July 24, 2020 | Rural Health Concerns
Tune in here for updates on how our community is defending our hospital and healthcare system.
An Ongoing Issue
During the Pandemic, province-wide attention has been largely distracted from the more local issue of what will become of rural health services across New Brunswick, and in the Sackville area in particular. Don’t be deceived. The future of our hospital is still uncertain, as witness two recent and rather disturbing examples of government reluctance to respond proactively.
Fast Action? Hardly!
On March 11th, Megan Mitton, MLA for Memramcook-Tantramar, rose in the New Brunswick Legislature to present a petition bearing the signatures of more that 3,100 area residents, urging the Government of New Brunswick to abandon plans to reduce emergency room services, eliminate day surgery, and otherwise limit the role of the Sackville Memorial Hospital.
Her presentation can be seen here:
One week later, on March 18th, the Minister of Health wrote to the Clerk of the Legislature, acknowledging that “the Department has taken note of the request contained in the petition.”
Nearly four months later, on July 2nd, the Clerk of the Legislature informed Ms. Mitton that the petition “has been noted.”
It is hardly surprising that Ms. Mitton describes this slow pace and lack of action as “rather unsatisfactory.”
Want Information? Don’t Ask Horizon Health!
In a parallel action, Elaine Smith, Chair of the Sackville Hospital Foundation, wrote to Horizon Health under the terms of the Right to Information Act, seeking “a statement of the facts and analysis… concerning the proposed changes to service at Sackville Memorial Hospital.”
The reply, sent on May 27th by Margaret Melanson, Vice-President of Quality and Patient-centred Care, is a flat refusal. Ms Melanson denies access to the records requested as per section 26(1) of the same Act, stating:
The head of a public body may refuse to disclose information to an applicant if disclosure could reasonably be expected to reveal:
a … Advice, opinions, proposals or recommendations developed by or for the public body or a Minister of the Crown;
b …Plans relating to the management of personnel or the administration of the public body that has not yet been implemented.
In short, Horizon has no intention of revealing the process by which it developed a plan that its CEO, Karen McGrath, recently referred to as “reasonable,” claiming that it had the support of many New Brunswickers despite the fierce opposition expressed by residents of the communities affected.
Mayor John Higham sums up the frustration of those seeking to pursue a productive dialogue with Horizon, saying, “On the one hand, we are told that we don’t understand the reforms, that we’re being too emotional. On the other, we’re refused access to the information that they based the reforms on.”
The Fight Goes On
The steering committee met via video conference on Thursday, July 16, to plan next steps in the fight to get the government to back down on its reforms and agree to work collaboratively with the six affected rural communities to find solutions.
Preparations are underway to get ready for the Premier’s promised consultation, a possible health summit, or a Fall election.