Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Minister needs to listen to the people of Miramichi

Seniors and Long-Term Care Minister Lisa Harris recently stated a new 240-bed nursing would be going ahead regardless of a petition signed by more than 11,000 members of the public opposing the P3 model.
A troubling statement when you consider several factors. First, the petition, expressing the opinion of thousands was never tabled in the legislature. Second, government is going forward with the P3 model - and shutting down two not-for-profit facilities once its completed - despite concerns from the auditor general the model isn't in the best interest of taxpayers.
With the impending closure of the two not-for-profit homes, seniors will not have choice as the only option available in their community will be the private model. The difference is not negligible as for-profit facilities often times do not have the same staff and the ratio of care can be different.
A 2015 study done by the Bruyere Research Institute in Ottawa using data from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences found that for-profit seniors’ homes have a 16 per cent higher death rate for seniors within six months of arrival, and that there is a 33 per cent greater likelihood that they’ll end up in hospital as opposed to their non-profit counterparts.
In this case, it doesn't appear government is willing to listen to the people or take sound advice from experts.
However, the Minister has said it will go forward and government is currently reviewing proposals from three proponents to build and operate the new facility.
If that is the case, it's unfortunate the voice of the people doesn't resonate more clearly with elected officials. However, another issue comes up, fairness in dealing with the employees of Mount St. Joseph and the Miramichi Seniors Citizens Home.
When the Request for Proposals (RFP) was issued, government committed to protect the employment of all existing unionized employees. This meant whoever won the contract for the new home would have to respect the existing contracts and unionized status of employees.
In January of this year, the New Brunswick Union (NBU) organized two new groups in each of the existing facilities. The groups include registered dieticians, recreation therapists, accountants, administrative staff, directors of nursing and assistant directors of nursing, director of plant, director of housekeeping and laundry, human resources, outreach workers and ingredient control.
The groups were organized after the RFP was issued. A request was made to the Department of Social Development to include the new groups in the RFP. The proponent has not been selected and the RFP could be amended to include the new groups.
Instead, Harris simply said no. In her letter regarding the decision you won't find a reason for not extending the same rights to the newly unionized members as their colleagues.
Instead, she cites timeline as a factor, "Government does not intend to extend this commitment to the two bargaining units formed in January 2017…The commitment made by Government applies only to those unionized employees who were certified in June 2016 when the commitment was made. Thus, there will be no change to the conditions of the Request for Proposal #2596014-A17 for the nursing home beds in Miramichi."
The decision is unfortunate. Without meeting with the members, hearing from them or how this will impact their families, Harris decided to create a two-tier system. Providing a commitment to some, but not others.
The only people who benefit from this decision is the proponent who secures the contract.
In addition, residents of the new facility could be impacted. The years of experience and expertise our members possess could be lost so a private company can earn a few more dollars.
We've recently seen a disturbing trend from this government, a lack of ability to listen when people speak up. Consider the many assessors who cited problems with the Fast Track system in the property tax fiasco. It appears, according to media reports, their concerns fell on deaf ears in favour of increased revenues
Now we see 11,000 people from the Miramichi whose opinions do not even warrant a tabling of a petition in the Legislature and the bargaining rights of two groups not respected with no reason given.
Our elected officials need to realize that listening to New Brunswickers doesn't end when once the votes are cast, but continues throughout their time in office.