Former health minister earns spot on health board

Former Liberal health minister Mary Schryer has won a seat on one of the province's regional health authority boards in the first RHA elections since the former Liberal government eliminated them in 2008.

Mary Schryer says she still wants to serve

Former Liberal health minister Mary Schryer has won a seat on one of the province’s regional health authority boards in the first RHA elections since the former Liberal government eliminated them in 2008.

Schryer will be one of 15 board members for the Horizon Health Network, after Monday night's election, which coincided with municipal elections across the province.

She took 9,691 votes, earning her a spot representing subregion B4, where her next closest competitor received only 4,314 votes.

Eight board members were elected Monday, one for each zone within the district, the largest health authority in Atlantic Canada.

The other seven members will be appointed by the health minister.

Similarly, eight of the Vitalité Health Network’s 15 board members were voted in by the public Monday.

The new board members will serve four-year terms.

Schryer, who was defeated in the 2010 provincial election, said she still wants to serve her community.

And she wasn’t alone.

Coveted positions

A total of 78 people ran for hotly contested positions on the RHA boards, including some other former MLAs.

In some cases, as many as nine candidates were vying for a single seat. Not a single position was acclaimed.

Although the RHA positions don’t have the same high profile as mayors and councillors, the members will play a role in deciding how money from one of the provincial government’s largest departments is spent locally.

Health care is also consistently polled as one of the most important issues to citizens.

John McKay, a former Liberal MLA and former mayor of Miramichi, will  join Schryer on Horizon's board.

He earned 3,405 votes to serve in subregion B8, while his next closest competitor received only 1,734 votes.

The other Horizon board members include:

  • Kathleen McMullen, subregion B1
  • Jane Mitton-MacLean, subregion B2
  • Linda Forestell, subregion B3
  • Linda Aitken, subregion B5
  • Jo-Ann Fellows, subregion B6
  • Mike Coster, subregion B7

Coster was also elected to represent the Anglophone North district education council in subdistrict 4, but was unsuccessful as a Miramichi council candidate.

Jim Wolstenholme, the former chief executive officer of the Miramichi hospital corporation until budget cuts in 2004, and who ran as a Green Party candidate in the 2010 provincial election, failed in his bid to earn a seat on the Horizon board.

The new French-language health network, Vitalité, board members include:

  • Roger Doiron, subregion A1
  • Monique LeBlanc, subregion A2
  • Anne Soucie, subregion A3
  • Donald Thériault, subregion A4
  • Christian Mercier, subregion A5
  • Sonia Roy, subregion A6
  • Gabriel Godin, subregion A7
  • Paulette Sonier Rioux, subregion A8

Burt Paulin, who held a northwestern riding for the Liberals until he lost in 2010, did not get enough votes to land a spot on the board.

In 2008, the former Liberal government decided it would appoint members instead of having the public vote for them.

At the same time, the Liberals announced the province's eight regional health authorities would be be scaled back to two.

The Conservatives, who were then in Opposition, called the reorganization an attack on democracy.

Then health critic Claude Landry questioned how the appointed boards could be independent of government. "Are they Muppets of this government?" Landry had asked.

Last fall, the Horizon Health Network announced $4.2 million in cuts from its $1.1 billion budget. Officials have said as many as 65 positions could be lost.

Horizon operates 12 hospitals and more than 100 medical facilities, clinics and offices.

It provides medical services ranging from acute care to community-based health services to New Brunswick, northern Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island with 1,000 physicians and about 13,000 employees.

Vitalité plans to shave $6 million off of its $660 million budget. More than 70 positions are expected to be eliminated.