About a dozen people gathered outside of Moncton City Hall to call for better health care in New Brunswick.
Organizer Sherry Bertin-MacIsaac said she feels Premier Blaine Higgs has failed to listen to citizens and health professionals when it comes to improving the ailing health-care system.
“Citizens are concerned. Nobody should fear to call 911 if they’re going to get an ambulance on time or at all,” she said.
“Nobody should be dying in an emergency room.”
On Friday, Horizon Health asked people without life-threatening injuries to stay away from the emergency departments at the Moncton and Saint John Regional hospitals — two of the busiest ERs in the province.
Just a week earlier, Horizon’s CEO said the health authority had hired 1,300 people since April of this year. But in that time, 662 staff either quit, retired or were fired, for a net gain of 638.
But Bertin-MacIsaac questioned those numbers.
“They say that they’ve recruited a bunch of nurses, but every weekend they’re closing emergency departments because of nursing staff issues,” she said.
“Where are those nurses?”
Overnight or weekend ER closures have become somewhat common over the last two summers as the province grapples with a shortage of staff, vacations and the ongoing impacts of COVID-19.
Liberal MLA Rob McKee attended the protest and said the Higgs government has failed to properly fund and support the health-care system.
“We need to bring more to the system, because those workers that are giving us that value are burnt out, they’re leaving the profession altogether, they’re going to other provinces, we need to give them the support they need to give the proper health care that New Brunswickers deserve,” he said.
In this year’s budget, health spending rose by over six per cent or $165 million. Last year, the province released a five-year health plan intended to guide efforts to improve the system.
But that plan has faced criticism for failing to include a recruitment and retention strategy as well as a lack of specific actions to achieve its goals.
“There is no plan, frankly, there are a few things that are being worked on, but there’s not a clear vision that takes into account what the workers are saying and what patients need,” said Green MLA Megan Mitton.
“There are things that can be done, some of them right away, and they’re not being done.”