December 17, 2010 - No. 217
The Crisis in Health Care
Alberta's Five Year Plan of Action
Edmonton, December 4,
2010: More than 800 people take part in a rally at the Alberta
by Friends of Medicare for public health care and to demand solutions
to the health care crisis.
The Crisis in Health Care
• Alberta's Five Year Plan of Action
- Peggy Morton
• Imperialists Mourn the Death of Ruthless Cold
Warrior - Dougal MacDonald
Republic of Korea-U.S.-Japan Joint Statement
• Blueprint for Further War and Aggression
- Philip Fernandez
• U.S. Sidesteps Proposals for Dialogue
The Crisis in Health Care
Alberta's Five Year Plan of Action
Everyone agrees that the crisis in health care is
deepening. Many of the symptoms are clear: overcrowded emergency rooms,
long waits to access care at many levels and failure to provide care
for frail seniors. The burn-out and exhaustion of health care workers
is being recognized. But whenever discussion goes beyond
symptoms to the cause of the malady and the treatment required, it
becomes clear that the rich and their governments are living in a
different world. Health care workers and their collectives, seniors
organizations and citizens groups are identifying immediate problems
which require solutions and making proposals
on that basis. Governments, the monopoly media, the think tanks of the
rich and the monopolies who want to expand their "market" are working
overtime to overwhelm people and convince them that health care is not
a right and this right cannot be provided with a guarantee. The rich
and their governments are the
block which people face in providing solutions on the basis that Health
Care is a Right!
For example, the Globe and Mail says that the
problem is that Canadians are just plain stubborn and cling to the
"lofty principle" that everyone should receive care regardless of
ability to pay. Hard choices have to be made, the rich say. Health care
is eating up too much of provincial budgets, and
the only source of additional funding for health care is to take it
from other social programs such as education, they claim. The assault
on the rights which people have as humans seems endless.
The Alberta government has responded to the tsunami from
Albertans demanding the government provide the necessary resources to
ensure people receive the highest quality care when needed by producing
a "five-year health action plan." The plan sets out targets for
everything under the sun, from emergency
room wait times, wait times for primary care, surgery, consultation
with a specialist and so on. When it comes to how it is going to
deliver on these targets, there is nothing in the document which even
remotely resembles a concrete plan.
Why is this the case? Is
the government just stupid? Or
does it recognize a different problem than the problem the people of
Alberta have identified? According to the government, people are the
problem. What to do about all these people who have health problems?
What to do about all these angry Albertans
who are speaking out. What to do about doctors, nurses, and support
staff who refuse to be silenced? What about the physician in their own
caucus who refused to abandon his responsibilities as a physician and
persisted in speaking out on behalf of health care workers and the
health care needs of Albertans? What
to do about the seniors who refuse to be marginalized? The short-term
fix is a PR job to convince people that the government is doing
something. Fire the CEO of the health superboard. Empty the overflowing
emergency unit by sending patients to other units which are already
full and where patients will end up
in hallways or as the third patient in a two-bed room. Produce a glossy
plan full of targets and empty promises.
The targets are a way of claiming that something is
being done. But they are also a means to force hospitals to meet the
targets at the expense of patient care. If a patient is waiting longer
than the "target" in emergency, skip the test and send the patient
home. Discharge patients early from in-patient wards. Do
whatever is "necessary." In the absence of additional resources and
staff, wait time targets become a means to force compromised care.
Together with "benchmarking," activity-based funding and other such
measures, the health superboard becomes a giant U.S.-style health
As for the long-term solutions, here too the government
says that people are the problem. Canadians consider it an achievement
of the society that people are living longer and healthier lives. But
the rich and their governments speak in apocalyptic terms of the
spectre of all these aging baby boomers overwhelming
the system, making it "unsustainable." They repeat endlessly that the
publicly funded and delivered system is inefficient. It has to be made
more efficient, more "business-like" -- in other words, less health
and more profits. The same mantra about making the monopolies
competitive so that they can be global
champions is to be applied to the health care "market."
Expanding the Public
Health Care Workforce
Health care workers and
their collectives point out that
the first priority is to increase the training and hiring of health
care staff. This is necessary to address the burn-out and stress staff
experience trying to provide care with inadequate staff. Then
staff are needed to add more services.
In response to Alberta Health's "solution" to emergency
overcrowding, the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) has pointed out that
moving patients out of emergency to other nursing units, to hallways or
putting three people in a two-person room cannot be called a solution.
