06/28/2013 09:34 EDT | Updated 08/28/2013 05:12 EDT

More Cuts, Higher Fees For Health Care, Predicts B.C. Union

B.C. Gov Flickr

The latest round of B.C. budget cuts tabled yesterday will lead to more cuts to health care services and new user fees, according to the union that represents 43,000 health care workers in B.C.

On Thursday, Finance Minister Mike de Jong said the ministry will receive a 2.6 per cent budget increase this year, despite plans to cut overall government spending by $30 million next year alone.

It's all part of the Liberal's plan to balance the budget by cutting $130 million from spending over the next three years, unveiled by de Jong in the budget update yesterday.

- Updated B.C. budget calls for $130M in spending cuts

"The budgets for the health authorities ... that hasn't changed," said de Jong after tabling the budget update in the legislature.

Nevertheless, de Jong is still asking B.C.'s regional health authorities to look for ways to cut costs and save money in an attempt to slow the growth of health care spending.

One way to keep a lid on the rate of growth is to cut the high cost of lab tests, he suggested.

Union says cuts, higher fees inevitable

But Mike Old, the spokesperson for the Health Employees' Union, says health authorities have already cut to the bone and simply finding efficiencies won't be enough.

"It's very lean, so the program pressures that health authorities are under in the upcoming year are going to be tremendous and that will result in program cuts and fee increases," said Old.

"We think that means a summer and a fall of program cuts and fee increases, like wheelchair fee increases."

Some health authorities have already announced they will start charging seniors in care homes $300 dollars a year for using wheelchairs.

- B.C. health authority blasted for wheelchair user fees

De Jong has already said British Columbians can expect a modest increase in Medical Services Plan premiums, and smokers will be hit with a $2 per carton increase in the fall.

Old notes B.C. already has the second lowest level of spending on health care per capita in the country.

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