"The Extra-Mural Program, as it stands now, is a crown jewel of health care. We can't understand why the government would try and fix something that's not broken." — Susie Proulx-Daigle, NBU President
Fredericton (25 Sept. 2017) — The changes to New Brunswick's Extra-Mural Program have united both professionals who provide the service and the patients who receive the care.
The province recently announced Medavie would take over management of the service. The contract is for 10 years and has a maximum value of about $4.4 million per year.
Privatization of health care services is unacceptable
The New Brunswick Union (NBU/NUPGE) represents respiratory therapists, speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, social workers and dieticians who work in the program. Their concerns mirror those of the New Brunswick Senior Citizens Federation and the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents' Rights.
"Taking a public health care service and putting it in private hands is unacceptable," said Léonard LeBlanc, President of the New Brunswick Senior Citizens Federation. "The Extra-Mural Program has somewhere near a 97 per cent approval rating, not sure Medavie can manage it any better than that."
Cecile Cassista, executive director of the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents Rights is concerned the quality of care will be impacted by this move. "Splitting the provincial health system into several components will make it increasingly difficult to achieve expected results, namely, quality of service, continuity of care, effectiveness and efficiency," Cassista said. "It is New Brunswickers who will be losing out with such an irrational move and decision."
Program is "crown jewel" in health care system
The NBU/NUPGE agrees with both organizations. NBU/NUPGE members are concerned the quality care they provide will be impacted by efficiency measures designed for Medavie to reach the performance goals in the contract.
"We don't know how Medavie will change the system, but we do know the Extra-Mural Program, as it stands now, is a crown jewel of health care," said Susie Proulx-Daigle, NBU President. "We can't understand why the government would try and fix something that's not broken."
Proposal to privatize Extra-Mural Program already rejected by previous government
Another concern of clients and workers alike is accountability. With the government removing the program from the public domain, Medavie will not be accountable to the public which is paying for this service.
"The government has stated this move will not save money," Proulx-Daigle said. "It admits the program is working very well as is, so the question is why do this at all?"
The previous government considered the same proposal and ultimately found no value in it. What has changed since then?
Officials from government and Medavie have said that concerns expressed by stakeholders are unfounded, but they have failed to provide concrete details on what changes might be forthcoming.
If both government and Medavie are confident this is the right move, they should be transparent and state clearly their intentions for the program.
Until such time, the NBU/NUPGE, its members and the clients they serve will remain vigilant in the belief that this is the wrong decision for the rovince.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 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