Public Good or Private Profit?

Public Good or Private Profit?

Who will benefit from new home care funding?

This article was included in our 2017 year end newsletter sent to Friends of Medicare members. We intend to publish our newsletter every year so make sure you sign up today so you can get your copy for 2018!

Friends of Medicare were pleased to see Alberta's Budget 2017 include a $201 million increase to community and home care funding, an 11% increase from the previous year.

Investment in home care will be a key priority in providing more dignified care, allowing seniors and other patients to stay in their homes. Without adequate homecare, many patients will end up in significantly more expensive long-term care or even hospital beds.

The unfortunate reality in home care created by the previous government is one of privatization and marketization. This has lead to private sector failures like in 2013 when for-profit Revera backed away from providing one half of their home care contracted services in the Edmonton Region, and then again in 2015 when not-for-profit Victorian Order of Nurses closed in Alberta as they were unable to compete in a market environment.

This experiment in privatization has led to inadequate care hours, bottom level wages, high staff turnover, and a lack of proper training. The workforce is precarious, undervalued, and underpaid for the important work they do caring for Alberta patients.

Stability, proper oversight, improved regulations, and better funding under our public system are needed for home care.
We are also concerned by a lack of transparency in private sector funding. Like long-term care and supportive living facilities, the government does not provide public disclosure of the funding details and agreements with either for-profit or not-for-profit private providers.

We are concerned that public funds may be used for profit margins, executive bonuses, and other areas that do not directly improve patient care. Without transparency for private sector funding, we can only guess.

At the same time the government should implement strings attached funding that ensures that public money intended for front line care is only used to that end.

We have yet to see details from the Ministry of Health as to where these funds will be spent, and if any will go towards increased subsidies for the private sector. 

When it was apparent that the 2013 PC government private sector restructuring of home care was not in the interests of the patients served, then NDP health critic David Eggen said "This whole thing has been chaos. The government needs to reverse it now and start delivering home care publicly."

We couldn't agree more with his position. We need to see new funding directed to public delivery, transparency and accountability for the private services provided, and a commitment to phase out private delivery as their contracts with AHS expire.