The province’s largest union is raising the alarm over a proposed “quasi-judicial” health care board to oversee health care spending.
On Wednesday, Progressive Conservative leader Ches Crosbie said reducing health care costs would be among his primary focuses, if he is elected premier. To do so, Crosbie proposed creating a body similar to the Public Utilities Board, where health care providers would have to be approved for new spending by an independent body.
“Instead of spending decisions within the hospital system being made by whichever group –often physicians of some stripe – might have the sharpest elbows and most power in the system in terms of lobbying the system, I would prefer to see a judicial board similar to the PUB make spending decisions on new equipment and new drugs and areas of expenditures like that where the economic case is strongest,” Crosbie said Wednesday.
Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE) president Jerry Earle says such a board would be a cover for deep cuts to the health care system.
“Mr. Crosbie is essentially asking people to vote for him so he can create an unelected body to do his dirty work in the health care system. No doubt efficiencies can be found, but many of our health care members are already burnt out, stressed and overworked,” said Earle.
“They are working short, being denied leave, mandated to stay to work, and working substantial overtime to deliver the quality of care that the people of this province require and depend on. What message does this send to them on day one of the campaign?”
The 2019-20 provincial budget proposes just over $3 billion in health care spending – 39 percent of provincial expenditures. Health care expenses dropped by almost $100 million in the proposed 2019 budget.
A report from the Canadian Institute of Health Information for 2019 notes health care spending in this province is $7,036 per capita and accounts for 40 per cent of the provincial budget. The national per-capita health care cost is $6,105 and accounts for 38 per cent of the federal budget. For a provincial reference, Alberta has the next highest per-capita health care expense, at $6,966 per person, which accounts for 42 percent of that province’s budget.
The board Crosbie proposes would not be unique to this province — similar entities exist in Alberta, British Columbia and Saskatchewan.