Dalhousie-area residents are upset about the loss of four palliative care beds at the St. Joseph Community Health Centre in the northern town.
The beds are closed for several months each year to save money, but the Vitalité Health Network announced Friday it plans to shut them down permanently, reducing the number of end-of-life care spots in the region to six from 10.
Jeannie Bearresto is one of the roughly 900 people who have already signed a petition demanding Vitalité reverse its decision to cut the beds.
She said forcing patients and their families to travel about 20 minutes to the Campbellton Regional Hospital for palliative care is not fair.
"It's hard to travel in the winter to Campbellton. I have done that, it's not easy," said Bearresto.
"This way here, people will be able to see their loved ones as many times as they want. And if they want to go in the night, they can go in the night, they can go back. It's much more convenient and it's something that we should have. We've lost everything else at our hospital, give us our palliative care."
Dalhousie is 25 kilometres east of Campbellton.
Vitalité officials say the decision to eliminate the palliative care beds is about efficiency.
"One-and-a-half beds out of four were used steadily at the Dalhousie establishment, whereas we had 3.25 beds per six in Campbellton. So rationalizing that use makes for six beds, which brings it in line with what we have at our other establishments," said spokesperson Luc Foulem.
But Dalhousie Mayor Clem Tremblay said he believes it's the wrong move.
The Campbellton beds are out of reach for many seniors, who would be visiting their loved ones, he said.
"We have to protect and save what we have," said Tremblay, who has the support of every mayor in the Restigouche region.
The petition, started by 25-year hospital volunteer Mae Lawlor, will continue to circulate until about Sept. 15, just before the provincial election.
She said community support has been strong and she hopes it's enough to make politicians take notice.
"I hope they will take a second look at it and study it very carefully," she said.
Vitalité also announced it will be establishing clinic for urology, vascular illness and foot care at the St. Joseph Community Health Centre.