Alberta government halts privatization of lab services

"Long-term care in Newfoundland and Labrador. Hydro in Ontario. Home care in British Columbia. Privatization schemes are being tried all across Canada and so it's heartening to see a government finally standing up and saying, 'Is this really worth it?'" — NUPGE National President James Clancy

EDMONTON (14 Aug 2015) — In a victory for Albertans, and for public services across Canada, Alberta's provincial government has cancelled a $3 billion deal that would have seen an Australian for-profit company take over 75 per cent of medical lab services in Edmonton.

“I do not feel I have enough evidence to convince me that moving forward with this plan is in the best interest of Albertans,” said Alberta Health Minister Sarah Hoffman during a news conference on Aug. 13.

Contract would have privatized 75% of lab services

More than 60 per cent of the lab services in northern Alberta, including Edmonton, are provided by a private Alberta-based company called DynaLife. But last October, the previous Alberta government signed a new $3 billion contract with the Australia company Sonic Healthcare Limited to take over and expand private lab services. If that deal had been completed, Sonic would have provided 75 per cent of lab services in northern Alberta and Edmonton.

The Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA/NUPGE), which represents most lab workers in Alberta, is pleased with the decision.

"We have questioned the wisdom of the further privatization of lab services in Alberta since it was first announced back in 2013," said HSAA President Elisabeth Ballermann. "At no point had Alberta Health Services or the former government shown that a private company would be better able to provide services for Albertans.

Lab privatization has always failed

"In fact, we've been down the lab-privatization road before and each time it has failed," she added.

"This is great news for Alberta, but it's also great news for the rest of the country," says National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) National President James Clancy.

"Long-term care in Newfoundland and Labrador. Hydro in Ontario. Home care in British Columbia. Privatization schemes are being tried all across Canada and so it's heartening to see a government finally standing up and saying, 'Is this really worth it?'"

Public Services Protection Plan

NUPGE advocates a five-point Public Services Protection Plan to ensure that any proposed privatization is actually worth it. The five points are as follows:

  1. The proposed privatization must demonstrate through a public consultation process that there is evidence that privatization will lead to improved services.
  2. The decision to privatize will not be made without a full and open review by an independent and mutually agreed-upon review agency or individual.
  3. Public-sector workers and their representatives and other interested parties shall have standing at this privatization review.
  4. The privatization review agency or individual will issue a final report, which shall be tabled in the legislature.
  5. Should privatization be recommended, employees will have the ability to move to the new employer with all existing rights, benefits and entitlements.

Ballermann noted that HSAA represents lab workers in both the public and private sectors. "Our members are all dedicated health care professionals who work to the best of their abilities no matter their employer."

"We welcome the Minister's planned review of how best to deliver laboratory services to Albertans and suggest that it include front-line workers and the union that represents them. We are confident that the research will show that public delivery of health care is more efficient, transparent and accountable."

More information: 

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 360,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

 

 

 

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