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Horizon Health Network CEO stands firm amid protests outside Sussex Health Centre

Click to play video 'Protestors in Sussex gathered outside of hospital against health care changes' Protestors in Sussex gathered outside of hospital against health care changes
WATCH: As the CEO of Horizon Health made a stop in Sussex, protestors gathered outside the hospital for a second day and made their voices heard to the local PC MLA. Travis Fortnum reports.

For the second day in a row, protesters spent the day outside Sussex Health Centre.

They stand opposed to the province’s announced changes to health care, which will eventually see the hospital in Sussex switch inpatient beds to chronic care beds, as well as the overnight closure of the emergency department.

“I have kids, so obviously I make a lot of trips to the ER in the middle of the night,” one protester says.

“We just can’t be expected to drive 45 minutes to do that. That’s crazy.”

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

The closed emergency rooms that will be open between midnight and 8:00 a.m. are in Saint John and Moncton, 75 and 76 km away, respectively.

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Horizon Health Network CEO Karen McGrath was at the Sussex Health Centre Wednesday but says she didn’t see the protesters.

“I would be very surprised if communities were saying, ‘hooray, this is fantastic news,’” McGrath acknowledges.

“People are going to be very concerned about this, they’ll want to see what the change is actually going to mean for them.

“There’s a lot of fear; people fear the unknown. That’s the most natural thing in the world.”

McGrath says that while consultations were not done with local leaders, a lot went into the decisions behind the announced changes.

“That is not a consultative process,” she says. “That is me looking at data, me having conversations with leaders in our system and discussing what options were available and coming up with a plan.”

READ MORE: ‘Get our heads out of the sand’: Chair of Horizon Health slams N.B.’s ‘critical nursing shortage’

Meanwhile, the crowd outside the hospital expressed concerns over the possibility of the time it takes to get to Moncton or Saint John meaning the difference between life and death, chanting, “ER 24/7”.

“I would never develop a plan within a facility in Horizon where I believe people were going to die,” McGrath said.

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Local MLA Bruce Northrup was also on hand.

He took a moment to address the protesting crowd, telling them that he will announce on Thursday whether he supports the health care changes or not.