New Brunswick

Health critic slams 'gutting' of top doctor's office

The Opposition Progressive Conservatives’ health critic is slamming the Gallant government’s decision to restructure the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health.

'You can’t defend the indefensible,' Brian Macdonald says

'The government’s been very threatened by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health,' says Progressive Conservative health critic Brian Macdonald. (Pat Richard/CBC)

The Progressive Conservative health critic is slamming the Gallant government's decision to restructure the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, which he says amounts to a "gutting" it.

Fredericton-Hanwell MLA Brian Macdonald also criticized Benoît Bourque, recently appointed health minister, for not being more available to answer questions.

On the other hand,Macdonald said, "you can't defend the indefensible."

The CBC's Information Morning Fredericton has invited the minister onto the radio program several times, but his representatives have indicated he will not speak on the matter. 

In August, Victor Boudreau, the health minister at the time, announced that many of the daily operations of the Office of Chief Medical Officer of Health​ were being moved to other provincial departments, a decision that has drawn criticism from people in the public health field.

Macdonald said Bourque needs to answer questions about why the Liberal government chose this direction.

The Opposition memer also believes he has the answer.

"Frankly, we already know why this was done," Macdonald said. "The government's been very threatened by the office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health."

Former officer blasts move

The critic's remarks come after Wayne MacDonald, a former chief medical officer of health, warned New Brunswickers about the risks of the change.

"What that leads to is really, accountability without authority [and] when that occurs that is a systemic failure," he said in an interview Monday.

Brian Macdonald agreed, since the office still has a public health job to do.

"What they've done is given somebody a mandate without the resources to carry it out," said Macdonald.

"They've got to pick up the phone to call another department and ask nicely for that department's staff to execute a mandate. ... There's no direct relationship there."

Macdonald compares what is being done to what was done previously with Parlee Beach, when the responsibility for monitoring water quality was moved from the Department of Environment and Local Government to the Department of Tourism.

This change caused problems with reporting, but the transfer of public health responsibilities to other departments are on a larger scale.

"It's one thing to carve out a beach," Macdonald said. "It's another thing to carve out all of our public health issues."

With files from Information Morning Fredericton