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John McGarry, the president of the Horizon Health Network, said some hospital emergency rooms could be reduced. (Jacques Poitras/CBC)

The head of the Horizon Health Network is not ruling out the possibility of cutting emergency rooms across New Brunswick.

John McGarry, the recently-appointed president and chief executive officer of the province’s largest health authority, appeared in front of the Standing Committee on Crown Corporations on Wednesday.

McGarry was asked about recent remarks by Health Minister Ted Flemming that the province could get by with 15 emergency rooms instead of the 22 it has now.

McGarry told a committee of MLAs that it was a theoretical discussion. However, he later told reporters he can't rule out closing some local emergency rooms.

"If we're really to do our job to meet community needs and provide the most value to the most people, that doesn't always have a local attraction," he said.

"If you have a certain amount of money and you're tasked with doing the best for the most, you've got to make allocation decisions, and some of that may come into it at some point in time."

McGarry said the figure of 15 emergency rooms was based on a theoretical model that would put every New Brunswicker within one hour of an emergency room.

He said the provincial government wants to focus more on primary care, but there isn't enough money to do that if the hospital system stays the same.

The health minister's comments on reducing emergency rooms has also been tentatively endorsed by other experts in the health sector.

The chief executive officer of the New Brunswick Health Council has said the province could get by with fewer emergency rooms, but health care resources would need to be reorganized first.