"Unless appropriate staffing and support is provided in
each and every environment, we are simply shoving the problem out of
the emergency departments and hiding it across the continuum," UNA
President Heather Smith said.
"We don't agree with 'pushing' more patients in to
overcrowded or inappropriate beds or conditions. This is like the Tokyo
subway system where they hire big men with white gloves to push more
people into train cars. It is just that wrong," says Heather Smith.
"Real expansion of capacity, opening significant
numbers of beds and ending the constant squeeze and reduction of our
public health system, is the only real solution to the problems.
"We've got to expand the health workforce, you can build
buildings and buy beds, but if you can't staff them, you're never going
to deal with the real emergency issue."
This is not what the government is doing. According to
government calculations, more than 3,000 nurses currently working in
Alberta will be over the age of 65 by 2015. It projects that Alberta
will be short 6,500 nurses by 2016. Despite this it has committed only
to hiring 70 per cent of nursing graduates in
Alberta, even though hiring all nursing graduates would not fill the
gap. Today's hospitals have shortages of housekeepers, clerical staff,
support staff who maintain the buildings, sterilize surgical
instruments and perform many other important services in hospitals. Yet
there is no plan to hire more staff.
In 1995, after the Alberta government had closed half
the beds in the province, there were 6,500 acute care beds (not
including mental health beds in stand-alone psychiatric hospitals) for
a population of 2.6 million people. Fifteen years later, there are
7,800 acute care beds for a population which has grown to
3.7 million. This means there is now one acute care bed for every 460
people, while in 1995, after half the beds were closed, there was one
bed for every 400 people.
The five-year plan states that 360 new acute care beds
will be opened in the first two years of the plan; no new beds are
planned for the last three years. This means that the government plans
to open fewer new beds over the next five years than were opened on
average over the past 15 years. To put it another
way, one new bed will be opened for each 10,000 people in Alberta. This
is not even taking into account population increase, making it likely
that bed/population ratios will fall ever further.
Dignity for Seniors
As for the government's
"commitment" to open 5,300
continuing care spaces over the next five years, its announcement
should get an award for the most brazen attempt at deception in the
whole "plan." "New" terminology for "continuing care" includes
expressions like the home
stream, the supportive living stream and the facility living stream.
This means if a senior is receiving some home care services, their
bedroom can be counted as a "continuing care space." So too a room in a
lodge where room and board are provided but there are no health care
staff on site. A continuing care space
can mean almost anything, as long as the senior is not in an acute care
It appears that most of the "spaces" referred to will be
in private, for-profit assisted living facilities being built with
government handouts. There is no change to the plan to cap the number
of publicly-funded long-term care beds at the current 14,500. Seniors
will be forced to pay for more and more of their care.
Funding will be diverted from care for seniors and decent wages and
living conditions for health care workers into the hands of the private
health care monopolies.
When delivery of home care services is contracted out to
private companies, the home care workers are paid less than half the
hourly rate the private companies charge. The private operators profit
from each and every service provided. Eliminating for-profit care would
immediately improve living and working
conditions for health care workers and provide more funding for patient
Funding must be directed to providing care and services
so as to provide the right to health care with a guarantee.
Out-of-hospital care must not be turned over to private, for-profit
health care corporations, and monopolies. This must be reversed and the
monopolies restricted. Organizations like the Public Interest
Alberta Seniors' Task Force have put forward a concrete plan for
action. The government must provide expanded publicly delivered home
care services. The conversion of long-term care facilities to
for-profit assisted living facilities must stop. High quality,
affordable long term care facilities must be built as required
to eliminate waiting lists and plan for the future. Every seniors care
facility should have an advisory council to ensure that residents and
their families have a democratic say in how these facilities are run.
Imperialists Mourn the Death of
Ruthless Cold Warrior
Richard Holbrooke, U.S. career diplomat and investment
banker, died on December 13 due to complications surrounding surgery.
Immediately, the monopoly media began a paean of praise, repeating over
and over that, "the whole world mourns," and publishing lists of
Holbrooke's so-called accomplishments.
Since billions of the world's people do not mourn Holbrooke at all, why
are the U.S. imperialists making such a concerted attempt to put him on
a pedestal? His "accomplishments" clearly reveal why.
Holbrooke began his career in 1962 in Viet Nam
"Rural Pacification Program," aimed at "neutralizing" any Vietnamese
who opposed the U.S. puppet regime. The program morphed into the
infamous Phoenix Program that targeted and assassinated over 26,000
Vietnamese people. Holbrooke also served
at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon where he was mentored by the former head
of the Phoenix Program, Robert G. Komer.
