Union calls privatization of extramural nursing an ‘erosion of care’ – New Brunswick

Privatization doesn’t belong in New Brunswick’s health-care system, the New Brunswick Nurses Union president says.

The New Brunswick government announced last week that it is moving head with privatizing the running of the extramural program and Tele-Care services.

Medavie Health Services New Brunswick, the same company that runs Ambulance New Brunswick, will take over the home health-care program and 811 health advice line in January under a 10-year contract.

​”That creates a two-tiered system and we don’t believe that’s what we want here in New Brunswick,” said Paula Doucet, president of the New Brunswick Nurses Union.

Quality of care ‘eroding’

The union was notified of the decision about 18 months ago that privatization was a possibility and had consultations with stakeholders. But there needed to be a broader public discussion, Doucet said.

“Moving this quickly with so many unanswered questions is just creating some turmoil,” she said.

Victor Boudreau, who was health minister until Monday, and former New Brunswick premier Bernard Lord, the CEO of Medavie, announced Friday that Medavie will run extramural services starting in January. (Kate Letterick/CBC)

The government has promised nurses they will remain public employees and will not lose their jobs, benefits, including seniority and pensions, but Doucet said the union is worried the quality of care will decline.

“This now becomes a private entity, it’s no longer Department of Health,” she said. “Although the minister is saying, ‘My nurses will remain public employees, the reporting system is different, they no longer report to the [regional health authorities].”

She said extramural nurses have already been looking elsewhere for work, either returning to hospitals, public health or long-term care.

The departures have created a high number of vacancies, and the uncertainty has made it difficult for extramural to attract nurses in anything like the numbers it once did, Doucet said.

“I think the research shows that privatization and health care in any country is not the route to go,” she said.

Private company not the same

She suggested that with the latest decision, Medavie could bring a private-industry metrics system to health care, such as requiring nurses to see more patients a day than good health care would allow. Employees might be less skilled as well, she said.

“Currently, a nurse may see seven patients a day,” she said. Under Medavie, “they may be expected to see upwards of 10, 12, 15 who knows. You’re timed with the amount of patients you’ll see.”

‘We’re watch dogs of health care. One of our core values is providing quality health care to New Brunswickers.’
-Paula Doucet

Doucet said the union will be holding both Medavie and the provincial government accountable and will ensure quality isn’t diminished after the latest change.

She said the registered nurses provide holistic care in the area are, but it’s important to watch the management of it and provide continuing education and the appropriate channels to report problems.

“The registered nurses that are within the extramural system will continue to deliver high-quality, safe patient care. I have every confidence in my members.”  

“We want to see the access increase for New Brunswickers, we want to see them be able to navigate through the health-care system easily.”

Questions go unanswered

Doucet said the union still has a lot of unanswered questions.

Although their collective agreement rights are still in place, the labour transfer agreement for nurses in the extramural program is not. The union is still working at it and will meet with government at the end of the month.

“I’m very hopeful that my nurses wont’ be losing any of the benefits that they currently have now under their collective agreement,” she said.

“We’re watchdogs of health care. One of our core values is providing quality healthcare to New Brunswickers.”


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