The reorganization of New Brunswick's health-care system is an attack on democracy, says the Opposition.

Health Minister Mike Murphy announced Tuesday the province's eight regional health authorities will be scaled back to two and a provincial health council will be established.

The sweeping administrative changes will be fully implemented by Sept. 1 and will include the elimination of partially elected boards for the health authorities.

Conservative health critic Claude Landry is questioning how the restructured health boards can be independent of government.

"Are they Muppets of this government?" Landry asked. "They will be appointed by this minister and they will be paid."

Landry added he is outraged the announcement is being made just two months before many of the volunteer board members planned to run for re-election.

"Those were volunteers. They were giving time to New Brunswickers to make sure they were the link, for the regions, for the local people," he said. "They're taking the democratic process out of the system."

Duplication will end: minister

Murphy said the local accountability of the regional boards was part of the problem of the old system and created unnecessary competition between the health authorities.

The eight-board system meant people were looking out for their communities rather than thinking of the provincial system, said the minister.

The new health authority system will be more efficient and end the needless duplication of services, Murphy said.

The members of the previous boards did good work but a flawed system resulted in annual deficits up to $55 million, he said.

The new board members will be hired by the government and salaried. Murphy said the change would ensure that competent professionals are overseeing the governance of New Brunswick's $2-billion health system.

Murphy has already appointed CEOs and vice-presidents who will take the helm of the health authorities and the council.