Manitoba took a significant — and dangerous — step in privatizing the public home care program yesterday.

The provincial government and the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority unveiled the names of the two Ontario-based corporations (We Care and ParaMed) that will be given contracts to deliver home care services to patients transitioning out of hospital — similar to the service that was already offered within the public home care program until the government ceased the $1.7 million in funding required to run it this past spring. The Province will spend significantly more – $15.7 million – on the two private, three-year contracts.

MGEU President Michelle Gawronsky says that Manitobans must see this for what it is: another ploy to privatize a strong public service and fill the pockets of for-profit providers.

“Manitoba already has a comprehensive, universal public home care program that is among the best in Canada. We should be building on that system, not auctioning it off in pieces. Manitobans need to know just how serious this announcement is. It’s privatization, plain and simple.”

Brenda Hasiuk – whose father receives home care – joined Gawronsky at an MGEU press conference on September 20. She cautioned the government against adding more for-profit services, which haven’t improved care in other provinces.

“After my dad’s accident, I talked to friends in other provinces that had a hodge-podge of public and private home care options and they said there was no way my dad would be receiving the same quality or breadth of care. Not even if he was paying. In other provinces, we simply couldn’t have expected that an actual coordinated system of services would automatically be there for us,” said Hasiuk. “I’m here today to tell you that for us, who are living it, putting a private band-aid on our public system and seeing how it sticks like they have in other provinces? It doesn’t just seem misguided. It’s downright scary.”

Gawronsky said that the Pallister government needs to look back at Manitoba’s failed attempts to privatize home care two decades ago and learn from those mistakes, not repeat them.

“It’s twenty years later but it looks like they’re following the same privatization playbook. In fact, We Care was one of the companies involved in the Filmon government’s failed privatization scheme of the 90s and they’re part of today’s announcement,” said Gawronsky. 

“Manitobans were against private home care in the 90s and they still oppose it today,” she added in reference to a related Probe Research survey. The survey showed that 73 percent of Manitobans want the current not-for-profit home care program to continue delivering the service.