SACKVILLE, N.B. – Pat Estabrooks can’t understand why the government would try and fix something that’s not broken.
The New Brunswick Extra-Mural Program has run smoothly for more than three-and-a-half decades so the Sackville resident is questioning why the provincial government has decided to hand management of extra-mural nursing and Tele-Care services over to the private sector.
“It’s not broken, it works well. There is no reason to break it all up,” said Estabrooks, a former mayor of the town.
That’s why she is helping to organize an upcoming public meeting on the government’s decision to privatize the service and she is encouraging every resident to come out and show their support for keeping the program in public hands.
“People have to come out. You have to show support.”
The Extra-Mural Program, known by many as the ‘hospital without walls,’ provides home health services to New Brunswickers of all ages in their homes. Health care services provided by extra-mural range from health education and chronic disease self-care, to more complex medical needs like post-surgery, stroke recovery, medication management, dementia/Alzheimer’s disease support, and end-of-life care.
Estabrooks says this invaluable program helps patients stay in their homes while being cared for, which is particularly helpful for seniors, and also benefits those who don’t have regular access to transportation. She worries that the quality of care might be eroded with this transition.
“We’ve got to do something. For our seniors, we need to do something.”
– Pat Estabrooks
Cecile Cassista, executive director of the Coalition for Seniors and Nursing Home Residents Rights, agrees with Estabrooks.
“Extra-Mural has worked well for 36 years. Why fix something that is working well?”
Presently, EMP services are publicly funded and provided by the Regional Health Authorities. The provincial government announced earlier this year, however, that Medavie Health Services New Brunswick, which already runs the paramedic service Ambulance New Brunswick, will take over Extra-Mural and Tele-Care services effective Jan. 1 under a 10-year contract.
Victor Boudreau, New Brunswick’s health minister at the time, said the aim is better co-ordination and collaboration among health-care providers. He said Extra-Mural and Tele-Care will continue to be free for patients and paid for by the province, and nurses and other employees will remain public sector workers under the contract with Medavie.
But Cassista said public health care should remain under the jurisdiction of the province, not a private company.
“Dismantling the health care services is not the way to go,” she said. “The way we’re breaking it up into pieces, it’s really scary.”
Cassista said there have been a number of concerns raised since Medavie took over operation of Ambulance New Brunswick a decade ago, and is worried the situation will only be compounded with extra-mural and Tele-Care being added into the mix.
She said handing over these services to the private sector was not part of the Liberal government’s platform during their election campaign so she is stumped to why they are moving forward with this plan, without stakeholder input or public consultation.
Cassista will be on hand for the upcoming meeting in Sackville, where she will offer up a public presentation on the program and what residents can do in the wake of this decision.
The meeting will be held on Saturday, Oct. 21 at 2 p.m. at the Middle Sackville Baptist Church at 14 Church Street.