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Nurses call for federal leadership on health care

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia, June 5, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Over one thousand nurses marched in Halifax today to demand federal leadership on Canada's public health care system.

The march was led by the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions which is concluding its biennial convention today. With voters headed to the polls in the fall, the CFNU is calling on all federal candidates to make health care a priority this election.

"Canadians care about health care, this is something we know and we have heard consistently in the lead-up to this election," said CFNU President Linda Silas. "We are taking their message straight to the politicians this year, we want the voters' voices to be heard. That's what today's march is about."

Canada's nurses are demanding that the federal government take action on four distinct issues, all of which will help create a sustainable health care system that puts patients first. They are calling for a national seniors' strategy, a national prescription drug program, a health human resources plan, and a policy that re-affirms the government's support to public financing and delivery of the country's health care system.

"Our health care system has been suffering due to a lack of federal leadership on these key areas," Silas said. "Patients see it in the long wait times, lack of hospital beds and exorbitant costs for prescription drugs. Now is the time to stand up and speak out."

The federal government has proposed reductions in health care spending to begin in 2016, which could see a total of $36 billion lost in ten years.

Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, spoke about the need for a national prescription drug program.

"More than three million Canadians can't afford the prescription drugs they need. With a national prescription drug program, everyone would get the medication they need. It would reduce the strain on the acute care system. It could save Canada up to $11 billion per year," said Hassan Yussuff.

While health care is distributed by the provinces, the funding for services and programs is transferred from the federal government. The federal government chose not to meet with the provinces or renegotiate a new Health Accord last year, letting it lapse. This, coupled with the proposed cuts, significantly impacts the ability of the provinces to keep hospitals properly staffed, provide beds in long-term care facilities, and offer quality care for patients and their families.

"The federal government needs to work with the provinces to ensure that there's sufficient funding to provide for Canadians across the country," said Janet Hazelton, President of the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union. "We must realize that the decisions to support our health care system are made well above the provincial level, and we must make our federal leaders accountable."

The CFNU announced the launch of their new election campaign, Vote for Health Care We Deserve, during the convention. It includes a new website and social media campaign educating Canadians about the importance of health care.

The Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions represents close to 200,000 nurses and student nurses. Our members work in hospitals, long-term care facilities, community health care and our homes.

CONTACT: Christie Blotnicky, Nova Scotia Nurses Union, 902-818-4453, christie.blotnicky@nsnu.ca

Source:Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions