Liberal reps get earful at Sackville meeting on plans for privatizing management of home care

Hector Cormier, seniors’ advocate

An advocate for elderly New Brunswickers warned provincial Liberals today that if they don’t want to be defeated at the next election, they’d better start listening to people speaking out against changes to the extramural home care program.

Hector Cormier, past president of the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents’ Rights, made his comment during a meeting at the Middle Sackville Baptist Church also attended by the local Liberal MLA Bernard LeBlanc and the provincial minister responsible for seniors and long-term care, Lisa Harris.

To sustained applause from about 80 people in the church gymnasium, Cormier pointed to overwhelming opposition at recent public meetings, including one this week in Moncton, to the government’s plan to contract out management of the home care program to Medavie, a private health-care company headed by former premier Bernard Lord.

“Are we all wrong?” Cormier asked as he pointed to an editorial in the French-language newspaper L’Acadie Nouvelle arguing the Gallant government has misjudged public opinion on its plan to consolidate management of extramural home care with the 811 health advice telephone line and the paramedic services of Ambulance New Brunswick.

Cormier pointed to the Newfoundland government’s decision to cancel a contract for private ambulance services in Labrador and assign them to the local health authority instead.

“It’s not working with the private [sector], the private is just there for profit,” Cormier added, referring to recent stories about slow ambulances in New Brunswick, where Medavie has run paramedic services since 2007.

To read Hector Cormier’s thoughts on the public meetings he has attended so far, click here.

No public support

Sackville Councillor Megan Mitton

During the two-hour meeting, one member of the audience after another spoke out against the government’s plan to privatize management of extramural home care.

One of them was Sackville Town Councillor Megan Mitton.

“I’m shocked to hear that this is happening,” she said, adding that she studied similar issues in university.

“And basically every example of public services being moved into the private sector, it pretty much always goes wrong,” she said. “It ends up costing more and services suffer.”

Mitton added that her father died of cancer earlier this year and received “amazing care” from extramural services while he was at home.

“I have a lot of criticisms about our health-care system, and extramural is pretty well the only thing that was great,” she said. “Extramural was the only medical attention that felt like care.”

Mitton, along with other speakers, wondered why the government was tampering with home care, especially since there seems to be no public support for such changes.

Liberal reps respond

Lisa Harris, provincial minister responsible for seniors and long-term care

Throughout today’s meeting MLA Bernard LeBlanc and provincial cabinet minister Lisa Harris defended the decision to consolidate the management of extramural services. They argued that Medavie has the advanced technology needed to integrate the 811 help line with extramural and ambulance services.

Harris argued, for example, that paramedics from Ambulance New Brunswick could supplement the work of extramural nurses by conducting assessments of patients in their homes.

“That’s why we say that this is not about saving money,” she said. “It’s trying to add to the care that we have, because we want people to be able to remain home, in their homes, as long as possible.”

Audience unconvinced

Few, if any, at the meeting seemed convinced that the New Brunswick government is on the right track.

Former Sackville Mayor Pat Estrabrooks, who organized the meeting, urged people to sign a petition calling on the government not to privatize the management of home care services.

“I’m going to send it to the premier,” she added, “and I’m hoping he’s going to listen.”

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5 Responses to Liberal reps get earful at Sackville meeting on plans for privatizing management of home care

  1. Sharon Hicks says:

    So glad to see Councillor Megan Mitton attended the meeting today and spoke up with her insights on privatization in general. We were unable to attend today, but only because of another family commitment.

    Like the experience that Megan relayed about her father, last year my father also received exemplary care from his Extramural team, right up until the time of his death. Because of them, we were able to grant his final wish, he did not want to die in a hospital.

    Extramural should hold a special place in the hearts of all Sackville residents – it was designed and implemented by our former surgeon, Dr Gordon Ferguson. I got to know him very well later in life, when we both lived in Fredericton, and I can say with great certainty that he would roll over in his grave if he knew what the government has planned for ‘his baby’.

    The health and lives of actual people are on the line here, and a system that already works so well should not be tampered with. They talk about using EMS personnel to assess patients in their homes … but where is the continuity in that? – the person doing the assessment should be someone who will be directly involved in that person’s care. If they feel there are not enough nurses to look after people adequately, then HIRE MORE NURSES !!! Don’t bring in someone else to do the nurses’ job.

    I am a former nurse myself, so I am very aware of how important continuity is in the care of patients. The government wants to take that away, and put control in the hands of a private company who will naturally be more interested in the bottom line than in whether things are done in the best interest of the PATIENTS.

    Privatization of Extramural would be a disaster.

  2. Olga Bateman says:

    I am shocked at what I am reading.
    I’ve done home care for years and see where the need is. The aging and ailing population need a one on one home care giver who can give them dignity as they wish to finish well at home.
    We need to keep our Extramural system just as it is, only more of them. Also we need to hire more nurses for our “hospitals”.

  3. Rima Azar says:

    In the CBC article on the Newfoundland’s ambulance story, the photo caption reads as: “Labrador Ambulance Service, a private contractor that operates in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, was paid to provide two ambulances at all times but a recent report shows it had only one on the road much of the time”. This means that the Government there assessed the service provided by the company as being not good. For whatever reasons, this private company did not deliver as it should have.

    In NB, we have two health authorities with two mandates and two budgets. Usually, people/organizations do not like it when we cut their wings by cutting their budget. The Government must have a reason for its plans (perhaps duplication of expenses and/or of services, etc.). Maybe it is not dumb to think of centralizing our great extramural services? Perhaps by contracting it to another party, it solves some issues such as possible tensions, instead of true collaboration and bridge building, between authorities and/or among all lobby groups of citizens in our province? Who knows?

    Personally, my problem is not outsourcing. My problem is the Government’s lack of transparency— perhaps for innocent reasons like wanting everyone to remain happy or by being too politically correct with all citizens lobbies or… being perhaps too impressed by some industrial lobbies (even if these may be truly competent). My problem is also what looks like a lack of a clear tender process or, at least, an explanation of why Medavie Blue Cross is the best choice. Mind you, maybe Medavie Blue Cross is the ideal choice indeed? Who knows? But is there any other alternative? When and how is the Government planning to assess the performance of this service provider over the next 10 years? I am also curious to know how will this company concretely consider that it has “integrated and coordinated” services, as stated in its website (on the ground, that is for each family/each case in each community)?

    It is also legitimate to wonder whether everyone is truly decent in any transaction, including this one. We assume (and hope) so but anything is possible when money is involved… Even sometimes forgetting what should matter the most: People’s health and dignity. In other countries I have known, everyone wanted a piece of the (government) cake… This is why I am convinced that it is crucial for governments, regardless of their colours at a particular period of time, to remain strong, impartial, inclusive of everyone yet above all lobby entities, so to speak. If the government decides to outsource, it must be the one establishing the success criteria and monitoring it. This is public money. This is our money. This is our health and well-being.

    In NB, there seems to be a strong sort of authoritarian approach to governance that is rooted deep inside the fabric of our society to the point that silence is often the norm. When there is too much silence, people may become uncomfortable. No wonder they are feeling disconnected from this decision-making process. When people feel excluded, it is hard for them to trust. Open channels of communication at all times, now more than ever, may be the antidote to (re-build) this trust.

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