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NB Tories back down on health care cuts - for now

Rebecca Rogers

February 20, 2020

The Blaine Higgs PC government in New Brunswick has tried to make cuts to rural hospitals. They wanted to close the ER's in six rural hospitals from midnight to 8AM. In fact, they would not take new patients after 10PM. 

Also they wanted to close all the acute care beds and turn them into long term beds for people waiting to get into nursing homes. 

The good news is that popular opposition was so swift and loud that this minority government had to back down, at least temporarily.

These cuts would cause two related problems. First if you had an emergency in these regions you would have to travel between 45 minutes to an hour to get to an ER. 

The other problem is that if a person needed to stay in the hospital over night, there are no beds for them. Therefore they would have to be transferred to another hospital with the same travel times. This could be a matter of life and death for some patients.

This would also create the problem that if the government makes all the beds in these hospitals long term beds that means the private sector, which owns the nursing homes have no incentive to create more beds. A couple of companies have already scrapped plans to build nursing homes because of these cuts. 

This is because most of the spaces are subsidized by the government, and the companies make less money with these subsidized people. But now they would have more expensive hospital beds that could be used.

So these cuts were in fact stealth subsidies to the nursing home industry.


Another problem with these proposed cuts was that the majority of them were in Francophone regions of the province. This was justified by the fact that the north of the province is more rural than the predominantly Anglophone south. 

However, it must be noted that Blaine Higgs was a member of the CoR party, an anti French party. He is also proud of the fact that he does not speak French. So there was some real concern that these cuts may have been anti French related.

However, in the end this all came to not. As soon as these cuts were announced the unions involved in these hospitals, as well as the people of communities organized to fight these cuts. The end result of this was that the announcement was made on Tuesday, and by Sunday the government had to back down and cancel the cuts, at least for now. 

The government said that they are going to engage in 'consultations' to come up with a plan to reorganize the health care system. So we need to continue to organize to fight the cuts, because if we don't the cuts will come back and we will have to start this process all over again. The results of this organizing and protests show that it works.

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