Health Minister Ted Flemming denies the Alward government has broken its election promise to increase health spending by at least three per cent a year, despite department estimates tabled on Wednesday being the same as last year's $2.5 billion.

Flemming says spending will increase by at least $77 million, but the department has found savings of about the same amount, so the promise was kept.

Despite the zero growth — the first in recent memory — the health budget is enough to provide services to the province's 750,000 residents, he said.

It will maintain needed investments without compromising clinical services, Flemming said in a statement.

Some of the major expenditures include:

  • $6.3 million to support the implementation of electronic medical records.
  • $3.1 million for primary care renewal.
  • $2.3 million to support the Action Plan for Equitable Distribution of Health Services.
  • $2.2 million for mental health programming
  • $2 million for a new colon cancer screening program.
  • $1.4 million to support ongoing diabetes initiatives.

The government also plans to reduce the number of hospital-based laundries, enter a long-term arrangement with a private sector company for food and environmental services, and continue regional health authority administrative reductions, said Higgs.

Generic drug pricing will also be reduced to 25 per cent of brand price, he said.

The Alward government introduced a tough budget last month that included increased personal and corporate income taxes, but a projected deficit of $478.7 million.

Health care spending represents about 40 per cent of the provincial budget.

Federal health transfer payments earmarked for health care in New Brunswick will increase by $35 million for the next two years.