Horizon Health CEO's letter contradicts Alward

The Liberals say a leaked letter written by Horizon Health Network's president Donn Peters contradicts Premier David Alward's comments over cuts at the authority.
A letter from Donn Peters, the CEO of Horizon Health Network, that says he didn't have time to consult staff about budget cuts. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

The Horizon Health Network refused to endorse health cuts in a letter to the Department of Health in November and warned that their impact hadn't been considered.   The Opposition Liberals released the letter on Thursday. It showed that Horizon's initial list of cuts didn't satisfy the provincial government, which demanded more.

Donn Peters, the president and chief executive officer of the province's largest health network, responded on Nov. 8 with $6 million in additional cuts.

"Please note that inclusion of these items on a list in no way represents our organization's endorsement of these items," Peters wrote in the letter to Don Ferguson, the deputy minister of health.

"The short timeline for the request means that our internal stakeholders have not been consulted and even a partial analysis of the impact of items on this list has not been considered. There can and will be effects that have not been considered."

That contradicts Premier David Alward's comments in late October, after Horizon announced it was cutting $4 million from its budget by reducing hours at community health centres and changes in surgery scheduling. 

Alward said the specific cuts were Horizon's decision. 

"They've taken what they feel would be the best decision for the health authority," he said.

Liberal MLA Bill Fraser, the opposition’s health critic, pointed to the parts of Peters’s letter where he stressed to the deputy minister of health that he did not have enough time to consult staff or properly analyze the potential effects of the cuts.

Fraser said the letter proves that Alward can no longer blame Horizon for the choice of cuts:

"Donn Peters is saying he doesn't necessarily agree, or endorse, those cuts. So he's being directed by the minister," he said.

Health Minister Madeleine Dubé was not at the legislature on Thursday to explain the letter.