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Health care in crisis, Ottawa is warned

Canada's premiers told Prime Minister Jean Chretien Thursday to forget about new "boutique" health care programs and inject as much as $6.3-billion into the system to save it and set the stage for sweeping reforms. Without new money, the system will collapse, the premiers warned.

"At the rate of growing costs, the moment where we won't be able to maintain the system is quite near," said Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard, the separatist leader put into the awkward role of leading the fight to save a prized Canadian institution.

"It's about human health, it's about suffering, it's about disease, sickness, and they (Canadians) suddenly demand that elected people take care of that. So I think Mr. Chretien will have to take that into account," Bouchard said.

In Ottawa, Chretien told the premiers to wait for the budget, expected this month, for details of any further financial commitments to the health care system.

"The transfers have been restored to the 1993-94 level. That's the only program in the federal government that has been (fully) restored," he said. ". . .That does not mean there is no problem in health care. We're willing to discuss with them a solution on Medicare."

The premiers were angered last week when Health Minister Allan Rock instead suggested new programs for home care and community care, which Bouchard called "boutique programs."

The premiers say Ottawa has ample funds in the current and forecast surpluses to increase federal funds for Medicare substantially and cut personal income-tax rates. They said the additional funds would buy time for a major review of health care.

Saskatchewan's Roy Romanow, the premier from the province that originated Medicare, said the leaders have agreed there should be a national study of how the program must be reformed.

"Smart gun' requires

fingerprint ID to fire

TORONTO _ A Canadian company has developed the technology for a handgun that requires fingerprint identification before it can be fired.

Mytec Technologies of Toronto is working with U.S. gunmaker Smith & Wesson on the so-called "smart gun" intended to prevent anyone other than authorized users from shooting the weapon, officials of both companies said Friday.

The idea of a handgun that can be programmed to prevent accidental shootings is part of the weapon industry's response to gun control efforts in Canada and the United States.