New Brunswick's new health minister says he's more concerned about financial sustainability than linguistic duality in the health-care system.
Hugh John (Ted) Flemming III was responding to the recent controversy over whether some existing health services should also be offered in francophone institutions.
Flemming, who was sworn in as the province’s new health minister at a ceremony on Tuesday, told reporters he supports offering patients services in the language of their choice.
But he said he's concerned about the cost of adding new services in francophone institutions if those services are already provided elsewhere in both languages.
"We have to operate within a particular budget. We have to provide the top-notch service that we can to all New Brunswickers in the language of their choice, which the government is committed to do, so that's what we're going to do," he said.
"And sustainability is every bit as large an issue."
Last week, the Alward government promised to unveil a plan for more services in the Vitalité Health Authority.
Dr. Hubert Dupuis, the president of Égalité santé en français, an organization that is seeking the equality in health services in French, said he was in a good mood after a meeting with outgoing Health Minister Madeleine Dubé.
Dupuis said Dubé had confirmed the provincial government will roll out a "catch-up" plan for health services in the Vitalité Health Authority.
Before the meeting, Dupuis said the provincial government was failing to live up to a promise to offer more services in francophone institutions.
Deputy Premier Paul Robichaud said after that meeting that details, including information about costs, will come before the end of the year.
"We are talking about a five-year plan, so the plan in question will be included in every year's capital budget and regular budget of the Department of Health," Robichaud said last week.
The provincial government releases its capital budget every December.
The contentious issue of language and health care reappeared in the political spotlight last month when Fundy-River Valley MLA Jim Parrott was kicked out of the Progressive Conservative caucus for comments he made on the issue.
Parrott’s specifically criticized the provincial government’s lack of consultation with physicians and how the health system serves the province's two main language groups.
Parrott, a retired heart surgeon, criticized duality in health care though he also said he supports bilingualism.
Bilingualism means a single provincial institution providing service in both English and French. Parrott said he supports that, including at the provincial cardiac centre he established in Saint John.
However, duality would have separate institutions created in English and French.
The education system is the only area in the provincial government where duality exists.
The Department of Education has one minister, but a deputy minister for the anglophone system and a deputy minister for the francophone system.