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PRESS RELEASE: User fees threatened for patients across Canada if court challenge negotiations fail to uphold Medicare

Toronto -- As Ontario’s new Health Minister Dr. Eric Hoskins sits down with provincial and territorial Health Ministers for their fall meeting this week, experts and patient advocates hope that he’ll carry a strong message. Across Canada advocates are calling on the B.C. Health Minister to hang tough on the Medicare court challenge which threatens open season on patient user fees for surgeries, diagnostics and other procedures.

The case was scheduled to begin on September 8, but lawyers for both Brian Day, owner of one of the largest private clinics in Canada, and the B.C. government asked the court for a delay in order to negotiate a settlement. Negotiations are now happening behind closed doors and the court date is delayed until March 2015.

Following a provincial audit in 2012 which revealed that Day was charging hundreds of thousands of dollars in unlawful user fees to patients, Day filed a Charter Challenge to nullify the laws that he was violating. His case aims to bring down the laws that protect single-tier Medicare and forbid clinics like his from extra-billing patients and charging user fees for care that currently must be provided without charge under the public health care system. The litigation has far-reaching implications for the entire country.

Day’s clinics were first exposed by patients who complained they were unlawfully billed for medical procedures. The B.C. government responded by trying to audit the clinics. Day refused to let in auditors until forced by a court order, and even then the clinics did not fully comply with auditors. Auditors had access to only a portion of the clinics’ billings and only one month’s worth of data. Nevertheless, what they found was astonishing. In a period of about 30 days, patients were subject to almost half a million dollars in user charges. The five patients who brought the initial legal petition have had their trial delayed while Day’s Charter Challenge to the laws upholding single-tier Medicare is heard. They are still waiting for redress.

“In order to protect patients, the B.C. government must hold private clinic owners and operators accountable when they break the laws prohibiting extra-billing and user fees,” said lawyer Steven Shrybman, a partner at Sack Goldblatt Mitchell who is acting for the B.C. Health Coalition and Canadian Doctors for Medicare, intervenors in the court challenge. Shrybman is well-known for his successful Supreme Court challenge against Ontario’s attempted sale of Hydro One and the recent election fraud cases in Federal Court. “Though the challenge was launched in British Columbia, it has the potential to bring two-tier care to Canadians across the country,” he warned.

“Advocates of public health care from Ontario and across the country are calling on the B.C. government to take a tough stand in these negotiations. These are the laws that uphold Medicare and defend patients,” said Dr. Ryan Meili, Vice-Chair of Canadian Doctors for Medicare. “A simple slap on the wrist encourages more violations in provinces from coast to coast.”

The problem is already creeping into Ontario, according to Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, where the government is proposing to expand private clinics. “Patients are being confused by private clinic operators who are manipulating them into paying thousands of dollars for health care services that they have already paid for in their taxes,” she warned. “The public should know that you cannot be charged by a doctor or private clinic operator for surgery, diagnostic tests or any other medically necessary hospital or physician service. Extra user fees charged to sick and elderly patients are unlawful and immoral and governments should be delivering that message.”

Advocates warned that this court case should also raise alarm bells in Ontario’s government about the dangers of private clinics. At risk is our public health system in which access to health care is based on need, not wealth.

For more information: Kim Johnston 416-441-2502 (office) This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Katie Raso 416-351-3300 (office) This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">

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PRESS RELEASE: Homecare a bit of a mess; Canadian report

The Toronto Star editorialized yesterday on a recently released Statistics Canada report showing fractures in homecare service throughout the country, noting that fixing the system is both the compassionate and the economically smart thing to do.

That’s why the Sweet $16 campaign launched by SEIU Healthcare members and allies, which led to the historic home and community care raises to make the base wage for personal support work $16.50 by 2017, hasn’t stopped at its most recent achievement.

“Sweet $16” is a campaign to fix homecare. It calls for several changes centred on job security for homecare PSWs to encourage them to stay in the growing sector and minimize turnover for the clients who depend on them. SEIU Healthcare continues to build a political movement of respect for PSWs and change to the homecare system.

Quotes:

“Homecare should be declared an essential service. Those who have ever needed homecare know how important PSWs are: clients often call them their lifeline to the world. We must recognize how crucial PSWs are to the well-being of seniors and others who need help with the activities of daily living.”

