Judge won't delay Liberals' privatization of extramural health care

A New Brunswick judge has denied an injunction sought by Égalité Santé en français to stop the Liberal government from turning management of the extramural program over to Medavie on Monday.

Supporters of keeping home-care service out of private hands lose fight for injunction

Medavie is expected to take over management of extramural care in the new year. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

A New Brunswick judge has denied an injunction to stop the Liberal government from turning management of the extramural program over to Medavie Health Services next week.

Égalité Santé en français was trying to block the signing of the contract until the lobby group presents legal arguments against it on Jan. 9.

But the deal with Medavie, which has been kept under wraps from the public, will be signed "before the end of day Sunday," Bruce Macfarlane, a spokesperson for the Health Department, said in a news release Friday.

On Monday, the government is expected to turn over management of both extramural and Telecare to Medavie, the private company that already runs the ambulance service.

"I wouldn't say that I am surprised," Gabriel Poliquin, the lawyer for Égalité Santé, said after Justice Lucie Lavigne of the Court of Queen's Bench decided against the injunction.

"Obviously, a disappointing decision for my clients."  

Will continue fight

The group believes the minister of health does not have the power to privatize management of the home-care program and says the move hurts the interests of the francophone community and the Vitalité Health Network.

Poliquin said his clients will continue to fight the takeover of extramural care by Medavie Health Services.

"They are determined to continue on their quest to have constitutional rights recognized for the French-language minority of New Brunswick," he said.

Premier Brian Gallant's Liberals passed a motion before Christmas that cut off debate on the legislation to enact the outsourcing. The province chose Medavie without calling for proposals.

"They're doing this in a secret deal," Opposition Progressive Conservative MLA Brian Macdonald said in question period last week.

"We know they've forced us to close debate on this bill today. Today debate will be over on this bill, and we know the government is going to close down for Christmas on Friday. But they keep telling us they're negotiating the details of this secret deal."

Reason for change not clear

The privatization of the highly regarded service has drawn criticism from Vitalité, extramural patients, seniors and health-care consumers in general, who've all been unable to find out why the province chose such a significant way to privatize part of the health-care system.

Dr. Hubert Dupuis, president of Égalité Santé en français, said he is very disappointed with the judge's decision not to order an injunction. 

He said the francophone community stands to lose the most from Lavigne​'s decision.

About 175 people gathered at the constituency office of Premier Brian Gallant in Dieppe earlier this month out of concern for the future of health-care services in New Brunswick. (Pierre Fournier/CBC News)

"She did not think the arguments that were put in front of her were sufficient enough," Dupuis said.

"We are on the road for the equality for the health services for the francophone community, and the governance and the management of these health institutions by the community and we hope to have equal services for the Francophone community as opposed to the anglophone community.

Dupuis said the government made the move to Medavie without proper study and even though the extramural system was not broken.

"Tomorrow we shall sit down with our lawyers and the executive of Égalité Santé and discuss this decision," he said. "We shall see what has been winning for us and what has not been winning and how we can improve the argument."

"Extramural hospital is a very efficient system. New Brunswick is one of the provinces that puts less money per person in health care at home, so extramural is very efficient because it's able to deliver health care at home at a very low cost."