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OPINION: In support of public home care

An Island EMS ambulance sits in its bay at the company’s Summerside base. 

(The Journal Pioneer- Colin MacLean)
An Island EMS ambulance sits in its bay at the company’s Summerside base. (The Journal Pioneer- Colin MacLean) - The Guardian

UPSE concerned with government’s recent move to increase role paramedics play

BY KAREN JACKSON

GUEST OPINION

I would like to express concerns regarding the delivery of home care in the province. Currently the province of P.E.I. has exceptional public home care services. A number of health professionals from a variety of health professions work daily to provide a publicly funded service that is valued by both the Islanders in need of the services and their families.

UPSE is concerned with government’s recent move to increase the role that paramedics play in the home care system in Prince Edward Island. There is nothing wrong with enhancing home care services; however, it’s important that these enhancements remain in the sphere of public health care. Paramedics in P.E.I. are private sector employees working for Island EMS, a company owned by Medavie Health Services.

We understand that the new initiatives involving the paramedics will not replace the current services being delivered through the public system. However, the concern is that these new services /programs are being delivered by the private sector. UPSE is also aware that New Brunswick is now using Medavie Health Services for management of certain aspects of their home care system. Is the trend toward privatizing health care services in the public interest?

As services become privatized there is often a loss of transparency and accountability. How will services ultimately be affected and who answers or is responsible for the delivery of these services when they are in private hands? And what about the financial aspect … are private health care providers’ books open to public scrutiny as is the case with our public health care system?

Ontario, the government seems to be moving in the opposite direction as they have recently announced that they will be creating a new provincial agency to deliver home care in the province. By creating the agency, the government says it will provide patients with more choice in regard to their care, from selecting their personal support worker to having more say in regard to their care schedule. It will also mean that personal support workers become provincial employees.

UPSE believes that any expansion of our health care system, or any new initiatives and/or programs, should be delivered through the public health care system. At recent meetings with Health PEI we have heard the message that everyone should be working to their full scope of practice.

There are currently public employees, many of them UPSE members, providing home care services whose skills and abilities are not being fully utilized. Why not use these public health care workers for new initiatives and take advantage of their full abilities? And if more staff is required to take part in new initiatives, let’s invest the funds in public health care to make this a reality.

Karen Jackson is president, Prince Edward Island Union of Public Sector Employees

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