N.B. health care workers frustrated: federal Liberals to maintain Harper cuts to health transfers

Fredericton – The New Brunswick Council of Hospital Unions (NBCHU) and CUPE New Brunswick are worried that the federal government is underfunding health care to accelerate privatization in provinces.

Federal Health Minister Jane Philpott recently revealed that she would be keeping Harper’s target for health transfers to provinces. In April 2017, Harper’s cuts to health care will kick in. Instead of increasing at 6% a year, the health transfers will be tied to economic growth, with a 3% floor.NS home support workers push back sector-wide privatization

“Already, the health care system is being stretched to the limit. Over the years, hospitals have been closed, communities in rural areas lost health services, and the level of service has been reduced,” said Norma Robinson, President of the NBCHU.

“New Brunswick relies heavily on federal funding to offer health care services throughout the province. Going from 6% to 3% means the province will have less money at a time where demand is increasing, drug prices keep rising, and health costs go up faster than inflation,” said Robinson.

“Our province stands to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in the coming years – over
700 million dollars in 10 years. This is going to hurt in our regions, and will reduce our capacity to deliver good services,” said Daniel Légère, CUPE NB President.

“With the 6% escalator gone, we might see our provincial Health Minister propose hospital closures and bed cuts, aim for further reduction of services and staff, especially in smaller communities,” warns Légère.

If Harper’s cuts are maintained, the federal government’s share of health care spending will shrink to a small fraction of its original 50% contribution – down to 18.6% by 2024.

“There have been cut over cut since the 1990s. With our aging population, we can’t afford to deliver even less health services. Premier Gallant and Minister Boudreau should stand up and make this the number one priority for this government,” concluded Légère.

School bus overcrowding result of unnecessary cuts

Saint-John – Unreasonable cuts to education are resulting in overcrowded buses, says CUPE Local 380, the union representing school bus drivers in the Saint-John area.school_bus

“Since the Anglophone School District South has eliminated one bus run, buses have been overcrowded,” said Christopher Watson, President of CUPE Local 380.

It was recently reported that on one bus run, there were close to 100 students on board, many of them forced to stand or sit in the aisles.

“The parents are now saying what our local had flagged to the District this summer. Cutting corners in education has effectively resulted in unsafe environments for students and drivers,” said Watson.

“Every time our government closes a school, this means more bussing and bus routes rezoning. However, this District has cut on buses too, to the point of putting the safety of children and workers in jeopardy,” said Brien Watson, President of CUPE 1253, who represents school bus drivers throughout the province.

CUPE 1253 represents more than 2700 bus drivers, custodians and maintenance workers in 29 locals working for school districts across New Brunswick. Find us online at www.1253.ca or follow us on Facebook.com/CUPE-SCFP-LOCAL-1253

“Who Cares?” – CUPE launches campaign for public integration of Community Care Services in NB

Fredericton – This Monday, CUPE officially launches a campaign named “Who Cares?” to get government and the public to talk about community care services (CCS). CUPE is advocating that services such as group homes, special care homes, transition houses and home care should be integrated under public administration.

Julie Doucet, CUPE campaign spokesperson, answers questions from media during launch

Julie Doucet, CUPE campaign spokesperson, answering questions from media after launch press conference in September 2016.

“Users and workers in the sector need an organized and structured system. It makes no sense that government maintains a hands-off approach in such essential care services,” said Julie Doucet, one of CUPE’s spokesperson for the campaign.

The level of fragmentation in the community care sector remains at an all-time high. On the provincial level, K-12 Education has 7 administrative units, Healthcare has 2. Currently, there are more than 650 administrative units in the CCS sector alone. The absence of a centralized system, combined with worrying demographic trends, spells major trouble for policy makers and the general public.

“If we are to spend money on community care, let’s make sure it is spent wisely with a transparent administration. At the moment, the 10 000 workers in this sector, mainly women, are earning less than $13 an hour, but there are no real standards of work because of the fragmented system,” said Doucet.

“While many of the CCS providers are already funded through Social Development, there is no public management or oversight of the sector. Government is throwing money at these providers in a complete lack of structure,” said Luc LeBlanc, CUPE Research Representative. “This means waste through inefficiency and no real power for government to ensure successful implementation of any care strategy, such as those to reduce pressure on our hospitals through better home care,” added LeBlanc.

Auditor General Kim MacPherson had recommended in her June Report that government still needed to develop a comprehensive long-term plan for our aging population. She had said that it should include a multi-faceted solution involving nursing homes, other long-term care facilities, in-home care, family support to serve New Brunswick seniors.

You can learn more about the campaign at www.facebook.com/WhoCaresQuiCompte

Auditor General is Right: Urgent Need for a Community Care Services Authority, Not More P3 Nursing Homes

Fredericton – While hospitals operate under health authorities and schools work under districts, nursing homes, home-care and other community care services (CCS) remain rudderless.

Bureau du vérificateur général de la vérificatrice générale / Office of the General Auditor

Kim MacPherson, NB Auditor General. 

The complete absence of a centralized structure for these key services results in skyrocketing costs for both the users and the government, a patchwork of services and no real quality standards of care.

“The state of senior care in our province reminds me of the decentralized mess that was education and health care before the Equal Opportunity Program of Louis-J. Robichaud,” said Daniel Légère, CUPE NB President. “This government can and needs to organize a provincial public system, a CCS Authority, which would offer quality services, pay employees fairly and prevent gouging seniors’ savings,” he added.

The 2016 Auditor General’s Report, released last June, stated that nursing homes are operating at 98% capacity and demand is growing at an alarming rate. Auditor General Kim MacPherson recommended that the Department of Social Development create “a comprehensive long-term plan as a starting point in addressing this critical issue”.[1]

“The lack of a multifaceted strategy for sustainable care and services is costing New Brunswickers an arm and a leg. Private sector health providers are looking to cash in on the decentralized status quo”, said Légère.

NB has more than 250 CCS providers, most of them being small mom & pop shops. The overwhelming majority of these employers struggle to offer living wages to their mostly female workers.

“I fear the planned P3 nursing home deal in Miramichi reveals more than a bad trend in Atlantic Canada,” said Légère. “Private sector is currently taking advantage of lack of regulation and structure to establish facilities that are the most profitable and do not offer what citizens truly need,” he added.

“MacPherson has been clear:  more P3s beds are not the solution to the looming senior care crisis. She explicitly stated that there is no proof that public-private model for delivering nursing home services is more economical. A multi-faceted solution means ending government laissez-faire,” said Légère.

Numerous Auditor General reports throughout Canada have consistently criticized the P3 models. These reports have not only mentioned frequent cost overruns, but stated that they often compromise efficiency, transparency and quality in the name of profitability.[2]

“With our aging population, costs and demand for CCS will inevitably increase. CUPE knows that P3 are not part of a sustainable solution,” said Légère. “I see hospitals, nursing homes and home care as the Health Care Triangle: all three corners have to be public and work in tandem,” concluded Légère.

 

[1] 2016 Report of the Auditor General of New Brunswick – Volume I (June 2016) Chapter 2 – Department of Social Development – Nursing Homes. See http://www.agnb-vgnb.ca/content/agnb-vgnb/en/media/releases/renderer.2016.06.0539.html

[2] Privatization Nation: The Canada-wide Failure of Privatization, Outsourcing and Public-Private Partnerships – Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, November 2015. See online https://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/reports/privatization-nation