Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Health care changes should concern New Brunswickers

Recent announcements from the provincial government regarding health care are troubling.
Our elected officials have privatized the management of Tele-Care and Extra-Mural programs while dismantling the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health.
In all cases, the political reasoning has been weak. In the Extra-Mural program, both those who represent the professionals working in the service - including the New Brunswick Union - and those receiving the care have united in calling for government to not allow this to happen.
The pleas seem to not be considered by the elected officials. In fact, little to no consultation has been done by government when making these decisions.
In both cases, the government decision is curious to downright confusing. Start with the privatization of the management of the Extra-Mural program. Government has handed over $780-million over 10 years to Medavie with the incentive of up to $4.4 million extra per year over the length of the contract if certain goals are met.
In a recent editorial, deputy premier Stephen Horsman stated, "For health care providers, this initiative will be beneficial in that it will allow them to practice at the top of their skill-set and generate more capacity within the system. This will also result in more proactive outreach to patients at risk, which we anticipate will reduce the burden on caregivers."
Apart from the buzz words and government speak in those sentences, the NBU has issue with his statement. The professionals providing care in the Extra-Mural program are already practising at the top of their skill-set. If you want proof, look no further than the high satisfaction rate the program already receives from its patients.
Minister Horsman also states, "This new model is an opportunity for New Brunswick to become a leader in the country with regards to community and home-based health care."
With all due respect, this was already happening. In the case of Extra-Mural, the province is looking to try and fix something that isn't broken. In fact, the program is thriving.
The concerns of staff and patients alike revolves around what kind of changes Medavie will implement in order to reach the incentives in the contract. Will the company cap the time someone can spend on a visit or make it so the health care providers need to hit certain quotas? Will the quality of care become secondary to achieving its financial incentives?
The problem is none of these questions have been answered by government or Medavie. As well, no other company or options were considered as Medavie was the only entity considered for this task. On both accounts there's a distinct lack of transparency and accountability.
A previous government had considered this proposal from Medavie and decided not to go forward as it didn't see the need to fix something that was working well.
As for the dismantling of the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, in a recent CBC interview the province's former top doctor Wayne MacDonald said the changes will do more harm than good.
In another CBC report, Ak'Ingabe Guyon, a public health and preventive medicine specialist and assistant clinical professor in the school of public health at the University of Montreal, stated the changes could put people's lives in danger.
In a commentary sent to Brunswick News, 11 public health officials from across the country stated the government's decision to move more than half of the office's staff is an attack on public health.
As with the changes to the Extra-Mural program, the reasoning from public officials is not clear and couched in government speak. Former Health Minister Victor Boudreau said the move would improve collaboration and pool together those with similar expertise.
Again, more vague statements and a lack of transparency about how the changes will affect our health system.
What we're witnessing is a government changing the way health care looks in our province without considering the potential impacts it can have.
The health of our people, young and old alike, is not something you change lightly or defend with buzz words and political speak.