Privatizing government home care 'not even part of our discussions,' says P.E.I. health minister

P.E.I. Health Minister Robert Henderson says his department has no plans to privatize any of the Island's public home care services.

Health department responding to privatization concerns from opposition PC's, Islanders

P.E.I.'s health department is exploring how to improve public home care, but the department insists privatization is not part of the discussion. (Getty Images/Cultura RF)

P.E.I. Health Minister Robert Henderson says his department has no plans to privatize any of the Island's public home care services.  

Henderson says he is exploring how to best spend $25 million in federal health accord funding, promised to the P.E.I. government to help improve its home care services. 

But the minister says rumours that the province plans to turn its home care services over to private companies are false. 

"That's not even part of our discussions within our department," said Henderson. "Although I did note Manitoba, the premier there has looked at a review of home care and looking at the concept of privatization, that's not a direction I'm planning on heading as Minister."

P.E.I.'s health minister Robert Henderson says the privatization of home care is "not a direction I'm planning on heading." (CBC)

Islanders concerned about privatization, says opposition 

Opposition seniors critic Darlene Compton says she has heard concerns from Islanders worried they'll soon be forced to pay out-of-pocket for home care, and from government workers worried their jobs could be at risk. 

 "Is the model going to change? Is it going to become private, or remain public? Those are questions I'm hearing," said Compton. 'It's a concern for the workers."

Kim Baglole says she's been taking the rumours seriously, and is worried what privatization could mean for her family's finances. 

 "Is the model going to change? Is it going to become private?"- Darlene Compton, PC opposition seniors critic 

Baglole's husband has multiple sclerosis, and depends on government home care workers to help him shower five days a week. 

She says the service would cost $600/month through a private company. 

 "My husband is on a fixed income because of his illness and I've had to reduce my work to three days a week," said Baglole. "If this becomes a reality, I'm going to fight it every way I can."

Opposition seniors critic Darlene Compton says she's been hearing from home care clients and workers worried about the impact of private companies taking over the service from government. (CBC)

No job losses or out-of-pocket costs, says province

A spokesperson for P.E.I.'s health department said Friday the department is exploring ways to "fill the gaps" in home care, including the potential for more partnerships, like the one it currently has with Island EMS through the Provincial Integrated Palliative Care Program. 

Under the program, Island EMS' paramedics are available to provide palliative care to patients at home, when regular home care workers aren't available. 

But the spokesperson says even if the province considers more partnerships like that, "there'll be no job losses...there'll be no cost to Islanders."

As it stands, private companies do offer home care services to Islanders, with the cost of those services paid either out of pocket or through private insurance. 

Priority for public home care goes to Islanders based on health needs and available staff resources. 

The health department says it should have more details on how it plans to improve public home care on the island, once it's been given more guidance from the federal government on how its health accord funding can be spent. 

CBC also heard Friday from Medavie Health Services - the company that operates Island EMS, and has been referenced in some of the privatization rumours. 

A spokesperson for the company said in an email that Medavie "has not entered into any discussions with the province regarding assuming responsibility for home care delivery."