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This article was published 26/1/2017 (1461 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A memo telling Manitoba Home Care Program employees to drop the words "Manitoba" and " Program" from the name "effective immediately" has stirred union fears that the province is preparing to privatize the 43-year-old program.
"Why now, all of a sudden?" asked Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union president Michelle Gawronsky. A copy of the Jan. 18 memo obtained by the Free Press says "Going forward, we are to refer to Home Care as ‘Home Care Services’. (Removing the words ‘Manitoba’ and ‘Program’ from the title)."
This week, the provincial government released the report The Future of Home Care Services in Manitoba. It projects twice as many Manitobans will require home care by 2037, and that costs will rise from $324 million in 2014/15 to at least $648 million in 2037. The report recommends "researching different funding models for home care services."
Health, Seniors and Active Living Minister Kelvin Goertzen said in a news release Thursday that "Manitobans deserve high-quality health care and home care services, and our government is reviewing this report and considering the recommendations."
The memo issued last week to Manitoba Home Care Program workers followed by the release of Thursday’s report calling for research on different ways to fund the program signal the direction the province is heading in, said Gawronsky who worked in health care for 33 years.
She said Thursday that Manitobans should be worried about the provincial government imposing home-care user fees or privatizing the program that it wants referred to only as Home Care Services. "...The practice of referring to the ‘Home Care Program’ must stop," the memo to staff said. It indicates the name change will be a major undertaking for the provincial government, which has made fighting Manitoba’s $1-billion deficit its top priority.
"We have begun the huge task of updating all regional and provincial policies with the correct terminology," said the memo. "MB Health will be printing new home care information folders to replace the old ones — in the meantime use up what you have." The memo says new name tags and business cards should say "Home Care Services," and workers with old cards should cross off the "program" reference.
When asked to explain the name change, a provincial government spokeswoman said it is "to reflect the distinct roles and responsibilities of the province and the regional health authorities."
Amy McGuinness said in an email that before regionalization of health care services took place in 1997, the Manitoba Home Care Program was delivered through the health department. "Once the regional health authorities took over the provision of home care services in Manitoba, there was no overall provincial program that offers these services directly," she said. The province continues to have a "strong oversight role to play," and the name change is for "housekeeping" purposes.
For a government that’s telling departments it needs to save money, spending money for such an innocuous name change doesn’t make sense, said Gawronsky.
"There’s a cost to this," she said. "Why do it if it’s not significant?"
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.