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Public deserves better from problem plagued Maximus privatization deal - BCGEU

Amid revelations of poor service performance, contract infractions and financial penalties, British Columbians deserve better than they're getting from a privatization deal between the B.C. government and the U.S. multinational Maximus Inc. for the management of sensitive health care records, says the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union.

"The fact the company has been fined not once but twice for failing to live up to basic quality of service contract provisions is disturbing and should sound alarm bells," says George Heyman, president of BCGEU.

Heyman says it's another example of how Victoria is consumed with privatization for ideology's sake. "The Campbell government told British Columbians that the private sector could do a better job of managing Medical Services Plan and Pharmacare records. It was this promise of improved service in the Maximus deal that outweighed the privacy risks that British Columbians' personal medical records could be accessed by the Bush government under the U.S. Patriot Act.

"But now we find that government has put privacy at risk and service levels have dramatically declined - it's unacceptable," Heyman says of the 10-year $324 million Maximus deal.

"Surely these basic violations that Maximus has been fined for should trigger cancellation provisions in the contract," Heyman says. "It may well be time to look at bringing this important service back under public administration."

On the ground in Maximus' Victoria operation, Heyman says worker morale has plummeted. He says cramped quarters where staff are working on top of each other add to extremely stressful working conditions.

Even when Victoria was running public administration of the records into the ground and starving it of much needed resources to justify privatization, Heyman points out that service levels were actually better than Maximus' performance.

Heyman is calling on health minister George Abbott to spell out the complete details of the contract violations, the specific amount that Maximus has been fined, and the service levels stipulated in the contract with the U.S. multinational. He also wants Abbott to explain why the initial fine levied against Maximus wasn't made public when it occurred in April during the provincial election.

A poll conducted by BCGEU late last years showed that 85 per cent of British Columbians were opposed to the Maximus deal.

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Contact Stephen Howard, BCGEU communications officer 604-992-0105