Health professionals call for national strategy on shortages

VANCOUVER - An interprovincial meeting of unions representing more than 75,000 health care professionals wrapped up an annual two-today conference today by calling for a national strategy to address the Canada-wide shortage of health professionals and the growing trend toward privatization.

"It is important for the federal government to realize that the shortage of health care professionals is not limited to doctors and nurses," says Cindy Stewart, president of the Health Sciences Association of BC, which hosted this year's meeting. "Many other health professions including radiation therapy, physiotherapy, pharmacy and diagnostic imaging are also facing severe shortages."

Stewart says these shortages can be particularly devastating in rural and remote areas where there is usually only one physiotherapist or pharmacist serving an entire community. "If that person leaves and cannot be replaced, the community is without any service at all," Stewart explains.

This year's meeting also focused on the growing trend toward privatization, particularly in the areas of laboratory services, diagnostic imaging (including MRI) and rehabilitation services.

"Health professionals across the country are deeply concerned about privatization and its impact on accessibility and standards of care," Stewart says. "Not only do private operators take much-needed tax dollars out of the public health care system, they also contribute to the shortage of qualified health professionals."

Stewart says the unions plan to work together to address these critical issues. "After comparing stories, we recognize the need for a national strategy," Stewart says. "For example, when one province creates incentives to attract radiation therapists, they are likely drawing those professionals away from their jobs in other provinces. In the long term, that isn't solving the problem, it's just shifting it from one part of the country to another."

The unions attending this year's interprovincial meeting are the Health Sciences Association of BC, Health Sciences Association of Alberta, Health Sciences Association of Saskatchewan, Manitoba Association of Allied Health Professionals, Ontario Public Service Employees Union, Centrale des Professionelles et Professionels de la Santé, Association Professionelle des Technologistes Medicaux du Québec, and the Association of Allied Health Professionals (Newfoundland).


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