Question Period: Extra Mural Program – March 30, 2016
Mr. Coon: The nurses, social workers, dietitians, and their managers in our Extra-Mural Hospital are anxious about what their futures hold. No doubt, the patients and clients are also filled with anxiety. The minister speaks about the discussions that he has under way with Medavie and the possibility of privatizing the management of our Extra-Mural Hospital. Tomorrow, in fact, is going to be the last day of work for nine community nurses who are
stationed in the emergency departments of our major hospitals around this province. These nurses have been working with seniors with chronic diseases and with the Extra-Mural Hospital to keep those seniors out of the hospital, to keep them in their homes, and to ensure that they can stay in their homes, and the diversion rate is better than 60%. My question for the Minister of Health is this: Will he reassure the employees of the Extra- Mural Hospital that they will not lose their jobs or see a change in their working conditions as a result of the discussions that he is having with Medavie?
Mr. Speaker: Time.
Hon. Mr. Boudreau: Once again, I feel as though I need to correct things that are being said on the floor of this House, and I find it very unfortunate. The member opposite knows very well—we went through this during estimates, I believe—that the nine nursing positions that he is referring to have absolutely nothing to do with the discussions that we are having with Medavie EMS right now. Those nine nursing positions have to do with a pilot project that was started many years ago and that was deemed to be ineffective. It was not meeting its targets. It has since been replaced by the Home First Strategy. Through the SPR exercise, we identified this as a potential area where we could do away with the pilot project, take those monies, and invest even more in the Home First initiatives, which we have done.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Boudreau: I went through this with the member opposite during estimates, and I find it unfortunate that he is trying to tie this to the discussions that we are having with Medavie.
Mr. Coon: Medavie personnel will soon—this week—be shadowing a number of extramural professionals to monitor and assess how their services are currently being provided in our Extra-Mural Hospital. There is a concern that this assessment may result in the desire to discontinue certain services that are currently covered through our Extra-Mural Hospital for patients around this province. Can the Minister of Health confirm that the quantity and quality of services currently provided by our Extra-Mural Hospital to New Brunswickers will continue to be provided if the management of the Extra-Mural Hospital is privatized to Medavie?
Hon. Mr. Boudreau: Once again, I am going to repeat the same answer that I gave to the opposition earlier. No agreement has been concluded. We are in discussions with Medavie EMS, and we are in consultations with our health care professionals. We have been meeting with the unions. We have been meeting with the professional associations. We have been meeting with the RHAs to explore this opportunity. The Extra-Mural Program is a fantastic program. It is going to continue, and it is going to continue to provide the programs and services that it provides today. It is the same thing with Ambulance New Brunswick. It is the same thing with Tele-Care 811. We are simply looking at breaking down silos and at having better coordination among those three programs. Medavie is bringing to the table the opportunity to target the 5% chronic users of the overall system to help them better manage their health care. That is what we are exploring.
Mr. Coon: Currently, with Medavie waiting in the wings, because our Extra-Mural Hospital is within our health system and is managed by public employees working for the people of this province, the costs of the supplies used by the extramural staff for patients in their homes, whether they are children or seniors, are covered in the same way as they would be if those patients were in the hospital. If the management of our Extra-Mural Hospital is privatized, will the patients continue to see the costs of their supplies, such as bandages, occupational therapy devices, and other medical supplies, continue to be covered under the Extra-Mural Hospital?
Hon. Mr. Boudreau: As we speak, it is the status quo because nothing has changed. We are simply in discussions. We are in discussions to look at how we could possibly, potentially, move forward with Medavie EMS. There are still many discussions that need to occur before we arrive at any final decision. We are consulting with our health care professionals. Again, I think that it is important to point out, because the member opposite is almost suggesting
otherwise, that all the frontline employees are still going to be employees of government. They are going to be in the same union that they are in today. They are going to be in the same pension plan that they are in today. They are going to receive the same pay and benefits that they receive today, if this project were to proceed. This is going to be a public company—a Part III public company—similar to the way that Ambulance New Brunswick is set up now. However, it would include all three programs, and the management of those programs could potentially be
contracted to Medavie EMS, if we reach a deal.