New Brunswick

Province finalizes deal to privatize extramural nursing and Tele-Care

The provincial government has signed contracts with Medavie Health Services New Brunswick to take over management of extramural care programs and Tele-Care services, making plans to privatize the services official.

Services will be taken over by Medavie as of Jan. 1

The province has signed a deal with Medavie Health Services New Brunswick to take over extramural programs and Tele-Care in the new year. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

The provincial government has signed contracts with Medavie Health Services New Brunswick to take over management of extramural care programs and Tele-Care services, making plans to privatize the services official.  

Bruce MacFarlane, communications director for the Department of Health, confirmed Sunday morning that contracts between the Liberal government and Medavie for the two services were signed over the weekend.

He said the department will make the contracts public on its website after the Office of the Integrity Commissioner has has reviewed them and had a chance to make any comments on them.

The Office of the Integrity Commissioner has oversight for the Right to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Personal Health Information Privacy and Access Act, MacFarlane said.

The provincial government announced its plans to hand over the home health-care program and 811 health advice line at the beginning of September.

At the time, then-health minister Victor Boudreau said the change would be in effect as of Jan. 1. 

The non-profit company already manages the paramedic service Ambulance New Brunswick.

Premier defends move 

The province has said its aim in handing over the services to Medavie is to improve coordination and collaboration among heath-care workers to provide better service as the provincial population gets older and requires more home-based care. 

Health Minister Benoît Bourque and fellow cabinet minister Lisa Harris, the minister for seniors and long-term care, held nine public meetings around the province to answer questions about the contract.

The takeover has received a significant amount of opposition from seniors groups, health-care workers, and Vitalité Health Network.

Bourque was not available for an interview Sunday as he is away on vacation. He has said in the past that there will be a transition period, and there won't be sudden or dramatic changes to the services when the contract comes into effect New Year's Day.

In his year end interview with CBC, Premier Brian Gallant defended the outsourcing. 

"We believe that we can increase the amount of visits [to patients] in the extramural program. We believe we can decrease the amount of visits of people within the extramural program to the ER, emergency rooms, because they're not getting the care they need," he said. 

"And we believe we can do all this and maintain the quality."

Richard Losier, the newly hired president of Medavie Health Services New Brunswick, was also unavailable for an interview Sunday, but in an emailed statement, said patients can "continue to expect the same quality service they've always received from skilled, compassionate clinicians."

Calls for more transparency 

Cecile Cassista, executive director of the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents' Rights, has been one of the most vocal opponents to the move. 

Now that the deal has been made official, she says opponents plan to regroup and discuss what their next steps are. 

She said she feels the government has not been transparent enough throughout this process, and is skeptical that the private company will be open about how well the services are doing once its taken them over. 

"It's really, really worrisome," she said. 

Performance indicators outlined at committee 

But at lengthy appearance at a legislative committee Nov. 24, the health minister gave a detailed explanation of how the Medavie contract's key performance indicators, or KPI's, will work.

The company can win an extra $1.8 million per year on top of a $2.6 million base payment if it hits five indicators.

They include increasing extramural visits to patient homes by 15 per cent and reducing expensive emergency-room visits by extramural patients by the same amount.

The 15 per cent increase in extramural visits would equal about 90,000 more visits, based on the current number of 600,000, Bourque said.

For $4.4 million, "that's quite a sweet deal, I have to say," Bourque said. 

With files from Jacques Poitras

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