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N.B. premier says roll-out of now-cancelled health-care reforms ‘not well thought out’

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick cancels plans to close 6 emergency rooms overnight' New Brunswick cancels plans to close 6 emergency rooms overnight
WATCH: The New Brunswick government is walking back plans to cut the overnight hours at six community hospitals. – Feb 17, 2020

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs says the decision to cancel a series of health care reforms only five days after they were announced was made after people began asking questions he could no longer answer.

Higgs made the admission on Monday during a press conference to address his government’s decision — announced late Sunday — that they would kill a series of reforms that would’ve included the overnight closure of the emergency rooms at six community hospitals.

Click to play video: 'Blaine Higgs says roll-out of now-cancelled health-care reforms ‘not well thought out’' Blaine Higgs says roll-out of now-cancelled health-care reforms ‘not well thought out’
Blaine Higgs says roll-out of now-cancelled health-care reforms ‘not well thought out’ – Feb 17, 2020

READ MORE: New Brunswick reverses plans to close ERs amid backlash

The changes would’ve affected departments in Sussex, Sackville, Perth-Andover, Ste-Anne-de-Kent, Caraquet and Grand Falls on March 11.

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Click to play video: 'Higgs says implementation of proposed health care reforms was ‘not well thought out’' Higgs says implementation of proposed health care reforms was ‘not well thought out’
Higgs says implementation of proposed health care reforms was ‘not well thought out’ – Feb 17, 2020

On Monday, the premier stressed that the initial implementation of the plan had not been “well thought out” and that it lacked support in rural areas of the province.

“Horizon and Vitalite health authorities have advised us — and we agreed — not to move forward with the implementation of the health-care reforms,” said Higgs.

The premier said that the CEOs of both health authorities had assured his government they were ready to roll out the plan and that the government had trusted their assessment.

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick premier explains reversal on plans to close ERs' New Brunswick premier explains reversal on plans to close ERs
New Brunswick premier explains reversal on plans to close ERs – Feb 17, 2020

He said the rash of criticism made him realize that they had missed talking to the communities that would be most affected by the proposed changes.

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In order to correct that mistake, Higgs has promised that he will personally travel the province to consult rural residents about what is necessary to fix what he describes as a health care crisis in New Brunswick.

Consultations are scheduled for April and May.

Higgs has also committed to a provincial health care summit in June that will have the “goal of developing a strategy to ensure a sustainable and reliable public health care system for the future.”

Findings from the consultations and the summit will then be released this fall.

“If I’m in this position again, which I hope to be, that I have this plan to roll out and I have assurances we can do this… I will expect people to be accountable for delivering what they say they promised to deliver,” he said.

READ MORE: ‘The politics of it are ugly,’ former N.B. Liberal minister says of health care reform

The reversal came after heavy criticism from municipal politicians, doctors, unions and other health care professionals.

A tenuous political situation for Higgs’ minority Progressive Conservative government didn’t help matters, with Robert Gauvin, the province’s deputy-premier, quitting on Friday in protest over the proposed reforms.

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Gauvin said he would now sit as an independent, leaving the Tories and Liberals tied with 20 seats each in the provincial legislature.

On Monday, Higgs said he’s yet to have a discussion with the caucus, or with Gauvin, about coming back into the fold.

Click to play video: 'New Brunswick cancels plans to close ERs' New Brunswick cancels plans to close ERs
New Brunswick cancels plans to close ERs – Feb 16, 2020

The decision to rescind the reforms by the PC government was welcomed by all three Opposition parties in the legislature.

Green Party Leader David Coon told media on Monday that Higgs “did the right thing” but that all parties must come up with a better way to address New Brunswick’s health care issues.

In a tweet, Liberal Leader Kevin Vickers said that Higgs “has lost credibility and the trust of New Brunswickers over the health care cuts fiasco.”

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“These cuts and further cuts to health care are still very much part of the Blaine Higgs agenda,” he wrote.

A series of protests against the proposed health care cuts were expected to continue on Monday despite the reversal from the province.

Marianne Bell, the mayor of Perth-Andover, said that a rally in her community would continue as scheduled at 2 p.m. AT.

“We will celebrate, articulate our priorities, & prepare for creative problem-solving as we work together to improve health care for ALL of us in #NB!” Bell wrote in a tweet.

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