Home Care is a Valued Public Service – Keep it Public!
The Prince Edward Island Nurses’ Union (PEINU) and the Prince Edward Island Union of Public Sector Employees (UPSE) collectively represent over 240 employees who currently provide Home Care services to Islanders across PEI.
Both Unions are extremely concerned with the provincial government’s recent decision to engage paramedics employed by a private company in the delivery of home care services. They are apprehensive about government’s plan for a number of reasons. Broadening the role of privately employed paramedics may seem like a prudent, potential cost-saving measure. However, the Unions urge government and Health PEI to carefully consider the potential negative impacts on service delivery.
“Each healthcare employee has different roles and different scopes in which they are allowed to practice,” states Mona O’Shea, President of PEINU. “We appreciate and acknowledge that paramedics receive appropriate training for their essential role as emergency medical technicians. However, we are concerned that they do not have the required experience or training to provide the same level of care offered by current home care employees.”
UPSE President, Karen Jackson concurs. “Why has the government chosen to invest our tax dollars in a private company to provide health care services that could be offered using existing public sector employees? There are many of our members providing home care services whose skills and abilities are not being fully utilized,” states Jackson. “Why not use these public healthcare workers for new initiatives and take advantage of their complete scope of practice?”
Is the trend toward privatizing health care services in the public’s interest?
The Unions believe that with the privatization of services, comes a loss of transparency and accountability. “Any expansion of our health care system, or any new initiatives or programs, should be delivered through the public health care system. Health care should be kept public” states UPSE President Karen Jackson.
Both PEINU and UPSE argue there is increased potential for duplication of services and anticipate gaps in communication. “Private companies do not and cannot have access to the health records of patients accessing home care services from Health PEI. The Unions predict confusion and service fragmentation with the introduction of privately employed paramedics to existing public services.
“It is extremely unfortunate that government and Health PEI did not consult with their own front-line employees prior to making the decision to engage services from a private company. Our members who work in home care see many ways these public funds could be used internally to support and improve current service delivery,” states O’Shea. “Instead, $450,000 of taxpayer dollars are being given to a private company, opening the door to further privatization of health care services.”
There are many unanswered questions in regards to government’s decision. The Unions strongly feel that the primary focus should be on how best to support and maintain a strong public health care system. Any proposed changes should permit seamless collaboration among public health care providers so that services are delivered in a safe, efficient and effective way.
Both UPSE and PEINU do not believe the deal between the province and Medavie supports this ultimate goal.