A coalition of unions is coming to Kamloops to sound the alarm over impending federal cuts to B.C. health care transfer payments, which they say will have a catastrophic effect.
"People know what it's like with the Royal Inland (Hospital) additions they're trying to build there," said Neil Monckton, spokesperson for the Hospital Employees' Union and the Campaign to Protect, Strengthen and Expand Medicare.
"If $137 million (over the next decade) were to disappear from the Kamloops area, you'd see the effect."
The warning arises from the looming expiry of a 10-year-old federal transfer payment agreement.
The 2004-2014 Health Accord provided the provinces an annual six per cent increase in funding for health care after deep cuts in the mid-1990s.
The federal funding covers one fifth of the province's health care costs.
The provinces have not increased expenditures by six per cent annually, however. So a little more than a year ago, the Conservative government said it won't renew the Health Accord.
Its proposed new deal ties federal health care funding transfers to economic growth with a minimum three per cent annual increase.
Under the new funding formula, Ontario, B.C. and Quebec would be the biggest losers.
B.C. stands to lose $5 billion and the Kamloops region $137 million over the next decade.
Led by the Hospital Employees' Union, the Council of Canadians and the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Campaign to Protect, Strengthen and Expand Medicare has held daily — and sometimes twice daily — workshops in from Sept. 28 to Oct. 9 to inform the public on the Health Accord and instruct them on speaking out about the issue.
"This is still early warning and early days and there's still an opportunity to fix this," said Monckton. "The local MP represents that party and she has a responsibility to her constituents. Her constituents need to know what her party is doing and she needs to take that back up to her caucus."
MP Cathy McLeod said that beginning in 2017, health care transfer payment increases will be reduced to a minimum of three per cent.
"That is not a cut," she said. "We have committed to further increases. We're also putting significant dollars into a host of other measures — electronic health records, mental health commission, new technology, the rural recruitment of doctors and nurses, research.
"There are some that say that money is not the only answer."
During a January premiers' conference, Premier Christy Clark spoke out against the new payment formula, saying it does not factor in the higher costs of health care for seniors.
Monckton said the scope of Clark's criticism is not strong enough.
"The premier has to get to the table and fight for appropriate funding," he said.
But Prime Minister Stephen Harper has refused to meet with provincial premiers over health care.
McLeod wouldn't address the refusal, however she said the federal government is meeting with provincial health ministers this week and next.
"They can certainly have some very robust discussions," she said.
The Campaign to Protect, Strengthen and Expand Medicare is holding a town hall meeting on Thursday from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Parkside Lounge of the Interior Savings Centre.
Thompson Rivers University professor Derek Cook will moderate and a panel will include HEU financial secretary Donisa Bernardo, B.C. Coalition chair Rick Turner, provincial NDP health critic Judy Darcy and PharmaWatch president Colleen Fuller.