Pri­va­ti­za­tion by any other name

When you put health care up for sale, the buy­ers will al­ways be for-profit com­pa­nies

Cape Breton Post - - EDITORIAL - James Hutt James Hutt is the pro­vin­cial co-or­di­na­tor for the Nova Sco­tia Citizen’s Health Care Net­work. He can be con­tacted at james@nshealthcoali­tion.ca.

In my meet­ings with the Health Min­is­ter Leo Glavine and var­i­ous other MLAs, it has be­come clear to me that the Lib­er­als plan to plan to pri­va­tize home care.

Re­cently, Premier Stephen McNeil and other Lib­eral MLAs have tried to as­sure vot­ers that this is not the case. They might not in­tend to pri­va­tize home care, but that’s ex­actly what will hap­pen if they go ahead with a ‘com­pet­i­tive bid­ding’ model.

It doesn’t mat­ter what you call it, whether it’s ‘com­pet­i­tive bid­ding,’ ‘ten­der­ing ser­vices,’ or a ‘re­quest for pro­posal’ – the re­sult will mean con­tract­ing out home care and home nurs­ing to pri­vate, for-profit com­pa­nies. When that hap­pens, pa­tients will re­ceive less care at a greater cost.

Last De­cem­ber, Glavine an­nounced plans to con­tract out home care and home nurs­ing ser­vices. The gov­ern­ment has hired a con­sul­tant to ex­am­ine a ‘com­pet­i­tive bid­ding’ model, which would force home care providers to bid on the con­tracts. The gov­ern­ment would then award the con­tracts ac­cord­ing to the low­est bid­der, among sev­eral other fac­tors.

This move will pri­va­tize home care and home nurs­ing ser­vices in Nova Sco­tia. It will al­low for for-profit cor­po­ra­tions to en­ter Nova Sco­tia and push out com­mu­nity-based char­i­ties. That is ex­actly what hap­pened in On­tario, which is now plagued with chronic health worker short­ages and high turnover rates. Home care de­liv­ery has be­come so ex­pen­sive that there is now a cap on the num­ber of pa­tients who can re­ceive it. In fact, the sit­u­a­tion has be­come so dire in On­tario that the gov­ern­ment has sus­pended the com­pet­i­tive bid­ding model twice.

Nova Sco­tians are right to be con­cerned when the gov­ern­ment pro­poses this flawed model here. I am very dis­ap­pointed to hear the premier dis­miss the con­cerns as “fear-mon­ger­ing by unions.” I would sug­gest that his gov­ern­ment should take more time to lis­ten to those who de­pend on and work in the health-care sys­tem.

To date, the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment has re­fused to hold any public con­sul­ta­tions on the pro­posed changes to home care. Sev­eral Lib­eral MLAs, in­clud­ing Pam Eyk­ing in Vic­to­ria-the Lakes, have re­fused to meet with con­stituents to talk about it.

In­stead, the small non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion I rep­re­sent, the Nova Sco­tia Health Net­work, has held seven town halls meet­ings around the province to raise aware­ness. We or­ga­nized a provincewide day of ac­tion, and it is only thanks to thou­sands of con­cerned cit­i­zens speak­ing out around the province that com­pet­i­tive bid­ding is cur­rently on hold.

The plan to pri­va­tize home care though is still on the ta­ble. Ac­cord­ing to an in­ter­nal memo from the Depart­ment of Health and Well­ness on May 28, “Home care ser­vices may still need to be ten­dered for some, or all, re­gions in the province.”

The Lib­er­als seem to be con­tent to re­fer to the process while ig­nor­ing the end re­sult. But let’s be clear, the re­sult of their pro- posed changes will be pri­va­ti­za­tion. When you put health care up for sale, the buy­ers will al­ways be for-profit com­pa­nies. Ten­der­ing and con­tract­ing out in­evitably means pri­va­tiz­ing.

Un­til the premier and Lib­eral MLAs fully and pub­licly re­ject com­pet­i­tive bid­ding for home care, pa­tients, fam­ily mem­bers and home-care work­ers are at risk.

If the Lib­er­als want vot­ers to trust their words, then they must fol­low through with ac­tions.

Please write to your lo­cal MLA and call on them to re­ject pri­va­tize in any name. Sign the pe­ti­tion online at www.votepub­lichealth­care.ca and help pro­tect care and care­givers.

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