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Horizon Health throws its support behind Clinic 554 to save it from closing

Click to play video 'Horizon health calls on New Brunswick government to fund out-of-hospital abortions' Horizon health calls on New Brunswick government to fund out-of-hospital abortions
WATCH: The board of one of New Brunswick’s health authorities has passed a motion calling on the government to fund out-of-hospital abortions. The move comes as New Brunswick’s only abortion clinic is preparing to shut its doors, which would leave 3,000 patients without a family practice. Silas Brown has more. – Oct 24, 2019

The board of New Brunswick’s English-language health authority has passed a motion in support of the province’s only abortion clinic after a meeting Thursday.

Clinic 554 announced it would have to close its doors earlier this month due to a provincial law that prevents out of hospital abortions from being covered by Medicare.

But now Horizon Health will ask the province to change that.

READ MORE: Fate of N.B. clinic speaks to unfinished fight for abortion access in Atlantic Canada

A motion from board chair John McGarry says that Horizon’s board will “advocate to the government of New Brunswick for payment to physicians to provide abortion services in a quality and safe environment outside of hospitals.”

Currently only abortions preformed in hospitals in Moncton and Bathurst are covered by the province.

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Members of the group Save Clinic 554 attended the meeting and asked Horizon CEO Karen McGrath if the authority would commit to further support of the clinic.

“The clinic is at risk of closing, can Horizon Health please commit to further collaboration and or support of clinic 554 and if not, how does Horizon Health plan to meet the needs of the people who will lose the services that the clinic provides?” asked Tadhg Saxa.

READ MORE: N.B. premier says government hasn’t ‘discussed any changes’ to abortion funding as only clinic plans to close

In response, McGrath said Horizon has already had meetings with the owner of the clinic and says they will continue looking for opportunities to support and collaborate with the clinic. McGrath also said Horizon is committed to supporting patients of the clinic, which provides primary health care services for about 3000 people.

The clinic specializes in LGBTQ care, with some patients travelling from Prince Edward Island to access trans care at the facility.

“There are numbers of mechanisms in place to deal with individuals who would be displaced by the service, some of which would be in the purview of Horizon, some of which are not, some of which are offered by clinicians in the area,” she said.

“We will be committed to having discussion about how people could be cared for if the clinic closes.”

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READ MORE: Trudeau promises re-elected Liberal government would stand up for abortion rights in New Brunswick

Premier Blaine Higgs has consistently blamed the Canada Health Act for the funding impasse, saying that it forbids the funding of private clinics. Clinic 554 is a family practice and is funded through Medicare for all other medically necessary services it provides and is not funded for abortions due to the New Brunswick Medical Services Payment Act that says only actions “performed in a hospital facility” are covered.

Prime minister Justin Trudeau addressed the impending closure at a Fredericton campaign stop during the federal election when he said he would “sit down with Premier Higgs, if re-elected” and said his government would “use all tools at our disposal, including tools that exist under the Canada Health Act.”

Under the Canada Health act the federal government is able to penalize provinces that fail to provide services, even withholding transfer payments.

The current policy preventing out of hospital abortions in the province also existed under former premier Brian Gallant’s liberal government.