Doctors say health cuts will hurt patients

A St. John's skin specialist says the Newfoundland and Labrador government's spending cuts are ill-conceived and will harm patients.
Doctors speak out against delisting of some medical services, reports Mark Quinn 1:59

A St. John's skin specialist says the Newfoundland and Labrador government's spending cuts are ill-conceived and will harm patients.

Dr. Ian Landells, a dermatologist, said doctors were blindsided by a government announcement in late February that some laser treatments for rosacea, lupus and scleroderma would no longer be covered by MCP, the provincial medicare plan.

"They unilaterally chose to eliminate this fee without any expert consultation and I think that was absolutely unacceptable," said Landells.

Landells made those remarks at a news conference Thursday held by the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association, which represents the province's doctors.

"They just took a broad stroke of a pen," said Landells.

"As I'm sure it was the simple way to say, 'This costs us x per year if we just eliminate this we will save x per year,' rather than considering the needs of the patients."

He said in the days after that notification, clinics scrambled to warn patients that they would now have to pay for these services themselves.

Landells said the changes would affect thousands of patients.

Health minister defends changes

Meanwhile, health minister Susan Sullivan defended the government's decision to stop paying for some laser surgery treatments.

Health minister Susan Sullivan says government had the right to make decisions without consulting doctors. (CBC )

"We're looking at a a service that is not covered anywhere else in Canada," said Sullivan.

She also defended the government's decision not to consult with doctors.

"I very much value the input from all our professional associations, in fact I believe that consultation is important," said Sullivan.

"However, there are times when government has the latitude to make a decision, and government has to govern."

Landells said Sullivan did promise to speak with doctors before making any future cuts.

He said doctors aren't worried about losing money through the cuts, but they are worried about patient care.