Nurses Disappointed Health Care Not a Priority for First Ministers

MONCTON, NB, Aug. 10 – Premiers cannot continue to ignore health care in their discussions and their actions. Nurses are pressing provincial and federal governments to expand the country’s health care system to meet the needs of all Canadians and to do so now, not soon.

“Nurses and health care professionals from across Canada gathered this week to ensure that health care remained a part of the discussions,” says Linda Silas, RN and President of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU). “Unfortunately, the Premiers would not meet with us nor did they feel health care pertinent enough to put on their agenda. In our view, this is unacceptable.” Nurses are calling for an expanded health care system that includes a pan-Canadian Health Human Resources Strategy, the implementation of a national pharmaceutical program, expanded Home care and Long-term care services and improved Aboriginal health.

Nursing leaders did meet with Saskatchewan Health Minister Len Taylor, chair of the conference of federal, provincial and territorial ministers of health, to discuss the nursing situation in Canada. In the absence of meetings with Premiers, the CFNU delivered a health care information package to all Premiers earlier this week. Included in the package was a video message from frontline nurses and nursing leaders asking for action on the critical nursing shortages hitting the country.

“Our video provides a roadmap for governments that would see us retain our experienced nurses and recruit our new graduates,” says Silas. “This is a golden opportunity for a politician or party to lead the country in making sure enough nurses are there when Canadians need them.”

While pleased to see progressive discussions on the environment, a key contributor to good health, there are others contributors to be considered. Premiers received a copy of Dying for a Home, a book by street nurse Cathy Crowe that emphasizes how important social determinants of health, such as access to health care, clean water, safe housing, and nutritious food are for good health.

“We must stop focusing on the health privatization debate and focus instead on achieving optimal health for all Canadians, especially children and First Nations,” adds Silas. “In some parts of Canada, it is cheaper for children to drink pop than milk. That is not healthy.”

For further information: Linda Silas, CFNU President, Cell: (613) 859-4314; Teresa Neuman, Acting Director of Communications/Campaigns, CFNU, Cell: (613) 292-9106

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