Flemming must clarify fate of ERs, Liberals say
Horizon Health's CEO does not rule out closing some emergency rooms
Two Liberal MLAs are calling on Health Minister Ted Flemming to clearly outline his policy on the future of emergency rooms in New Brunswick.
The province’s health minister has indicated since he moved into the job that he was trying to find ways to deliver services in a less expensive way.
Flemming said recently the province could look at reducing the number of emergency rooms to 15 from 22.
Dieppe Centre-Lewisville Liberal MLA Roger Melanson said the Alward government has been in office for more than two years and it's time for the Progressive Conservatives to clarify their hospital plans.
"Honestly, it's not clear," Melanson said.
Miramichi-Bay du Vin Liberal MLA Bill Fraser said he’s worried about what impact a reduction in emergency rooms could have on rural areas.
"We are a rural province. You know if you have a heart attack in a rural part of our province access to emergency care in a timely fashion is critical," he said.
John McGarry, the newly-appointed chief executive officer of the Horizon Health Network, was asked about the possibility of reducing the number of emergency rooms during a legislative committee hearing on Wednesday.
McGarry said no decisions have been made on whether to shut down any emergency rooms.
He said the idea was prompted when he was having a theoretical discussion with the health minister.
"If there were nothing there and you came from Mars and said, ‘Everybody should be within one hour of an ER, where should I draw the circles?' You could draw 15 circles and cover everybody," McGarry told the politicians.
He told reporters that while closing emergency rooms may not be popular in local communities, Horizon has to look at what is best for the province as a whole and ERs may be part of that.
"We do have to look at our basket of services, our clinical plan, in a provincial context and make some decisions," McGarry said.
"The biggest spender in government is health care. We are not going to get it out of tourism. We are not going to get it out of fisheries. We are not going to get it out of [an] economic council. We are going to get it out of health, so … you have to be moving your dollars around."