From 1972-76, Holbrooke was editor of Samuel
Huntington's political affairs magazine, Foreign Policy, more aptly
titled, Tool of U.S. Foreign Policy.
Huntington is the author of the
bogus "clash of civilizations" thesis which predicts (and encourages)
an "inevitable" clash between "Western Christian civilization"
and what he refers to as the two major "challenger" civilizations,
"Islamic" and "Sinic" (Chinese).
As Assistant Secretary of State in the Carter
administration (1977-81), Holbrooke oversaw weapons shipments to the
Indonesian military, which were used to bomb and strafe the Timorese
out of the hills, killing hundreds of thousands. In 1980, Holbrooke
played a key role in the Carter administration's support
for a south Korean military attack on a pro-democracy uprising in the
city of Gwangju that killed hundreds of people. Holbrooke was a central
player in the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, supporting
Croatian ethnic cleansers trained by U.S. mercenaries to massacre Serbs
in Krajina. Holbrooke provided
a false pretext for war over Kosovo, known as the Rambouillet Accord.
When the Serbian leaders, like any self-respecting leaders in the
world, rejected the
proposed occupation agreement, the Clinton administration unleashed the
Holbrooke was part of the Clinton administration that
imposed ruthless economic sanctions on the people of Iraq, denying them
food and medicine, and that bombed Baghdad on multiple occasions. In
2003, Holbrooke was a prominent Democratic backer of the Bush
administration's decision to attack Iraq, and
promoted the idea that Saddam posed a threat with so-called weapons of
Holbrooke fully supported the U.S. invasion of
Afghanistan and, in January 2009, was appointed by President Obama as
special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. In that position,
he helped kill an initiative to back the creation of a new UN special
envoy empowered to pursue peace talks with the Taliban
in order to end the war.
Holbrooke revealed his true colours even in his
investment banking career. He was a director of AIG and a manager of
Lehman Brothers, two companies that cost the people of America hundreds
of billions of dollars during the financial crisis that began in 2008.
He also served as Vice-Chairman of Credit Suisse
Boston. Credit Suisse was forced along with Union Bank of Switzerland
to pay $1.25 billion in compensation for the profits it made from
trafficking in looted Nazi gold during the Second World War.
It is only the narrow world of U.S. imperialism that
mourns Richard Holbrooke, not the broad world of the people. Holbrooke
sold himself entirely to the financial oligarchy and was the embodiment
of post-war U.S. imperialism. He was a ruthless Cold Warrior, who spent
his entire 48-year political career implementing
and backing U.S. interventions, covert and overt, in Vietnam, East
Timor, the Balkans, the Congo, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, causing
the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. His passing will not be
mourned for one moment by the world's people because of the murderous
policies that he willingly implemented
and supported on behalf of U.S imperialism, for many decades, in many
different parts of the world.
Republic of Korea-U.S.-Japan Joint
Blueprint for Further War and Aggression
Seoul, Korea, December
14, 2010: Activists hold a demonstration outside the Japanese embassy
to denounce the U.S.-Japan-south Korea trilateral accord and Japanese
Prime Minister Naoto Kan's recent remarks that his country would
consider dispatching troops to the Korean Peninsula in case of
"contingencies." (Tongil News/No
Base Stories Korea)
On December 6, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,
Japanese Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara, and south Korean Minister of
Foreign Affairs and Trade Kim Sung Hwan issued a joint statement
following a meeting in Washington. This tripartite meeting was held in
opposition to proposals put forward by China --
proposals that were supported by Russia and the DPRK -- that talks be
held immediately by the Six Party states (Russia, China, U.S., south
Korea, the DPRK and Japan) to try and diffuse the current tense
and military atmosphere on the Korean peninsula through diplomacy.
The joint statement issued on December 6 is a barrage
of disinformation and slander against the DPRK in order to strengthen
the bilateral military alliances between the U.S. and the two other
countries, as well as to justify increased military co-operation
between the three states which would only worsen
the current situation on the Korean peninsula and hasten another Korean
war which could trigger a nuclear Third World War.
