Opposition concerned about possible privatization of N.B. health care

Click to play video: 'Potential changes to NB health system takes spotlight in legislature'
Potential changes to NB health system takes spotlight in legislature
WATCH ABOVE: Tax increases to HST and corporations are at the forefront of many New Brunswickers the day after budget 2016 was announced. As Global’s Jeremy Keefe reports, opposition focused on voicing their concerns over the possibility of seeing portions of the health care system become privatized – Feb 3, 2016

Tax hikes in the latest New Brunswick budget unveiled by the Liberals got plenty of attention on Tuesday, but on Wednesday it was health-care changes that dominated the legislative proceedings.

Fredericton South MLA David Coon expressed his concerns about privatizing vital parts of the provincial health-care system to Health Minister Victor Boudreau.

READ MORE: New Brunswick budget: tax hikes, civil service cuts, no new highway tolls

“My question is for the Minister of Health, Mr. Speaker. Can he confirm that he intends to transfer responsibility and the running of the jewel in the crown of our health system the Extra-Mural Program to Medavie Blue Cross?” he said.

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Boudreau asserted that only a memorandum of understanding had been signed between the government and Medavie.

Talks about what changes could be made to the existing system could begin at any time, but Boudreau denied that the government would be privatizing health care in the event Medavie takes on a larger role than it currently holds.

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He said the government is “exploring the opportunity” of bringing the Extra-Mural Program and other health services under the umbrella of one public-sector company.

Despite Boudreau’s claims that no deal has been finalized, members of the opposition remained pessimistic about what could be in store for health care in New Brunswick.

“When you transfer those functions to the private sector, they don’t have that moral responsibility to protect the citizens because we’re not citizens of those companies, we simply then become clients,” Coon said.

Boudreau said it will ultimately come down to simplifying processes, which will lead to lower costs.

“Every program has limits,” he said. “We’re looking at putting parameters in place to close some loopholes and provide some savings.”

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