a Canada-wide campaign against the privatization of healthcare.   

Days later, we marched to Parliament Hill and demanded that our federal government – and all orders of government, now and in the future – invest in protecting our public healthcare system and end the practice of private care. 

Nobody wants to see the life-saving support they or their family rely on threatened. That’s why we can no longer stand by while our public healthcare system withstands attack after attack. 

No matter the political environment, and regardless of who is in power, we need to remain vigilant to ensure the critical services workers who our families depend on are there when they need them. We need to advocate for a well-funded public healthcare system in all our communities.  

Not only healthcare workers, not only the labour movement, and not only those living in Northern communities. Canadians – from coast to coast to coast – must stand together for anyone who may need healthcare someday, and for all our loved ones who depend on healthcare workers. We all know they deserve better. 

Only if our governments choose to invest in public healthcare will we have the stability essential to deliver quality care in our communities, to make sure workers are treated fairly and to ensure patients are cared for with dignity.  

It’s time to stand together for the public healthcare system we deserve. 

-Josee-Anne Spirito, is regional executive vice-president with PSAC North.