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This article was published 1/6/2017 (1216 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Premier Brian Pallister refuses to say whether his government intends to privatize the province's home care services.
The union representing more than 2,100 city home care workers has sounded the alarm over privatization after learning the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority intends to contract out a new home care program.
The Manitoba Government and General Employees Union is worried outsourcing the new "enhanced home care" service being introduced as part of the government's Winnipeg hospital reorganization plan represents the first step in the privatization of all home care services.
Pallister refused to clarify the matter Thursday when the issue was raised by the NDP in the legislature.
He said the New Democrats privatized several health services and procedures when they were in office and are now attempting to score political points with their backers in the labour movement.
"There was more privatization done by the previous administration in their term of office in terms of delivering health-care services than at any time in Manitoba history, and with less results," the premier told the media afterwards.
Pressed further by reporters to clarify his government's intentions, Pallister said, "I’m not going to be closed-minded about getting better results for Manitobans."
The WRHA cannot contract out more than 20 per cent of home care services in Winnipeg under the terms of its collective agreement with the MGEU. The provision dates back to the mid-1990s, when Gary Filmon's Progressive Conservatives were in power.
However, the current agreement expires in less than a year, on March 31, 2018, raising concerns among union officials the Pallister government may attempt to amend the clause.
"This government committed to protect and improve public services, and privatizing home care is the exact opposite. It would threaten patient care and drive up costs," MGEU president Michelle Gawronsky said in a statement late Thursday.
NDP health critic Matt Wiebe said he's disappointed the premier and his health minister, Kelvin Goertzen, refused to reveal their intentions Thursday.
"We want to see answers, and Manitobans want to see a clear answer from this government. If this is the direction they’re going (privatization), they should stand up clearly and say it. They should make that clear to all Manitobans, and they’re not," Wiebe said.
Only Pallister spoke to the media about the home care issue after question period. The government, citing a news blackout because of the Point Douglas byelection, refused to make Goertzen available for comment because he had not been asked about the matter in the house.
Wiebe noted the Tories, under Gary Filmon, had experimented with the privatization of home care but abandoned it.
A Free Press report in December 1997 stated the PCs pulled the plug on a one-year experiment with privatized home care in two areas of Winnipeg. Then-health minister Darren Praznik said an initial assessment of the government's contract with a private-sector provider convinced him that the public system was more cost-effective and only needed minor improvements.
Larry Kusch didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he attended a high school newspaper editor’s workshop in Regina in the summer of 1969 and listened to a university student speak glowingly about the journalism program at Carleton University in Ottawa.
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