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3,000 patients to be placed on waitlist for doctor if Clinic 554 closes

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WATCH: Just days before Fredericton’s clinic 554 is slated to shut its doors, there are renewed calls for the New Brunswick government to step in and provide funding. – Sep 23, 2020

The owner of Fredericton’s Clinic 554 says roughly 3,000 patients will be placed on the province’s waitlist for a doctor if the clinic closes its doors.

“We’ve got no new visits in October,” said Dr. Adrian Edgar on Wednesday.

“I’m waiting to hear back from the department of family practice about whether I’ll be able to provide maybe a day, a week, maybe a couple days a month just to bridge vulnerable patients. But the clinic is actively closing.”

Read more: PC Leader Blaine Higgs offers shifting answers on abortion funding in New Brunswick

The clinic announced last year it would close due to financial losses and not being funded by the provincial government for specialized services such as out of hospital surgical abortions.

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In New Brunswick, abortions are only offered in three locations because previous provincial governments have not repealed a regulation, known as Regulation 84-20, banning the funding of abortions outside of hospitals.

New Brunswick is the only province in Canada that does not fund abortions outside of hospitals, while Clinic 554 is the only location that offers the medical procedure outside of a hospital in the province.

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Abortion clinic considers class-action lawsuit against provincial government – Aug 11, 2020

The clinic also serves as a family practice and a resource for LGBTQ2 patients across the province.

“We’re not just a family practice for thousands of people in New Brunswick, we’ve also worked really hard to create a safe, judgement-free zone for people who have little or no other options anywhere else in the province,” said Edgar.

Edgar says 3,000 people will be added to the list of those looking for a family doctor when Clinic 554 closes.

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There are currently more than 35,000 patients across the province waiting for a doctor, according to the province’s Patient Connect NB service.

Read more: New Brunswick Medical Society supports calls for provincial government to fund Clinic 554

But until the clinic closes, Edgar says he will see some geriatric and palliative care patients, but newborn, prenatal care and routine family practice will end.

“I think a lot of people, unfortunately, are going to have to access after-hours care and walk-in clinics,” he said.

Read more: Nova Scotia doctor shortage forces ongoing emergency department closures

Beth Lyons, executive director of the New Brunswick Women’s Council says that is less than ideal.

“Walk-in clinics is not ideal for patient-centered care. That’s not the way to get consistent access to health care from someone who knows your file and has context and knows your history,” she told Global News.

Edgar says he is now triple-booked every day to see as many patients as possible.

Click to play video 'New Brunswick will not fund out of hospital abortions during COVID-19 pandemic' New Brunswick will not fund out of hospital abortions during COVID-19 pandemic
New Brunswick will not fund out of hospital abortions during COVID-19 pandemic – Apr 9, 2020

Flashpoint topic in provincial election

The funding of Clinic 554 was a topic of the recent provincial election.

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On the campaign trail, Premier Blaine Higgs said he would not change the province’s stance on funding abortions outside of hospitals and insisted that it complies with the Canada Health Act.

But the federal government disagrees. Ottawa had reduced the Canada Health Transfer to New Brunswick by $140,216, as a result of patient charges for abortion services provided outside of hospitals in 2017.

Funding was only temporarily restored as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the pressure it placed on the health-care system.

The obstetrics and gynecology unit at Chalmers Regional Hospital in Fredericton issued a letter during the campaign calling for the province to support and fund Clinic 554.

Read more: New Brunswick Women’s Council calls for gender-specific commitments in new government

The New Brunswick Medical Society announced this week that it “fully supports” calls for the provincial government to fund abortions outside of hospitals.

The minister of health was not available for an on-camera interview on Wednesday to respond to the news.

Edgar is calling on Premier Higgs for help.

“[Higgs] said he wants to have a war on drugs, I am one of the only addiction specialists in the province, so if he wants a war I’m one of his most highly-trained operatives,” said Edgar.
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Lyons says the province needs to work with Edgar in order to keep the clinic open.

Correction: In New Brunswick, abortions are offered in three locations, not two locations as originally stated in the article.