New Brunswick’s minority PC Government is proposing major health care reforms to tackle chronic staffing issues in rural areas.
On Tuesday, the province announced hospitals in six New Brunswick communities will see their emergency rooms closed from 10 Pm to 8 AM daily.
Chris Parsons with Nova Scotia’s Health Coalition called it the dismantling of public health care and says making this announcement without consultation with communities is problematic.
“It leads to mistrust but also it leads to worse outcomes,” he said.
Nova Scotia already faces similar staffing issues and over the past years the number of ER closures has increased, nearly doubling from 444 closures in 2014 to 836 in 2017. In the first three months of 2018, the most recent publicly available data, there were 253 temporary closures, putting it on track to reach more than 1,000 temporary closures in the year.
In 2010 a report looking at improving emergency care in the province recommended taking a similar approach to what New Brunswick is doing now.
The report said there was a need for better allocation of resources.
“We simply cannot afford to have doctors on call or paid waiting for patients who seldom arrive,” it read.
While Parsons acknowledges it may be worth revisiting suggestions from that report he said it’s imperative that government consult with communities before making any drastic changes.
“A lot of people in rural communities recognize that they can’t have everything that they used to have as their communities get smaller,” said Parsons.
“What they want is a say in what they have, in some communities that may look like long-term care, in some communities that may look like pediatric care and prenatal care.”
Premier Stephen McNeil acknowledged that health care reform is complicated, and a touchy subject.
“You saw what happened in Cape Breton when we decided to replace those facilities with new ones,” he said. “A lot of communities are attached to their bricks and mortar. There’s no question it causes a lot of anxiety when you do anything around health care.”
But the Premier would not say that he’s ruling revamping the health care system in the same way as New Brunswick.
“We know in our case we continue to look at where the investments are required to continue to make sure that we have the appropriate care in the right place,” he said.