The joint statement turns truth on its head and accuses
the DPRK as the main threat to "peace and stability on the Korean
peninsula" and called on that country to "stop its provocative
behaviour and to abide by the terms of the 1953 Armistice Agreement to
preserve peace and stability in not only Northeast
Asia but also in the wider region." The fact is that the DPRK has
abided by the terms of the 1953 Armistice Agreement while the U.S. has
not. For example, the Armistice Agreement called for the conclusion of
a peace treaty between the U.S. and the DPRK to replace the Armistice
Agreement as soon as possible --
which the U.S. has repeatedly refused to do, including once again in
January 2010. The refusal of the U.S. to sign a peace treaty
demonstrates that the U.S. is not interested in "promoting peace and
stability on the Korean peninsula" but wants to maintain a volatile
state in order to justify a war of
aggression and conquest against the DPRK.
The joint statement also suggests that a condition of
the U.S., ROK and Japan returning to the Six Party Talks would be for
the "DPRK to make sincere efforts to improve relations with the ROK as
well as taking concrete steps to demonstrate a genuine commitment to
complete, verifiable and irreversible
denuclearization." This is another provocation because the government
DPRK has worked might and main for over 60 years to normalize relations
with south Korea, and all that work has been sabotaged time and again
by the U.S. which wants to maintain its military presence in the
strategic Korean peninsula. The
work that was done to forge the historic June 2000 Joint Declaration
and the October 4 Agreements between north and south Korea, to
normalize relations between north and south and promote co-operation in
various fields was all initiated by the DPRK. All this work and
positive development from 2000-2010 has
been wrecked by the current U.S.-installed anti-communist,
retrogressive regime of Lee Myung Bak, and so to taunt the DPRK about
"normalizing relations" with the south goes beyond the pale.
Regarding the Six Party Talks to Denuclearize the
Korean Peninsula, it has been the U.S. that has always sabotaged these
talks and their agreements because of its insistence that the DPRK
should disarm its nuclear energy plants before the U.S. will provide
aid and normalize relations with it -- this even
after the U.S. did not honour its pledges to provide
fuel oil, normalize relations and so on -- following the 1994 Agreed
Framework between the
U.S. and the DPRK -- -- although the DPRK had
mothballed its Yongbyong nuclear plant, causing serious damage to
On the basis of this massive disinformation and attacks
against the DPRK and China, the U.S., Republic of Korea and Japan
re-affirmed in their joint statement the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation
and Security between Japan and the U.S., as well as the ROK-Mutual
Defence Treaty, and agreed to further
strengthen their military and economic co-operation on the basis of
having "shared values" and "responsibilities to maintain stability and
security in the Asia-Pacific region and globally." In other words, the
U.S. is demanding that Japan and south Korean partake more aggressively
to impose U.S. dictate in Asia-Pacific
and the world.
What the ROK-U.S.-Japan joint statement kept hidden is
that it was the U.S. that carried out the military occupation of both
Japan and south Korea after World War Two. This, after it had
Hiroshima and Nagasaki causing the deaths of hundreds of thousands
of Japanese civilians in an act
of mass terror, and snatching victory from the Korean people who
had defeated the Japanese military occupiers of their land. It was the
U.S. that rehabilitated Japanese war criminals and put them in charge
of post-war Japan and did the same in south Korea by installing a
government of south Korean traitors
and pro-Japanese elements as well as pro-U.S. anti-communists to govern
south Korea against the will of the Korean people. This was done to
create an anti-communist bulwark against China and the Soviet Union and
it is doing the same today when the U.S. is aiming to strengthen its
hand and impose its
dominance in East Asia
against China and Russia.
The joint statement keeps in the shade the fact that
the Japanese and Korean people have from day one demanded the scrapping
of the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Co-operation and Security signed in
1960 and the Mutual Defence Treaty between south Korea and the U.S. in
have continued to demand that U.S. troops leave their respective
countries. The Japanese and south Korean people do not support their
reactionary governments in these aggressive alliances because they have
direct experience of U.S. imperialism -- not only the bombing of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Korean
War but also the rule of impunity enjoyed by U.S. troops on the U.S.
bases which occupy their countries at their expense. It is they who
continue to pay for the U.S. military occupation of their respective
countries. Today Japan forks out billions of dollars for
"reconstruction" in Afghanistan and south Korea also has
to send troops to that country.
The ROK-U.S.-Japan joint statement is a recipe for
disaster on the Korean peninsula, throughout Asia and the world. All
peace-loving Canadians and people around the world must denounce these
aggressive military plans for more aggression and war on the Korean
peninsula and in Asia, and step up support
for the Korean and Japanese people to oust U.S. troops from their
countries and secure peace.
