With its aging population, New Brunswick is aiming to improve patient care, Medavie's CEO said Thursday in defending the company's coming management of home-care services against critics who predict patients and employees will suffer.

"We need to find innovative solutions to be able to improve care and maintain care level," said Bernard Lord, a former premier of New Brunswick.

Medavie, which also runs Ambulance New Brunswick, will take over the home health-care program and 811 health advice line in January under a 10-year contract.

Lord said discussions about the move have been going on for some time. 

"When we look at the challenges coming in New Brunswick, with an aging population and overall people in the workforce, we need to find innovative solutions to be able to improve care and maintain care level," said Lord.

Medavie will make an estimated $4.4 million in the first year of the contract if it meets performance targets.

In the last 15 years, Lord said, the population of people 65 and older in New Brunswick grew by more than 50 per cent.

"No one is questioning the job of the people that are doing the work," he said. "It's how do we improve the system to meet the growing need?"

How will it improve?

According to the Health Department, Ambulance New Brunswick and the extramural program will combine to become a single entity managed by Medavie. Nurses and other extramural employees will continue to be paid by the province, but their managers will be with Medavie.

Details about how Medavie will run the program have not been revealed. For instance, it's not clear whether Medavie will have offices in communities where managers, nurses and other professionals collaborate, as happens now, or whether nurses will be on-call during the night, as also happens.

But Lord said that with innovation and better technology the takeover will be able to improve the extramural system. 

He said the change will provide more visits at home for patients and fewer visits to the emergency department that aren't needed.

'Our objective is to be a partner to improve the health outcomes of people.' -Bernard Lord, CEO of Medavie

Provinces like Nova Scotia and Ontario, similar projects have been undertaken to reduce unnecessary emergency department visits and provide better care at home, he said.

"By doing that, patients win because they get the care that they need where they are, at home and where they want it, at home," he said.

Lord did not elaborate on what Nova Scotia's program does differently that would make it better than the program extramural has been providing in New Brunswick, which has been considered a leader in home health care.

But he said taxpayers will get more value for their money.  

"By co-ordinating these services, ultimately the patients win," he said.

Negative response

Since the province announced Medavie's takeover almost two weeks ago, there has been a backlash from people who work in health care and those receiving it.

The New Brunswick Nurses Union said privatization doesn't belong in New Brunswick's health-care system.

Paula Doucet

Paula Doucet, president of the New Brunswick Nurses Union, which opposes privatization in health care. (CBC News)

Katherine d'Entremont, New Brunswick's commissioner of official languages also criticized the Liberal government for putting extramural into Medavie's hands, expressing concern about patients getting service in the language of their choice.

Vitalité Health Network president and CEO Gilles Lanteigne said the change "dismantles" a service that has been highly appreciated by patients and communities.

Meanwhile, representatives of L'association francophone des aînés du Nouveau-Brunswick and the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents' Rights met with Health Department officials earlier this week to express their concerns about the Medavie deal and promised to fight it.

But Lord said it's not unusual for government to make significant changes in the public and private sectors.

"That's why we collectively have an obligation to make sure we provide factual information so we don't scare people for no reason," he said.

Performance-based agreement

Medavie will be looking for "efficiencies" and have performance targets to meet in order to get paid, government officials have said.

Lord said Medavie will be accountable to meet standards set by the province in its performance-based agreement.

"If we don't provide the improvements that we think we can provide, then we don't get paid the same amount of money," he said.

"Our objective is to be a partner to improve the health outcomes of people."

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story identified Bernard Lord as the CEO of Medavie Health Services. In fact, he is the CEO of Medavie.
    Sep 15, 2017 3:25 PM AT