Friday, April 24, 2015

Let union voices be heard in health care

The provincial government recently announced it will bring together health care experts from across New Brunswick for a pair of forums to discuss health care delivery.
The first session is set to take place in May. The New Brunswick Union is on record as having called for this type of summit to address concerns in the system, specifically how to deal with our aging population.
While the NBU is in favour of the forums, it also expects unions to be part of the dialogue. Unions represent thousands of workers in the provincial health care sector. The NBU alone has members in the following occupations:

  • Nursing home workers
  • Audiologists
  • Dietician/Nutritionists
  • Medical Physicists
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Pharmacists
  • Physiotherapists
  • Psychometry Assistants
  • Psychometrists
  • Psychologists
  • Recreation Therapists
  • Social Workers
  • Speech Language Pathologists
  • Clinical Psychologists
  • Medical Lab Technologists
  • Clinical Engineering Technologists
  • Respiratory Therapists
  • Graphic Artists
  • Photographers
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging Technologists
  • Nuclear Medicine Technologists
  • Diagnostic Imaging Technologists
  • Electroneurophysiology Technologists
  • Medical Electrophysiology Technologists;
  • Anesthesia Assistants
  • Medical Radiation Technologists
  • Medical Sonography Technologists
  • Clinical Specialists
  • Health Information Professionals
  • Dosimetrists
  • Radiation Therapist

The NBU and its members are clearly defined stakeholders who have plenty to contribute to the discussion and should be afforded the opportunity. However, government has not always agreed.
In recent closed-door meetings to discuss the possibility of trimming five to 10 per cent from government department budgets, the province invited stakeholders but specifically excluded unions.
"The unions are not considered stakeholders for this exercise," said Health Minister Victor Boudreau in an April 11 Telegraph-Journal article on the issue. "Unions represent various employees in the system, but this is for external stakeholders - professional associations, those types of organizations."
The NBU didn't agree with this then and nothing has changed. Union members could - and most likely would - be affected by any changes to come out of the discussions. Unions members also work in the health care system, have intimate knowledge of how it works and can offer valuable insight as well as potential improvements.
To dismiss valid opinions and potential solutions without hearing them is counterproductive.
It's the hope of the NBU to be included in the forums along with all other relevant stakeholders. Unions and their members are New Brunswickers and want to see the province improve and succeed. They want to lend their ideas and voices to help improve the province's health care system.
With this in mind, we ask the government to include unions in these discussions. We are the ones working on the front lines in hospitals and medical centres. We hear firsthand from patients about their experiences. We have knowledge and expertise gained through education and time working in the system. We know the importance of reshaping health care in New Brunswick.
Most importantly, we want to be part of the solution.