NUPGE report looks at problems caused by home care privatization

Increased privatization will inevitably lead to two-tier health care, where the wealthy are able to pay for the care they need and the rest of us have to wait and worry.

Ottawa (28 Nov. 2019) — A newly released report from the National Union of Public and General  Employees (NUPGE) looks at the problems caused by the privatization of home care services.

As it becomes possible for more medical services to be provided in the community or in peoples’ homes, the role of home care in the health care system is growing. When people are able to be in their own homes rather than in hospital it should be good news. Unfortunately, as the report makes clear, privatization of home care services is affecting the quality of care people receive, as well as, pushing up costs.

Gap in the Canada Health Act

Even though home care is playing a growing role in the health care system, it is not included in the Canada Health Act. That gap has made it easier for provincial and territorial governments to privatize home care services. If home care is not added to the Canada Health Act, there are fears that a larger and larger portion of our health care system will be controlled by for-profit corporations.

Increased privatization will inevitably lead to two-tier health care, where the wealthy are able to pay for the care they need and the rest of us have to wait and worry. This is already starting to happen. When privatization results in a loss of support from the public system, the wealthy can afford to pay for private services. In low and middle-income families, people are often having to quit jobs or work part-time when family members can’t get the care they need.

Privatization comes with extra costs

When services are privatized it adds new costs to home care delivery. Investors expect to make a profit. New layers of administration are required to oversee contracts and to attempt to monitor whether private companies are delivering the services they are being paid to provide.

Quality suffers with privatization

To pay for the extra costs that come with privatization, companies usually try to reduce the wages and benefits of front-line workers. But leaving front-line workers struggling to make ends harms the quality of home care services. When workers are poorly paid, they are forced to look for jobs elsewhere. That leads to problems with staff shortages and patients losing caregivers they know and trust.

Privatization can be reversed

What is encouraging is the success NUPGE Components and others fighting home care privatization have had. Across Canada, strong campaigns have succeeded in blocking privatization plans or getting them scaled back. Earlier this year the British Columbia government announced that, after audits by two health authorities, it was ending contracting out of home support services in Victoria, Greater Vancouver, and the Fraser Valley.

But stopping privatization is only the first step. What is also needed is for governments to increase funding for health care so that it keeps pace with demand.

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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 390,000 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