The Gallant government has just announced – with great fanfare – the building of ten new nursing homes and the creation of 1000 new beds. These may be needed but how can it take this momentous step without first addressing Home Care? Wasn’t the strategy supposed to be keeping people in their own homes first?
The New Brunswick NDP has announced a six step plan for Home Care that we will implement when we become government:
First, with regards to the new funding announced by the federal government of $230 Million over ten years, we will invest all of the funding earmarked for Home Care to the expansion of the Extra Mural Program to provide medical needs and home services supports to seniors and other New Brunswickers needing care. This will allow more patients to receive health care sevices in their own homes.
Second, We will end privatization in our health care system. We will return Ambulance New Brunswick, the Extra Mural Program and Tele-Care to the province to be run as a public institutions. We will end the contracting out of all management of services in our hospitals and end discussions with Sodexo.
Third, we will create immediately a new government agency, Home Care Service, to provide home support services that will allow seniors and others requiring support in their home to have access in a reasonable and affordable manner. All personal support workers and other personnel will be public servants and paid government wages and benefits. Where it makes sense, we will transition by integration of existing non profit services and staff into the new public agency.
Fourth, we will expand Tele-Care to complement the Home Care Service and to provide advocacy to assist New Brunswickers needing multiple services to navigate our health care and social services and direct them to the support they need.
Fifth, we will study the best way to create a Community Care public agency to replace the myriad of agencies that currently exist so that it that gives the province the accountability and transparency we need, creates uniform standards, and allows the workers in this industry to become public servants and earn living wages. We will implement such a public agency within our first mandate as government.
Finally, upon election we will apply pay equity legislation to this important sector so that, along with the announced introduction of an increase to a $15 minimum wage, the wages of those providing home care and community care services will be improved.
The New Brunswick government’s approach to the delivery of seniors and community care is to rely on patch work quilt of hundreds of agencies , some non- profit, some for- profit but all delivering services with inadequate standards and almost invariably at low wages with no benefits. This industry is plagued by high turnover and shortages.
It is perhaps not surprising that women are in the large majority in this sector.
This is in stark contrast to the excellent service provided by the government Extra Mural program which provides for medical needs of clients in their homes, and up until last year was run by our health care authorities as a public institution with union wages and benefits.
It is well understood that the key to reducing preventable hospital visits and the number of patients occupying hospital beds unnecessarily is an effective and coordinated transition process. This s is particularly important for seniors and people with disabilities who have the capacity for independence but still require attentive care. A continuum of care for New Brunswickers requires partnership, communication and oversight – all sorely missing and only made worse by the transfer of Extra Mural to Medavie.