Lack of government funding forcing only private abortion clinic in N.B. to close
FREDERICTON -- The only private abortion clinic in New Brunswick is closing due to a lack of funding.
The medical director says Fredericton's Clinic 554 can't afford to stay open because the province refuses to cover the cost of abortion procedures that don't take place in a hospital.
When it opened in 1998, it was called the Morgentaler Clinic, but later became known as Clinic 554.
For some, the name never mattered -- it was a place to get primary health care without feeling stigmatized.
"This is my family doctor, for myself and virtually every queer person in this city that I know," said Olivier Hébert, a patient at Clinic 554.
Clinic 554 also provides abortions, but they are not covered by Medicare. Instead, each patient pays between $700 and $850 for the procedure. Now, abortions are only covered at hospitals in Moncton and Bathurst.
It's something advocacy groups have been fighting the provincial government on.
"It is financially unsustainable for us to keep our doors open, and the clinic has been placed for sale," said Dr. Adrian Edgar, the medical director at Clinic 554.
Edgar says many who come for an abortion can't afford to pay, so they've been taking on that cost.
Staff at the clinic also provide primary health-care services for 3,000 patients.
"What this means for our nearly 3,000 patients, is that within 90 days of the clinic's sale, our team will have nowhere to provide our services," Edgar said.
The building hasn't been sold yet, so the clinic will remain open, but the question is for how long.
"We just found out in the last day or so that the clinic may be closing," said Progressive Conservative MLA Bruce Northrup. "I don't know all the details on it."
The Department of Health said in a statement that its position remains unchanged; publicly-funded abortions are only available in three of its hospitals.
Green Party Leader David Coon says that needs to change.
"There's two choices I see," Coon said. "One is, which is the desirable one, that the Department of Health should ensure that the abortion services there are covered. If they are unwilling to do that, the second option to continue those services would be for horizon to purchase the building, to buy it, and to operate it and continue to provide those services as a horizon clinic."
Patients who have relied on the clinic for their health care are worried about what comes next.
"I'm trying not to think about it too much," said Indigo Poirier, who is a patient at Clinic 554 and a member of the trans community. "I'm trying to just focus on doing as much as we can to raise awareness and put pressure on the government and save the clinic. Because for me, there isn't another readily available alternative."