- Sharleen Stewart, president, SEIU Healthcare

“I am a homecare PSW in Brampton and unfortunately I have to agree that “in short, the existing system is chaotic, inadequate, unfair, inequitable and sorely in need of reform.” Many clients should be getting more hours of personal care but they’re not. The majority of people only get two visits per week, and that means two showers. Through the Sweet $16 campaign we have been fighting to improve the system. We need to keep more young people in the homecare sector. After 11 years I make $15.23/hour and although PSWs look after sick people, we don’t get any sick days ourselves. I hope to see things change.”

- K.S., SEIU Healthcare member in Brampton, Ontario

Videos:

Below the Line | Walking in a PSW's shoes
Today Me, Tomorrow You | PSWs don't have retirement security
The truth about homecare | Sweet $16 #swt16 – how to fix the homecare system

@J4PSWs
@SEIUHealthCan

About SEIU Healthcare

SEIU Healthcare represents more than 55,000 healthcare and community service workers across Ontario. The union’s members work in hospitals, home care, nursing and retirement homes, and community services throughout the province. SEIU Healthcare has a strong track record of improving wages, benefits and working conditions for healthcare workers, supporting the training and development needs of its members, and strengthening standards in the management and delivery of patient and client care. www.seiuhealthcare.ca

It’s official: first ask of “Sweet $16” campaign achieved

The long-awaited 2014-2015 Ontario budget was passed today, containing within it a promise kept to raise home and community care wages by $4 across the board. The base wage for personal support workers will be $16.50 by 2017.

This achievement is the result of hard work to push the government on wages, including during an Ontario-wide strike by 4,500 PSWs this past winter.

SEIU Healthcare’s“Sweet $16” campaign calls for several changes centred on job security for homecare PSWs to encourage them to stay in the growing sector and minimize turnover for the clients who depend on them.

Quotes:

“This is a time to celebrate a great victory. In addition to all the essential work they do daily, personal support workers throughout Ontario went on strike last year and got politically active during the provincial election. This raise is well-deserved. The work doesn’t stop here: we are seeking wage parity between homecare and long-term care personal support work, among other concrete things to fix some major problems in homecare.”

“There is high turnover in the homecare sector. That is because PSWs don’t have job security. Rising costs of living such as gas prices have meant that wages haven’t been keeping up for years. We will keep pushing for improvements to make sure PSWs can actually afford to stay working in homecare.”

- Sharleen Stewart, president, SEIU Healthcare

Facts about homecare:

  • Need for homecare is rising; nearly 1 in 4 Canadians will be a senior by 2036
  • Homecare personal support workers travel to clients’ personal homes and tend to their physiological, hygienic, emotional, and practical needs
  • There are more than 30,000 homecare PSWs in Ontario
  • Homecare PSWs work for either private for-profit or non-profit companies that receive Ontario government funding through the CCACs to provide homecare services
  • PSW wage varies by sector
  • The minimum wage for homecare PSWs was set at $12.50/hour by the Ontario government in 2006
  • The average homecare PSW wage is $14.50/hour whereas the average PSW wage in long-term care (nursing homes) is about $20/hour

Videos:

Below the Line | Walking in a PSW's shoes
Today Me, Tomorrow You | Walking in a PSW's shoes
The truth about homecare | Sweet $16 #swt16 – how to fix the homecare system

@J4PSWs
@SEIUHealthCan

It’s back: desperately-needed raise commitment for homecare PSWs reintroduced in today’s budget

SEIU Healthcare members are relieved that the Ontario government kept its promise to reintroduce historic home and community care raises in its budget today.

The stories of homecare PSWs, who can make as low as $12.50 up to around $16 hourly (without fair compensation for travel time and costs) have touched the hearts of many, through their everyday work with clients and the Sweet $16 campaign to fix homecare in Ontario.

The caregivers should soon see a $1.50 increase retroactive to April 1, 2014, with an across-the-board $1.50 raise to follow on April 1, 2015, and a further $1.00 on April 1, 2016. Under this plan, the new base wage, previously set at $12.50/hour, will be $16.50/hour by 2017.

