Francophone group says province failing on health commitments

A group lobbying for more health care services in French says the New Brunswick government isn't keeping up its end of a deal struck two years ago.

Égalité santé en français has lawyers reviewing 2010 agreement

Dr. Hubert Dupuis says the group is considering its legal options. (Radio-Canada)

A group lobbying for more health care services in French says the New Brunswick government isn't keeping up its end of a deal struck two years ago.

Égalité santé en français (The Committee for Equality of Health in French) dropped a lawsuit against the province in April 2010 after government officials promised equal treatment for the province’s two health districts — the anglophone Horizon Health Network and francophone Vitalité Health Network.

But the group’s president, Dr. Hubert Dupuis, says he’s exasperated that nothing has changed since.

"The government has been dragging their feet and it doesn't seem to be on their agenda," he said.

"Lots of things seems to be on their agenda and this does not seem to be on their agenda."

Lawyers for Égalité santé en français are currently reviewing the legal settlement and looking at legal options, he said.

"There's a whole panopoly of things we can do," said Dupuis.

"The lawsuit has been lifted. We did our share of the agreement. The agreement said that the government should do this and that and whatever, and our part was to lift the lawsuit. So it won't be a lawsuit."

But Dupuis said  the province has not reciprocated. "We have a legal, binding agreement. It's just that the Government of New Brunswick is not holding up their end of the bargain."

Health officials told CBC News they were unable to comment.

Health Minister Madeleine Dubé has previously said the department would develop a five-year plan to meet the group’s demands.

But Dupuis contends that has not happened.

Claims Horizon has more services

Dupuis said most primary care services are on par between the two health authorities, but that the anglophone healthcare institutions under the Horizon Health Network have more tertiary care services and secondary care and specialized services.

"All francophone patients should be concerned that their francophone institutions are underserved as compared to the anglophone institutions," he said.

"I mean, just go visit The Moncton Hospital and the Georges Dumont hospital and you’ll understand — quickly — what is the difference."

The group launched the lawsuit against the province in 2008 over its merger of eight regional health authorities into two, which it claimed diminished the rights of francophones.

The charter challenge argued the centralization of health authorities took away the status of Moncton's Georges-L. Dumont Hospital as a francophone institution.

The group had said the lawsuit didn't aim to impose duality in health care, which would mean separate health systems based on language. Instead, the objective was to restore a health authority that was clearly and legally francophone.

In April 2010, then-premier Shawn Graham said the provincial government would introduce a series of legislative and administrative changes that would strengthen health care services for francophones and address the group's concerns.