Nfld. & Labrador

Parties at odds on privatization of some health services in MUN debate

Health Minister Steve Kent, New Democrat Lorraine Michael and Liberal Andrew Parsons were on different pages when it came to some privatizing long-term care services.

'We won't compromise quality of care and standards in any way,' says Minister Steve Kent

NDP MHA Lorraine Michael, Liberal Health Critic Andrew Parsons and Health Minister Steve Kent had differing views on privatizing some health care services in a debate hosted by Memorial University Tuesday night. (CBC)

Members from all three political parties in Newfoundland and Labrador took part in a debate at Memorial University Tuesday night, and the opposition members were at odds with the health minister on privatizing some services.

The province is looking at the feasibility of public-private partnerships to help deliver long-term care in the province to open more beds.

Health Minister Steve Kent says government has been studying what's happened in other parts of Canada to ensure it's being pursued here appropriately.

"We're talking about purchasing a service that will still be 100 per cent publicly funded and the same public standards and safety procedures and staffing levels, all of that still applies," said Kent.

We won't compromise quality of care and standards in any way, shape or form.- Steve Kent

"We know it can work, we can provide the same quality care and we can save taxpayers' money and we have a responsibility to look a that."

Andrew Parsons, the Liberal health critic, said Leader Dwight Ball has already stated the Liberals would not look at privatizing long-term care, if elected to government.

"What we are prepared to look at is using a value for money analysis when it comes to the building of buildings and not the services that's within the buildings," said Parsons.

"It's how do we get those buildings done and the best value for the province because it's using tax payers dollars."

'We want to get it right'

Lorraine Michael said the NDP is opposed to any private company playing a role in delivering health services.

"Health care should not be for profit, just like education should not be for profit," said Michael.

"It's logical that if somebody running a for-profit long-term care facility has to make money — and they have to, that's what it's all about — then something is going to have to suffer."

Health care should not be for profit, just like education should not be for profit.- Lorraine Michael

However, Kent said the Tories wouldn't move forward with a private-public partnership if government found it wouldn't work or save money.

"We will only proceed if it's cheaper. We won't compromise quality of care and standards in any way, shape or form — that's an absolute must — but we also won't proceed if we're not going to save money," said Kent.

"The analysis is just about done and we want to do the proper due diligence. We want to be thorough, we want to get it right because in some ways this is new territory for us, even though it's being done in every other province in Canada."

With files from Jeremy Eaton


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