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Sussex area mayors call for change in provincial health-care leadership

Click to play video: 'N.B. mayors call on premier to change up health-care leadership in wake of attempted ER closures'
N.B. mayors call on premier to change up health-care leadership in wake of attempted ER closures
A group of New Brunswick mayors are calling for the premier to name a new health minister and senior leaders in the province’s health networks. As Travis Fortnum reports, the mayors say it’s necessary to restore confidence in the system. But premier Blaine Higgs is unlikely to budge. – Feb 28, 2020

Sussex area mayors have sent a letter to Premier Blaine Higgs asking for him to fire the CEOs of the province’s two health networks, as well as Health Minister Ted Flemming.

Citing a lack of confidence in the trio after the controversial health-care reform moves made earlier this year, Sussex Mayor Marc Thorne, Sussex Corner Mayor Steven Stackhouse and Norton Mayor Juliana Booth have all signed the letter.

READ MORE: Vice-chair of Vitalité Health Network’s board resigns over health-care reforms

“We’re having difficulty reconciling statements made by the minister of health and the CEOs of the regional health authorities with those that the premier’s made following the suspension of the reforms,” says Thorne.

The three mayors have been meeting weekly since Sussex Health Centre was announced as one of six hospitals in New Brunswick that would lose overnight ER service.

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Sussex Mayor Marc Thorne is one of three mayors who have signed a letter asking for Premier Higgs to fire provincial health care leadership. Travis Fortnum / Global News

They’ve also met with other mayors around the province on a regular basis, who Thorne says echo their concerns with health-care leadership.

“Following a call that we had the other day,” he says, “there was a general sense that – all across the province – there’d been a loss of trust between the government and the people.”

Thorne says he personally still believes Premier Higgs to be someone he can work with.

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

“I do believe that the Premier is sincere in what he’s been saying.”

“He’s a citizen of this province as well,” adds Thorne, “and I know that healthcare is as important to him as it is to us.”

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Premier Higgs says the province will stay the course, and keep the current roster of health-care leaders in play.

New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs says he plans to focus on consultations, rather than personnel changes. The Canadian Press/Stephen MacGillivray

“Let’s learn from this,” says Higgs. “With the people who tried to make it happen and try to identify where were the roadblocks and then identify who goes forward with working with the communities.”

But in response Thorne says if they want to go that route “they can do so. But I think they do it at their own peril”

The same sentiments were echoed by Sussex Corner Mayor Steven Stackhouse.

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

“I think it’s a bad move on his part,” said Stackhouse.

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“If you’re going to have consultations it has to be meaningful, it has to be with the stakeholders and if those people have no confidence in the people they’re dealing with then the consultation is worthless,” he added.

Sussex Corner Mayor Steven Stackhouse is another of the three mayors who have signed the letter. Travis Fortnum / Global News

Thorne points to remarks made by Horizon Health Network CEO in a meeting in Sussex after the changes were announced.

“Specific to a question about mayors,” says Thorne, “she had indicated that she had met with – I believe she said – mayors six times to talk about reform.

“They must’ve been some other mayors other than myself.”

With the consultations coming in April or May, Stackhouse doesn’t think concerns will melt away with the snow.

“We’re not going to give up,” he says.

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“The message will be loud and clear from all the people in this community.

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