Medavie Health Services will be held accountable to New Brunswickers when it takes over extramural nursing and Tele-Care, Treasury Board President Roger Melanson insisted Thursday as opposition parties expressed doubt.

During a political panel on Information Morning Fredericton, Melanson said Medavie will be held accountable in the same way the province's two health authorities, Vitalité and Horizon, are accountable.

Extramural, which for years has been sending nurses to people's homes to care for patients and keep them out of hospital, will be managed by Medavie starting in January, the government announced last Friday.

The management of Tele-Care, where patients can speak with a nurse to determine if they need to go to a hospital, is also being moved into Medavie's hands.

Structure of government

During the panel discussion, Melanson said the changes would amount to having a new Crown corporation, but the Department of Health said that such a label would be incorrect.

The government is divided into four parts: part one employs regular government employees, part two is for teachers, part three is for health care and part four is for Crown corporations such as NB Power and NB Liquor.

According to the Health Department, Ambulance New Brunswick and the extramural program will combine to become a single, part three entity managed by Medavie.

The extramural-ambulance entity will have to appear before the legislature's public accounts committee, something the Medavie-run Ambulance New Brunswick has been doing on its own.

Ambulance 'entity' frustrated Coon

Green Party Leader David Coon, citing the committee's experience with Ambulance New Brunswick, said he doesn't think the larger Medavie-run entity will mean sufficient accountability.

He's said he's had difficulty when officials from the Medavie side appeared before MLAs to talk about the ambulance service.

"I couldn't get good answers from them about any of the issues frontline workers and paramedics had raised with me," said Coon.

"The same kind of thing will happen if this moves forward with the extramural program."

Tory points to Vitalité's objection

Progressive Conservative Fredericton-Hanwell MLA Brian Macdonald said the government should have done more to get both health authorities on board with the change. Vitalité has spoken out against the privatization.

"If this solution is so good, why do you have half of your stakeholders opposing it?" Macdonald asked Melanson.

Kris Austin, leader of the People's Allianc, said he doesn't believe Medavie is good at managing, and he pointed to rural ambulance service and response times to make his case.

"The reality is they've not done a good job on Ambulance New Brunswick and they will not do a good job on extramural," Austin said.

Questions timing

Austin was also critical of the timing of the extramural announcement.

"They announced it on a Friday afternoon [before] the long weekend," he said. "They wanted everybody to be going about their cottages, picking up back to school supplies.

"That's a red flag, political smoke and mirrors trick."

NDP Leader Jennifer McKenzie said she went so far as to contact federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor because she was concerned the transfer of management contravened the Canada Health Act.

"Federally funded health care has to be spent by a public administration and operated on a not-for-profit basis and this transfer does not pass that test," said McKenzie. 

With files from Information Morning Fredericton