New Brunswick Health Minister Ted Flemming won't stand in the way of the doctors at the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont University Hospital Centre who want to separate from the Vitalité Health Network.
When asked by reporters Tuesday about the move by the physicians, who describe the current administrative structure as 'top heavy' and 'thick,' Flemming said he didn't see any benefits.
"I personally don't see where another level of bureaucracy, another corporation makes very much sense financially," he said.
"This is New Brunswick, not North Korea — you know we don't have wire fences and guards or anything — if they want to be independent and leave, they can pack up and go I suppose."
Hubert Dupuis, president of the medical staff at the Dumont, clarified his position on Wednesday by saying doctors don't want to leave New Brunswick.
He explained staff at the Dumont are asking for a change in the administrative structure, which he insists hasn't worked since it was brought in.
"It's been four-and-a-half years — and again, we see all kinds of appointments on the management side, but don't see anything on the clinical side," Dupuis said.
"The management is absent. And it takes forever to have solutions to problems to help our patients."
Rino Volpé became the new CEO for the Vitalité Health Network on Feb. 1, but Dupuis doesn't expect that will improve the situation.
"I don't think a new CEO in the same structure will change much," Dupuis said.
"It's not the person, it's the structure and it's too big, it's too top-heavy, it does not work."
Dupuis said doctors don't want to add another level of bureaucracy, rather they want to cut the administration and make it smaller, less costly and better able to respond to the needs of patients.
The chief executive officer of the Horizon Health Network said he understands the complaints raised by the Dumont doctors.
John McGarry said those doctors aren't alone in chafing at the new system with two centralized regional health networks.
"I think if you asked every hospital in the province, 'Would you rather have it the way it was 10 years ago?' They'd all say yes. 'We think we had more control, we had our own governing body, it was local, everybody was here,'" McGarry said on Wednesday.
"So I think everybody would say that's just the way times are, and I don't think it's unique to the Dumont."
But McGarry said the two health authorities have to balance local concerns with the need to coordinate services province-wide because money is scarce.
Administrative structure and duality two different issues
Dupuis is also president of Égalité santé en français, an organization that is seeking equality in health services in French.
Last fall he met with outgoing health minister Madeleine Dubé, and said he was satisfied with government plans to improve services.
But Dupuis said the fight for duality is completely separate from this fight to leave Vitalité. Dupuis said this issue has nothing to do with language.
"We are not against the fact that the francophone institutions are regrouped together and are to co-operate and work together, but the problem is the administrative structure which is there right now is not working."
Dupuis said an example of the poor relationship that exists between the health network and the hospital was clear at a recent meeting.
Even though the Dumont has been designated as a teaching hospital for about two years, Dupuis said Vitalité officials were still asking him to explain what a teaching hospital is.
"It's like almost stupidity, right?" Dupuis said.