U.S. Sidesteps Proposals for Dialogue
Seoul, Korea, December
16, 2010: The newly-elected chairpersons of the pan-Korean university
student association issue an anti-war statement to denounce the Lee
Myung Bak government's war-mongering, including its refusal to dialogue and the
upcoming live fire war games. (Tongil
News/No Base Stories Korea)
A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry of the Democratic
People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) released a statement on December 16
denouncing the U.S. for its refusal to engage in a dialogue for peace
and its continued machinations for war in the region. The statement
points out that the U.S. is keen on stirring
up a war atmosphere on the Korean Peninsula and in its vicinity while
persistently sidestepping proposals for dialogue with all kinds of
Behind this U.S. intransigence "is a sinister strategic
scenario to obstruct the economic construction in the DPRK and dominate
us militarily and thus use its military deterrence against neighbouring
countries," the statement adds.
The DPRK is channelling all its efforts into economic
construction so as to attain the goal of opening the door to becoming a
thriving nation by 2012. It is also expanding foreign investment in the
country. These efforts require a stable peaceful atmosphere, not a war
atmosphere. Thus, "in order to
disturb the environment necessary for focusing efforts on the economic
construction in the DPRK the U.S. is employing trickery to strain the
situation," the DPRK statement points out,
The foreign ministry spokesperson also points to U.S.
attempts to implicate the DPRK as the cause of tension in the region,
"This is evinced by the fact that the U.S. is trying to make the public
believe that the situation remains tense and dialogue is not opened
because the DPRK 'violates' international
agreements and perpetrates 'provocative actions'."
"History and the reality go to prove that it was none
other than the U.S. that has systematically breached all the
international agreements calling for peace and stability on the Korean
Furthermore, "It was again the U.S. that introduced
nuclear weapons into south Korea, scrapping the Armistice Agreement
causing the nuclearization of the peninsula, not content with shipping
war equipment there in gross violation of the AA in 1953. It is still
not implementing the Resolution
3390 of the UN General Assembly of1975 which calls for replacing
the AA by a peace treaty and disbanding 'the UN Forces Command."
The DPRK statement also clarifies that it was also the
U.S. which violated the 1994 DPRK-U.S. Agreed Framework, thus negating
then President Bill Clinton's assurances that the U.S. would provide
two light-water reactors to the DPRK by 2003.
It was also none other than the U.S. which increased
the military threat to the DPRK in violation of the DPRK-U.S. joint
statement adopted in June, 1993 which called on both sides to refrain
from using armed forces, including nuclear weapons, and the DPRK-U.S.
joint communique adopted in October 2000 in which both sides vowed not
to antagonize each other.
The U.S. also violated the spirit of mutual respect and
equality, a fundamental principle of modern international relations,
the provisions for the normalization of relations and ensuring peace
and the principle of simultaneous action-for-action by both sides which
was the basis for the agreement reached
at the Six-Party Talks on September 19, 2005.
Lastly, the foreign ministry statement notes the
hypocrisy of U.S. objections to the DPRK's nuclear program: "It is also
preposterous for the U.S. to take issue with the DPRK's nuclear
activities for peaceful purposes under the pretence of dodging
"The DPRK's independent building of light water
reactors and its production of enriched uranium for their fuel are
nuclear activities for the peaceful purpose of producing electricity.
right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy is a universally
right which countries inside and outside
the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty substantially exercise based on
principle of equality and this right of the DPRK is stipulated in the
 joint statement, too."
The statement concludes by reiterating that the DPRK
supports all proposals for dialogue, including the Six-Party Talks, in
the interest of preventing a war and achieving the denucleariszation on
the Korean Peninsula, however noting that it will never do so from a
position of subservience.
In related news, the DPRK military on December 17 urged
south Korea to immediately stop its plans for yet another live fire
military exercise around Yeonpyeong Islet. The message was sent via the
head of the DPRK delegation to the DPRK-South Korea general-level
military talks. South Korea
plans to carry out the exercises in the waters southwest of Yeonpyeong
Islet, sometime between December 18-21 depending on weather
conditions, the Korean Central News Agency reports.
The DPRK warned south Korea that if it persisted in its
plan to hold the exercise, the DPRK would deliver a second and third
"unpredicted self-defensive counterattack" that would be bigger and
more powerful than the previous one on November 23 to defend its
territorial waters. It urged south Korea
to hold "deep deliberations" on this warning.
The KCNA notes the nefarious role of the U.S. in
supporting the plan to hold more war games and that it intends to
dispatch forces to take part in the drill as yet another provocation.
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