Friday, July 22, 2022

Voices of workers, community must be heard

The voices of New Brunswick’s health care workers and community organizations must be heard on any changes to the health care system.
Recently, Premier Blaine Higgs announced major anti-democratic reforms to the structure of New Brunswick’s health care system by moving the health minister to a new
portfolio, eliminating hospital boards in favour of trustees, and consolidating decision-making in the hands of a select few.
The New Brunswick Health Coalition, which represents thousands of workers in health care and long-term care sectors as well as community organizations throughout the
province, are concerned about the recent structural changes and demand that their voices be heard on the solutions to the health care crisis. While the Premier has
spoken about the need for better management and efficiency, he’s not spoken much about the biggest problem: lack of workers. Health care was operating at a deficit in
personnel before the pandemic and has gotten much worse resulting in a crisis situation.
The New Brunswick Health Coalition puts forward the following recommendations:
Include workers and community organizations as part of the solution: By removing elected board members, the Higgs government took away the eyes
and ears of the health care system. This potentially unlawful action is reducing accountability and transparency. This crisis will not be solved unless the boards
of the health authorities are reinstated and comprised of fully elected members.
Commitment from the Premier that privatization will not be part of the changes: Privatization will only ensure the wealthiest among us have access to
the best care, creating a two-tier health system. Adding private players will also cause duplicity in our health care system, which results in even longer patient
wait times. Privatization of public services has shown that it costs more to taxpayers.
Reinstate the New Brunswick Employment Insurance Connect program: The program made it possible for people who had worked enough hours in
summer jobs to be eligible for Employment Insurance benefits while at university or doing other full-time training. We need more people in the health care field and 
putting up barriers for them to complete their studies is the opposite of what the
government should be doing.
Use part of the budget surplus for recruitment and retention of health care workers: Recruitment and retention is a major issue facing health care. We know
this won’t be fixed overnight, but we have to start making changes immediately. The province has recorded nearly half a billion dollars in a surplus the past two
years. It’s time that money went to the people who do the work.
Guarantee money for health care will be spent on health care: Money sent from Ottawa to the province during the pandemic was not always used as
intended. Much of it went to creating a surplus in consecutive budgets. The money was supposed to help New Brunswickers get through tough times.
Premier Higgs and other provincial Premiers are asking the federal government for more health care dollars with no strings attached. Given the crisis we are
facing, we must ensure health care dollars are spent on improving health care. We want quarterly reports made public from the provincial government on how
the funds are being spent to ensure public confidence the money is going where it should.
Reinstate masking protocols immediately: With cases and hospitalizations rising rapidly, we need to take whatever measures possible to ensure our
hospitals can keep operating. The government should reinstate mandatory indoor masking in public areas until the numbers of cases and hospitalizations
dramatically decrease. Masking is not an infringement on people’s rights, but a way to show one another respect, especially our health care workers.
We hope Premier Higgs takes these recommendations seriously. The well-being of New Brunswickers is at stake. The system has been starved of resources for years, simply
replacing politicians and consolidating decision-making power is not a long-term plan for sustainability.
We know the Premier has stated that throwing money at the health care crisis will not improve it, while at the same time asking Ottawa for more funds to be used at his
discretion. Money needs to be spent on the system, specifically on recruitment and retention to properly ensure the best care is delivered.