Quotes:

“Our members mobilized all over Ontario for our successful Stop Hudak campaign so that the new government would be one that would raise wages for home and community care workers right away. This is great news for over 30,000 low-wage workers that are so vital to our communities.”

“As soon as the budget passes, we look forward to hearing from the new Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, Dr. Eric Hoskins about next steps so our members know how and when they will start to receive this raise.”

- Sharleen Stewart, president, SEIU Healthcare

Facts about homecare:

  • Need for homecare is rising; nearly 1 in 4 Canadians will be a senior by 2036
  • Homecare personal support workers travel to clients’ personal homes and tend to their physiological, hygienic, emotional, and practical needs
  • There are more than 30,000 homecare PSWs in Ontario
  • Homecare PSWs work for either private for-profit or non-profit companies that receive Ontario government funding through the CCACs to provide homecare services
  • PSW wage varies by sector
  • The minimum wage for homecare PSWs was set at $12.50/hour by the Ontario government in 2006
  • The average homecare PSW wage is $14.50/hour whereas the average PSW wage in long-term care (nursing homes) is about $20/hour

Videos:

Below the Line | Walking in a PSW's shoes
Today Me, Tomorrow You | Walking in a PSW's shoes
The truth about homecare | Sweet $16 #swt16 – how to fix the homecare system

@J4PSWs
@SEIUHealthCan

Healthcare union members elated by “Stop Hudak” success

Healthcare workers are celebrating their success across Ontario as they take in the election results with Kathleen Wynne’s Liberals winning a majority of seats and Andrea Horwath’s NDP claiming 21 of 107.

The healthcare union had openly campaigned for members to “Stop Hudak and save healthcare” by voting for the NDP or Liberal candidate with the best chance of beating the PC candidate in each riding. Now it’s time to get back to “Sweet $16” and improving the lives of healthcare workers through the political system.

Quotes:

“Our next step will be immediately holding the Premier to account for her party’s promise of an across-the-board $1.50 raise for personal support workers retroactive to April 1, 2014, and another $2.50 by 2016. Homecare working conditions have been so bad for so long that PSWs are happy to be getting some recognition and increased awareness about what they do.”

“We are proud of our political action and member leadership teams’ ability to work with members on the ground to elect NDP and Liberal MPPs, helping make the Hudak name politically obsolete. Purple power!”

Sharleen Stewart, President, SEIU Healthcare



SEIU Healthcare calls on all parties to capitalize on historic moment for homecare

Sharleen Stewart says that, with a June 2014 provincial election imminent, now is the time for all parties to step up and secure historic gains for personal support workers.

Quotes:

“I am disappointed with the decision not to support the budget. Personal supports workers in home and community care haven’t had such a good reason to celebrate a budget in years. The hourly raises the government outlined in its budget are desperately needed. This was a progressive first step in the overall journey toward fair compensation and respect for PSWs who care for our seniors.

SEIU will ensure that homecare is a central issue in the upcoming election and that we elect a government that commits to delivering for PSWs. This election will be crucial to the future of homecare and public healthcare in this province, and we intend to hold MPPs accountable to their promises.”

– SEIU Healthcare president Sharleen Stewart

SEIU Healthcare is pleased with the plan to increase overall home and community care funding by another 5%, or $270 million, in 2014-15. The budget recognizes the vital role that homecare has to play in meeting the needs of an aging population, while maintaining a strong public healthcare system so Ontarians can get care when and where they need it most.

Though deciding to vote against the budget, Andrea Horwath and the NDP clearly stated that they “absolutely” believe that PSWs deserve better wages and that seniors deserve to live in dignity in their retirement, but they don’t feel the current government can deliver on this promise.

However, Sharleen Stewart says that SEIU wants to see a clear campaign commitment from the NDP to match or surpass the items on PSW compensation in the budget. “We’re going to work to elect MPPs that secure progressive gains for frontline healthcare workers, their clients, and their families and we will not allow this historic moment for PSWs be swept aside.”

Yesterday, SEIU Healthcare came out in support of a provincial budget that contained real, concrete items for home and community care. After years of political action and advocacy, most recently through its “Sweet $16” campaign, the healthcare union celebrated the approval of a $1.50/hour raise across the board for publicly funded PSWs retroactive to April 1, along with a budget promise for a further $2.50/hour in the next two years.