New Brunswick Tribune

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Premier Higgs opposes talks of health-care cuts Plan

Key sentence:

  • Premier Blaine Higgs denies that the government’s health plan will contain hospital cuts.
  • The government pledged engagement with local communities on a new strategy after the February 2020 reforms were cancelled. 

Premier Blaine Higgs is denying that the government’s health plan will contain hospital cuts, claiming that the document will serve as a guide for continued talks with local communities.

According to Higgs, the plan, which will be unveiled on November 17, will include “concrete deliverables and precise timelines that our folks should expect” in terms of health services.

But, he added, it’s just the start of a process that will include more feedback from around the province.

“In terms of service delivery, the plan makes some very firm commitments on what will happen, and it is extremely patient, or people-focused, citizen-focused. That is the goal: what provides greater service to citizens, and how do you assess it?”

“So the health plan will meet the commitments, and then we’ll work with communities and health authorities to improve delivery.”

His remarks came after Health Minister Dorothy Shephard announced that the plan would be released next Wednesday.

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Fear and dread over what the plan includes

For more than a year, the document, titled “Stabilizing Health Care: An Urgent Call to Action,” has been anxiously awaited.

Megan Mitton, Memramcook-Tantramar Green MLA, said, “There’s a lot of mistrust in my community towards this government and a lot of dread about what’s going to be in the plan.” “Anxiety is at an all-time high.”

The emergency department at Sackville Memorial Hospital in Mitton’s riding will shut every day at 4 p.m. beginning November 19.

It’s reminiscent of the Higgs government’s major healthcare reforms, which were announced in February 2020 only to be withdrawn days later. Six minor hospitals, including Sackville’s, had their emergency rooms closed at night as part of the deal.

Now, according to Mitton, there appears to be a drive to phase in some of the cuts.

“We’re starting to see that,” she remarked.

The government pledged engagement with local communities on a new strategy after the February 2020 reforms were cancelled. The COVID-19 outbreak caused the consultations to be postponed, but they ultimately took place early this year.

Roger Melanson, the leader of the Liberal Opposition, predicts that the plan would contain cuts, citing the closure of the Upper River Valley Regional Hospital’s labour and delivery unit last Friday as an example.

“Someone in the Premier’s Office, or the minister’s office, or political staffers, picked it up and said, ‘Whoa, whoa, this is in the plan, and you can’t talk about it now,'” Melanson recalled.

“We already know that the healthcare system will be slashed. There will, I suppose, be some locations that lose services.”

Melanson’s statements were regarded by Higgs as partisan guessing.

“The health plan doesn’t include any pre-determined scenarios, but you’ll learn about them next week. And believe me when I say that he doesn’t have an advance copy; therefore, everything he says is all propaganda.”

Premier Higgs rejects talk of a health-care budget cut.

Anticipation grows.

On October 29, Shephard tweeted a snapshot of the plan document, which was written in both English and French.

She indicated on Tuesday that she hoped to have it out this week. However, during the question session on Wednesday, she stated that the date was November 17.

She explained, “I’ve been pushing, pushing, pushing to get our health plan out.” “You have to recognize that staff have a job to do, and they need the time they need to do it, especially in the face of COVID and other difficulties.”

She also alluded to a few of the plan’s objectives.

“Isn’t it wonderful to think that every New Brunswicker will have access to primary health care? Isn’t it wonderful that the inhabitants of New Brunswick will be able to have surgery whenever they need them? Isn’t it going to be amazing when we have a healthcare system that functions in unison?”

Higgs stated that his office had no influence in the Waterville announcement’s reversal and that “it wasn’t Portion of the health plan that’s to be revealed.”

“There will be a lot of dialogue with communities” once the plan is released, he said, citing Shephard’s public talks earlier this year.

“The point of all of this is to keep the conversation going, not to make isolated adjustments where you wonder, ‘Where did this come from?'”

Source: CBC

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