Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Gag order latest reason to keep private sector out of public services

A recent report in the Telegraph-Journal stated the union representing paramedics and the employer NB EMS – a subsidiary of Medavie Health Services New Brunswick – reached a new deal.
Part of the deal states, “The Local agrees to refrain from speaking to the media about out of service units.”
Essentially, a private company tasked with delivering a public service asked for and obtained an agreement that prohibits certain employees from bringing issues with the service to the media. Basically, it’s a gag order.
This is problematic and underscores the need to keep the private sector from delivering public services.
Over the past few years, media outlets have been reporting on management issues at Ambulance NB. The NBU wants to make clear that the concerns it has with Ambulance NB stem from the management of the service by Medavie. The NBU believes paramedics have done and continue to do a great job.
One of the ways Medavie has responded to this pressure is to try and prevent or limit information about the service from reaching the public.
The company has tried to keep ambulance response times, 911 dispatch times, air ambulance activity, quality assurance reports, compliance records and financial statements away from journalists who had asked for the documents in a right-to-information request.
The reason it did not want government to disclose the information was because, the company argued, data pertaining to key performance indicators were intellectual property of NB EMS.
Response times, compliance records and financial statements don't sound like intellectual property, but information New Brunswickers should be able to access. This way, they can understand if the service is being run properly.
Combine this with the recent agreement preventing some from speaking publicly and you have a pattern of a company trying to limit the flow of important information to those who pay for it – NB taxpayers.
This is concerning for the NBU not only because we oppose any privatization of public services, but this same company recently took over the management of the Extra-Mural program. The NBU represents numerous professionals who work in the program.
In the case of Extra-Mural, Medavie was awarded the contract without a competitive bid process. Essentially, government handed the management of another key service of our health care system to a company that was struggling to run the ambulance service.
It appears, unfortunately for our health care system, that Medavie is focused on limiting the flow of information when it comes to the services they operate.
The NBU believes taxpayers’ money and transparency go hand-in-hand.
So fair warning the next time we sit down at the bargaining table – don’t ask for our help in limiting the public’s right to know, it’s not something to be negotiated.