'How far will this go?' P.E.I. nurses concerned about home-care deal with paramedics

The P.E.I. Nurses' Union worries that a provincial government move to involve paramedics more often in its home-care system is a first step toward privatization.

Province says deal 'not a privatization move at all for home care'

Mona O'Shea, president of the P.E.I. Nurses' Union, says the current home-care system is working. (Laura Meader/CBC)

The P.E.I. Nurses' Union is worried the provincial government plan to use paramedics more often in its home-care system is a first step toward privatization.

On Tuesday, the province announced it plans to use advanced care paramedics, from Island EMS, for some new programs involving home care and palliative home care.

"To the nurses across this country, that's privatization, that is the erosion of our publicly funded health-care system here in P.E.I.," said nurses union president Mona O'Shea. "Our fear is how far will this go?" 

'Not a privatization move'

Robert Mitchell, P.E.I.'s minister of health and wellness, said he has heard the concerns, but there are no plans to replace the current home-care system with a private system. He said using paramedics makes sense.

"This is definitely not a privatization move at all for home care," Mitchell said. "This is ultimately enhancing the home-care services that we currently have."

Island EMS will receive $450,000 from the province to provide the extra home care. (Laura Meader/CBC)

New Brunswick recently privatized its extramural program, which provides home health care. The contract was awarded to Medavie Health Services, the same company that owns Island EMS.

Mitchell said Island EMS will receive about $450,000 out of the $750,000 of federal funding the province is receiving. 

Could've hired more nurses

But O'Shea, who used to work in the provincial home-care system before becoming union president, said the current home-care system is working. She said government could have hired more people who already work in the system, such as nurses, physio-therapists, social workers, licensed practical nurses and other support workers. 

"We don't need more hands in the pot," she said.