Home support services at risk!

**Please note: this is an article that appeared in the Summer issue of The Stand.**

Since December 2014, the Liberal government has been exploring opportunities to further contract out (and privatize) all home support services in Nova Scotia.

Today, there are more than 20 companies providing home support services in the province. The NSGEU represents approximately 1,900 home support workers and schedulers working for 11 of these companies, which are private non-profits.

Our concern is that if a new company is selected to deliver all Nova Scotia’s home support services and the current companies lose their contracts, workers do not have the right to follow their jobs. And even if the new company does decide to hire them, they can pay these workers less and not offer them any of the benefits or job security they have today.

The NSGEU has been actively campaigning against the government’s plans to further privatize our home support services.

In early June, the NSGEU received notice from the Department of Health and Wellness that the RFP is on hold – for now – and they plan to continue to try and work with all current home care providers, though they will not rule out the possibility of tendering out and further privatizing the service at a later date.

Though it may seem that government is backing down from further contracting out to for-profit companies, the threat still exists.

Government is saying they need all home care agencies to clear their wait lists, reduce costs and ensure their own overhead costs to deliver the care more consistent, and offer 24-hour care.

We are now working with the employers who are struggling the most with these objectives to see if we can help solve these problems while ensuring our members’ jobs are protected. We plan to do this by asking frontline workers for ideas on how to solve problems with the service as it is today, then bringing these suggestions forward to the employers and government to test out in a pilot project.

Even if you are not a home support worker, chances are, you or someone you love will someday be in need of this important service. We need you to help keep the pressure on! Over the summer months, you may run into your local MLA at community events: use that opportunity to remind them of your concerns over further privatizing this service.

Speak to your friends, neighbours and family members about what has been happening over the past few months, and ask them to speak to their local politicians, as well. It is absolutely crucial that we keep this issue alive and in the public eye, to ensure that home support as a high quality public service in Nova Scotia is protected.

Here is a copy of the statement they sent to the relevant agencies:

“Last December the Department of Health and Wellness, with the involvement of external procurement consultants and Nova Scotia Health Authority, began exploring options that would ensure quality and create more consistent, efficient, flexible and sustainable home care services for Nova Scotians. One of the options explored was a tendering process for home care services. On May 13th, Deputy Minister Dr. Peter Vaughan addressed governments’ plans to tender home care services at the Public Accounts Committee of the legislature. You can watch his appearance at: http://nslegislature.ca/index.php/ committees/committee_hansard/C7/.

During the discovery work, it became clear that further opportunities to work with our current home care providers could be explored. As a result, the Department, together with Nova Scotia Health Authority, will move forward with the current providers with the goal of implementing performance based contracts to achieve a number of health system objectives and improvements. Depending on the outcome of this initiative, home care services may still need to be tendered for some, or all, regions in the province.

The Deputy Minister was clear that the status quo is not an option. We need to improve access and the quality of care, increase efficiencies and control costs. In the coming months, the Department plans to consult with representatives from the home care sector to obtain feedback on a number of policies, processes, and performance measures that will improve and support the sustainable delivery of home care services.”

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