09/20/2017 17:35 EDT | Updated 09/22/2017 11:31 EDT

New Winnipeg health program coming; union, NDP fear move to privatization

WINNIPEG — More changes are coming to health care in Winnipeg, the latest aimed at reducing the number of people who go straight from hospital to care homes.

But the NDP and union leader say they're worried the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's new Priority Home program is another step toward privatization.

The service, which launches Nov. 1, is meant to provide transitional home care to clients who might otherwise end up in long-term care.

Gina Trinidad, the WRHA’s chief health operations officer, says the program will provide short-term intensive and restorative service to eligible clients for up 90 days.

He says it will also provide a rapid response nursing service, focusing on decreasing admission to hospitals and preventing avoidable hospital visits or emergency visits for individuals with medically complex needs.

The WRHA says that after that 90 days, many individuals should be able to stay in their homes with regular home care.

The health authority also says much of the work is being contracted out to two private companies, due to the program's roll-out timeline.

Health care aide and support worker positions will be filled by private companies We Care health services and ParaMed, while positions like nurses, occupational therapists and rehab assistants will come from the existing WRHA pool.

The use of private companies is concerning to Michelle Gawronsky, president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union, which represents thousands of Manitoba health care workers.

“This is work that’s been done by our members for the last 30 or 40 years,” Gawronsky says. “So it’s not that this is anything new; it’s not an add on. They’re taking dollars that are going to go into a private company.”

Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew expressed similar concerns about privatization, and says he’s worried the changes could affect the quality of care.

“Are there going to be lower standards? Is each person who delivers home care going to have to serve more elders, more seniors?” says Kinew.

(CTV Winnipeg)