A former mayor of Sackville is worried that New Brunswick’s extramural, home care program is on the chopping block.
Pat Estabrooks appeared before Sackville Town Council last week to urge local politicians to attend a meeting she is organizing this Saturday on threats to the future of extramural health services.
“I’m not asking you to stand up and wave your hands,” Estabrooks told councillors, “but it’s so important that you come to the meeting.”
She acknowledged that no one knows exactly what will happen when Medavie Blue Cross takes over management of the extramural program on January 1st.
“But we do have an office right in Sackville here that serves the Tantramar area and there’s that possibility it could move out,” she said.
She added that closing the Sackville office would mean that nurses and other health practitioners, who care for patients in their homes, might have to travel from a more distant, central location such as Moncton.
Later, during an interview, Estabrooks said that centralizing extramural services would be just the opposite of what is needed to serve elderly people, especially in rural areas.
“The extramural office here in Sackville has worked out exceptionally well and all the nurses know it,” Estabrooks said.
Meeting in Middle Sackville
The meeting, starting at 2 p.m. on Saturday October 21st at the Middle Sackville Baptist Church, will feature a presentation by Shirley Oliver, a retired registered nurse who managed the extramural unit in Sackville for the last 16 years of a career that spanned three-and-a-half decades.
“The extramural program was an efficient, effective way of treating patients and their families at home,” Oliver said during an interview.
“Extramural was so completely patient-focussed that I couldn’t think of a better way of finishing my career,” she said, adding that teams of professionals worked exceptionally well together in the Tantramar area.
Now, Oliver worries that handing the program over to private management will mean closing the local extramural unit and providing less of a personalized service.
“The government says that nothing’s going to change,” she said, “but that’s ridiculous.”
The October 21st meeting will also feature a presentation by the Executive Director of the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents’ Rights.
Cecile Cassista says that privatizing management of the extramural program and the 811 health advice phone line will make the provincial department of health less accountable to the public.
Under the plan, Medavie Blue Cross will manage home and phone care along with the paramedic service, Ambulance New Brunswick, that it has run since 2007.
Cassista fears that paramedics will be expected to make house calls as a way of cutting costs and streamlining extramural services.
But, with only 10-months training compared to the four-year university degrees nurses hold, she says paramedics aren’t qualified to care for patients at home.
“So what happens when paramedics are at the home of Mrs. Jones and get called out to an emergency?” she asks. “What happens to Mrs. Jones, then?”
And besides, she says, even the government acknowledges that extramural care has been working well.
“So, why are we tampering with it?” she asks.