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OPINION: Raising ethical questions

Panelists from the P.E.I. Health Coalition address concerns about the expired health accord in this Guardian file photo. From right: Mary Boyd, Craig Walsh, Lori MacKay, Mona O’Shea and Leo Broderick.

(The Guardian/File Photo)
Panelists from the P.E.I. Health Coalition address concerns about the expired health accord in this Guardian file photo. From right: Mary Boyd, Craig Walsh, Lori MacKay, Mona O’Shea and Leo Broderick. (The Guardian/File Photo) - The Guardian

Privatization of home care through paramedics not the answer for the Island

BY MARY BOYD

AND MONA O’SHEA

GUEST OPINION

We question the recent move by the P.E.I. government to pay public money to a private company, Medavie/Island EMS. This is a private company that employs paramedics. The government recently announced three new initiatives which will see Health P.E.I. partnering with Island EMS. Approximately $450,000 of the $750,000 in new federal homecare money will go outside the public system.

This is anything but innovative. We ask, why is our own provincial government not investing this $750,000 back into our publicly-funded healthcare system through existing homecare services, and we question how the federal government could approve this program?

The move to allow privately employed paramedics a larger role in homecare service delivery raises ethical questions about the quality and continuity of services. It has the potential for fragmentation of care and duplication of services, not to mention what it is actually going to cost the tax payer?

One of the new initiatives announced is “Rapid Bridging-Hospital and Emergency Department Patients.” Will the patient be charged for the ambulance transfer back to home? Who is paying for this transport? We do not agree with Minister Robert Mitchell’s view that this move will enhance the current homecare system. The minister of health could have enhanced what is already working well, rather than bringing in a third party through privatization.

Using paramedics to provide homecare services between ambulance calls does not work because it places paramedics in a conflict situation. If paramedics are engaged in a task, they are not to be informed about other calls until they are finished. For safety reasons paramedics helping in a home cannot be told about an accident out on the highway or other emergency no matter how grave, until the task at hand is finished, as each task requires their full attention.

While we are very grateful for the work paramedics perform and are trained and skilled to do within their scope, public homecare services are no place for private sector employees working for a profit based company.

What we need and what we asked for is a New Health Accord with a 5.2 percent escalator in transfers to the provinces. Instead, we are now facing cutbacks of $4-5 million in federal health transfers in year one, which will escalate to $156 million in 10n years’ time. We still require more beds in public long-term care facilities, increased resources within our publicly funded homecare programs, and a national pharmacare program, to mention a few health care necessities. Failing to provide these improvements waters down the quality of health services being delivered to Islanders and all Canadians.

is unacceptable that our own provincial government is turning to privatization to resolve funding challenges. Privatization endangers our public system of healthcare, violates the Canada Health Act, introduces inferior services and increases the overall cost of health care delivery. Roy Romanow, former Saskatchewan premier and author of the Romanow Report, reminded us that Medicare belongs to the people. It should not, therefore, be a profit maker for private companies. Privatization is not the answer.

Mary Boyd and Mona O’Shea, are members of the P.E.I. Health Coalition

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