New Brunswick Health Coalition Fights Privatization

Public-private-partnerships cost more than publicly-funded health care services and infrastructure


Debbie Lacelle, co-chair New Brunswick Health Coalition, President NBUPPEFredericton (18 Feb. 2008) - Health care privatization and funding were the two main topics at the 2008 annual general meeting of the New Brunswick Health Coalition (NBHC).

"We are very much opposed to the health minister’s idea of increasing the involvement of the private sector in the delivery of health services as well as the building of infrastructure," says Debbie Lacelle, newly elected co-chair of the coalition. The other co-chair is Jean-Luc Bélanger.

Lacelle, president of the New Brunswick Union of Public and Private Employees (NBUPPE/NUPGE), says the coalition has always supported the five principles of the Health Care Act - portability, public administration, universality, accessibility and comprehensiveness.

"These principles are the foundation of our present system and they have well served Canadians for the last fifty years and we don’t understand why they could not keep serving us," Lacelle says.

"The private system is going against all these principles. There would be no portability except with your wallet; it is not administered publicly. Therefore, no accountability, not accessible to everyone and certainly not comprehensive. Citizens would become just a number and would receive services depending on their revenues," she argues.

''Proposals to open private clinics or build health facilities are not about giving a better service or a cheaper one to Canadians. It is just one way for the private investors and for-profit insurance companies to try to make profit when we are on our backs and in pain."

P3s are no bargain

As for the building infrastructure through public-private-partnerships (P3s), NBUPPE says it been shown again and again that P3s cost taxpayers more than when projects are financed by public funds.

Health Minister Mike Murphy has talked recently of a "new" model for hospital financing. Rather than the global annual funding model used for provincial hospitals now, Murphy has suggested changing the system to a patient-focus or activity-base fee model. The latter has been used in the United Kingdom.

However, British doctors wrote the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) last year, warning Canadian doctors that the so-called "English experience" reform had done enormous damage by forcing hospitals to out-bid one another to win contracts.

As a result there is no reason for cooperation between them and small and rural hospitals lose out when it is no longer 'profitable' for them to provide specialized services.

"We just don’t understand why our health minister cannot take into account the negative experiences other countries have had with this funding model," says Bélanger.

''If we really want to reform our funding system, we should look at ways to reduce the costs by encouraging more collaboration and cooperation not competition. Another way is to implement a national pharmacare program," he says.

"We all know that the main driver of increasing health care costs is the high costs of drugs. A national pharmacare program would go a long way to reduce the money invested in our system." NUPGE