Question Period: Extra Mural Program Privatization – 3 February 2016
The following is the preliminary Hansard transcript of the Question Period on February 3, 2016 recorded in the language it was originally spoken.
Mr. Coon: I want to talk about the budget. In the budget speech, the Minister of Finance announced that negotiations are under way with Medavie Blue Cross to develop, as he said, “an enhanced community-based, primary health care service”. My question is for the Minister of Health. Can he confirm that he intends to transfer the responsibility for and the running of the jewel in the crown of our public health system, the Extra-Mural Program, to Medavie Blue Cross?
Hon. Mr. Boudreau: What was announced yesterday is simply that a memorandum of understanding has been signed with Medavie Blue Cross. We are exploring some opportunities with it, just as we are exploring some opportunities with the New Brunswick Medical Society. A memorandum of understanding was signed with it as well. Both projects actually started independent of one another. However, both projects are lining up quite well by being able to really address some of the challenges that we are facing in terms of our primary care system and making that shift from acute care to primary care and building the capacity at the community level for primary care, home care, and palliative care. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done on both projects. There are still many discussions to occur. We are now going to be engaging the two RHAs as well. We are bringing them into the discussion. Things are progressing very positively.
Mr. Speaker: Time, minister.
Mr. Coon: My question was about whether or not the minister intends to turn over the running of the Extra-Mural Program to Medavie Blue Cross and about the content of that memorandum of agreement. I have learned that, just yesterday, seven extramural nurses who were attached to the emergency department and the outpatient department of the Saint John Regional Hospital were given their notices of termination as of March 31. Is that memorandum of agreement intended to turn over the running of the Extra-Mural Program to Medavie Blue Cross?
Hon. Mr. Boudreau: Unfortunately, the member opposite is mixing together different files that have no relationship with each other. On the Medavie Blue Cross project, we are exploring an opportunity. No decisions are final, but we are exploring the opportunity of bringing the Extra-Mural Program, the Ambulance New Brunswick program, and the Tele-Care 811 program together under one public sector company that would be operated by Medavie. It would be very similar to what Ambulance New Brunswick is today but with the two other components brought in. We believe that project, combined with the project that we are working on with the New Brunswick Medical Society, could truly transform how New Brunswickers receive primary care and could really focus the system on the people who use it the most.
Mr. Coon: Transferring public functions into the private sector undermines the government’s ability to serve the public good. We will see the quality of care deteriorate in the name of the interests of Medavie Blue Cross if the Extra-Mural Program ends up being its responsibility. The Department of Health’s first duty is to attend to the well-being of New Brunswickers. It is a moral obligation to the people of this province that Medavie Blue Cross does not hold. What evidence does the minister have that privatizing the extramural part of our public health care system will provide better service to New Brunswickers who need regular health care in their
Hon. Mr. Boudreau: Again, I want to be clear for the member opposite that the project with Medavie and the project with the Medical Society are not done deals. There are still many discussions that need to occur. We need to reach out to the RHAs now. We need to get the other health professionals involved in the discussion. These are projects that, combined, could really transform the way primary care is delivered in the province. We would be seen as national leaders. It is part of making that shift from focusing on acute care facilities to providing primary care and building up the capacity in the community. Just to be clear, this would be a public sector company. These employees will still be employees of the government and members of the same union. They will still receive the same benefits that they receive today. It would be managed by Medavie, just as the ambulance program is today.