CUPE PEI fights P3 nursing homes

CHARLOTTETOWN: PEI health care workers are leading the fight against privatized nursing homes.

CUPE PEI’s health council is the organizing force behind a campaign that’s united provincial health care unions to stop publicly owned and operated nursing homes from being privatized through public private partnerships.

Earlier this year, CUPE got wind of plans to build seven new nursing homes – called manors in PEI – as P3s. Members and staff immediately began mobilizing, striking a coalition with other health care unions and working closely with the provincial health coalition and the Council of Canadians.

The “Keep our manors public” campaign includes radio ads, meetings with key government officials and the creative use of a billboard outside CUPE’s Charlottetown office. The campaign web site also encourages voters to send their MLA a message.

CUPE met with PEI Premier Robert Ghiz in February, presenting a brief from CUPE’s four health care locals. P3s are “not what health care in this country was ever intended to be,” said CUPE representative Bill McKinnon.

After the meeting, Ghiz told the media he’s still open to “explore all options” for building new long term care facilities – including P3s.

In April, the government announced new funding for manors. Speaking to the media, health minister Doug Currie didn’t rule out P3s for the new facilities.

The premier also heard directly from CUPE National President Paul Moist, who met with Ghiz while in town for the PEI division convention. Moist warned Ghiz that “we absolutely draw a line in the sand on privatization.”

Many of PEI’s manors are in desperate need of repair or replacement. Last fall, the province hired a consultant to review the state of the province’s manors.

Islanders have beaten back P3s before, stopping what would have been Canada’s first P3 hospital in 1999. The previous Conservative government considered building a new hospital in Summerside as a P3, but ultimately decided to keep it public. CUPE PEI campaigned hard to win this important victory.

The “Keep our manors public” campaign will move into high gear this fall, increasing the pressure on Ghiz. CUPE PEI expects a final decision on P3s when the province tables its capital budget this fall.