Unifor represents more than 35,000 members in the health and community services sectors.
This includes more than 11,500 members in hospitals, 17,000 in long-term care, 2,500 in retirement homes, 500 in emergency services and 3500 in health-related community and social services. Our members work in various areas of the health sector, proudly providing direct care and support to Canadians in need.
Canada’s growing and increasingly aging population is putting significant pressure on our health care system to meet the current and future health needs of Canadians. Unifor fundamentally supports strengthening and expanding our national health care system in order to meet these needs. Our members who work in health care are people who understand the importance of a strong, universal, public health care system for their families and local communities. And all of our members recognize that our work at the bargaining table helps deliver better quality care to Canadians while improving the working conditions for the people who provide health services.
Specific issues and policy recommendations
Access to prescription drugs
Accessibility and affordability of prescription drugs is an important element of the health care system.
Canadians individually and through their insurance plans spend excess billions of dollars on prescription drugs – a problem that is highlighted by the fact that Canada is the only industrialized country with universal health insurance but no national pharmacare program for its citizens. Several studies and provincial leaders have acknowledged that a national universal pharmacare program, that is publicly funded and administered, would save Canadians and the government billions of dollars annually. Such a national plan would benefit from bulk buying power, lower pooled risk and cheaper administration costs, while providing Canadians with much-needed comprehensive drug coverage. Unifor recommends:
- That the federal government keep its original promise – that has been made several times – and immediately institute a national, universally accessible pharmacare program in consultation with provinces and territories. The program should reflect the measures outlined by the Advisory Council on the Implementation of Pharmacare in 2019.
Integrated care for seniors
The proportion of seniors in Canada’s population is the highest it has ever been, raising the need to ensure that our health care system can support this demographic change. Currently, there is no national strategy to meet the growing health needs of seniors through integrated continuing care services. Such integration involves long-term care infrastructure and services, quality home care availability and supports for respite and palliative care.
The devastation in long-term care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that Canada’s long-term care system is completely broken and has failed so many seniors and their families. Seniors deserve to live in dignity and with proper care – this requires action at all levels of government to fix this broken system.
- The federal government should work in partnership with the provinces and territories to establish minimum standards of daily care and a comprehensive workforce strategy. Federal funding should be substantial and tied to adherence to the principles of the Canada Health Act.
- For-profit homes should be phased out and transitioned toward community-based, publicly-owned or non-profit homes in all jurisdictions.
- Revera – currently owned by the Public Sector Pension Investment Board – should be brought under public ownership.
- In all jurisdictions, minimum standards of care in long-term care homes – which includes appropriate staffing levels – should be established and enforced.
- Health care workers should be fairly compensated, which includes wage parity across hospitals, long-term care and home care.
- Investments in integrated seniors care should include not only long-term care infrastructure, but access to high quality home care and appropriate supports for respite and palliative care, and informal as well as formal caregivers.
Federal health funding to provinces and territories
The pandemic continues to reveal all of the cracks in our health care system and its ability to respond to the needs of Canadians. While the Canada Health Transfer provides long-term, predictable funding to the provinces and territories for health care, the current funding levels are not enough. The transfer is calculated based on the average increase in gross domestic product (GDP), with a minimum increase of three per cent annually.
Health care funding transfers need to keep up with the growing and aging population, and additional funding needs address the backlog of services that has been exacerbated by the pandemic and chronic underfunding. However, federal funding commitments to the provinces and territories should also come with “strings attached” – that include targets, accountability measures and adherence to the Canada Health Act.
- Increase federal transfer funding, while ensuring that there are accountability measures and targets for enhancing and adding health services.
- Ensuring that funding is appropriately allocated and committed to fulfill the promises of creating a national pharmacare program and national dental program.
The federal government not only plays a central role in the funding and structure of our health care system, but also in enforcing the provisions in the Canada Health Act. A growing portion of health services is being delivered by private, for-profit providers, which undermines the Act and the principles of a public, universal health care system.
- Defend universal single tier public health care.
- Ensure that a national drug program and integrated seniors services are protected under the same principles as in the Canada Health Act.
To download a printable PDF of Unifor's priorities in health please click here.