HRM: Spryfield-Sambro Loop Community Health Project – privatization by stealth

HALIFAX  December 1, 2010 – CANADIANS are dead set against the privatization of the health care system but are faced with governments that serve private not public interests. As a result, they use the social wealth to pay the rich while claiming there is a scarcity of funds for health care and other social programs. After creating a crisis in health care by depriving it of the required funds, a “solution” is then presented in the form of public-private-partnerships or P3s, promoted as a creative way to solve the “health care crisis.” Canadians have seen that they are simply another way to put public money at the disposal of private interests. One such example in Nova Scotia is particularly insidious because it is not even referred to as a P3.

Spryfield-Sambro Loop Community Health Team

The Spryfield-Sambro Loop Community Health Team is a pilot project funded through a private-public initiative including Capital Health Queen Elizabeth II Foundation (an organization which facilitates private sector access to health care) and three U.S.-based pharmaceutical monopolies: AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer. AstraZeneca is also involved in several telemedicine projects in the Maritime provinces.

Instead of openly informing Nova Scotians of their plans, the P3 Spryfield-Sambro Loop Community Health Team is misrepresenting the actual arrangements for privatization that are being put into motion.

It released a four-page glossy colour pamphlet outlining the purported delivery of community health services to this region that is part of Greater Halifax. Entitled “Spryfield-Sambro Loop Community Health Team Community Health Conversations,” the cover states “Basic programs and services of the Community Health Team will be free.” This conceals the fact that this team will provide no tangible primary health care services to the people in the Spryfield-Sambro Loop. Rather what is termed “education” and pharma-solutions are on the menu of free services.

The booklet claims there was a broad community consultation process and involvement to identify the problems in the community and how best to address them. Yet when people living in Spryfield were asked by this TML correspondent, few knew about the “team” or about the consultation process.

In fact one worker at the Captain William Spry Community Centre, noted that, “Yes there was a public meeting about one and a half years ago here at the Centre. We all spoke about the problems faced here such as mental illness, poor nutrition and youth problems. We were all given a Sobey’s card at the end of it.”

Other people queried were adults who use the Spry Centre regularly and/or who live in Spryfield and none of the 55 people asked had even heard about the initiative with the exception of one worker.

There are several aspects of this project that smack of forcing privatization of health care without consultation; of using public funds that should go to primary health care and putting it toward more administration, telemedicine and pharma-solutions; toward an informal and concealed P3.

The location of the Capital Health Community Health Team will be in the Spryfield Mall, next door to a new Latwon’s pharmacy owned by Sobey’s corporation.

This is a P3 by any other name …

The slogan on the cover of the booklet is “Building Communities Together: Capital Health Primary Health Care in Collaboration with IWK Health Centre and community partners.” The so-called community partners are none other than Sobey’s, AstraZeneca, GlaxoWelcome and Pfizer. This is a P3 by any other name, a fact that is not openly disclosed to the “community” who will be the guinea pigs in this pilot project.

The “Services”

The project claims to be promoting health through “wellness programs” focusing on “nutrition education”; “emotional wellness education and supports”; “education sessions” (parenting); “sexual health” (youth); “physical activity”; “assessments” (personal and family wellness profile); “personal wellness education” (risk factor management); “peer support to manage your own health.”

What all this amounts to is leaving people to fend for themselves in regard to the real cause of health problems such as lack of work, food and housing. It further entrenches privatization of health care in Nova Scotia. What is the good of “nutrition education” to someone on a limited budget or who must rely on processed foods provided by food banks? Does “peer support to manage your own health” mean that people in Spryfield can truly be left to manage their chronic health problems alone and with no additional primary health care supports?

If Capital Health was serious about improving nutrition they would offer a free nutritious lunch program in each and every school in Nova Scotia, for example. Instead of any services, people in Spryfield are offered a condescending mixture of moralized terminology and the option of telemedicine and pharma-solutions.

The team also purports to keep personal and family “wellness profiles” of members of the “community.” Who collects and is privy to this information? These wellness profiles would provide the private aspect of the P3 with a great opportunity to use people’s chronic health problems and other personal information as a pool of data for marketing and other research. In this way, the three pharmaceutical companies could relieve themselves of the financial burden of telemarketing and market surveys, at public expense.

All of this underscores the lack of any consultation and decision-making power of the people. The administrators employed in the Community Health Team are not members of the Spryfield community and have no idea of what the people are really facing. The information pamphlets are offensive in their paternalistic tone and in the way that they shove pre-ordained arrangements down the throats of the people of Spryfield. The pamphlets make clear that the Community Health Team will not be addressing the real issues of the poor sectors of Spryfield, such as lack of access to jobs, decent housing and nutritious food. This project serves to further the privatization of health care, and even worse, further entrenches people in the overuse of pharmaceuticals.

Nova Scotians refuse to be the guinea pigs of the pharmaceutical monopolies and other private interests. They demand public health care that is a provided as a right by virtue of being human.

Source: TML Daily, December 1, 2010 – No. 206

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