Victoria moves on P3 policy for seniors' care

HEU's anti-P3 campaign gains support with seniors, NDP delegates

The B.C. cabinet has given the nod to a Health Ministry proposal to explore alternatives to the private operation of multi-level care facilities for seniors. The move caps a week of intense activity in HEU's campaign against public-private partnerships in seniors' care. At their meeting June 23, cabinet gave approval-in-principle to two pilot projects in continuing care that would feature not-for-profit operation integrated with affordable seniors' housing. It's a small but significant departure from the two-year old P3 policy which restricts the development and operation of new multi-level care facilties to private corporations. The decision gives substance to Health Minister Penny Priddy's announcement a few days earlier that Victoria's guidelines for providing new multi-level care facilities would be broadened to include consideration of non-profit alternatives. The cabinet action came one day after a public meeting organized by HEU in Nanaimo that attracted more than fifty seniors, health care workers, affordable housing activists and students to oppose plans for a P3 seniorsí care facility in that community. "We need to promote non-profit alternatives," HEU president Fred Muzin told the meeting, "rather than P3s that limit our ability to care for seniors in new and creative ways while maintaining public accountability." Local medicare advocates are optimistic that Victoria's support for non-profit operation of two multi-level care pilots means that Nanaimo won't be the first community subjected to a P3 facility. Opposition to the P3 policy also emerged at the governing NDP's annual convention held June 18-20 where delegates adopted a resolution calling for the rejection of the costly and dangerous option of public-private partnerships and the consequent loss of public control over public services. And on June 17, delegates to the Old Age Pensioners' Organization in Mission unanimously adopted policy opposing P3s in the development of seniors' care facilities. "There's a growing understanding — both inside and outside of government — that the P3 policy will undermine the non-profit character of continuing care for seniors," says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. "Our union must build on the successes of the last week and press government for a complete review of their approach to providing badly needed multi-level care facilities."