Health Minister Ted Flemming’s handling of the budget for a high-tech PET scanner in Moncton isn’t matching his tough talk on fiscal restraint in the health system.
Flemming has been forced to deal with several high-profile issues since becoming the province’s health minister in September, including the future of the Perth-Andover hospital and the expansion of health services in French.
The health minister has spoken at length about sustainability of health-care funding.
When asked about funding issues surrounding a cancer screening device last week, Flemming said hospital administrators didn’t need to worry about the budget concerns with its new PET scanner.
In October, the provincial government told the Georges-L Dumont University Hospital in Moncton it exceeded its cap for this year for using its new cancer scanner.
"If we're over those estimates, we will look at them and we will extend the services," Flemming said.
The PET machine has been in steady use since it arrived at the Moncton hospital in July.
The Department of Health only provided enough funding for scans for 300 patients and hospital staff say they will hit that number on Dec. 20.
PET machines can detect diseases much earlier than CAT scans or MRIs because they can detect chemical and physiological changes related to the metabolism, not just lumps and bumps.
Unlike other issues in his department, Flemming is suggesting more money is the answer to this issue.
"We're going to provide the best service to the people of New Brunswick and we're not going to allow something like this to stand in the way," he said.
That response may be popular but it stands in contrast to the provincial government’s message for the last two years.
The Alward government has said health care can no longer run millions of dollars overbudget.
"The reality is we cannot afford it anymore. We just can't. It would be irresponsible," said Madeleine Dubé, Flemming’s predecessor, last year.
When Finance Minister Blaine Higgs released his second quarter fiscal results last month, the health department was among a list of the departments that had not overspent its budget.