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UBCM rejects for-profit health moratorium

The Union of BC Municipalities may have voted down a resolution to put a stop to for-profit healthcare in British Columbia, but public healthcare advocates vow they aren't giving up on seeking a moratorium.

Resolution B159, created by the BC Health Coalition and sponsored by the City of Victoria, lost by a 47.8 per cent to 52.3 per cent at the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM) Convention this morning. The Tyee originally reported the vote needed a two-thirds majority to pass, but it only needed 50 per cent plus one.*

The resolution called on the UBCM to ask government to put a moratorium on for-profit healthcare clinics in the province, to stop funding them, ensure they followed B.C.'s Hospital Act and to increase government's funding of public outpatient clinics.

"But I think the close result shows that we do have considerable support and there were no explicitly ideological arguments opposing the resolution," Lew MacDonald, coordinator of the BC Health Coalition told The Tyee.

"Those opposed to it were basically suffering from the misunderstanding that Medicare is either unsustainable or the clinics somehow take pressure off the public system."

MacDonald says the process didn't provide much time for discussion, but if it had he would have presented evidence to the contrary, such as the finite resource of physicians and health professionals means a drain on public health resources when those workers go to private facilities.

He would also explain how healthcare spending in B.C. hasn't increased, but the budget has shrunk, making the healthcare portion much larger.

Still, MacDonald is not too disappointed, as he says the campaign was an opportunity to raise awareness and gain supporters for the cause. Philippe Lucas, city council for Victoria, is less optimistic.

"I'm quite disappointed. I think if you talk to any individual elected official in B.C. they'll say, as they always do, that they're supportive of continuing our public healthcare system and supporting our public healthcare system," he says.

"But I think that we saw here today that unfortunately there are a number of elected officials that when given the chance to vote against it will."

Both MacDonald and Lucas plan to carry the message into the future, particularly in the upcoming municipal election. But Lucas hopes it can be brought back to the UBCM next year -- for a fourth time -- to better success if they make the message clearer.

"I think there's a lot of improvements that can be made to the wording and to simplify this motion," he told The Tyee, referring specifically to a section that called on the UBCM to monitor the government's progress on introducing a moratorium, which falls outside their jurisdiction.

"I think seeking a resolution that's going to be clearer and more straightforward and may also get endorsement from the UBCM executive has got to be one of the goals moving forward."

Katie Hyslop reports for The Tyee.

*Updated at 3:50 p.m.

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