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This article was published 20/9/2017 (1259 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Critics say the Pallister government is one step closer to privatizing health care in Manitoba with the announcement of new enhanced home-care services.
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said Wednesday it will spend $15.7 million over the next three years on a "mixed model" home-care program it says is necessitated by the speed of hospital reforms.
Of that money, $10.5 million will go to private companies.
But Health Minister Kelvin Goertzen shrugged off questions about privatization, saying the government follows the rules as prescribed by The Canada Health Act.
"What I hear from people when they need care is how do we get the best care in the best place possible," he told reporters, "what I don’t hear from patients is does the person who is providing me that support have a union card."
We Care, which is part of the CBI Health Group and bills itself as "Canada’s largest independently owned home health service" was awarded the WRHA contract in conjunction with ParaMed Home Health Care.
The companies will be responsible for supplying the health care aides and other support workers necessary to handle 250 patients at a time, while other staff like nurses and occupational therapists will continue to come from — and report to — the WRHA.
The WRHA says the Priority Home service, which is set to start accepting patients this November, is meant to complement, not replace existing home care services. It will serve as an intensive intermediary, providing up to 90 days of support for people who no longer require acute hospital care but aren’t yet ready to transition to the WRHA’s permanent home-care program.
Newly minted NDP leader Wab Kinew said he’s concerned about the impact on patient care.
"Once you privatize home care it’s going to impact the quality and that’s going to impact the care the people we love are going to get," he said. "Big picture, this is another step towards privatization under Pallister."
The president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union, which represents health care aides and other support workers whose line of work will fall under company not WRHA management for Priority Home, echoed his concerns.
His concerns were echoed by the president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union, which represents health care aides and other support workers.
"It’s time this government and the WRHA stop mincing words and start being honest with Manitobans," said Michelle Gawronsky. "What they announced today is major: it’s privatizing home care in Manitoba."
Not even the WRHA’s clarifications that this program is an addition to current home-care services rather than a replacement addressed Gawronsky’s concerns. After all, she said, MGEU members stand ready and trained to do this work.
"We should be building on that system," she said, "not auctioning it off in pieces."
Priority Home is in keeping with the WRHA’s announcement earlier this month that it would spend $9 million on privately-run transitional care beds. In both cases, the announcements were framed as necessary measures during the tumult of its two-year plan to overhaul the delivery of health care in Winnipeg.
The WRHA expects the public system will be ready to reabsorb the private transitional care beds after two years. Similarly, it said the plan is to resume full operational control of Priority Home after the three-year contract is up.
As for why the WRHA didn’t use the entirety of the $15.7 million to set up its own program, interim president Réal Cloutier said it’s a question of timing and readiness.
"We have some operational challenges in home care today that we’re trying to address," Cloutier explained. "We’re working with the union to address those operational challenges, (but) we could not do that in time for the transition plan."